Friday, February 15, 2013

Quarriors! - Quality Bits, But What A Fuqued Up Quame

I first reported on Quarriors! a long time back, when it was first released at a GenCon 2011. Anyhow, I played it three times and I talked to a bunch of people who had just dropped fifty bucks on it; unanimous love and gushing praise was on their lips. Well, after a year of not playing it, I decided to get a copy of it so my kid would have a game that we could play together that wouldn't bore me to death. Turns out that not only does my kid not want to play it, it bores me to death.

Quarriors! is what Wizkids has termed "a dice building game (TM) (R) (C)" which amounts to a deck building game where you spend resources to buy dice instead of cards. There's a really great idea in this game, which is taking the shuffling out of deck building games. They also had a great concept in the fact that you roll the dice and each die can be one of many things after rolling, so there's a lot of variability in how the game plays. Tie that in with the fact that the game comes with a metric assload of cards so that you never really play the exact same set of dice every time, and it was a sure bet. Except for one detail: it's about as fun as MIG welding your balls to a chain link fence.

Before I get to what makes this game so incredibly dull, let me get to the mostly good stuff, which are the components. It has a ton of what I think are 16mm dice, 130 of them, in fact. It comes with four faux Crown Royal bags, some wooden cubes to keep track of score, a bazillion cards which are used to identify what dice are what, and a little cardboard scoreboard. Finally, the game comes in a tin with two smartly designed plastic inserts, and a rule book. The rules are well laid out and easy to read, and the game can be taught, from a "how to play" perspective, in about 10 minutes. All in all, it's great looking with truly lovely artwork, and the parts are all of very high quality. But let's get to the bad parts about the components, because there's a few "huh?" moments there.
First, the tin it comes in is probably the single dumbest thing about the game's physical design, sort of like how Forbidden Island and Panic Station have done: why make it a shape and size that makes it nearly impossible to find a shelf spot for it? Next, the wooden cubes are in colors that are impossible to tell apart in a darker room, so I immediately swapped them out for little Agricola bits that work tons better. I'd rather be the "carrot" or "reed" player than the "is that black, green, or blue?" player. Then there's the dice, which have writing on them that sometimes requires a Leica microscope to decipher. The writing is so God damned small that it makes you pick up the die and jam it into your face in order to see if it's a one, two, or three on it. I guess they knew it was a kid's game and that their eyesight would be better than a bunch of buzzed adults. The last complaint is that if you're color blind, like one of my friends, it's like trying to do Chinese Algebra; they look so much alike that it will take some time to learn what dice are what.
Anyhow, all in all these are minor complaints, in the grand scheme. What makes this game suck the fur off of a dog's jacobs is that it lacks many decision points. I mean, they are in there, especially early in the game, but beyond the first five turns, it's not so much making a decision as much as recognizing that there's only one really viable decision to make, and if you make a different decision, it's probably only because you're feeling randy or something.  Now, not all the matches I've played were like that, but it's a design problem in an otherwise pretty elegant design. Most of the "buy values" of each die are such that you'll not get many dice that cost the same, so when you get five currency units, which are called "quiddity" you spend as much of it as you have at the end of your turn. 

This is not to say that it's a bad game due to one major flaw, because that's not the case. It's a boring game due to the preponderance of many minor flaws. The real decisions are "do I buy the most costly item, or do I put monsters into play, then cull my worst dice, and then buy the most costly item" and this is not enough to sustain attention. Add to that the ridiculously stupid name, and the even more ridiculously stupid use of "Qu-" in virtually everything you do. It's as if some PR muppet who secretly harbors resentment against Scrabble wanted to add more "Q" words to the world's lexicon so he could win more often. I mean, the currency in the game is called "Quiddity", which sounds like some sort of a venereal disease. "Dude, look at my's like an eggplant! I knew that bitch had Quiddity!" or something. It's ridiculous. Seriously, I feel dumber just knowing the word.

They had the Star Trek license, so why didn't they make it a Star Trek game? Geeks in red shirts, smelling like Red Shirt, would've stood in line to get their hands on it, sort of like those iPhone freaks do. And it wouldn't have sounded so utterly stupid. All in all, it was an epic fail on a wide array of levels.

