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Subject: What's all the fuss about? rss

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Ed Collins
United States
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For some reason, I don't think of Quarto! as a board game. Maybe because it seems to break all the rules of what a board game should be! For one, the sixteen pieces are common to BOTH players and two, YOU don't get to decide which piece to place each turn... your OPPONENT chooses for you! Interesting!

Quarto! is played on a 4x4 board with sixteen pieces, each one slightly different. A piece is either tall or short, light or dark, round or square, solid or hollow. The object of the game is to place a piece on the gameboard that creates a line of four pieces, with all four pieces having at least one characteristic in common. However, as mentioned above, YOU don't get to decide which piece to place, it's your crafty opponent that gets to choose!

I've read that Quarto! is the most awarded game in history. If this is true, I'm quite surprised... and also VERY disappointed, since I don't feel it is worthy of such praise at all!

Quarto! doesn't really begin to get 'fun' until the final three, four, or possibly five moves. It's only at this stage of the game that a human can begin to work out the permutations of what may or not be a winning move.

Let me explain...

If you're handed the final piece, you have just one choice for it, since at this point there is only one empty square remaining.

If you're handed the second-to-last piece, you have just two possible moves - you can play this piece on Square Choice #1 or Square Choice #2, as you hand your opponent the final piece. Follow me so far?

If you're handed the third-to-last piece, your move selection climbs up to six: Play the piece you've been given on Square Choice #1 and hand your opponent Piece #1 or Piece #2 (2 options), play the piece you've been given on Square Choice #2 and hand your opponent Piece #1 or Piece #2 (2 options), or play your piece on Square Choice #3 and again hand your opponent Piece #1 or Piece #2 (2 options).

Now, being handed the SIXTH-to-last piece means figuring out the permutations of THIRTY possible moves, which includes knowing that your opponent will have TWENTY possible choices of how to play when you hand over HIS piece. As it is, even at this late stage of the game, (to say nothing of the opening or the middlegame!) these are more permutations to analyze in one's mind than most evereyone can handle.

Most of my games seem to bear this out. As long as my opponent and I are careful and we each don't hand the game over by walking into a simple 'mate-in-one', (to borrow a chess term) the winner of Quarto! invariably 'stumbles' upon the right move, very late in the game, WITHOUT having planned it that way at any time previously!! This is not my idea of fun or my idea of what should make a good game!

Quarto! is not a deep game. A game having 'depth' means it has lasting interest, because the player continues to learn how to improve his play for a long time. A game with depth can actually be measured by recording the results of games and determining the number of distinct 'levels' there are. If the players in Level 'A' all lose regularly to the players in Level 'B' who regularly lose to those in Level C, etc., up to Level n, then the value of n measures the depth of the game. Go, for example, is said to be a deeper game than chess and as a tournament chess player, I know that chess is probably at least 10 levels deep. Quarto! is nowhere close to this.

Another good sign a game has depth is the amount of literature on the game. Look at the amount of literature on chess, checkers, backgammon, go, etc. Even games like Pente and Othello have had numerous articles and websites devoted to them. However, I'm quite certain we will never see volumes written on the proper way to play Quarto!! For the record, I believe that Quoridor, also made by GATC/Gigamic, has MUCH more depth than Quarto! has.

I give Quarto high marks for originality, but the game's 'depth' is much to 'shallow' for me.

It took many years before Connect Four was 'solved' and it will be interesting to see how long until Quarto is resigned to that 'fate' and what that result will be. To me, all three possibilities (a forced win for the first player, a forced win for the second player, or a forced draw) are all equally likely. Of course, even after it's solved, it will be no less fun to play. Yes, Quarto can be fun, but after my second or third game, I find myself looking for something more.
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Bob Gerold

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I agree with you that in it's standard format Quarto can become too simple. If you add the rule that allows a square of the same features, as well as the traditional line, it adds a great deal of variation and interest.

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