Dale Yu: Review of Quarriors

Quarriors: 130 dice in a tin cube – packed with all sorts of fun!

Designers: Mike Elliott and Eric Lang
Publisher: WizKids
Time: ~30 min
Players: 2-4
Ages: 14+

From the box:  “Quarriors [is] a fast-paced game of hexahedron monster combat! You must strategically balance your options each turn: do you use your Quiddity to summon creatures in the hopes of scoring Glory OR spend it all to capture more powerful Quarry from the wilds?  Outmaneuver your opponents through strategic spell use, the acquisition of powerful Quarry, and ultimately, by striking down opponents’ creatures to gain the most Glory!”

Make sense?  Maybe the terms are new to you, but if you’re familiar with Dominion and Magic: The Gathering, it’ll be easy to pick up this new “dice-building” game from Wizkids. Quarriors takes the current trend of deck-building games and gives it a big twist by using dice instead of cards as the building blocks.  The game comes with 130 different dice – 3 basic types used in all games and 15 other types, of which 10 are used in each game.

no really, 130 dice...

Rules

Setup for Quarriors sounds a bit complicated, but it turns out to move quite quickly once you’ve done it once or twice.  First, each player gets a dice bag filled with 8 basic (white) dice and 4 assistant (brown) dice.  Then, you set up the Wilds (the supply of dice available in this game).  Every game uses the Basic, Assistant and Portal dice.  Then, using the deck of cards, you choose 7 creature dice (out of 10) and 3 spell dice (of out 5 types) to use.   Essentially, you shuffle all the creature cards and then flip over cards from the top until you get 7 unique types, discarding any cards which repeat a die already in the game.  There are three cards for each of the creature dice, so it is likely that you will get a repeat or two before you have 7 different types.  Each of the cards for a particular die give the die different special abilities or may change the ability of a particular face on the die (marked with an asterisk).  This is the main way that the game introduces variability into the game since it would be a feat of super human physics to have a dice game with morphing faces…

Example of the Wilds in a game of Quarriors

Then, after you have chosen the creature dice, you take the spell cards and flip out cards until you have 3 unique spell dice in play as well.  Place the 10 chosen cards on the table and then put the 5 colored dice which correspond to each next to the cards.  You also place 2 brown dice next to the Assistant card and the 5 yellow dice next to the Portal card.  After that, you’re pretty much ready to go!

If you’ve played other Deck building games, like Dominon or Thunderstone, you’ll find that the gameplay will feel very similar to those games.   So… let’s start at the end.  In order to win, you’ve got to reach the victory point target before anyone else.  In a 4p game, this is 12 points, 15 points for 3p and 20 points for 2p.   To get there, each of your turns is played in a pattern of six phases.

First,  you score points if (and only if) you have any creatures in front of you that have survived since your last turn.   As you score your creatures, you have the chance to cull or streamline your dice at that time.  I’ll come back to this phase and the culling later.

Second, you draw 6 dice from your bag and roll them.  Like Dominion, you have a discard area where you keep your used dice.  If your bag ever becomes empty, you refill the bag with all the dice in your discard area and draw from the newly filled bag.

Two dice up close

Third, you “cast” spells and “summon” creatures.  There are a few main types of dice in Quarriors.  The basic die (white in color) really only provides Quiddity – which is the currency of the game.  This white die provides you either one or two Quiddity depending on which face comes up.  There are also dice which are spells, and there are 3 different spell dice available in the supply of each game.  These spells provide Quiddity of some of their faces, but provide spells on others.  If you roll a spell side up, you can set the spell aside in your Ready area, and then you can trigger the effect of that spell (and discard the die) at whatever point you need it.  The last main class of dice are the Creatures.  There are 7 different creature types available in each game.   Creature dice also have a face or two that provides Quiddity while the others represent creatures of varying strengths.

When you roll your dice, the first thing you do is set aside any spells and then decide if you’d like to summon any of the creatures that you may have rolled.  Each creature die has a level number indicated in its upper left corner.  If you’d like to summon that creature (i.e. bring it into play), you have to spend an amount of Quiddity equal to the level number of that creature.  To do so, you simply take dice which provide that amount of Quiddity needed and place those dice in your discard area.  You can cast as many creatures on your turn as you have rolled (and have the Quiddity to pay for).