There is some good news in all of this, though. The cream of the gaming crop, Fortress: Ameritrash users, developed some house rules that make the game worth playing, and after trying them out last night (just before watching Dark Knight Rises, which sucked ass) I can tell you that the game is, in fact, redeemable. Here's the skinny:
- You can buy two items per turn.
- You only score points from monsters if you cull the corresponding die after scoring.

These can be used together or separately, and to be honest, I favor just using the two items per turn rule. It profoundly changes the way you play the game, to the point that it actually becomes a game rather than a pattern identification and eyesight test. Using both, though, adds a tremendous amount of actual strategy to the game, and I cannot emphasize enough that you should be playing with at least one of them, or you do so at your peril.

It's a shame that they didn't think that through and put it in the rules, but as usual, F:ATties are the best in the world at making lemons into lemonade. They literally saved the game for me. I think that if you were on the fence about the game, I'd pass on buying it, even with the house rules, but if you were one of those who were wooed by the internet peddlers who touted this as the second coming of Obama or something, these simple rules changes go a long way toward redeeming your otherwise questionable purchase. I'm sure there's people out there who will yell me down and tell me just how stupid I am, how I just didn't "get" it, or whatever. Well, go get your own blog, because this game, as designed, was like a prom date: It may have started out looking elegant, but when the night's over, it's screwed hard, disheveled, and you're left with a bag full of nasty to dispose of.

Why Quarriors! Is Rolling Well:
- Really nice looking production values and very nice art
- A bazillion dice and cards make this very replayable and varied 
- It can be saved by simple rules changes

Why The Inventor Of These "Qu-" Words Should Be Cockpunched:
- The tin is an odd size and hard to store
- The dice symbols are WAY too small for human eyes
- Saying any of the game terms may lead people to think you're mentally disabled
- The most important decision is whether to play it, or close your balls in a car door
- If you're color blind, you're going to have a hell of a time playing this

It's not a bad game as designed, it's just a really boring game. I'd argue that it's not so much a game as an opportunity to put something in your hand and shake it repeatedly when you're tired of masturbation. It has very few decision points, and almost none of them that do exist matter. It's really just hoping that you roll better than the next guy, and identifying the most expensive monster available that you can afford. Between the stupid names in the game and the stupid game play, it's just not something that can be categorized as anything but a filler, and a filler of very little merit. The real magic to this is that the concept of the game, replacing dice with cards and using several disparate cards for each die style to add replay value. That's stunningly smart, and I hope that other people, or even Wizkids, does something of merit with it. I guess I just hope the mechanics aren't remembered by the game alone, because the mechanics have merit.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying you must be stupid for liking Quarriors as sold, but I am saying that it's not beyond the realm of the probable. The good news is that the game is transformed by simply changing a few rules around to add actual decisions that matter to the game, and it is a salvageable product. I've never played any of the myriad expansions, so maybe they fixed a lot of stuff in it. I got this in a trade, and there were a ~lot~ of people trading it, so maybe I'm not alone in this. Maybe they don't hang with the cool kids, so they don't know about the house rules. What can I say, the game really blows, but it can be fixed. Don't buy this game, and if you have it, but don't play it because it's so ridiculously dumb, try the house rules. They go a long way towards redemption.

2/5 Stars

To learn more about this game, go to the Wizkids site:

It was brought to my attention that the house rules are included in expansions, and that the tin is only shown the first edition. Later editions have a cardboard box, which I haven't seen, nor can I comment on them. In any event, I wanted to get that in the article before too many people have seen it (453 at this point...) and make sure that people know about this stuff. ~The Editor


Ross said...

"I'd argue that it's not so much a game as an opportunity to put something in your hand and shake it repeatedly when you're tired of masturbation." I burst out laughing in the office reading this line. Thanks for the laugh.

On the Tin issue, I don't own a copy, so I can't speak personally in regards to Quarriors, but I do own Panic Station. As someone who bikes everywhere, including 30 miles to the neighboring town for game nights, Tins are a nice change from the less durable cardboard boxes.

=+=SuperflyTNT=+= said...

You're welcome. I liked that myself. ;)

It's not the tin I mind, it's the shape. It's a cube. Regarding Panic Station, it's the embossed blind man on the front that causes a's a wonky shape and it doesn't sit flush with other boxes.

I feel you on the durability thing, though...that's why I keep my Heroscape stuff and painted Ravenloft figures in a plastic Plano box.