Wednesday, 16 January 2013

I picked up Quarriors! yesterday

Seeing as we have a gaming event this Friday with a theme of Dicing with Death I thought picking up another dice game for my collection would be pertinent. So I went down to the FLGS and and grabbed a copy of the 2nd edition of Quarriors! In preparation for being able to teach it this weekend my wife and I played through a few rounds last night. Here are my thoughts after a couple rounds of play.

Quickly:
Very cool and unique mechanics, quick but very random gameplay.

Summary:
Quarriors! claims to be a "Dice Building Game", and that's exactly what it is. It takes the Deck Building mechanic that has become very popular since the launch of Dominion, and does something unique with it. Instead of collecting a deck of cards, you are building a dice bag full of dice. This is a quick game that can be played with two to four players and can go as quick as 20 minutes but potentially much longer.

Game set up involves determining what dice are in play. There are a set of three dice types that are always in play: a basic die that gives you Quiddity which is used to summon and capture monsters, a basic pawn type troop and a wormhole that gives you re-rolls. Each die type is represented by a card and these are laid out in the center of the play area. Followed by this you draw cards from a deck of spells and put them out so that you end up with three types of spell dice in play. Lastly you draw from a deck of creatures, the Quarry. This puts seven creature cards and associated dice into play. Once all of these cards are out you put dice on them, all but the starting cards get five dice each. To finish set up each player takes a dice bag and fills it with 8 basic Quiddity dice and 4 of the pawn dice. Note there are far more cards in the set than are used each game. Each dice type is represented by a variety of cards at different levels with varying abilities.

The game being played about 2 turns in.
The goal of the game is to accumulate more Glory than your opponent. You do this mainly by summoning Quarry monsters and keeping them alive until the start of your next turn. The game ends when the play area, called The Wilderness, has four empty monster cards or one of the players hits the Glory target set by the number of players.

Each turn starts with the active player scoring their monsters in their Ready Area. After scoring the player gets the option to cull one die from their collection. The main part of the turn starts by the player pulling 6 dice out of their dice bagand rolling them. Players then spend these dice. Instant actions, which are usually re-rolls are activated first. Quiddity is represented by blue droplets on a die face and summon monsters. Any dice with monsters face up can be summoned by paying their level in Quiddity which moves them to the Ready Area. Spell rolled are also moved to the Ready Area at no cost if the player wants. In addition many of the dice have special symbols that break the basic rules, these are all explained on the die's associated card.

After summoning and readying spells there is an attack phase. The active player attacks with all monsters in their Ready Area. Attacks target all other players who must then defend with the monsters in their Active Area. Attack power and defense are listed right on the dice and work as expected. Total attack power, defender decides who defends, if attack beast defense defender dies, continue until all attack power is countered or there are no defenders left. There's no damaging a player in this one, you only ever attack and defend with monsters you have in play.

Next the active player gets a chance to go hunting in The Wilderness. They can take one die from the cards in the center of the table by paying it's cost with whatever Quiddity they have left after the previous phases. Costs are listed on the associated cards. This is the main method of adding new dice to your collection and is the equivalent of the Buy phase in Dominion. Once buying is done all used dice and left over dice in the Active are go to a used pile.  Dice in the used pile are tossed back into your dice bag once it becomes empty.

That's the basics. Like most of these games with pretty simple mechanics, the rest of the rules are exception based. Each die's card lists special abilities that the die has. These include things like spells that instantly kill monsters, ways to get re-rolls or draw more dice, ways to buff the attack, defense or Glory value of a monster, etc. The core game comes with over 130 dice so there is lots of variety there and the way you deal out the starting cards means that every game plays differently. The general strategy is the same as most Deck Builders. Start off with basic dice and use them to buy bigger dice that let you have more power and resources to buy even bigger dice while at the same time removing the weak dice from your pool to increase the odds of drawing what you want.

The new 2nd edition box, with a place for everything.
The Good:
I really dug the whole mechanic here. It's a very unique twist on deck building and I like it. I love the tactile feel of dice and I love rolling them. The variety of creatures and spells means there is a ton of replay value just in the core set. In addition the way they use the same dice to represent different levels of monsters by their cards I thought was brilliant. This one is pretty easy to explain as well and plays very quick while having a surprisingly deep level of strategy.

The packaging on this one is awesome. Now I've heard and seen that the first edition of the game just came in a tin with all the dice loose. Thankfully this has been improved with the 2nd edition. The packaging is a fine example of 5S methodology, there's a place for everything and everything has it's place. There's even room to add more dice and cards from the expansions. I don't think I could have packaged this one better. It also includes some play mats that I guess weren't released until one of the later expansions, though these are included in the rule book to be photocopied instead of giving you separate mats for each player.

The Bad:
I think the major turn off for most people in regards to this game is the high random factor. This game has a level of randomness above and beyond all other deck building games. Not only do you randomize what dice are available and randomize which dice you get each turn, each die has six different possible outcomes once you have it. So even though you may have saved up and bought that awesome Dragon, he's not going to help you much if all you keep doing is rolling 1 Quiddity on his die every single time.

The Ugly:
It seems Wizkids has had no small amount of problems with quality control on their dice. The quality is most definitely not consistent in my set. Most of my dice look great but then I have a few that were very poorly inked. I also have one spell die that is actually malformed and has three sides you can barely read and has an obvious protrusion on one side. Now I see lots of posts on the 'net with other people who have had the same problem and almost all of them end with "excellent customer service", but to me this shouldn't have been a problem in the first place.

Overall:
So far I'm very impressed with this game. It takes an established and somewhat overdone mechanic and does something totally new with it. The game looks great, is fairly easy to teach and played quick while still having a very solid level of strategy and depth. That said, it has a very high random factor, higher than any other game in this genre. That I think will be the make it or break it point in a purchase decision. This is one I suggest you try before you buy if you can to see if it fits for you. I found a lot to like here, despite some production issues that Wizkids is being great about fixing.

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