I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
Quarto is an abstract game similar in some ways to tic-tac-toe. There are 16 spaces on a 4X4 board and 16 pieces, each with four characteristics, to go in them. The object of the game is to get four pieces in a row that share at least one of the four characteristics. What make this game difficult is that your opponent selects the piece you get to play and vice versa.
I basically summed up the rules in the introduction paragraph. On a player's turn, their opponent will hand them a piece to place on the board. The basic goal is to get four pieces in a row that share at least one characteristic. I will describe the characteristics later on in the review. Thats really all there is to the basic rules.
Some variants have started appearing that give alternate win conditions. These don't really change the basic rules of the game, but can add some flavor and make players think differently.
Quarto is a very simple game as far as components are concerned. The game is played on a board consisting of 16 spaces in a 4X4 square. This creates several rows, including two lines bisecting the square into 2 triangles. These two rows count and can often be forgotten because they are not as obvious to see as the other rows.
There are 16 pieces in the game with each having four characteristics. The characteristic categories are Light or Dark, Short or Tall, Square or Round, and Hollow or Solid. The categories are split evenly among the pieces leaving 8 light and 8 dark, 8 short and 8 tall, 8 square and 8 round, and 8 hollow and 8 solid. The characteristics are mixed since there are only 16 pieces in the game so one piece may be Dark, Tall, Round and Hollow while another will be Short, Dark, Round and Solid.
Quarto comes in a variety of styles for cheap $5 sets to much more expensive wood varieties. With so many options, its easy to find a Quarto set that matches what you want to spend with the quality you desire. My first set is a simple plastic collection which was a great choice to make sure I enjoyed the game before spending money on a more elaborate version. This is comparable to the wide variety of chess sets available.
Quarto is a fast game. Since there are only 16 spaces, the game is on a pretty short clock. Since there are so many possibilities, this game can produce a bit of AP as both players need to be constantly aware of rows filling up. Even with slow players, this game probably shouldn't take more than 10-15 minutes, making it perfect for gatherings in which many people can play through the course of the event.
Compare it to...
Lots of people think Quarto is just a tic-tac-toe derivative. I believe there is some merit to that, but Quarto goes well beyond what tic-tac-toe is capable of. Tic-tac-toe only has 2 pieces: X and O. That is the only characteristic of each piece. Quarto has 4 characteristics which makes it much harder to keep track of all the developing lines. Quarto's board is also bigger by 7 squares. If tic-tac-toe is the comparison, the Quarto is the Barry Bonds of tic-tac-toe variants.
I like Quarto quite a bit. Its the only abstract in my collection besides chess and checkers, both of which never get played. Its a fast game and can be taught to anyone in about 2 minutes, slightly shorter than its playing time. I rate it a 7.5 because I'll always play a game if asked, and I sometimes find myself really wanting to play a couple games with a group of people. The game certainly deserves its Mensa Select award, to say the least.
Most people have a chess set in their house. It seems like a pretty standard game to have sitting out on the coffee table, but I feel Quarto is a better choice. Chess is harder to learn, and if both players aren't even, the match will be a slaughter. I know that people think of chess as a life skill, something to be learned through the ages, but I believe that most houses will be better off with a copy of Quarto sitting on the table. Anyone who comes over will be able to play in under 120 seconds and can be competitive right off the bat. This game is as accessible as checkers, but with harder decisions and a more demanding attention to detail. Anyone who plays this game once will certainly want to give it another try.