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Subject: It's Quick, but is it Good? rss

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Kevin B. Smith
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Background and Context

Recently, as part of a shopping spree at The Game Crafter, LLC, I bought a copy of Quick Quest. I had been aware of QQ for a year or two, probably having stumbled across it while putting together my geeklist (shameless plug: PeakHope's comprehensive list of purely cooperative games). When I decided to buy a couple other TGC games, I figured I would throw QQ in the basket too.

QQ is a light dungeon crawl. I have loved the idea of dungeon crawls since my (brief and non-serious) D&D days, and I loved the Wizardry and Bard's Tale PC games. Since then, I have been looking for a dungeon crawl, but haven't found the right one. Many require one player to be the dungeon, and I don't like that. Some are competitive, which just seems wrong on many levels. Semi-cooperative is no better in my book. Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game looked promising, but turned out to be a depressing slog, where I didn't feel like we were making progress. We were just trying to survive to the end.

The reason QQ wasn't higher on my wishlist to begin with is that you can't quest with a single character. You are always a party of 3 characters (with 3 players), or 4 characters (with 1, 2, or 4 players). I just have a bias against playing multiple characters (or pawns, or sides) in a game. However, I have been buying more solo-able games lately, which probably tipped me to buying this.


TGC and Component Quality

As you may or may not know, TGC is a "print on demand" game publisher. You order a game, and then they print and/or assemble it just for you. The prices end up being comparable to a mass-produced game, but the component quality can suffer. The "hard bits", like pawns and tokens, range from good to great quality. The cards are marginal. Any game boards, tiles, or mats tend to be on glossy cardstock rather than cardboard. The boxes tend to be flimsy, and often don't even have the name of the game on the outside.

Quick Quest does reasonably well here. The box has a foam insert that does a good job of containing the pieces, and giving the box enough strength to hold up to stacking or getting tossed in a bag. The dice are good quality, and the damage chips are cheap but adequate. The bulk of the game is cards, and I wish they were better. I'm not a sleever, but if I were, I would definitely sleeve at least the 2 larger decks. The artwork on the cards is a bit cartoonish, but not to the point of silliness. I like it, and it suits a light game like this.

The rules come on 2 double-sided sheets of paper, and are quite well-written. A couple parts weren't entirely clear to me before playing, but overall I give the rules good marks.

Some people feel that TGC publishes games that are not fully developed. Since anyone can put a game up on TGC, the games have not gone through the typical vetting and development process that a "real" publisher would (hopefully) take care of. A given TGC game may not have been playtested as much as it needs.

On the other hand, there are some real gems on TGC. I bought the predecessor of Flash Point: Fire Rescue on TGC, and it was already a very good game. (It was further improved by the publisher that picked it up). So just because a game is on TGC it is not necessarily good or bad.

Aside: Personally, I think TGC would be a fantastic way for Kickstarter games to reach a wider audience. Kind of like PnP (print and play), but no effort required. Of course, that assumes at least a minimal level of artwork has already been done.

Enough digression. On to the game!


Storyline

Basically, your adventuring party goes through a 10 level dungeon. On each level, you face as many monsters (or sometimes traps) as the level number. So level 2 brings out 2 monsters, and level 8 brings out 8. Level 10 give you a "boss" monster who attracts a number of minions of his type, and fills out to 10 monsters with other random cards.

It's a very simple, abstracted system that works extremely well. When you are starting out, and weak, you face a single monster. By the time you face the boss, you are (hopefully) strong enough to take on that challenge. The reward for defeating all the monsters on the level is one treasure per monster. Again here, this works well because you score a little loot early, and near the end you are raking in piles of booty. I really like the progression from a simple level 1 up through the boss fight on level 10.


Game Length

My games have usually taken about 45 minutes, played at a moderate pace. You could probably rush through in 30, or you could linger for 60+. Obviously if you get wiped out on level 3 (as almost happened to me tonight), it will end sooner. The length feels great for this game, where I don't feel like it drags, but I also feel satisfied when it ends.


Combat

On each level, you first reveal the monster(s) and/or trap(s) you will face. There are a series of combat rounds, resolve by dice. Any monsters that survive your attack automatically damage you. The combat itself is resolved with dice, and it's a clever and effective system that centers around a "dice pool".