Examples of the different cards

Fourth, once all of your creatures are brought into play, they attack.  To calculate the strength of your attack, you simply add together all the attack values of the creatures in front of you.  The attack value can be found in the upper right corner of the die.  Essentially, you are attacking each of your opponents with this same value.   Then, in clockwise order, each of your opponents has to deal with the damage.  The defender chooses one of the creatures that he has in front of him (which was cast on that player’s previous turn), and that creature absorbs as much damage as it can – using its defense value found in the lower right corner.  If the defense value is greater than the total attack value, the attack is over and nothing is destroyed.  However, if the total attack is greater than that first defender, the defender is destroyed, and that die is placed in the discard pile of the defending player.  The defending player must then try to defend whatever attack value is remaining.  This continues until either the defending player has no more creatures in front of him or until the attack is repulsed.  Note that there is no penalty to the player is he has no creatures to defend him, the attack simply ends without effect.   Of course, the only way to score victory points in Quarriors is to have creatures survive all attacks to the start of the next round, so a player with no creatures in play to defend himself with will also not score any victory points at the start of his next turn!  The defender gets to choose the order in which his dice defend so that he can try to plan which of his dice will survive a large attack.

Fifth, you can capture one die from the Wilds.  To do this, you may use any Quiddity you have remaining in front of you (remember that you may have already spent some of your rolled Quiddity paying for the casting costs of your creatures).  The purchase cost of any die is in the upper left corner of the card on the table.  You should pay attention to how many types of dice are sold out because the game can also end immediately if there are 4 types of creature dice in the Wilds which are completely sold out!  If this happens, the player with the most points at that particular moment wins the game.  If you buy a new die, you place the newly bought die as well as any dice used to provide the needed Quiddity to the discard area.

Sixth, you move any unused dice in your active area to the discard pile.  You also have the option of moving any unused Spells to the discard pile at this time.  However, you can also leave the Spell dice in your active area (and still use their effect at any appropriate time).

Now that we’ve gotten to the end of the turn, let me go back to the first phase of the game to explain how that works.  In the first phase, you score points for each creature die which has survived though one entire round of the game.   The number of glory points that you score for a die is found on the upper right of the card in the Wilds.  This can vary from 1 to 6 points.  Once you’ve given yourself the appropriate number of points on the scoring track, you then move all the dice which scored to your discard pile.

Now, you have the chance to cull your dice.  To do this, you may remove one die from your discard pile for each die that just scored.  When you do this, you simply place the culled die back in the supply next to its corresponding card.  Any player (including yourself) could acquire this die on a later turn.  You are not obligated to cull dice from your discard area though.

The game continues on in this pattern until either someone has reached the target Victory Point total or four creature dice are sold out in the Wilds (supply).

Thoughts

Overall, I really like the game. I am not quite ready to say I love it, but I think that it’s going to get to that level as I continue to play it (and play with the upcoming promos/expansions).

At first, I felt that the dice didn’t work together as synergistically as the cards do in many other deck-building games – it seemed harder to come up with good “combos” of dice that would work together well.  However, I think that this feeling was due to a lack of familiarity with the game.   Having played it over 20 times now, I have seen how the different dice can work together.  Though you have to work a bit harder to get the dice to work together, when they do, I think that the combos are quite strong.

Like Dominion, I feel that it is best to have a super-focused strategy.  If there is one die combo that you’d like to exploit, your whole bag of dice should be focused on that.  For instance, if you’d like to build a strategy around the Mighty Primordial Ooze (which has attack/defend values equal to the number of creatures in all ready areas), I’d recommend filling your bag with plenty of assistants or other Oozes so that you can hopefully summon the Ooze with two or three other creatures (hopefully other Oozes).

Of course, the variability inherent in rolling the dice prohibits any strategy from being fool-proof.  In the end, you still have to be able to pull the right dice out of the bag together, and then you have to roll the right face on die/dice to pull of that combo.  This can be maddening at times when you finally get the die you want but then always roll Quiddity with it… but, this is exactly the same problem that your opponents are dealing with as well.

I find that this constant uncertainty in what the dice will roll makes the game exciting.  It helps level the playing field as even the most superior strategy isn’t guaranteed to win.  It also ratchets up the tension near the end of the game when oftentimes the game comes down to the results of the dice roll.  (And I mean this in a good way… By the end of the game, your bag should be fairly well optimized due to culling, so you should be able to get a good chance of drawing the dice that you want in the endgame.  You put yourself in a good position to win but you still have to hope that you roll well).

Having only played 20 or so games, it’s hard to see the combos as the setup is always changing.  In each game, you have to choose 7 creature dice from the pool of ten, and then each of those dice has 3 different cards.  Additionally, you choose three of the 5 spell dice, and each of those spell dice has 4 different possible identities.  If I’ve done the math right, this gives you 167,961,600 different ways to set up the game.

