One of the hits of this past GenCon was Quarriors, a “dice building game” from WizKids.
Before I talk about it, let me back up a little. In 1993, Wizards of the Coast invented an entirely new type of game, the collectable card game. Magic: the Gathering took the gaming world by storm and made the sleepy little company millions of dollars in a very short time. Its success spawned a host of imitators, most of which were obvious, awful cash-ins to the whole CCG fad. In addition to lookalike card games, attempts were made to take the collectible model to other formats. Two years later, in 1995, TSR introduced Dragon Dice, which was a collectable dice game.
In 2008, Rio Grande Games introduced the card game Dominion, which was an entirely new gaming concept, the “deckbuilding” game. In it, you start with a deck of basic cards which, as the game progresses, you add more and more cards to, cycling through the deck over and over, in order to build up more resources with which to get more powerful or valuable cards. Dominion was a huge success and once again, has been followed by a bunch of similar games. In addition, other companies have attempted to take the deckbuilding aspect to other formats, such as Puzzle Strike, which uses cardboard disks drawn from a bag instead of cards.
Quarriors is, then, a deckbuilding game using dice. It’s a little later on the scene than Dragon Dice was, but the sentiment is similar. (It’s worth noting that WizKids originally made its name with MageKnight, an adaptation of the CCG to miniatures.)
True to its claims, you get a qrapton of dice:
They’re smaller than normal, about a half inch on a side. This often makes it hard to see the tiny little numbers on them, which are more important than the huge icons.
Standard deckbuilder rules apply. Each turn you draw six dice from your bag and roll them. You then figure out what to do with them based on what you rolled. The little drops with numbers on them are “quiddity” which you use to buy dice or activate monster dice.
When monster dice come into play they do their damage to all other monster dice on the board, which may kill some of them. If your monster stays out a full round without being killed, you get points for it. First person to a set number of points wins. There’s nothing particularly complicated here. It’s easy to learn and a game takes very little time.
If you’re looking for a silly, brainless, goofy time-waster, you’ve found one! You can stop reading now.
Seriously, it’s okay. All I’m going to do after here is hate fun and despise joy.
The game claims to be “uber strategic” and it’s pretty much not. There really isn’t any strategy (or tactics) at all. You’ve got two levels of randomness here: what you pull out of the bag and what you get when you roll. I’ve got nothing against that per se, but it definitely cuts down on how much strategy you can claim.
In fact, what you get instead of cards is frustration. Each creature die has three faces that are quiddity, not a creature. When you buy a creature you only really buy half of a creature, on average. In one game I played of this I bought a lot of creatures that never made it out because I rolled nothing but quiddity on them.
Should you roll a monster, you pay the quiddity cost to activate it and then it attacks all other dice with its power. They defend with their defense and then yours waits to see if it survives until your next turn. That’s pretty much it. There’s nothing you can do to help it survive; its defense is pretty much just whatever you rolled. (There are some spells that help out a little, but you’ve got the same issues with those, since they’re dice too.)
There’s one thing about the game that seems clever. Each die (creature or spell) has its icons on it, but those icons don’t always mean the same thing in each game. There are cards which explain what the icons mean, and for each creature and spell there are different versions, some weaker and some stronger. So the same dice can be used to represent different things, which shakes things up a little from game to game.
In theory, this is pretty cool. In practice, though, it’s yet another level of frustration, since you have to refer to a card to remember what the dice in front of you mean (and woe unto you if you think you remember but are actually remembering what they did last game.) This is especially important in cases where the different versions of the same dice do completely opposite things.
In our games I won one and lost one. Neither time did I feel like I made any decisions that resulted in either outcome. I rolled the dice, bought what I could with them (usually as big a thing as possible) and put them in play if they were creatures. Some creatures were obviously better than others and those got snapped up pretty quickly by all players.
We had a good time, and chucking handfuls of dice is fun, but there are plenty of other games that are fun. If someone brought out Quarriors and wanted to play, sure, I’d be up for a game, but there’s no real “there” there. I know this sounds crazy coming from a DungeonQuest fan, but if I want to just do something and not think or do anything that makes a difference, then it doesn’t sound like what I want to do is play a game. Even the fun involved was short-lived, since you never really do much of anything. People remark about how everyone playing Quarriors at GenCon was having a blast, but were those different groups having fun for about ten minutes and then moving on, or the same people having fun over and over with a game that never gets tiresome? I suspect the former.