Matt's Board Game Back Room

Join me in my cozy little back room filled with games! Ooh and ah at some new releases. Learn about some more recent games. Or, look back at some older and classic games. From Euros to Ameritrash, kids games to grown-up games, easy to intense - nothing much is ignored in Matt's Board Game Back Room! (Updates will be cross-posted from my blogspot blog - click my Blogger microbadge to go there now)

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FRESH BAKED - 'Qwirkle' by Susan McKinley Ross (Review) - Lucky Charms the game, or Brain Food for the Avid Gamer?

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Ok, here goes. I don't want to hear any complaining that I'm looking to get a bunch of attention due to my writing reviews of first '7 Wonders' and now 'Qwirkle', recent Spiel de Jahres nominees (well, Kennerspiel de Jahres for 7 Wonders).


Qwirkle box cover


Honestly, it's purely coincidence. I will freely admit that I did the 7 Wonders review and timed it with the nominee announcements only because I'd just opened and played the game and it worked out well that way. HOWEVER, I did not also intend to open, play and review Qwirkle just because it was nominated as well.

As fate would have it, several days prior to the announcements, I literally opened and took pictures of BOTH games on the EXACT same day. Seriously! When I saw Qwirkle was on the SdJ list I was astounded, not only because of the openings foreshadowing the announcements, but I was also thinking "Hasn't Qwirkle been out for a while?!" Who would have guessed (well, here in the US at least) that it would be nominated or even considered? I mean, it was first released in 2006! Well, apparently it was just released in Germany in 2010, thus qualifying it for the SdJ.

Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! And, in case you don't believe me, I can show you the timestamps on the pictures. Actually, here they are:


File properties as proof...


After the announcements, I considered sending Susan McKinley Ross (Qwirkle's designer) an interview request but then I heard Garrett's Games podcast from Kublacon over the Memorial Day Weekend (which included her, Richard Borg, and Aldie) and knew that it was pointless then as I wasn't going to top that...there might be a few interesting questions to ask, but I don't think I'll pursue it at this point.

But, I can still do a review, right? Ok, now that I've gotten that out of the way, here's my review.

THE REVIEW
Qwirkle is a very simple game in terms of rules and it sounds a bit like Scrabble (the similarities here are undeniable, although there are definite differences as well):
On your turn, play tiles of various colored symbols from your hand to form 'words' (the rules call them 'lines' but 'words' makes more sense when describing it, especially for Scrabblers)
* All the tiles you play must legally create or extend ONE existing word.
* It's possible to also create/extend branching words, just like in Scrabble.

Score points based on the word(s) you create.
* You get 1 point for every tile in the word you create or extend, even if you only added 1 tile.
* If you create/extend additional words branching off of that word you also get 1 point per tile for those words (thus, some tiles might be scored twice, once per word they are in)
* You can also earn an additional 6 bonus points for completing a 'Qwirkle' which is a 6 symbol word (the maximum length)
* There are no other bonuses.

That's it!

Ok, sorry, there's a bit more info that's important to know:
The tiles have 6 possible symbols consisting of 6 possible colors on them.
* There are 3 sets of these tiles.[/b]
* Thus: 6 symbols x 6 colors x 3 sets = 108 tiles, so 3 of each color of each symbol.
* This is important to remember, especially as the game draws close to the end as you know what tiles haven't been played yet and, conversely, you can determine if ALL tiles of a particular symbol and color are out.


The sealed block of tiles you get (3 layers of the same set of tiles)


A WORD consists of one of two things:
* x different symbols, all of the same color (where x = 2 to 6)
* x of the same symbol, all of different colors (where x = 2 to 6)
* NOTE: x different symbols of x different colors is NOT a legal word - each word has one and ONLY one similar attribute - symbols OR colors.
Thus, the smallest word you will create is of length 2 and the longest word you will create is of length 6, making a range of 2-6 points per word PLUS 6 more points in the case of a 6 tile word. Of course, creating branching words will give you additional points although getting huge scores in 1 play doesn't happen very often - I think the biggest score I saw was 15 --> 12 for completing a Qwirkle (6 tile word w/ bonus) + 3 for also extending a 2 symbol word by 1 tile.

