Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quarriors Mini-Review

A game that has been on everyone's radar, it seems, is Quarriors. I mentioned that I had the chance to try it at GenCon, and since then, I've played it a few more times. I don't feel comfortable giving the game a full review treatment after my limited number of plays, but I wanted to help you, dear reader, make an informed decision about whether this game is worth your gaming dollars. It's also best if you know at the outset that dice games are not my favorite. I typically favor cube and card games. So, please, take this opinion with heaping spoonfuls of salt. (And if any of my concerns are mitigated by playing the game more, let me know in the comments! I would like to be fair.)

As I mentioned, the Quarriors demo I played was enjoyable, but even as I played the demo, I realized a few things that could ruin the game:
  • Dice are only removed from the bag ("Trashed" in Dominion parlance) if a creature successfully scores glory
  • It is virtually impossible to defeat a level 3 creature unless you roll one yourself
  • The first player to successfully score with a creature is at an advantage
  • The first player to roll a non-starting creature is at a serious advantage
  • It's possible to buy good dice and never roll them the way you want to
  • The Quake Dragon seems much too overpowered
None of these thoughts was a deal breaker in the demo (perhaps because I was rolling well), but each of these issues came up when I tried the full game out with friends. Ultimately, Quarriors represents a noveltyDominion with dice! And while there is something to be said for this novelty, after the first few minutes, I found that I would much rather be playing Dominion, which is more elegant, easier to control, and ultimately more fun.

I read the designer diaries for Quarriors, and one of the things I appreciated was their mentioning that spells and creatures could "misfire," represented by the variability of the dice. ("Still, where did the lighter fluid come from?") This is an interesting idea, but while this idea is attractive in theory, it is not much fun in practice. Besides, thematically, it seems that the probability of "misfiring" should decrease as a character become more experienced rather than staying about the same. It's true that even in Dominion your strategy can misfire (most of us know the frustration of drawing Throne Room without another action card, or drawing a hand of all victory/curse cards, or having your turn spirited away by stacking Torturers). But this is limited in Dominion because each card (generally) has one use. In Quarriors, the creature and spell dice generally have both "Quiddity" (treasure) and creatures/spells on their sides, meaning that depending on how you roll them, you may roll one use rather than another on a turn. (Most dice that were out in the games I played had three sides showing Quiddity and three sides showing creatures or spells, but I didn't examine all the cards to see if this is true across the board.) Even the creatures that you roll have different levels, with the chances of rolling a level 3 creature being one in six. This wouldn't be so bad if there were a more common way to defeat a strong creature, but it's virtually impossible to do so without rolling one yourself.

It's also problematic to me that the only way to remove dice from your bag is by scoring glory. This is problematic because the only way to score glory is for your creatures to survive. If you have consistently bad rolls and only roll your assistant (equivalent to a Militia in Ascensiona pretty lame attacker) while the other players are rolling dragons and knights, you probably won't survive the round or score glory, thus keeping players who are doing poorly behind the pack. In Dominion, there may be boards where no cards that allow trashing are in play, but that goes for everyone: no one will be able to trash. This imbalance in Quarriors has the potential to rob the game of some of its charm.

There are certainly things to like about Quarriors. As I mentioned, as the first "dice-building game," there is a novelty factor that can't be ignored. The packaging is awesome, and the dice are well done (though some of the numbers are hard to read; thankfully, this is mitigated by providing cards that have the stats printed clearly). There is also something to be said for rolling lots of dice and trying to get creatures and spells. Even if the flavoring provided by the manufacturer is lame, you can still pretend to be a wizard doing battle through lighthearted creatures and spells. The luck factor tends to keep levity close at hand (as long as the game doesn't last longit is imperative that the game not last long!). And not every game in a player's collection has to be a brain burner. But despite these positives, Quarriors remains a game that is not for me.

Quarriors would probably be a good game to play especially with kids or those who are new to/don't enjoy strategy games since the variability and randomness of the dice level the playing field considerably. It's also not bad if you accept what it is: a dice game. There is an added strategic layer of "building" your dice bag, but this should not be considered the main attraction. If you're looking for heavy strategy and interesting decisions, look elsewhere. Quarriors has more strategy than Yahtzee or Bunco...but not much more. Take it at face value: "uber strategic hexahedron monster combat mayhem"...without the "uber strategic."

Note by @Futurewolfie: I've played Quarriors even less than @Farmerlenny, so my ability to review is even more limited. However, I do enjoy rolling dice, but I had very similar impressions. I know, I know: how could I possibly agree with my Nemesis? Well, maybe it was just a series of unfortunate rolls, but even when I had cool dice, I didn't get great rolls. It's also not as thematically strong as, say, Last Night on Earth, so a series of bad rolls really kills the game. In addition, if you get a series of bad hands in Dominion, you can fix your deck with your card purchases, but in Quarriors you can always roll badly regardless of how powerful your dice are. There's no trading or "robber" mechanic a la Settlers of Catan to even things out when one person gets all the good rolls. When all the rolls even out, it can definitely be enjoyable, but you always run the risk of bad luck making it not fun for one person.


  1. I've heard a lot about Quarriors, though I skipped the demo at Origins. My friends and I tend to have an aversion to dice games (though I've tried to change that.) Looks like Quarriors isn't for me/us either. Thanks!

  2. It's worth demoing if you get the chance--lots of people like it, and you might be one of them (though if you already don't like dice games, that's unlikely). I think Martian Dice from Tasty Minstrel looks better (and cheaper, and faster) than this.

  3. I picked up Quarriors at GenCon and, while I still haven't played it a lot, in most games we've played the randomness of the dice helps to limit the power of being the first person to get a high level creature. Someone getting a dragon early on certainly has an advantage, but they have a 50% chance of not using it when it's drawn, and only a 16% chance of rolling it's most powerful form (which, like you said, is difficult to kill unless another very high level character is drawn).

    I do agree that needing to score to remove dice can be a bit annoying if your creatures are consistently killed off. I've been thinking of adding a house rule to allow one removal per turn, but I'd need to play more to see if that creates more problems.

    It isn't a perfect game by any means, and it wouldn't be one of my "desert island" games, but we've found fun in it. There is strategy to be had, while there's enough randomness that no one is ever a shoo-in for victory.

  4. @Josh--Thanks for the seasoned player's (and a dissenting) perspective. I'm glad that you are finding fun in it. (Have you tried Dominion yet???)

  5. @FarmerLenny--I haven't, but it's still on my list. Playing new games from GenCon and starting a D&D campaign has taken up all of my gaming time.

    I'll be sure to let you know when I finally do!


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