Ugh! Game Review

The Basics:

  • For ages 4 and up (publisher suggests 8+)
  • For 2 to 6 players
  • About 20 minutes to complete

Geek Skills:

  • Active Listening & Communication
  • Counting & Math
  • Logical & Critical Decision Making
  • Pattern/Color Matching
  • Risk vs. Reward
  • Hand/Resource Management

Learning Curve:

  • Child – Easy
  • Adult – Easy

Theme & Narrative:

  • None


  • Gamer Geek rejected!
  • Parent Geek approved!
  • Child Geek approved!


Ugh!, by Calliope Games, is a set collection game with player controlled risk vs. reward elements and hand/resource management thrown in for good measure. Players are required to accept a certain level of risk to play but must be willing to push the limits in order to compete and win. Of course, knowing when there is too much at risk is the key. Since player-owned cards are always visible to all the players, this game serves as an excellent introduction to “card counting” and understanding the information at the table to help players make logical and critical decisions. Read the table right and you are on your way to victory! Read it wrong, and you’ll be saying “Ugh!”, followed by a well deserved self-smiting to the brow.

Ugh! is comprised of a deck of 110 cards. The deck includes three different card types. These are Wild cards, Ugh! cards, and Number cards. The cards are illustrated with Cavemen, Cavewomen, dinosaurs, and prehistoric mammals and are meant to be humorous, which they are. Fans of Dork Tower will immediately recognize John Kovalic’s illustrations on all the cards. The cards also include different patterns which will make it easier for individuals with color blindness to identify the cards and play competitively at the table.

Not included in the game, but necessary to play, is a pen or pencil and a pad of paper to record player’s scores.

Game Set Up

To set up the game, gather everyone around the table and shuffle the deck of 110 cards. Once shuffled, place the deck, face-down, in the middle of the playing area. This deck is now referred to as the “draw pile”. Make sure everyone has enough room in front of them to play cards (refered to as the player’s “Pool”) and the draw pile in the middle of the playing area has enough room for a discard pile to the draw pile’s left and three Safety piles to the draw pile’s right.

Example of what the center playing area will look like as the game progresses

You are now ready to play! Youngest player goes first.

Playing the Game

A player’s turn consists of taking one card to add to their Pool and “locking” any card sets they have. Locking card sets is always optional but taking one card per turn is mandatory.

Taking a card can happen several ways. During the game, three face-up decks, referred to as Safety piles, will be created. The top cards in these decks can be picked up and added to the player’s Pool on their turn if they so choose. If the player does not want those cards, they begin to take risk.

The first player will not have a Safety pile to select cards from so they must take risk by default. This is done by taking a card from the draw deck and either (1) placing it in the player’s Pool or (2) placing it in the first Safety pile, face-up (the Safety pile directly next to the draw deck is Safety pile 1, followed by 2, and then 3). The player can continue to draw cards, placing them in Safety piles until one of the three possible conditions are met:

  • Player takes a card and adds it to their Pool
  • Player draws a Wild card
  • Player draws an Ugh! card

There are two important points to make here. First, a player is never required to take the card they have drawn. If they don’t want it, they can place it on a Safety pile and select one of the already revealed top cards on the Safety piles into their Pool. However, the player must always place the cards they draw onto the Safety pile in sequential order (Safety pile 1, followed by 2, and then 3). Second, if the player is still not satisfied with cards they drew and have placed 1 card each on the three Safety piles, they can either take one of the Safety pile cards or they must take the next card they draw from the deck into their Pool.

Drawing Wild Cards

When the player is drawing cards, they might reveal a Wild card. There is a Wild card for each of the three colored sets (orange, purple, and green), and 1 All Wild card that represents all 3 colors. A player can do three things with a Wild card.

  • Discard the Wild card in the discard pile and steal any card from another player’s Pool (including an All Wild card)  that has not been locked in a set and matches the Wild card’s color – this ends the player’s turn
  • Keep the card and place it in their Pool to help complete a set – this completes the player’s turn
  • Discard the Wild card to a Safety pile – in which case, it is still the player’s turn

The four Wild cards in the game

Drawing Ugh! Cards

The Ugh! cards harm the player’s overall progress in the game and immediately ends the player’s turn. Ouch, double whammy! Depending on the Ugh! card drawn, the player might have to lose cards out of their Pool  or simply lose their turn.

  • Ugh! cards with a negative numbers indicate the player must discard that number of cards (not the total value shown on the cards) to the discard pile – this only applies to cards that are not locked in sets
  • Ugh! cards that simply state “Turn Over” end the player’s turn with no further effect
  • Ugh! cards with multiple card discards require one card of each color to be discarded, plus any color of the players choice – this only applies to cards that are not locked in a set
  • Ugh! cards drawn as the player’s very first card on their turn still reduce cards and end the player’s turn, but instead of being discarded, it is placed in the player’s scoring pile and counts as 3 points at the end of the game

If the player cannot discard cards based on the what the Ugh! card requires, the player simply ends their turn without further penalty.

