If you’re reading this now, I’m willing to bet that within the next 14 hours you could come up with at least half a pound of dice without having to search very hard or make a single purchase. We’re all table top gamers and dice are not only a part of the hobby, but something many of us enjoy. Who among us is averse to grabbing a fistful of dice and rolling away? Who doesn’t like the thrill of seeing that perfect roll displayed in pips, symbols or numbers? Who doesn’t know the sinking feeling of watching your momentary hopes and dreams evaporate on a bad roll?
With that in mind I’m going to start talking about a game that involves dice. Many, many dice – all under your command and used to do such things as deal damage to creatures, cast spells and in some cases, win you glory. Now you know why I was initially intrigued by Quarriors, a “game of uber strategic hexahedron monster combat mayhem”. Who wouldn’t be intrigued?
Quarriors, published by Wiz Kids, follows a now-familiar model of deck building, but dispenses with the deck and uses dice instead. This changes the game in a number of ways. It does add an additional random element to game play. It also allows you to stuff your ‘deck’ into a cloth bag and shake it about, a process that deck-building game owners abhor, as I can attest by trial and error, and having to buy people a number of replacement games. In Quarriors that kind of thing is okay though. Shake away my friend, it’s all part of the fun!
Quarriors is designed for gamers aged 14+, 2-4 players and should take about a half hour to play.
Quarriors comes with a whole bunch of dice – 130 six-sided dice to be exact. You’ll also find a cardboard glory tracker to keep track of who’s scored glory points (essential to win the game), a number of cards detailing the different monsters, spells, and other effects available in the game, four cloth bags, four small wooden glory chits, an instruction booklet, and some bits of plastic for storing dice and keeping everything marginally organized. It’s all packaged in a metal tin which was surprisingly compact – much more so than I expected. This won’t take up as much space on your gaming shelves as your other games.
Quarriors is a dice rolling and collecting game at its core. Each player begins the game with 12 basic dice: 4 Assistants (basic monsters) and 8 Quiddity dice. Quiddity is the currency of the game, allowing you to purchase more powerful monsters, spells, and portals as the game progresses.
Along with these basic dice, there will be seven different classes of creatures and three different classes of spell cards and portal dice in the play area, chosen randomly from all cards available. Once these cards have been selected, find the appropriate dice (each monster or spell has 5 dice associated with the card) and place these dice alongside their descriptive card. You can never have more than one of any class of creature or spell in a game (more about this towards the end).
Take your 12 starter dice, place them in your cloth bag, shake vigorously, and you’re ready to go! The first player draws six dice randomly from their bag, and rolls them. As you start the game, you’ll only be pulling Quiddity or Assistant dice. Here’s what they do.
- Quiddity is the basic unit of purchasing in this game. Each Quiddity die has five sides worth 1 quiddity and one side worth 2 quiddity.
- The Assistant is a basic monster. Rolling this die can produce 1 quiddity, allow you to reroll this die and one other, or produce the Assistant, a monster that costs 1 quiddity to activate, has an attack of 1 and a defense of 2.
As you roll your dice, you spend quiddity to activate monsters, placing them in your active area. Any activated monsters immediately deal out their total damage to any other creatures in their active area. Once this combat is resolved, you can spend any quiddity you have left to purchase new creatures, spells, or a portal die. You place these newly purchased dice in your spent dice pile – the place where used dice to to wait. Once you’ve run out of dice to draw from your bag, you take your spent dice pile, and put that back in the bag. Shake vigorously and proceed with play.
Creatures have varying amounts of damage they can do and withstand, as well as other special abilities. Spells allow you to do things like enhance creatures, add extra quiddity, and harm opponent’s creatures. Portal dice allow you to grab one or two extra dice from your bag and roll them this turn.
If you’ve managed to get a creature or three out into your active area and keep them alive until your turn comes back around again, the first thing you do is score glory off of these creatures. Assistants are worth 1 glory point; others are worth more. That’s the key to winning the game: getting enough creatures out who can survive until your turn comes back around and racking up the glory. Once you’ve scored your living creatures, it’s off to the spent pile they go.
Every time you destroy another player’s creature with your own, you get to cull a die. This means you grab what you deem to be the least useful die in your collection, and put it back into the ‘wild’ (where creatures and spells live before they are purchased). This is an interesting mechanic as it allows you to move towards a more perfect deck as the game progresses. It can in certain circumstances lead to one player having an advantage over the others based on what they were able to purchase early on, but in most games we played the whole game was fairly well balanced.
So, what’s the big deal?
Other than having a ton of dice to roll, is this game worth owning? Absolutely! While it does resemble some deck building games (the purchase, add to your discard pile, reshuffle/bag and play mechanics), Quarriors has a more random element to it. Sure, you’ve purchased the huge dragon but when you pull this from your bag and into your hand, there’s no guarantee that you won’t simply generate 1 quiddity from this die, or pull off the lowest level of that dragon.
