Quarrel: There’s strength in numbers on letter tiles

February 1, 2012

I was surprised when I loved Flight Control HD on Steam. It’s an up-port of an iOS game, and I didn’t expect it to hold my attention very long on the PC. iOS games are designed to be played for 10 minutes while you’re waiting for the train or when you’re stranded at a family function miles and miles away from your PC and/or consoles. It didn’t matter. I’ve played over 200 games of it, and it’s still in my regular Steam rotation.

Quarrel is shaping up much the same way. It’s an up-port of an iOS game that showed up on XBLA this week (though this version was made first), and I can’t stop playing it. Scrabble and Risk are two of my favorite board games. Combining them and throwing them on XBLA is a match made in heaven, and I can only hope that the multiplayer base remains strong on this one.

Quarrel is a lot like Risk. You’ve got territories and troops, and you use those troops to attack neighboring territories and hopefully take them over. Unlike Risk, however, you aren’t attacking and defending with dice rolls. Your shields and spears are both Scrabble-esque letter tiles. Each combat will feature a new eight-letter word, jumbled up, from which you’ll make the highest-scoring word you can. The number of letters you can use depends on how many troops you have at your disposal, and length isn’t everything. Zig is worth more than dashes, and going for length will lost you the game more often than not. In the chance that both the attacking and defending word are worth the same number of points, whichever side submitted their word first wins the encounter.

Four people can play at a time, but unlike Risk, those who aren’t directly involved in combat don’t sit on the sidelines twiddling their thumbs. Those not participating are able to make the best word they can without any word length restriction. Any points scored go toward a running total from which each player can call for backup units. This adds a layer of strategy to the game as you can go from confidently attacking to having all things be equal since your opponent pulled in a backup soldier to fight for him.

If you attack or defend well there’s a chance that you’ll take prisoners, and it feels great when you do. It’s especially crushing when it happens to you, but that serves as extra motivation to make good words and make them quickly. Quarrel matches are fairly quick, and if you can’t find anybody online, there are a number of offline modes that are good fun as well. The computer intelligence ramps up quickly, but after you beat all of the offline modes, you’ll have a whole new stable of words to beat people with online. I’ve been wanting to play Scrabble and Risk on my Xbox for a long time. Now I don’t need to, since I have the perfect amalgamation of the two.

Pros: Easy to grasp rules, always something to do even when not in combat
Cons: As with all multiplayer games, this one will be a lot less fun when the community moves on

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.