The title of the game Kabuto Sumo from the box cover art. It shows the name of the game in block letters in front of a wooden sumo wrestling ring.

Do you know what really bugs me?

Well, lots of things. But you know what doesn’t bug me? Fun, simple, easy-to-learn boardgames that I can pull out to kill time on a weeknight, in a bar, or any time I don’t want a complicated, involved game. And Kabuto Sumo – the board game of bug wrestlers – is just one such boardgame.

 

The Story of Kabuto Sumo

A promotional photo of the contents of the game Kabuto Sumo. it shows the game box, a cardboard ring that looks like a tree stump covered in round wooden tokens, and art of bug wrestlers in front of a blue background

In Kabuto Sumo, you play as one of the insect kingdom’s premier sumo wrestlers. You might be the powerful Mjolnir, the tricky Mighty Jaw Mike, the tenacious Sisyphus, or the iconic Kimarishi. Or, if you’re using the expansions, you might be The Nature Bug, Teddy R, or Nightmare on Elm Trees.

Your stage is a tree stump, and you perform in a free-for all match against as many as 3 other opponents, using your own special skills and adaptations to try and outmaneuver your opponents. It’s not about endurance, though – you don’t have to be the last one standing, just the first one to push another bug out of the ring!

 

Kabuto Sumo Gameplay

Kabuto Sumo has extremely simple gameplay, styled after coin-pusher arcade games.

A photo of the board game box for Kabuto Sumo, as well as the wooden tokens, arranged on a wooden table

Wooden bug tokens, as well as circular tokens of various sizes and colors, are arranged on a raised platform in the image of a tree stump, called the ‘ring’. Each turn, players take a token out of their inventory (they start with a certain number, and gain more as gameplay progresses), and place it on the movable ‘pushing platform’, which lines up perfectly with the edge of the ring. They position the platform wherever they like around the edge of the ring, and push their token forward in a straight line until it is fully in the ring.

If they’ve aimed well, the addition of the new token will have pushed several other tokens out of the ring. They can collect these tokens and add them to their inventory. If they were very lucky, they’d have pushed out another player’s bug token, winning them the game!

A photo of the wrestler character cards for Kabuto Sumo arranged with their special tokens on a wooden table

But there’s slightly more to it as well. Each player has a specific bug wrestler that they’re playing throughout the game, with their own 2 special moves that they can enact throughout. Generally, one will give them some advantage, like additional tokens or an extra turn, while the other will make available to them their special token. These are large, unusually shaped tokens that can only be used by their respective bugs. These special actions might cost you something to play, but they’re useful, and should be used whenever possible.

 

Luck vs. Strategy

A photo of the bug wrestler characters from the Kabuto Sumo expansion Insect All-Stars laid out with their special tokens on a wooden table

While the advertising blurb on the back of the box claims that Kabuto Sumo is “…an exciting combination of dexterity, strategy, and luck,” it doesn’t actually have much to do with luck.

Normal coin-pusher machines are pretty luck based, since you cannot precisely control where your coins drop. But the addition of special moves, and the fact that you can control the precise angle, speed, and direction of your added tokens all create a game that is far, far more strategy-aligned than luck.

That’s not to say that it’s a difficult strategy, though! It’s an easy game to learn, and doesn’t’ t actually require much thought to enjoy.

 

Number of Players

Kabuto Sumo can be played with 2–4 players. Obviously, 2 players most closely align with a traditional sumo match, but the addition of more participants can really change up the gameplay. Like most boardgames, it’s a lot more fun with more people.

 

The Atmosphere of Kabuto Sumo

A photo of the contents of the Kabuto Sumo expansion Total Mayhem

This game is fast-paced and fun, with vibrant art and a tactile set of mechanics. You’re not going to be scrolling on your phone or doing something else while waiting for your turn – it’s going to come up fast, and you’ll be paying enough attention to the goings-on that you probably won’t even be thinking about it.

At the same time, it’s not very immersive. There’s not really any story, and the strategy is simple enough that it doesn’t need serious thought in order to play. It’s a lighthearted, almost party-style game that feels like a slightly less-traveled version of Jenga, in a way.

 

Kabuto Sumo’s History and Availability

A photo of the contents of the game Kabuto Sumo

Kabuto Sumo first came out in 2021, having been funded by a 2020 Kickstarter by Allplay Games. Later, in 2023, a second edition of the game, called Beetle Brawl. It was originally a Target exclusive release, but has since been made available to other retailers. And if you can’t get enough of the game, there are 2 expansions: Insect All-Stars and Total Mayhem, each with a number of additional bug wrestlers that you can play as.

Critics were very fond of the game, enamored with the unique gameplay and interesting art. Lots of board game fans, however, were more divided. It’s a simple mechanic that can become repetitive pretty quickly, so it isn’t surprising that public reviews are somewhat mixed.

You can find Kabuto Sumo at your local gamestores and on their official website for around $40, or on Amazon for slightly more. You might have more luck, however, checking out secondhand sites and forums if you want the fancy Kickstarter extras, though.

 

Our Personal Thoughts on Kabuto Sumo

A photo of the box cover for Kabuto Sumo. it shows a couple of beetles stood on a log amidst grass, above the words "Kabuto Sumo"

Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed Kabuto Sumo. It’s simple, yes, and doesn’t need much thought, which isn’t my usual type of game. But there’s a time and a place for easy games, and this is a perfect fit if you’re looking for a kids or party game. The theming is also particularly good for kids, since it can teach them a little bit about different species of beetles. Plus, it takes up much less space than a lot of other, similar games, which makes it great for taking to restaurants or traveling with.

So long as you don’t have a problem with bugs, this is absolutely a game that you should try!

 

 

 

 

Have you ever played Kabuto Sumo? What did you think? Did we leave something out about it that you think is super important? Let us know in the comments below!

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