(10 choose 7) times (3 choose 1)^7 times  (5 choose 3) times (4 choose 1)^3

An issue that has come up with the multiple different setups is that players often have to refer to cards on the table to remember what the dice do in the particular game that they are playing in.  It’s not really that big of a deal since all the cards are in the center of the table for all to see – but it would sometimes be better if each player could have their own reference.  The gamer geek in me wants to make copies of all of the cards and include them in each player’s stuff, but that would take more time than I have right now!

Here are the three upcoming promo cards - you can see how much information they pack onto the small card! Taken from: http://wizkidsgames.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/Promo_Cards.jpg

One other quibble I have with the game is that the game doesn’t guarantee a good first impression.  Unlike a lot of the other “deck-builders”, there isn’t a suggested set of cards to start with, and Quarriors can definitely play differently based on which cards/dice are available in each game.  Now, unlike other deck-builders, I don’t think that dice have as much synergy in their actions, so maybe it isn’t as important – but it’s something worth considering.

[*Disclaimer — just to be clear, I am one of the developers of Dominion which is a similar game and could be considered a “competitor”.  However, I don’t think this is an issue.  Quarriors is great, and I think that gamers out there would want to have a copy of both this and Dominion in their game library!]

The packaging is definitely eye-catching – my copy of the game comes in a tin which looks like the Quake Dragon die.  I’ll admit that I ended up throwing out the plastic inserts because leaving the inserts in caused me to have to pack up the game perfectly each time in order to get the components back into the box and allow the lid to shut.  With the inserts out of the way (and the individual dice types stored in small baggies), I can just throw everything back in the box quickly and snap the lid on.   Additionally, there is space for the extra beer coasters that I use in my game to serve as reminders of the discard pile area.  The final advantage of this system is that I have plenty of room for the promos and upcoming expansions that I’m certain to want to add to the game!

The Quarriors tin and everything that comes inside it!

My impression of the game: I like it. (and trending upwards)

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers:

Luke Hedgren:

Pluses:

  1. It’s dice. Fun to roll your “hand” each turn. Though, Dale and I thought the bags should be bigger.
  2. Nice job adding variability by having three cards for each die type. Though, this does make it a little harder to memorize what each die does from game to game.
  3. You attack everyone all at once. So no Nightfall-esqe kingmakeriness. (That is a technical term.)
  4. The effects were clear and not obtuse. (I just watched The Shawshank Redemption. Sue me.) It’s very obvious why each die was good or bad, or costed what it did.

Minuses:

  1. It’s dice. There is an extra level of randomness involved. Not only do I have to draw the dice I bought, they have to come up on the right sides after rolling, in order to use them to do cool stuff. It’s possible to buy a creature and never get to actually use it. In Dominion, and all other “deck-building” games I have played for that matter,  this isn’t possible, barring getting attacked, as your cards
  2. Turns seemed to play themselves. The same currency is used to play creatures, and then to buy stuff. So, play any creatures I can, then buy something. You could say the same for Dominion, but there are a lot more turns in Dominion, so your buys are the main decisions there, and there are a lot of them. Maybe I didn’t have enough re-roll stuff going on, and we did play 4 player games….
  3. Though it didn’t break our games, it sure seems like a rich get richer thing is going on. When you score points, rather than get slowed down like Dominion, the opposite happens: you get a mini “Chapel” effect. Hmmm… Maybe it balances in that you have to spend the currency on casting creatures to score points (and stop others from scoring) rather than making your “deck” better. Not sure.
  4. Not a lot of “deck building” or combing going on. Each die type seemed to be sort if self-contained, and not enough turns to “tune” your deck.

I had fun. I’d play again. Doubt I’ll buy. But, that could change. It certainly has before

Mary Prasad:
I’m partial to dice – the smooth feel, the weight of them in hand, and the beautiful colors –  so naturally I was attracted to this game. In general I liked it, although I only played it one time. I am looking forward to playing it more in the future, at least to try out different combinations. The luck factor is pretty big, seems like another layer over Dominion (and other deck building games) because you not only have to draw the right dice, but you have to roll the right stuff (whatever that might be at the time to be helpful). If the game keeps moving along though (i.e. no A.P. players!) then the luck factor may not detract so much from the fun. I will probably pick up a copy of this game.