The dice pool consists of 2 neutral white dice, plus 1 or 2 hero dice for each of your heroes. Level 1 heroes add 1 die, and level 2 add 2 dice. There are no level 3 heroes in this game. Each hero has dice of a different color, and those dice are used to trigger that hero's special abilities. All the dice are rolled together, and as in Yahtzee, you have up to 2 additional re-rolls of any dice you want, before settling on your final results.

Each monster can be defeated by X-of-a-kind, ranging from 2 to 5. However, there are a number of special abilities (both for monsters and heroes) that make combat quite interesting. For a light dice game, you'll have to make a number of interesting decisions. There is some risk analysis, and some push-your-luck.

So you roll (and re-roll) all your dice, and THEN decide how to allocate your dice to achieve the best results. This aspect feels more euro than most dungeon games. Thematically I guess you can say that swords are swinging wildly, so each hero isn't engaged in melee with one specific opponent. It's more of a scrum, where anyone can hit anyone. Damage from monsters can also be allocated to any of your heroes, which fits that model.


Sidebar: Solo vs. Cooperative

The dice pool reflects the reality that this is a solitaire game at its core. One player can roll all the dice in the pool, and make all the decisions about how the dice interact with each other. When played cooperatively, the dice are split among the players, but they are still rolled simultaneously, and "my" dice can still interact with "your" dice to improve their effects.

I haven't played it cooperatively yet, but I don't expect it to feel like most co-ops, where each player takes a turn and is solely responsible for their own choices. The "good news" is that all the players do have to work together, to make sure the end result of the dice pool is as strong as possible.

If you normally play your co-op games with a heavy dose of group consensus, QQ should fit that model very well. If you like independence in your co-ops, it probably won't be satisfying.


Special Abilities are the key

I mentioned special abilities, and they turn what would be a boring random dicefest into something interesting. There are several different kinds of special abilities, and they work together really well:

1. Hero special abilities

There are 4 types of heroes (Fighter, Mage, Cleric, Thief), and each has one ability that is triggered on a die roll of 6. The fighter can use a 6 as a wildcard, or can use it as if it were two 6's against 2 different monsters. The thief can count a 6 as two 6's against a single monster. The cleric can use a 6 to either defeat one undead or to heal one wound. The mage can use a 6 as a fireball which causes every monster in combat to require one fewer die to be defeated. (The mage has to take a point of damage when casting a fireball, because it is so powerful).

2. Hero/monster class matchups

Most of the monsters fall into one of 4 categories which happen to align with the hero types. A hero die that matches the type of a monster counts as a double hit.

3. Monster special abilities (type-based)

Some monsters require an extra die to kill if another monster of their type is in the combat. Some can't be killed if a specific monster is still alive in this combat.

4. Monster special abilities (general)

Some monsters do double damage each round they survive. Some remove dice from your pool. Some are immune to special attacks, while others prevent the use of magic items. Some will always damage a specific hero (if that hero is still alive).

5. Item abilities

Some items absorb damage. Some items allow you to modify one of your hero dice. Some allow you to modify white dice. Some are one-time use, and others are permanent.

6. Traps

When revealed, a trap takes one specific hero out of that combat, removing their hero dice from the pool. To free them, you have to roll and then allocate a couple matching dice, meaning those resources are not available to kill monsters that round. Thieves have an easier time releasing heroes from traps (themselves or others).

All of the abilities are simple, but effective. The mix of monsters and items is well balanced...almost symmetrical between the classes, which I like. There are no abilities to give you extra dice or extra re-rolls, which is interesting. It all...just...works.


Treasure

After completing each level, you draw one treasure card for each defeated monster or trap.[EDIT: As pointed out by user luvmywife in comments below, you don't get treasure for traps.] Special monsters give you Quest Treasure cards, which are usually more valuable or powerful. Some treasures are just money or gems (which can be used for healing and leveling up). Others are single-use or permanent items.


Decisions

As mentioned, during combat you decide what to re-roll, whether or not to use the fireball, where to allocate your dice, and what items to use. After you have defeated all the monsters and received your treasure, you have a few more decisions to make: You can give up treasure to either heal wounds, raise the dead, or level up.