Example of the Ugh! cards in the game

The Player’s Pool

As the game progresses, the player will be collecting sets of cards in their Pool area. This area is directly in front of the player and it can contain an unlimited number of sets. A complete set is 1 of each of the 3 colors (orange, purple, and green). This is where the player uses simple hand/resource management skills as they are attempting to build sets with a large number of points, but also attempting to build sets that can be reduced without a huge penalty to the player’s score.

At any time during a player’s turn, they can “lock” a set. This is done by simply stating the set is “locked”, announcing its value (see “End of the Game and Counting Points” below) and flipping it over, face-down, to indicate that the cards can no longer be impacted by Ugh! cards or stolen. Up until the set is locked, it is free game and a target for all players, but it also provides the owning player a good deal of flexibility. During the player’s turn, up until they select a card or draw an Ugh! card, they can shift unlocked cards into different sets, making new sets or combining existing sets as often as they like. This can be a great way to maximize the points earned at the end of the game and help mitigate risk.

Note: Do not mix locked sets! Keep each locked set separate. This is important during the final scoring round.

End of the Game and Counting Points

The game ends as soon as the last card from the draw pile is flipped over. Prior to being flipped, all the players (including the player whose turn it is) have this one chance to lock their sets. This is the only time players can lock sets in their Pool when it is not their turn. Players should shift their cards around in their Pool to maximize their score to the best of their ability.

Once the last card is drawn and played or discarded, it is now time to count points.

  • Unlocked cards do not count as points and can be immediately discarded
  • Every Ugh! card collected by the player (because it was drawn as their first card) counts as 3 points
  • Multiply the three numbers in each set to determine that set’s point value (example, a 2, 3, and 4 would be worth 24 points – 2x3x4) – Wild cards used to complete a set are worth 1 less than the lowest valued Number card in the set

Add up all the points from the sets and any Ugh! cards. The player with the most points wins the game!

Game Variant

When playing with younger little geeks, it is suggested you remove all cards with blue numbers and any cards with blue backgrounds. This allows for higher-scoring games and less “pain” to the players by reducing the penalties.

To learn more about Ugh!, see the game’s official web page.


My little geeks have always enjoyed card games. One in particular that is a set collecting game is Nile DeLuxor. This is a much more complicated set collecting game than Ugh!, which implies that Ugh! should be a piece of cake. The only aspect of the game that might be confusing to them is knowing when they should or should not move their cards around in their Pool.

I sat down with my two oldest and pitched the game to them. They both really liked the illustrations (especially my 4-year-old who is head-over-heels in love with dinosaurs) and had no problem understanding the differences between the cards. Although, I had to repeat a few times that the negative numbers on the Ugh! cards represented the number of cards to be discarded and not the total point value of the cards. I then explained the rules and we were off. Ugh! is super easy to set up and to play, so I let my 4-year-old get the game going.

While my 4-year-old shuffled the cards and got the game set up, I asked them their thoughts on it so far.

“Ugh! Me like game! Me think game look good!” ~ Liam (age 7)

“Ugh, Ugh! Me like game, too, Daddy. Me ride dinosaur!” ~ Nyhus (age 4)

Looks like they are getting into the spirit of the game and are ready to go! Let’s play and see if their excitement for the game is well deserved.

Final Word

Ugh! plays pretty fast and everyone got caught up into the game. Whenever an Ugh! card was drawn, we’d all shout “UGH!” as loud as we could, causing much laughter around the table. Both of my little geeks did a good job of managing their Pools, but my 4-year-old had a hard time managing risk. He would sometimes draw a card when there was a good card on the Safety pile and then later take a card from the Safety pile that was probably lower than what he might have drawn. Risk is a tough concept to grasp for your younger little geeks. Risk can be very abstract, especially when their young minds only focus on the task at hand versus their overall end goal strategy. Note that it didn’t reduce his enjoyment of the game, however. All it did was make him score fewer points than what he possibly could have scored if he managed his risk a bit more to claim a better reward at the end of the game.

Parent Geeks and non-gamers also enjoyed the game, but a few of the Parent Geek’s suggested that the game was a bit too “childish”. I personally don’t agree as there is enough going on in the game where even adults had to stop and think what their best move was. This is not a “play on autopilot” kind of game. The players need to keep track of what it being collected by other players, try to keep a total of their own points versus their opponent’s points, and determine their level of acceptable risk based off everything they know. There is nothing “childish” about that.

Gamer Geeks were not overjoyed by the game and didn’t ask for another play once the game was completed. To a gamer elitist, their simply isn’t enough here to justify their game time. It is light on strategy and tactics, and very formulaic in its game play. The choices that need to be made are very easy to see by the experienced player, and as a result, much less challenging. They did say, however, it was a game they’d be happy to play with non-gamers and their little geeks. That’s pretty high praise from a group who didn’t want to touch it again themselves.

