With the release of Marvel Dice Masters in the UK (you lucky devils in the USA have all the fun!), I thought that for this review I’d take a look at the original title that gave us the Dice -Building game upon which MDM was based – the strangely named Quarriors.
Quarriors is a game based on the what-if principle, where some clever designer took the concept of the deck building game (such as Dominion) and thought “What if, instead of buying cards for a deck, people bought dice for a dice pool?!” And lo, a new concept was born!
First impressions: Quarriors comes in a solid cubic metal tin made to look like one of the dice in the game. This is then wrapped by a cardboard sleeve that gives the details of the game and show cases some rather zany looking artwork based on the monsters featured in the game. It’s a clever touch, and the artwork does a great job of pulling you in with it’s bold colours and high quality. Plus the tin feels very robust; straight away you get the feeling this is a game to carry around and slap down on the table top without worrying about the corners getting frayed. Just don’t roll it like a die; it doesn’t appreciate it, and your table won’t either.
But enough with the pretties, what about gameplay? In Quarriors, players take the part of a summoner looking to reach victory by earning victory points. Each is given a set of custom six sided dice to start the game, split into Basic Quiddity and ‘Apprentice’ Creature dice (more on these later). These are all put in a bag and given a shake to randomise them. At the beginning of a player’s turn, they remove 6 dice from the bag and roll them. Whatever lands face up on the dice is what the player gets to use this turn. If a player cannot pull enough dice from their bag, they put their discard pile back in, shake and take enough to make up the rest they needed. In this way, players will get a chance to play with the dice they purchase during the course of the game.
However, it’d be pretty dull if all you got were the basics. This is where the rest of the dice some in. During setup, players select 7 random Creature cards and 3 random Spell cards from a deck. Each card features the special abilities of that Creature/Spell, the cost to purchase the die in Quiddity, the amount of Victory points it gives when it scores (see below) plus which dice are used to represent it in game; these dice are then placed on top of the relevant card and are there for players to purchase during the course of the game.
All the dice in this game are customised. Each die represents either Quiddity, Spells or Creatures. Quiddity is the unit of ‘power’ or ‘currency’ in the game, and is used to purchase better Creatures and Spells from the aforementioned cards on the table. Purchased dice go into that player’s discard pile.
The Creature dice feature both Quiddity and of course a monster that can be summoned. If a Creature is rolled, the player has the option to spend their Quiddity this turn (assuming they rolled enough!) on ‘summoning’ the Creature. When the creature(s) come onto play, they attack all the other players, killing their Creatures if their Attack stats are higher than the defender’s Defence stats. The cost of summoning, plus the Attack and Defence are all stamped onto the dice. This looks incredibly cool and helps prevent endless referencing back to the card the die came from. On the flip side, the small size of the dice means the numbers are teeny; this has led to some of the numbers not being coloured properly during production, making them illegible. This is worrying from a Quality Control point of view, since no-one likes to get misprints in their game.
Creatures are also the main way of scoring Victory points. If a Creature die survives until the beginning of your next turn, it scores you a number of victory points listed on the card it was purchased from. On the downside, scoring means the Creature is sent to your discard pile.
Last but not least are the Spells. These work a little like Creatures in that you only get to ‘cast’ them if you roll the appropriate face on the die. However, each Spell is free to cast and will have an ability that triggers during certain events, such as when your Creatures are killed by an opponent, or when drawing new dice. It’s up to the owner when the Spell is cast, adding a tactical element to such dice.
Players win by scoring enough Victory points. The target to reach depends on the number of players, with fewer points being required if you have 4 players as opposed to 2. This is masterful way of preventing a game going on for too long, as higher numbers means longer time between getting your next turn and more risk of losing all your Creatures to attacks from the other players. It’s a clear case of thorough play testing to find the sweet spot between play time and getting a fair shot.
Finally, the artwork and components. The visuals are excellent, with a cartoony/realistic mash-up showing the game’s light-hearted theme without taking itself too seriously. The card stock is decent, and apart from the few ‘misprints’ the dice look crisp and well-tooled. Also, the rulebook is well designed, giving play examples where appropriate and a relatively simple layout to follow. The metal tin gives that extra finish to a well-constructed game of high quality.
However, being a dice game, players are subject to the vagaries of Lady Luck. If you’re just plain unfortunate, you’ll spend turn after turn being inundated with Quiddity, most of which goes to waste (you’re only able to purchase one die per turn CHECK RULEBOOK FOR THIS). This is only a minor gripe, since any dice game has the potential for this; players need to accept this from the outset to prevent any rage later!
Also, I definitely felt the actual range of choice was in effect limited by how much Quiddity you rolled. This may seem obvious, but let me explain; if you rolled 8 Quiddity on a given turn, your best play was generally the most expensive die on the table. If you couldn’t afford it, you go to the next most expensive and so on. It was rare that I felt I should go with a cheaper purchase if a more expensive one was open to me. This is especially true of the Quake Dragon card, which included a special ability that essentially made it invincible to any Creature of level 2 or less (level is based on how much the Creature costs to summon, with higher levels meaning better stats and abilities). This vague ‘illusion of choice’ gives the slightly unsettling feeling of the game playing me instead of the other way around.
But despite these flaws, I can’t help but like Quarriors. It’s got enough variety along with the added element of randomness to prevent the game getting stale after only a few play throughs. Its simple ruleset and tactile element of rolling dice make it accessible to newbies and experienced players alike, again with the randomness element to help level the playing field. It’s a cheerful game, light and fun with a gentle spritz of tactics.