Greg Schloesser:
Wow!  My thoughts match nearly exactly to those of Luke.  The game suffers from being luck-heavy, which is to be expected of a dice game.  It can be frustrating to devise a strategy, purchase the needed dice, then rarely, if ever, roll the symbols you need to implement that strategy.  This happened to me more than once.  That doesn’t happen in Dominion.  Plus, there is a definite ‘rich get richer’ syndrome.  Get off to a bad start and you likely will not recover.  And yes, the bags are too small, and the black one seems to deteriorate, leaving funky black residue on the table.  I’m not sold on the attack mechanism, and would rather see more ways to earn victory points.

That being said, the game is still fun.  It is a clever adaptation of the system pioneered in Dominion, and it is just plain fun to roll those dice.   I’ve ordered a copy and will likely play a lot more, but I doubt it will ever replace Dominion as my favorite in this new genre.

Jonathan Franklin:
I am not a deck-building fan in general, but I really appreciated the thought that went into bringing dice into this arena.  One benefit of Quarriors over the classics is that a Dominion Jedi and a Dominion newbie cannot have a competitive game of Dominion.  However, the luck introduced by Quarriors levels the playing field between them.  Bug or feature is an individual choice.  I liked the game.

Two small issues – I had trouble reading the numbers in the corners of the dice.  Additionally, because the same dice can have different effects depending on the card drawn, I found myself looking at the cards and the dice more, going back and forth.  I assume this subsides with time.

Two thoughts based on not that many plays – I used a mancala board as a dice holder, placing the cards next to the pits and it worked very well.  Second, I found that starting with a deck of one card for each die and just using seven of the ten preselected cards for the first few games worked well.  When doing this, go for a range of costs, so you don’t have all high end or low end dice.

Doug Garrett:
I must say I enjoyed my first playing of the game, but I don’t see it replacing Dominion as my deck builder of choice.  Sure, the dice are a nice feature, and I like the fact that the same dice can be used for future expansions of monsters/spells.  However, I agree with Jonathan that the SMALL numbers in the various corners of the dice can be difficult to read for my 43-year-old eyes.  Also, I guess I just have fatter hands than some, but as others have mentioned the dice bags are just too small for my hand to easily delve into.  Finally, Dale’s choice to add coasters as a holding area for used dice is a necessary addition that I assume either others will implement, or WizKids will exploit with player mats due out in time for Christmas.  What I am sure of is that this will be the latest obsession with many for at least a few months starting in a week or so.

Valerie Putman:
I was very neutral about the game, but I don’t love dice games. I did really like the scoring/fighting mechanism. When you summon creatures they deal damage to everyone else’s creatures. If your own creature survives to your next turn, you score glory and it goes away at the beginning of your turn. However…. the different sides of a die have different strengths, but it scores the same glory (usually 1 – 3 pts) every time. So the game is really just waiting to get lucky enough to roll a creature on it’s good side in a round when no one else rolls a bigger creature so you can score a few points. Then just be the first person to get lucky enough to do that several times. The real choices in the game–which dice to buy and which dice to cull when scoring didn’t seem important enough. I never felt like someone won the game because they played better (and heck–that was me in 4 out of 5 games!!). I always felt that someone won because they got luckier. (For example, one of the games I won I kept forgetting to cull dice and it didn’t seem to matter.) I think I would like the combat mechanism applied to a different game.

Ratings Summary from the Opinionated Gamers:
I love it!
I like it.  Dale Yu, Mary Prasad, Jonathan Franklin, Doug Garrett
Neutral. Luke Hedgren, Greg Schloesser (but this may improve), Valerie Putman
Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
This entry was posted in Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Dale Yu: Review of Quarriors

  1. Josh Stein says:

    I was skeptical when I first heard of this game from our distributors – and remained so up until demoing it a GenCon 2011. After playing a round or two at the WizKids booth, I realized that they had indeed stumbled upon a great amalgam of dice rolling and deck building. I think the timing couldn’t have been better either, as the Dominion “followers-on” have pretty much saturated the market with card games, so the uniqueness of the dice is welcome – yet the familiarity of building is still there.

    It will remain to be seen if this will define a new genre, or continue to be a outlier in the deck-builder class games.

    http://fairgamestore.com/2011/08/gen-con-highlights-rolling-dice-pwning-n00bs/

  2. Michael says:

    Thanks for the in-depth review, unfortunately I didn’t make it to the end as I grew tied of reading comparison after comparison to Dominon. Dominion this, Dominon that, like Dominon, unlike Dominon, in Dominion…. Argghh! Please, enough already.

    I haven’t played the ‘D’ game and so those 17 references were completely lost on me. I’m sure there are lost of people out there who have played it and appreciate the many comparisons you repeatedly make but unfortunately each one serves to alienate those of us who haven’t.

    Great article with good use of clear photos; just a shame it’s let down by constant comparisons to a different game.

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