Alright lads, prep the horses and release the hounds, for today we venture forth as Quarriors, into The Wilds of the Quay to capture our Quarry so that we can spend our Quiddity and arise victorious. Yes, those words are all real things, which were really put on paper, in the real rules for Quarriors, a game from Wizkids that you will often hear described as Dominion with dice. The fact that Quarriors is played with dice instead of cards as the main component of play should give you some insight into why it appeals to someone who writes an article titled “Happiness is Rolling Dice”. Not only that, but the game comes in a fancy tin dice shaped can; and who can pass up a fancy tin dice shaped can?
The core of the game involves two basic components, the dice, and the cards that provide the rules for the creatures and spells that the dice represent. While the dice are core to the gameplay, the cards are what give them life. Each card represents a creature or a spell and the rules associated with them. For gameplay you will have 7 cards to represent creatures, 3 spell cards, and 3 cards that represent the basic dice that are included in every game. The creature and spell cards that you will use are chosen randomly from a deck to give each game a bit of variation. The cards are labeled with a class (such as ‘Warrior of the Quay’) and a modifier (such as ‘Strong’) and will include the rules, cost, victory point value and a chart showing each face that can possibly be rolled on the corresponding dice. Included in the card decks are multiples of each class with different modifiers, each with their own variations on how they will affect the game when used.
The dice are used to represent the creatures and spells described on the cards. You will find included in the game 5 dice for each non-basic creature and spell class. The dice are really what make the game, during each turn you will draw, roll and then use the dice to summon your creatures to battle, ready and cast spells and capture new dice for your collection. The dice quality is decent, you will find them to be a bit smaller than your standard d6 which can sometimes make it difficult to discern the symbols on each face. In those instances the reference picture of each dice face printed on the corresponding card will clear up any confusion. The game also includes a dice bag to let you mix and blind draw dice as you go.
Before I talk about playing the game I want to revisit the comparison between this game and Dominion that has been made. While this comparison is apt in describing the basic, deck building-esque, component of the game and perhaps the basic mechanics, there is something to keep in mind that will avoid setting incorrect expectations when picking up Quarriors. The game is not Dominion, okay I know, you probably realized that from the difference in spelling of the names, but that doesn’t change that when someone makes such a blanket comparison your brain starts setting some pre-conceived expectations of what you’re getting into. Quarriors is a difficult game to compare beyond the deck building aspect because the game is far faster, and deck building isn’t as deep as a result. Often times your games will end at turn 6 or 7 and you may feel as if you never really got a chance to build up your dice to a cohesive strategy as you have with your cards in a game like Dominion. Don’t take this statement as a knock against the game. I just don’t want your brain getting in the way of your fun because you think you’re going to be playing Dominion, only with dice.
In order for you to get down to playing, you’ll need to run through the setup which is when you’ll find out what spells and creatures are going to be available for the game. This is done by determining what Quarry will be available in The Wilds for you to capture with your Quiddity while you play Quarriors. Again, don’t hold it against them, I think they just wanted more words to use in scrabble. The Wilds are home to your cards and uncaptured dice. This is the first thing you’ll have to build out when you start a game and is what you’ll use to build your ‘deck’ or collection of dice. Like the game in general the setup is quick and easy. You start by placing your 3 basic cards and their dice in the middle of the table, from there you will need to shuffle your creature cards and reveal them until you get 7 creatures of different classes. You’ll then do the same with the spells until you have 3 spells of different classes. And for the last step, you’ll find the right dice for your creatures and spells and put them next to their cards. Then all that is left is getting out your starting dice and bags and having your enemies driven before you, so pull up your britches, it’s about to get real.
Getting down to it you’re going to find that this game goes fast as each player takes their turn and run through the 6 phases of play. The first phase doesn’t really come in until after turn one but you’ll start out with scoring. In order to score in this game you have to summon creatures and keep them alive until your turn comes around again, you’ll see why that might be difficult in a moment. Once you’ve earned the points for that creature (as shown on the card) it is going to get moved to your used pile to get mixed back into the fun when your dice bag runs dry and you need to fill it back up again.
From there you shake up your dice bag full of goodies, pull out 6 dice blindly and give them a good roll. How the dice land is going to set up your turn. The dice will land showing an amount of Quiddity (money), a creature, or a spell or effect. Like any games you’ll go through and resolve immediate effects as specified by the cards representing your dice. Then you have to get down to decisions. The Quiddity you have is going to need to be used to summon creatures for the turn, but is also needed to capture new creatures and spells from the Wilds.
After the dice are rolled and immediate effects are resolved you’ll have the chance to ready spells and summon creatures. Readying spells is a simple process, if the die landed on a spell you can move it aside to cast at a later time, no resources need be expended to do so. Spells are typically used to augment creatures or for a variety of effects and are moved to the used pile once cast. For creatures however you’ll have to start spending that hard earned Quiddity. In order to summon a creature you must pay the summoning cost, this cost is printed on the die in the upper left corner. You can summon as many creatures as you can afford; but keep in mind if you want new fancy dice you’ll need to save some money, and resource management is one of the areas you’ll have to be strategic during the game. Once summoned a creatures gets to move to the ready area where it will kill or be killed, because after you’re done summoning it is time to attack!
Attacking is one aspect of the game that I think they really got right. As opposed to other games, you will be attacking all players, every turn, with all your creatures. This means that back room deals and secret pacts hold a lot less weight in the outcome of the game. Attacking is simply a matter of adding up your creatures attack value, and the defending player using their creatures defense value to block that damage. This is why it can be hard to keep creatures alive at times. The defender must take all of the damage, one creature at a time, and when that damage reaches the creature’s defense value it is destroyed and you move on to the next creature until you run out of attack points or creatures to defend. Then the process is repeated against each other enemy using your full initial attack value. Don’t worry; your enemies will get their shot at revenge for their fallen minions.
The last two phases are straightforward affairs. First you’ll have a chance to capture a single Quarry die from The Wilds to add to your collection, assuming you saved some Quiddity. That die moves to your used pile for use later on. After that you take any dice remaining in your active pool and move then to your used pile so you’re ready for a fresh batch next turn.
Of course there are nuances to the rules for each creature and spell that may throw a wrench into your plans and are part of the strategy but the basics of the game are simple. As you play you’ll find the games go by fast, and at times you may find that luck can be a kingmaker or a cruel mistress as is the price we pay to live by the dice, and you may notice some balance issues, that at times can be exacerbated by the randomness of the setup. Overall though, the game is about sitting down, rolling some dice and having some fun. And on that front it delivers. If a deep strategy game is what you’re keen on you may find it does not deliver as you had hoped. But if you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and dive into the realm of house rules, the potential is there waiting to be tapped.
Available from Wizkids: http://wizkidsgames.com/quarriors/