My little geeks contemplates the card he has drawn while his brother looks on

Gamer Geeks, not much for you here. Ugh! is very light and doesn’t require a great deal of your brain power. There is limited player interaction and some “attacking” of player’s points, but not nearly enough to make it feel like you have any ability to trump your opponent. The end result is a fairly simple game that is designed for players who are looking for something fast and fun versus in-depth and meaningful. That being said, there is enough to this game where you won’t feel like it is a chore when playing it with family and non-gamer friends.

Parent Geeks, this is a fun and fast card game that will strengthen your little geek’s math, risk vs. reward, and critical thinking skills. All the players will have to manage their own cards which are placed out in front of the owning players. This makes it an easy game for little hands to play as they do not need to hold all the cards. The illustrations are fun to look at and the entire table will enjoy shouting “UGH!” when an Ugh! cards is drawn. Non-gamers will also enjoy this game as there is nothing being introduced that is terribly new or different in regards to game play or rules.

Child Geeks, this can be a challenging game to win but not a challenging game to play. You’ll understand the basics pretty quickly and be able to play within a few minutes of having the game explained to you. Where you will be challenged is deciding if you should press your luck to draw cards or take what you see in front of you. This can be a difficult choice as many little geeks will elect to take 1 cookie now versus 2 cookies later. The “sure thing” might be the safest bet, but you won’t be winning the game by doing so. Take some risk and press your luck! Afterall, it’s just a game and it’s a fast one, too. If you don’t win, who cares! Play another game and maybe your luck will improve. And if not your luck, most certainly your skill.

I enjoyed Ugh! as a Gamer Geek and as a Parent, but I won’t be putting Ugh! down on the table with my Gamer Geek friends anytime soon. Of course, if someone suggests we play Munchkin or Flapjacks & Sasquatches, I’ll be racing to get my copy of Ugh! faster than you could say…well…”ugh”. There is enough to the game that keeps me occupied and the other player’s, too. Even when a player has downtime, they still need to be paying attention and watching the cards. Games like these always make me happy as they keep me engaged. I also enjoy the game for its simple but necessary risk taking. A player can always elect to take the “safe path”, but this is not going to win any games. There is just enough need to take some risk to make the game feel a bit tense without feeling stressful.

If you are looking for a fun family game that plays fast, challenges, and entertains, do give Ugh! a try.

This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.

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About Cyrus

Editor in Chief, Owner/Operator, Board Game Fanatic, Father of Three, and Nice Guy, Cyrus has always enjoyed board, card, miniature, role playing, and video games, but didn't get back into the hobby seriously until early 2000. Once he did, however, he was hooked. He now plays board games with anyone and everyone he can, but enjoys playing with his children the most. Video games continue to be of real interest, but not as much as dice and little miniatures. As he carefully navigates the ins and outs of parenting, he does his very best to bestow what wisdom he has and help nurture his children's young minds. It is his hope and ambition to raise three strong, honorable men who will one day go on to do great things and buy their Mom and Dad a lobster dinner. Cyrus goes by the handle fathergeek on Board Game Geek. You can also check him out on Yes, he has a URL that is his name. His ego knows no bounds, apparently....

12 Responses to Ugh! Game Review

  1. Angela L says:

    This looks like a fun game. Too bad my husband can’t ‘listen & communicate’ well. :-/

  2. Jim says:

    Seems the like star-rating thingy isn’t working?

    • Cyrus says:

      I assure you it is. It is moderated so as to ensure the site doesn’t crash. Otherwise, an individual could continue to rate and rate and rate and rate, causing the poor little web site to crawl into a fetal position and whimper. When you vote, you are locked out temporarily until one of the Father Geek staff “OK’s” the vote, which we do several times a day.

    • Jim says:

      My favorite part of the game is when it is NOT my turn!

      Since I can see all of my opponent’s cards, I try to argue with them using faulty logic about what they should do next… but only when I really want to win: “A two? Surely, you can do better than a two… and look at the table… there aren’t even any threes out yet!”

      With a beginner, I try to give them good advice, like buffering up, at least until they get the hang of things. After that, though, I wanna here them say “UGH!”

      Ultimately, I like playing because it’s a very social game if you approach it this way. 🙂

    • Cyrus says:

      That is an AWESOME idea!

  3. Jim says:

    This might not be the right place to say this, but playing the game in the way I’ve described above over beer or shots? Well, that’s just epic fun: a great “filler” or “evening opener” for a game night– especially among gamer geeks!

  4. Janene says:

    We bought this game and the whole family really loves it. It’s great when we can find games both kids and adults enjoy playing. There’s just enough risk vs. thinking, too. Love it!

  5. Ted says:

    I’ve played this game with friends and we had a good time. We were just going to give it a try and ended up playing for about two hours. You can play the game and still have a good conversation going.

    • Cyrus says:

      Yep, Ugh! is light a breezy with enough to the game to keep everyone occupied without demanding 100% of their brain. Provides a good time for everyone at the table to be “social” and a “game”. Well worth peoples’ time.

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