Limited, but still addictive
If, like me, you’ve never played a physical dice-building game before, then Quarriors should be the right game for you. It’s not very complicated. You roll your dice, gather your resources, and attack with your monsters while your enemies defend. Sometimes you buy monsters or spells and build up a whole virtual dice bag of possibilities.
Unfortunately, that last paragraph is far and away a better tutorial than the one the game provides. In Quarriors, the actual tutorial is a dizzying info dump of pop-up windows and flavor terms with nary a layman’s interpretation to guide you. It will teach you to collect “quiddity” to capture monsters from the “wilds” so you can accrue “glory;” just don’t expect a breakdown of what any of that means, or for any of it to be eased into your game organically. If you miss the tutorial blast at the top of your first round, you can dig through a series of static PDFs in the help section for a dictionary of terms and turn orders, but that’s hardly optimal. Quarriors does not make a good first impression.
Lucky for the developers, then, that the game is so addictive. Once you parse the learning curve, the core mechanics are surprisingly simple – and more importantly, incredibly fun. You can get through an entire match in a few minutes if you play with other humans in the room, or against the game’s AI. Online matches take longer, being asynchronous, and unfortunately share the offline mode’s drought of information. It took me a few moments to even realize online play was asynchronous.
Pass-and-play is still perfect for filling in those tiny, quiet moments of the day. Despite the game’s awful introduction, I’d even recommend it to dice-building beginners, if there’s someone more familiar with the game to teach them. It’s great for first-timers for other reasons, too. Its aesthetic is a goofy, simple, but attractive “comedy fantasy” design. We’re not talking Munchkin here, but it’s willing enough to have fun with itself that traditional fantasy skeptics will have something to latch onto. Great for beginners, then, but certainly not perfect.
For instance, in Quarriors attacks are handled automatically with all summoned creatures, and defending is mandatory. That’s great for board game novices who forget what moves they can make and when, but limiting for strategy buffs. All that changes with fewer or greater players is the probability of losing your dice (and thus the “glory” points associated with keeping them alive a full turn – the points that win you the game). There is a certain level of strategy to defense, granted. You can soak up damage with tank-heavy units to keep your more offensive dice in play to score more glory. Assuming, that is, you were even able to roll multiple creatures this turn, and don’t just lose everything to a compulsory defend.
It’s not just player interaction that’s limited, either. You’ll notice after just a few games that the randomized dice available for capture repeat – a lot. It puts a strain on replay in a game that can be finished multiple times in a handful of minutes when you draw seven cards from a locked pool of ten or so. Add that to the limited interaction, and matches begin to look and feel awfully similar over time.
Even with these minor flaws, it still bears mentioning that I stopped to play some more Quarriors twice while writing this review. Clearly the novelty hasn’t worn off for me yet, and I posit that it will last long to justify that current and negligible price of $3.99. Future expansions for a few dollars more would still be more than welcome.