Leveling up does a few important things: It removes any damage you may have already taken, and it adds 2 to your available hit points (going from 3 up to 5), and it adds that important second hero die to your dice pool. You really want to level up, so you face another push-your-luck situation where you want to save your treasure for leveling up, but that means you are not healing, and therefore might die.

Almost all treasure cards have a value at the bottom, available to you by discarding that treasure. You obviously want to turn in gold and gems, because they are not worth anything special at the end of the game. However, as I said, it is often not obvious whether you should heal a point of damage now or wait to get more treasure so you can level up. It can also be a painful choice whether to give up that great magic item in order to level up a hero or bring a hero back from the dead.


Possible Negatives

What don't I like about QQ? Well, I already mentioned that the cards are not of great quality. They are a bit stiff and papery, and I'm afraid the black backs might show wear. They don't get handled a lot, but they do need to get thoroughly shuffled before each game.

There is no map or spatial component. I really like maps, and modular dungeons like Dungeoneer, and QQ doesn't have one. However, the way the dungeon levels work, I don't miss it terribly.

Setup is just slightly fiddly, where you have to fish through the monster deck to find the 4 bosses, set one aside at random, and then shuffle the rest back into the deck. If I ever remember to hold the bosses out when I defeat them in play, setup for the next game will be easier.

It is a light game. No doubt about it. The mage only has one spell, and it works exactly the same even after getting to level 2. There are not a wide variety of magic weapons. The monsters are all of more or less comparable strength--you don't have 2 HP rats and 50 HP dragons in this game. But if you go in with the right expectations, that's not a problem.

There is quite a bit of luck in the dice, and in the cards (both monster and treasure draws). But there are also a reasonable number of decisions, including some that I find quite difficult and interesting. I think the level of randomness matches the feel and length of the game.

Some might find it too easy to win. I have played QQ 4 times so far, losing 1 and winning 3. For some people, that's way too easy, but personally I don't mind winning. What is important to me is the tension, where I feel that I *might* lose, and so far QQ has delivered. One of my wins was easy, but the other two were quite tense.


Bottom Line

If you are looking for a light solo dungeon crawl, this is a great one. I suspect that it would also work well as a consensus co-op, but not as a co-op where each player works somewhat independently. You have to be ok with randomness from dice and cards, although that seems to be pretty typical with dungeon crawls. You feel more of a sense of achievement and progression with this game than with some popular dungeon crawls.

So far I rate it an 8, and I don't see that going down for a while. I suspect I'll get at least 20 games out of this, and maybe 50-100.
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Alex Eaton-Salners
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Thanks for reviewing this game. Glad to see you like it. It's been on my radar for some time. What else did you buy from The Game Crafter?
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Kevin B. Smith
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mitnachtKAUBO-I wrote:
Thanks for reviewing this game. Glad to see you like it. It's been on my radar for some time. What else did you buy from The Game Crafter?

Vehicles, Lady Pirates on Terror Island, and Escape From Pirate Island. Details here: Going Wild on The Game Crafter (Starting a Cult of the Obscure?)
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Kevin B. Smith
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A few things I forgot to mention in the review:

1. The game only comes with 4 heroes, so you don't get to choose which ones to use in each session. There are other heroes available, but my recollection is that those expansions seemed pretty pricey for what they included.

2. Heroes have no other attributes (like "Strength"). They just have their type/class, level, and "life points" (hit points).

3. Each hero can hold two equip-able items. Choosing which items to equip (and by who), which items to leave in the group's backpack, and which items to sell, is another decision I forgot to mention.

I'll probably think of more later, but that's all for now.
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Carl_S Gamer
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Great write up. I used to be a video game reviewer and so can appreciate the challenge of writing opinions while remaining objective.

Anyway, the game itself sounds like something I'd enjoy so I will take another look at it on TGC. I do like to patronize the site when I can.
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Matthew Kline
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Thank you for this fantastic write-up on Quick Quest!

I'm glad you enjoy it-

And thank you for your support of the games on Game Crafter as well!
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Kevin B. Smith
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Tonight I played co-op with one other person. It went about how I expected, which is to say it would probably disappoint most co-op fans. Because it uses a shared dice pool with simultaneous rolls, it's really hard for it not to be driven by consensus. There is very little sense of "my" heroes vs. "yours".