This changes the way you have to look at building your stash of dice. You’ve got to adjust for the probability of bad die rolls on your turn. This both makes the game more random but also allows it to move along faster than other deck building games. The half hour stamp on the box is pretty accurate; with two players it’s probably closer to twenty minutes per game. With a set up time of about 5 minutes this makes for a great game to kick off your game night, play while you’re waiting for other people to arrive, or break out when you’re looking for a quick and fun distraction.
Replay: What really makes me love this game though is the sheer re-playability factor. For each set of dice (say, the Questing Wizard in blue above, alongside an Assistant) you have three sets of cards representing that creature or spell. These cards vary enough that even if you’ve pulled out three different types of Questing Wizards over three games, they’ll each affect gameplay differently.
Ease of use: After playing the demo at Total Confusion, I was ready at home to rip into the packaging and play the game! It’s not a terribly complicated system – while rated ages 14+, my 9-year-old loves this game and grasps the concepts well enough to be competitive against other players who are more than twice her age. Having said that though, there is room for strategy but that strategy is tempered by luck of the roll.
More dice than you can shake a pointed stick at: Seriously, there’s something amazing about having a bag full of dice and being able to use every single one of them. Friends laughed at me when I described this to them before they’d played the game. While they were playing though I saw that look in their eyes – it’s a rare treat for gamers when they get to use all of their dice at once.
Small play space: Play it on the table, on the floor – wherever you have about 2 square feet of space and something hard to roll dice on. This works out really well when we have multiple games going at our house, with larger games occupying the dining room table and Quarriors on the floor with a book to roll on.
Just plain fun: The game is good, plain and simple. It’s hard to beat the feeling of playing a good game. I don’t mind losing when playing because that doesn’t entail me sitting on the sidelines for a while and even if I start off poorly, in a half hour I’ll be back with a whole new chance.
Small print: I did have a few occasions where the numbers on some of the dice were a bit hard to read. Not impossible, but it did involve picking up the die in question and squinting at it for a second to determine if it was a 1 or a 2 printed on it.
Cat owners beware: While this won’t be a con for those who don’t have (active) cats, be forewarned that this game is like a cat magnet. Whenever I bring this out I have a cat in attendance within minutes of the dice starting to roll.
Expansions – Rise of the Demons
The folks at Wiz Kids were kind enough to send along a copy of their first published expansion, Rise of the Demons, and I’ve gotten a chance to play it quit a bit. I’ve heard a lot of scuttlebutt about the expansion in various online forums, mostly saying that it didn’t add much to the game. I disagree with this – the times we added this expansion to the game we found it an interesting change, especially with three- and four-player games.
Rise of the Demons adds a new concept to the game – corrupted Quiddity. These quiddity dice can allow you to roll zero or one quiddity (as opposed to 1 or 2 in the basic quiddity dice). They cannot be purchased like other dice, but must be acquired through the use of corrupted creatures. The expansion comes with all of the familiar creatures and spells, but in corrupted forms, as well as several demon creatures to add to your game. That’s a whole bunch of new cards and some new dice sets.
What the corrupted quiddity allows you to do that the base game didn’t is directly target other players by adding corrupted quiddity to their dice pool. This mechanic allows you to slow down those early leaders a bit, making the occasional setup that allows one player to dominate a bit less of a problem. There are also mechanics to reduce the glory of other players, and even accept corrupted quiddity for yourself in exchange for some massive damaging abilities to other creatures.
One of the arguments against this expansion is that people just don’t tend to buy the corrupted creatures, so that other players never end up with corrupted quiddity. I found this to be more the case in a two-player game. Introduce more players and suddenly only having five dice per creature is a lot more limiting, making those corrupted creatures and spells look a lot more attractive. This also allows for different strategies to move you into a better position to win, which I enjoy.
Quarmageddon, the second expansion for Quarriors, is set to drop to publishers in June of 2012. The rule book is available online now and this looks to be another interesting addition to the Quarriors line.
The Bottom Line
I think Quarriors and their current in-print expansion Rise of the Demons would be a welcome addition to most gamer’s shelves. If you enjoy deck building style games, you’ll very much enjoy this. The mechanics are solid and simple, although there’s a bit more of a random element to this game than to other building games such as Dominion or Thunderstone. The game plays fast, with enough selection even in the base set to allow for multiple replays without the game becoming stale. While the Rise of the Demons expansion may not offer a huge amount to a two-player game, I felt it did change game play for the better with three and four players. As a caveat – your group should be one that enjoys games with a bit of randomness in them. This game has a more random element than any other deck building game out there and that can turn off some players. Myself, I find it a welcome change and when the mood strikes me this game is a lot of fun.
If you happen to be a gamer with kids, such as myself, this game has the added bonus of being really, really appealing to kids. There’s just something about playing with all of these dice that’s magical to them. My six-year-old will happily help me set up a game and then work as an assistant, loading dice bags and shuttling creatures from the wild to players. My 9-year-old grasped the concept of the game quite quickly and enjoys playing in her own right.