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Subject: Review: A Quizzical Quiddity Quandary rss

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John Cosgrove
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REVIEW: A Quizzical Quiddity Quandary...


INTRODUCTION
A Quandary indeed for, Quantifiably, my contempt for Quadrate gaming has compelled me on a Quest for less Quackish entertainment.

Quite correctly, you might Query the Quixotic nature of my attempt to Quantise the Quality of this ‘Quarriors!’ of which I’ve Quipped. Yet I have no Qualms in Quickly Quoting my delight at this Quaint yet Quirky game.

(..c’mon... you gotta give me points for ‘quixotic’...)

Before you start crying, no, don’t worry, I’m not going to talk like that through the entire review. Well, not quite the whole review.

Perhaps a Quarter. A Quintile?


Ahem.


THE HOOK
Quarriors! (and I'm sorry, but that's the last time I give it the courtesy of maintaining its trademark exclamation - it's nothing personal, it's just that if I do it every single time, this review will look like it's been written by a grade schooler, or someone who works in the marketing department of a discount clothes warehouse) is the most tangential of innovations yet in the spectacularly popular 'deck building' genre. I say tangential, because the game does not involve decks at all, or really cards for that matter. In place of a deck, players have a drawstring bag and in place of cards, players have dice. Over a hundred little pretty custom dice of every hue and complexion inscribed in a vast array of pleasingly archaic little symbols and stats.

But wait, what's this? Omni reviewing a game ENTIRELY about dice?? This cannot surely be fair to the purveyors of this innovative little title! Acknowledging bias is one thing, but my blanket public CONTEMPT for dice-based gaming is well documented (and occasionally quite cathartic, especially if I've just finished a game of Risk… see my review of Godstorm...). To be honest, I bought this game because long, long ago, before the vagaries of hexahedron probability crushed all hope from my gamer soul, I played a game called Dragon Dice.

This game, is nothing at all like Dragon Dice (which is a relief, because that game was seriously flawed). Except for one thing: it has totally customised, specially coloured dice in vast array. And there's something about dice as a gaming artefact that is intrinsically… Cool.

In this game, you purchase dice exactly as you would purchase cards in Dominion. And you add these dice to your dice bag exactly as you would add cards to your deck in Thunderstone.

But unlike any of these other titles, you shake the hell out of your little bag of bones instead of shuffling. And that, my friends, is infinitely… cooler.

So - by proxy - is Quarriors.


THE LINE
Stop me if you've heard this one before…

So these players sit down to play a quick game that will offer engaging strategic decisions and replayable flexibility with a minimum of downtime and [a lack of extensive direct competition]. They bust out this game which is all about starting with a standardised [deck] of [cards] and using their hand each turn to purchase more [cards] from the central randomised selection available to all players. As they expand their [decks] with the various functionality offered to them by their [cards], they are increasingly in a position to acquire more and more victory points until such time as the ending condition is met (usually when one of the central piles of [cards] runs out) and the person with the most victory points wins.

To understand how Quarriors works, simply do the following:


1 Replace [cards] with [dice]

2 Replace [deck] with [dice bag]

3 Replace [a lack of extensive direct competition] with [a bloody melee of non-stop ruthless combat in which the total annihilation of every opponent's forces each and every turn is the only way to assure victory and only the strong will survive]...


Instead of [gold] we have [Quiddity] and instead of [victory points] we have [Glory] (curiously the only principle game term NOT converted to a Q…), so there's no two ways about it: it might be full of dice, but this is a deck builder as you know and love them.

With, of course, three important differences:

1 When you summon creatures they immediately attack (without fear of immediate counter attack) every other creature under the control of every one of your opponents, more likely than not wiping them out completely.

2 The only way to score is to keep your own creatures alive through one complete turn revolution (for an idea of the relative difficulty of this, see point one).

3 Dice, unlike cards, have SIX sides…

And it's point number 3 that is really the defining difference for this game. You see, randomisation isn't simply the process of shaking the bag (which is immensely satisfying… seriously, that's the main reason you play the game) to quickly derive your new hand of six dice, it's also the process of rolling them. Each dice is really like having SIX cards, not one. Each of the dice can actually provide a range of radically different things every time you try to use them, with most spending half of their time as [Quiddity] (see above for translation into Dominionese) and the other half of the time as an opponent-shredding god-machine which seems curiously non-resilient when it's your turn to take a pounding.