It was still fun, but felt more like two-brain solitaire than most co-ops. It also ran about 90 minutes, due to discussion. I would expect it to be more like 75 in the future, since he is now familiar with almost all the cards in the game. That's still longer than I would like for a light game like this, although I have to say it didn't feel like 90 minutes as we were playing. I would have guessed 60-75.

I'll stick with it as a solitaire game for the most part, although the consensus style may work with my wife.
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Kevin B. Smith
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I played a 2p cooperative game of QQ with my wife, and it reaffirmed for me that:

1. The game is much better solo than co-op. This game also ran about 90 minutes, and also had almost no sense of "mine" and "yours".

2. It probably is too easy to win. I'm still ok with it, since there is tension. But I have only lost once out of 7 plays, and that's going to bother a lot of people. I can think of several ways to make the game harder to win, but I'm not sure which might provide just the right balance.
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Rich Dodgin
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A big thanks for this review - it's what brought this game to my attention and convinced me to order it.

I got Quick Quest last night, and have been playing it all afternoon today - the game play is fast, challenging, varied, and has a great amount of player decisions required. I know I'm going to playing this for a long time to come.

Cheers!
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Wesley Jones
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Quote:
After completing each level, you draw one treasure card for each defeated monster or trap


Just pulled this out after a long absence and had a great time.

I couldn't remember if traps give you treasure, when defeated. Your statement says yes, but I believe the rules say no. Defeated monsters go to the graveyard. Defeated traps go to the discard pile. Only items in the graveyard receive treasure.

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Kevin B. Smith
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luvmywife wrote:
Your statement says yes, but I believe the rules say no. Defeated monsters go to the graveyard. Defeated traps go to the discard pile. Only items in the graveyard receive treasure.

Good catch. I don't know if I played it correctly or incorrectly before. Either way, I have updated the text above to fix the error. Thanks!
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Jonathan Franklin
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Now that One Deck Dungeon, Lost Expedition, and others are out, how does this one stand up?
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Wesley Jones
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grandslam wrote:
Now that One Deck Dungeon, Lost Expedition, and others are out, how does this one stand up?


Jonathan, I suppose your question is more for Kevin but I hope you don't mind additional input, for whatever it's worth.

For a quick, light dungeon crawl, for me it still holds up. One Deck Dungeon has more meat and greater production value. I have not played Lost Expedition. So if your expectations are for a quick, light game that requires tough choices, you shouldn't be disappointed. I still really like this game a lot and will keep it in my collection.

My one issue is the price. It is only available from the Game Crafter at $30 plus shipping. This is steep, for what it is, and card quality and artwork are not great. On the other hand, I appreciate the Game Crafter for producing games from these independent designers that allows us to even have the game.

Incidentally, One Stop Co-op shop may be doing a video playthrough sooner or later, so you can get a handle on game flow and see if it is worth it.
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Kevin B. Smith
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grandslam wrote:
Now that One Deck Dungeon, Lost Expedition, and others are out, how does this one stand up?

Wow. It was fun to go back and read my own review after all these years!

After writing the review, I did buy 2 character expansions, as add-ons to a TCG order where they wouldn't increase my shipping costs. They added some welcome variety, but didn't change the game dramatically.

I haven't played Lost Expedition. I have played ODD a few times, and I can say that ODD has more going on. You have a lot more options when placing your dice, and a lot more opportunities to manipulate them. I think ODD will be preferred by gamers, and it's a better co-op.

Another game worth mentioning is Dungeon Roll. It has a similar progression of monsters as you advance each level, uses dice, and links monster types to character classes. DR is solo or competitive, and many think it is also best solo. DR and QQ are quite different in play, but scratch a similar itch, I think.

Unfortunately, I haven't played QQ for over 5 years. I still have it, but I almost never play solo games, and I was sort of counting on this to be a co-op I could play with my wife.

If I decided I wanted to play a solo dice dungeon crawl tonight, I honestly don't know whether I would choose QQ or ODD. QQ is appealing because it has been so long, and it is just simple fun. ODD is appealing because I haven't played it as many times (and not at all for over a year), and because it is more of a mental challenge.
 
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