Sometimes you look at the weekly releases on the app store and sigh at the utter dearth of interesting titles. A match 3 puzzler here, a quick cash-in fad game there, some random holiday quiz game. Yawn.
Then there are periods where you feel the games released are designed as a love letter to you personally, a reward for putting up with weeks of boredom.
I feel like a kid at Christmas lately, and so should any fan of great board/card games with Quarriors! finally launching to the United States App Store, right on the heels of the phenomenalLords Of Waterdeep (Shameless plug, naturally), Space Hulk’s arrival on the iPad, Pandemic’s iPad translation, and the long-awaited Universal SolForge update. All this means is that my iDevices are becoming more and more full of games that scratch that board game addiction of mine. That or they are simply enabling me to feed the addiction. Not quite sure, don’t care, let’s get on with the review!
Quarriors! is a light-hearted “Dice Building” game by famed game designers Eric M. Lang and (Star Wars LCG, Kaosball) Mike Elliot (Thunderstone, Magic: The Gathering), which features a new way of enjoying the quickly-growing field of Deck Building Games that became popular with Dominion and Ascension.
In this game, rather than building a deck from a common pool of cards like most deck builders, you build a bag of dice, which then are rolled when drawn later in the game and can have temporary effects that help you, hinder your opponent or allow you to reach the glory (victory points) target before everyone else does.
What makes Quarriors! stand out, aside from the game’s very quirky humor and overuse of the letter Q, is the variety that exists due to the reference cards for the dice. The “Wilds” have a number of cards with 5 dice each that correspond to that card. These can be creatures or spells typically, and there are different levels of each card, but the dice remain the same. So you could have a card that is a stronger version of a creature you used in the last game, but is still represented by the same die. In the physical game, this keeps costs down, since, as all gamers know, dice ain’t cheap. The company can produce new units without making new dice, and everyone wins! This isn’t as huge of a necessity in the digital version, but it helps breed familiarity with the dice since each unit has similar abilities that just become more effective if they are more powerful versions.
I won’t get too far into the rules here, as Quarriors! really benefits from actual play to understand. If you have played a deckbuilding game like Penny Arcade, Dominion, Ascension, Thunderstone, Marvel Legendary, you already have a grasp of how the turn order and purchasing mechanics work. If not, there is a tutorial that will walk you through the steps. However you may need to go through the tutorial a few times if you are brand new to the concepts. After speaking with Brett, Editior-in-chief here at Appaddict.net he wasn’t really comfortable with the game immediately after finishing the tutorial, and even after a couple of games he still felt the game was a bit foreign in parts. This goes away with time, but some people may find it a bit frustrating if they are just jumping into the deck building game universe.
The game stays faithful to the physical game, but is sadly barebones for what you get. This may be fine for those who are new to Quarriors!, but I think that many fans of the game that have been playing the physical game for the last year or more are so used to the expansions that playing without them feels shallow.
Online multiplayer works for the most part, but feels lacking in polish. While testing the game pre-launch I found the game frequently needed to be backed out to the main menu then return to the game in order for to register my opponent’s actions, which became quickly annoying. After a power cycle and a re-install it seemed to have resolved itself but I don’t think most people will be thrilled with having to re-install a brand new game if they run into the issue. I also discovered that I had phantom notification icons in game center for games that never got created. This may be early server issues, as I have only encountered it once since then.
Four-player games are a blast but sadly with the high amount of interaction they take quite a bit longer than I would prefer. This is a non-issue if people are planning on playing at the same time, but having to wait for a couple slowpokes can become just plain frustrating. Considering the game is iPad-only, you will likely be waiting for most people to get back within WiFi range to take their turns and respond to your actions.
Graphically, the game works. At first I felt the backgrounds were bland, but they allow the cards to truly stand out and make the most of the playspace rather than becoming muddled by busy backgrounds. The cards are high-resolution and easy to read so there are no complaints there. The User Interface is adequate and shares the same theme as the game, so it doesn’t feel tacked on or out of place. It also doesn’t bring anything really exciting to the table either.
The only other thing I have to bring up is the fact that it is iPad-Only. I have been spoiled in recent months by wonderfully done universal ports, and it has made a huge difference in my gameplay habits. The board/card game ports that are universal I find myself playing constantly, with many games active, mainly since I keep my iPhone with me at all times. As for games like Quarriors! and Pandemic (and until this week, SolForge) which are iPad only ventures, I often don’t think about them as much, which is not a slight against the gameplay, but rather a testament to convenience and compatibility of other games. Quarriors! seems like it could easily be adapted to the smaller screen, and that would make it a game I would be playing daily, instead of every couple of days.
As it stands, Quarriors! is a great game that translates well to the digital realm, but will hugely benefit from future updates and expansions.
My advice? If you love deck building games and love chucking dice, this is a great and affordable adaptation of a very popular game. Just make sure you set aside some time to play with a friend online, it makes everything much easier.
If you are a veteran of the Quiddity I would pass until expansions come out and the game is optimized a bit unless you don’t get to play the physical game frequently, in which case go for it with tempered expectations.