The only other thing to know is that there is no board and there are no doubling or tripling bonuses outside of the Qwirkle bonus (which is effectively a doubling bonus).


Example end of a 2-player game


Wait, you can't play that!
The first thing we noticed when playing Qwirkle was the difficulty in understanding what is and isn't a legal 'word'. In Scrabble, the dictionary TELLS you what is and what isn't legal (i.e. you 'know' what words you can play). In this game, it's just gibberish - thus likely the reason for calling them 'lines' in the rules as you can't read them like words. Sure, you could list them all out, but a simple description is generally all that's necessary. Regardless, it's still easy to get a little confused until you get the hang of it.


My Dad contemplating his move mid-game.


There were several times we made illegal moves (we THOUGHT they were legal), counted up the scores and added them into the totals, only to discover later they were illegal. Fortunately, we usually discovered it only 1/2 a turn to a turn later, so it was easy to backtrack. The mistakes were discovered when the other player was looking over the board and then realized certain plays would be strangely illegal and it made us realize something was wrong.

You know, this game looks kind of childish - bright colors, simple shapes and fairly simple rules. In fact, it kind of looks like Lucky Charms (that yummy kids cereal)!
Yah, I kinda had that same feeling seeing this game. I'd heard rave reviews about it, but there are rave reviews about other games that truly are children's games - they end up being fun, but not something I'd normally pull out with a bunch of adults (ok, some kids games are fun with just adults, but not too many).


Oooooh! Pretty tiles!


But Qwirkle is deceivingly challenging and it's definitely not a children's game despite it's colorful and playful appearance.

Read more for the final analysis....
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Mon Jun 6, 2011 9:02 am
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HOT BOX - "Haggis" by Sean Ross (Review)

-matt s.
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I'm glad you stopped by the Board Game Back Room today! I wanted to show you this new game I've had an opportunity to play a little bit and tell you a bit more about it and what I think about it. The game is called "Haggis", was designed by Sean Ross and is published by Travis Worthington's publishing company, Indie Boards and Cards (which also has published Triumvirate, The Resistance and Filipino Fruit Market).



It was originally released in 2010 and was just recently re-printed (2nd printing) in a slightly modified box in 2011. My copy is, in fact, one of the first from the newest batch and can be seen in more detail in my other post of the box opening which I received as a result of a winning bid in the Jack Vasel support auction here on BGG.

Ok, that's enough plugging the company and such....get on with it!
Alright, alright. So, you may have heard this game is Tichu for 2 or 3 players. Honestly, hearing this made me interested as I had played Tichu a few times and found it a fun and challenging card game. For some, this might be off-putting as I know some people that don't like Tichu much at all (although many do) or just cannot play it because they don't have 4 players consistently.

Well, I will start off by saying that, in my assessment, Haggis is both similar AND not similar at the same time. There are certainly elements of Tichu and there is a 'feel' of Tichu, but, I have to say, it is NOT Tichu. I think Tichu players will certainly enjoy this game and be able to get a Tichu-like fix when they don't have 4 total players for Tichu. But, I also think this is a terrific game for non-Tichu players that want an interesting, challenging card game. This might even be a less intimidating game to give a Tichu neophyte a stepping stone to Tichu. Okay, I think I'm done saying Tichu (I said 'it' way too many times in this paragraph!) but I will say this - Haggis is NOT Tichu.

So, what IS Haggis?
Haggis is, well....Haggis! It is a careful blending of mechanics and features of several card games in the 'climbing' card game family, plus a couple of innovations thrown in as well.

Read more to get the full scoop....

Also, check back later as I hope to have an interview with Sean Ross posted in the near future!
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Mon Mar 14, 2011 5:33 pm
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