Gaming Unplugged: Quarriors! rolls with the punches

September 9, 2011

Just when I think I have covered more than my fair share of dice-based games, Wizkids (makers of Heroclix and similar miniature-based games) unleashes Quarriors!, the unlikely Venn diagram overlap between dice games and deck-building games. Quarriors! (yes, the exclamation mark is part of the title) allows two to four players to each start off with eight basic Quiddity dice, four Assistant dice, and a sack to hold them.

Arranged in the center of the table are ten randomly-drawn Power cards, representing three spell classes and seven creature classes, and three basic cards for basic Quiddity dice, Assistant dice, and Portal dice; each card has five corresponding dice placed on it, with the exception of the Quiddity and Assistant cards which have zero and two, respectively. There are five different classes of spells (with four levels of strength per class) and ten different classes of monsters (with three levels of strength per class); only one card of each class is allowed in a given game, so there is plenty of variety for subsequent replays. And yes, if you do the math that means that there are 130 custom dice contained in that Quarriors! tin.

Each player’s turn consists of six phases.

  1. If a player has any creatures surviving from their previous turn, they now score them — earning the amount of Glory indicated on that creature’s Power card — and place them in their “used” zone; for each creature scored in this way, the player may optionally cull a die from the “used” zone and return it to the appropriate Power card.
  2. The player draws six dice and rolls them, along with any dice that might be present in the “active” zone due to some ability. If there are less than six dice remaining in that player’s bag, they draw as many as they can before returning all of the dice in their used zone to the bag and drawing the remainder. Some dice have effects that happen immediately; many of these are optional, but they must all be dealt with before continuing on.
  3. The player may ready any creatures and spells that have been rolled. Creatures may be summoned to the ready zone by paying their level in Quiddity; each creature face has three numbers on it which indicate its level, strength, and power. Spells just go to the ready zone for free, although some might have to be attached to a creature to have an effect.
  4. The player’s creatures attack the other players’. The total combined strength must be dealt with by whatever creatures the opponents have in the ready zone, although the defenders can choose the order in which their creatures will intercept; a single creature with significant defense could absorb a weak attack without any casualties. Each opponent has to overcome the full attack strength. Defeated creatures are sent to their owners’ used zones and thus will not score when that player’s turn begins.
  5. The player may use any leftover Quiddity to purchase a single die from the center; each Power card lists a cost, and generally more powerful dice cost more Quiddity. A purchased die is placed in the used zone.
  6. All remaining unused dice (leftover Quiddity, unsummoned creatures) are placed in the used zone and the player’s turn ends. Keeping track of which dice are in which zone can be a problem; I highly recommend a playmat to keep things organized.

Unfortunately, zone management is far from the biggest problem with Quarriors! As might be expected, the larger problem is the fact that, well… there are over a hundred dice involved. Creature and spell dice have only three or four faces that actually represent the creature/spell in question, with the rest normally just providing additional Quiddity or other minor effects. The basic Quiddity die itself has a single face that provides two Quiddity instead of one, so even the first or second roll of a game could potentially put one player way ahead of the others in terms of powerful dice if only two or three of those faces come up. Since those powerful dice are not guaranteed to actually be powerful when rolled there is theoretically a slight balancing factor, but in practice the randomness of the dice holds back those who are behind more than it reins in those who are ahead. Every time a creature/spell die doesn’t actually produce the desired result it feels like a wasted roll, and any unused dice (unsumoned creatures, unspent Quiddity) also feel like wasted time. The tension between spending Quiddity on summoning creatures or buying a die seems like a good one, but once you have a decent selection of dice (and have culled a few of your starting dice) it is usually always better to just summon as much as possible to both maximize your scoring potential — while negatively impacting the scoring potential of your opponents — and minimizing the amount of awkward die draws.

Sill, there is enough fun in Quarriors! to provide some decent filler entertainment — especially if you don’t mind more than a little randomness. Quarriors! is quick-playing, with a game usually taking no longer than 45 minutes. A game ends either when one player reaches a pre-determined number of Glory points (20 for two players, 15 for three, and 12 for four) or when four of the seven creature Power cards have no dice remaining. At fifty-three cards, 130 dice, four bags, and a tin to hold everything (modeled after the Dragon class die, which is cute), Quarriors! comes at a somewhat higher price than a pure card game, but is still a good value at $40-45.