Yeah. Quarriors is, to put it bluntly… A thing.
Stay with me.
It’s a sort of competitive deck-building strategy and economy management game, except you don’t build a deck and there’s hardly any economy and there’s an awful lot of luck involved in winning. So it isn’t that at all.
So. Quarriors is a thing, because it’s definitely something, but it isn’t any of the things that it looks like it is.
We’re good at this, aren’t we?
To stop trying to be a poor man’s Shut Up and Sit Down for a second, Quarriors is, quite simply, a big box full of dice. Each of those dice represent a monster, a spell or one of a couple of other things, and each turn you’ll roll a handful of them in order to attack your opponents and also buy new minions to summon in future turns. That’s it. It’s a war in which your troops are brightly coloured dice you hurl from a bag.
How those monsters come to live in your bag is another question though, and it’s one that’s answered with Quiddity, the game’s currency and what the entire mechanic hangs on (The pretentious tosser in me wants to say that’s some sort of satire; a low shot at capitalism, perhaps - but it definitely isn’t). Luckily, you start with quite a few of these dice in your bag (along with some really weak creatures), and from turn one you’ll use them to swipe dice from the table and scurry them away in your bag.
What dice to pick up, however, is a good question - especially in the early game, when the bottom of everyone’s bag is barely covered in a thin crust of weaklings and coins. Do you pick up Portals, which allow you to roll more dice, or do you pluck one of the big-hitters off the table instead, denying you a chance to ready monsters this turn? Maybe you should rush your opponent with hordes of cheap, flimsy Assistants because you know early on they don’t have much to counter with, and as such you’ll still have plenty to score with when your go rolls back around?
This brings me quite nicely onto one of my favourite mechanics in Quarriors: You gain points based on how many monsters you have left in your ready area at the start of your turn. So in a four player game, for instance, the cutesy collection of cut-throat creatures you have assembled in front of you will have weathered a world of pain, and will likely gladly be moved into your “used” pile, ready to rest up before they come a-tumbling from your bag once more, axes sharp and teeth pointed - but they’ll pay for their entry in glory points, each fat, glutinous point taking you one tiny step closer to victory.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sounds like an epic war of duelling monsters and their summoner masters, duking it out over a war-torn battlefield while the music from Doom plays in the background, right?
Well, unfortunately, that’s where Quarriors falls a little bit flat. Combat is a little bit wonky in this game and, well, the way it works is a little bit naff. Basically, you summon monsters, each of whom have an attack and a defence value. If the sum of your attack value is higher than the defence value of another player’s monster(s), they die, and that player doesn’t get to add them to his or her score at the start of their next go.
That’s it. Yes, there are a few monsters who bend those rules, but if that isn’t “it”, it’s a bloody large percentage of “it”, I can assure you.
What’s even crazier is there’s no way of multiple players wearing down a strong creature: each person’s mob attacks their opponents as if they’re as fresh out the bag as candyfloss at a fair - and the player BEING attacked decides which of their creatures takes the damage, which suggests the attacking monsters calling ahead and asking who they should be belching their magic fart rainbows at when they arrive: the puny goblin with a tin can as a weapon, or the dragon that’s eating a block of flats for its breakfast. It doesn’t make much sense to me.
And of course, that’s assuming you actually manage to summon anything. Even the monster dice have Quiddity values on them, so you could delve into your bag and pull out a whole pile of monster dice… and find out all you really had was a pocket full of spare change. The big box full of dice is certainly a nice thing to look at, but having the entire game based it is a tiny bit… Egh.
Here’s the thing. (And yes, I’m aware that Exploding Robot has brought you a vast number of “the thing”s in its short life; shut up)
Quarriors isn’t Summoner Wars. It isn’t Stronghold. It isn’t Warhammer 40,000. It never pretends to be strategical, or serious, or even fair. It’s just an opportunity to roll some dice and marvel at the frankly awesome production values inside and out (other than a few badly printed dice, which seems to have been fixed in the first expansion). It takes 20 minutes to play a game, and it’s so quick to set back up you can blitz through a few sessions in no time. It’s also pretty simple to teach to people, and you’re guaranteed a few laughs every time you open the box. Yeah, every so often you’ll have a runaway winner because they got luckier than everyone else, but in the next game you might pound him into the dirt because he rolls nothing but Quiddity all game. It’s just the way Quarriors is.
Quarriors is like a puppy in riot gear: It has an outer coating that makes you think (if only for a second) that it’s something serious and grand, but the moment you engage with it, you realise it’s actually just a ball of fun and energy that wants to pin you to the floor and lick your face.
If you’re a hardcore strategy gamer, if you’re the sort of person who isn’t interested in a game unless it comes down to you using your superior wit and intellect to systematically demolish the man or woman sat across the table from you over three hours and causing irreparable mental scarring, then don’t even think about buying Quarriors. It’ll leave a taste in your mouth worse than sucking a jellyfish covered in shoe polish will, and you won’t be able to jettison it from your life quick enough.
However, if you have a soul, and like to smile, buy it. The idea and the mechanics are fun enough, and it’s a quick game that can offer a wide variety of madness in every game (you never have all the monsters in play each game, you see). It’s unusual and fun, like a puppy in a top hat (and who doesn’t love that?) - and you’ll probably always find at least one person who wants a second game.
So, in conclusion: Quarriors is a thing that isn’t like the things it looks like it is, but it is, in fact, a puppy.
There, this reviewing lark is simple.