And I'm afraid, my friends, that it's this point of differentiation which provides us with the quandary of which I first quipped…


THE SINKER
So there's one big problem with a game that's all about dice.

DICE.

Now before you lot start at me again with the whole 'lolz ur reviewz suc becauz u reviewd a gamez wit things u hate, tard' line, let me be clear:

I REALLY LIKE THIS GAME!

There, I said it. I like this dicey dice game with extra dice. But it must be said, if the average game went for any longer than 10 minutes I might have serious issues with it, because the dice are the blessing and the curse and they're the main reason you will love or hate this game.

The best thing I can equate it to is the problem of being 'mana screwed' (to use the official WotC vernacular) in Magic: The Gathering. Other deck builders like Dominion or Thunderstone manage this problem in two ways:


thumbsup You dynamically control the composition of your [deck]
thumbsup You cycle through your [deck] at a very very high rate


In Magic, you don't cycle through your [deck] very quickly at all (unless you build it specifically to do so), so your [deck] composition is actually the heart of the whole game. As a result, even the best built [deck] can have a lousy starting hand and first few draws, leading to the problem where players don't get access to [mana] (read as [Quiddity] and refer again above to translate into Dominionese) early enough and their play stalls.

In Quarriors, you cycle through your [dice] just as quickly as you do [cards] in Dominion, so no worries there.

But then you have to roll them.

This is a single point-in-time random element that you can't shift through composition: you will always draw six dice from the bag and they will always have six sides. And you will always roll them.

So there is always the chance that you will roll all [Quiddity] or (worse) none at all… and nothing about what came before or after that event will change this.

That's the important point.

See, in a regular deck builder, you might draw all [gold]. No worries. Those cards are now out of your [deck] and your chances of drawing [gold] again next turn has been significantly reduced.

When you roll a dice, nothing about the last time you rolled that dice (or any dice) has any bearing on what you will roll next. So, we can talk about the average chance of a particular roll, but we can't talk about the cumulative chance of a particular roll, because the dice just don't care.

So, just like Magic with it's slow draw-through rate, if your dice-drop instance has come up stumps, there's nothing much you can do about it. Unlike deck building games though, this can happen again… and again... and again… and there's no such thing as(or indeed, point to) 'mulligans'. Again, we can talk about averages all we want… but once the dice are falling, they don't care about your math.

So, the problem with dice, is dice. A dice-building game is significantly more luck-exposed (Yep, that's a term now. Luck-exposed. Trademark.) than your standard deck-builder. That's really the only problem.

...And also drawing [dice] blindly from a bag. That's the only other complaint that I've heard from other players. The game requires you to draw precisely six [dice] blindly from your [dice bag]. This actually takes a bit of dexterity if you're already on your third whisky. This fiddly little step actually detracts slightly from the principle convenience of [dice] in place of [cards], which is that you simply shake to shuffle. Personally, I don't mind it much and amuse myself secretly by honing my Jedi [dice] skills and trying to draw precisely six [dice] as quickly as I can…

Ahem.


THE CATCH
If it sounds like I'm being savage, that's just the whisky talking - I really like this game and I think it does what it came to do, really well.

This game is fast. A typical game takes about 10-15 minutes, even with a full complement of players. It's not necessarily faster than Dominion, but it has more player interaction thanks to the combat.

This game is varied. You might think the dice are by definition a limiting component, but the designers have been very clever here. Each dice has a corresponding collection of 3-4 different variant cards. It's the card (which sits in the central row and is not actually purchased but used as a reference) which dictates what each dice does in each particular match. This can involve changing passive abilities, but also active ones, as each dice has an * effect which is defined on the corresponding card. Thus, there are hundreds of thousands of permutations for the game set up despite the physical limitations of the dice themselves. Clever.

And finally, this game is satisfying in a very tactile way…

…no, not that way.

I'm talking about the simple joy of a bucketload of dice! Yes, while I might hate gaming with the little buggers, I'm still a boy who grew up on D&D and GW and the dice never leave you. With their varied translucent and marble finishes and their occult little glyphs and symbols, these dice make you feel like a medieval soothsayer, casting your magic bones and consulting the auguries revealed.

Or they just make cool clinking noises. Whatever. Take-away here: Dice are cool.


