Dale Yu: Review of Tambuzi



  • Designer: Guenter Burkhardt
  • Publisher: HABA
  • Players: 2-4
  • Ages: 6-99
  • Time: ~10 minutes
  • Times played: 3, with review copy provided by HABA USA
  • http://www.habausa.com/tambuzi.html


HABA is well known for their children’s games – always with colorful and engaging art, thick easy manipulated wood pieces, and rules that simple enough for a child to play but yet interesting enough for a parent to enjoy as well.  Tambuzi is a slight move away from the HABA standard as it involves a battery powered bongo buzzer in this delightful family game.

In the game, players are one of four different animal species that are trying to do a rain dance to help stave off the dry season in the savannah.  However, they are more successful than they want to be – and a thunderstorm is brewing.  The animals quickly race for the huts hoping not to be left outside when the storm arrives because the animal left out in the elements will be struck by lightning!

The board itself is a round disc with cutouts.  There are between 5 and 7 huts visible at the start of the game – depending on the number of players.  Each hut has a mat area in front of the hut itself.  Each player chooses one pair of animals (gray rhinoceri, orange tigers, white zebras or green crocodiles).  A start player is chosen, and that player places one of his two animals next to the board in front of the monkey.  Play then goes clockwise around the board and players place one of their animals on a vacant mat in front of a hut. In the center of the board is the bongo buzzer – this electronic device requires three AAA batteries to operate – and it serves as the timer and the soundtrack for the game.   


The active player is always the player whose animal is off the board.  That player presses the bongo buzzer and then one of the action options will light up.  If it is a walk symbol (from one to four paws), you move that number of huts clockwise (empty spaces and the monkey’s space are not counted as you walk).  At the hut where you arrive, if there is an animal on the mat, you swap places and then the newly displaced animal has to hit the bongo buzzer and move on.  If the hut is already occupied (that is, the animal there is already inside the hut) – then you cannot enter and you must move on – hit the bongo buzzer and do what it says.

If the buzzer lights up the Hut sign, you are allowed to enter the hut in front of you, even if it’s occupied.  The animal which occupied the mat or hut at that space is displaced and becomes the new active player.  This furious dance continues until you hear a lightning bolt strike.  When this happens, whichever animal is not in the safety of a hut is eliminated from the game.  That animal’s owner takes the lowest available scoring chit.  Turn one of the huts on a removable board piece over.  The current resident of that hut becomes the new starting player for the next round.


The round continues until there are only three animals left – at this point, all of the point chips will be handed out.  The animals left on the board will score 6, 7 or 8 points based on the sign on the hut which they occupy at the end of the game.  At this moment, everyone totals the points they have collected this round.  Ties go to the player who is in the most valuable hut at the end of the round.  This player receives a wooden water drop.


The game is reset and another round is played.  The overall winner is the first player to collect TWO waterdrops.

My thoughts on the game

This is an interesting departure for HABA – I cannot remember another HABA yellow box game which uses batteries/technology, and I have had quite the collection over the years as I have raised my kids on them…   The electronic gadget in the center works well, and we especially enjoy the bongo soundtrack – it is our preferred choice out of the three available (bongos, jungle noises, or silent).  The only thing that I wish was better about the sounds was if the lightning strike was louder or more obvious.

After a few plays, we have developed our own rules to help with the timing of the lightning strike.  After the active player moves his animal and displaces another, the CURRENT active player is in charge of hitting the button on the gadget.  At that moment, it becomes the newly displaced player’s turn to go, and he follows the illuminated instructions.  It remains that player’s turn until he hits the button again.

This is a cute enough game – probably not enough strategy to really attract adult gamers to play it on their own, but it is certainly fun to play with kids.  The game is definitely frenetic as players try to take their turns as quickly as possible in order to not get caught out in the rain.  The reason why it likely won’t capture the eye of an adult gamer is that there is really no strategy in the game – in fact, it essential plays itself.  You hit the button, do what it says, end your turn.  The next player then follows the instructions on the gadget, ends his turn, etc. etc.  There are no decision points along the way in Tambuzi. That’s not to say that it isn’t fun – we still had plenty of laughs during the game and a bit of nervousness hoping that our animal didn’t get thrown out of his hut near the end of a round – so it’s still an enjoyable activity.

I think that this game would work especially well with younger gamers as it could be used to help teach counting (in the movement) as well as addition (in the tallying of scores).

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Karen Miller (played 1 time): I am an adult gamer with no kids and I have several HABA games in my collection. I have always admired the quality of their game components, but more importantly, their ability to make games that are fun for all ages. This game is fun enough, but I don’t foresee adding it to my collection. However, if you have children, I think they will enjoy its musical soundtrack and crazy pace.


Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.
  • Neutral. Dale Y, Karen M
  • Not for me…


About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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