KEEP OR THROW BACK?
It's unusual for me to throw cost into the equation, but I think I have to when handing down the final assessment.

This is a fun game. On many levels, this is a clever and innovative game. This is a fast game. It's also a fairly simple game.

Which means the fact that (relatively speaking) it could be considered an expensive game is a bit of a surprise, but it turns out that over 100 custom dice don't come cheap. In Australia (where I'm based), this 25cm cube of tin and dice comes in at about the same cost(AUD$75) as Game of Thrones (AUD$80). Now, I know that exchange rates will differ, but clearly this is not actually a simple purchase decision. Therefore, you should only really buy this game if you meet the following conditions:

1 You and your play group love deck building as a mechanic and are always looking for a new one

2 You and your play group think dice are the pinnacle of geek chic and will love rolling bucket loads of them

3 You and your play group love the idea of a game which offers Dominion-esque gameplay but with more combat, less shuffling and a slightly less serious (read: more beer-compatible) level of strategy.

In my case, both my gaming groups (and, importantly, my wife) are a yes to all of the above three and I suspect from how well this title appears to be doing, that's the case for a lot of people.

Or, to paraphrase Mr Jeremy Clarkson in providing evaluations of affordability:


Quote:
"So, if you've got AUD$75 then, yes you can. If, however, you only have $12.40… then no. You can't."



So at the end of the day, you just need to ask yourself one question:


Are you a high roller?







{I know, I know… I can't believe I ended it like that either…}
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Andy Andersen
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Excellent review. It seems people either love or hate this game.
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John Cosgrove
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Thank you Andy. I agree. This one has all the hallmarks of a polarising title.

- Omni
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Tom
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Orangemoose wrote:
Excellent review. It seems people either love or hate this game.


Agreed, but I sit in the middle...it is kind of like oatmeal. I enjoy it because it doesn't last long, but after several taste makers declared it the game of the year, it didn't live up to the hype so many people were disappointed. Give it a few months and I think some people will gravitate back to the game.

On a different note, I did buy the expansion and that did disappoint me but that is another story.
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Dan Halstead
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Thanks for the fun review!

I'd be very curious to know what you, as an avowed dice hater, think of using the Mulligan variant. That is, if you don't like your roll, you can discard one dice to roll all the rest again?
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Radioactive Man
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Orangemoose wrote:
Excellent review. It seems people either love or hate this game.

Actually, I know quite a few people, me included, who are pretty indifferent to the game. In most situations I've seen, people have been willing to play it, but few people clamor to do so.
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Christopher Ebert
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Omnisiah wrote:
(..c’mon... you gotta give me points for ‘quixotic’...)


quixotic

26 points
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John Cosgrove
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radagast77 wrote:
Thanks for the fun review!

I'd be very curious to know what you, as an avowed dice hater, think of using the Mulligan variant. That is, if you don't like your roll, you can discard one dice to roll all the rest again?


Thanks Radagast77, glad you liked the review.

Personally, I'm not a huge fan of this variant. While it gives the impression of lessening the issue, the truth is that the moment you drop the mulligan dice, you have exactly the same chance of getting the same aweful result as you did a moment ago, only now you have less dice in total.

Over enough games and enough hands, the net result should be more 'playable' hands than if you didn't use the variant, so it makes sense, but I don't find it as appropriate as mulligan systems in other games.

Just my take on it.

- Omni
 
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John Cosgrove
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shacky22 wrote:
quixotic

26 points


You missed my triple word score! laugh


Thanks shacky22.


- Omni
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Christopher Ebert
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Omnisiah wrote:
shacky22 wrote:
quixotic

26 points


You missed my triple word score! laugh


Thanks shacky22.


- Omni


Heh, np. Fun review! Like most say, it's either a love it or hate it. I'm not in the hating crowd. Looking forward to the next expansion already.
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Eugenia Eugenia
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In a group of my friends everybody love it, but there are two guys who absolutly hate it and will never play it again. I hate them.
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John Cosgrove
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Thanks for the GGTip, Yosemite thumbsup
 
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John Harney
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Excellent review, thanks for this. I decided to go ahead and plump down the cash for the game. I'm hoping that this will get my wife into some gaming with me!
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John Cosgrove
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Actually bought this game cause I knew my wife would love it. It's one of her favourites.

- Omni
 
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