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Re-review: A return to Quarriors a dice driven bag builder from WizKids

It’s been quite some time since I did one of these classic board game review resurrections. Today I’m going to take another look at the dice based board game Quarriors! from WizKids. 


I wrote and published the original review back on January 16th 2013, and I’m certain my views on the game have changed since then.


Below you will find the text from my original Quarriors! board game review,  with only very minor editing. I want to keep the feel and tone of the original post. I will, at times, insert comments or corrections, and you will find these in [square brackets]. I have also included the original pictures. After the original post, you can find my current thoughts on the game.

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My Original Quarriors! Game Review from 2012

Quickly:

Very cool and unique mechanics, quick, but very random, gameplay.

Summary:

Quarriors! claims to be a “Dice Building Game”, and that’s exactly what it is. It takes the Deck Building mechanic that has become very popular since the launch of Dominion and does something unique with it. Instead of collecting a deck of cards, you are building a dice bag full of dice. [Today I would actually call Quarriors! a dice driven bag builder]. This is a quick game that can be played with two to four players and can go as quick as twenty minutes but potentially much longer.

Game set up involves determining what cards and dice are in play. These form The Wilderness, the market players will purchase dice from.

There are a set of three dice types that are always in play: a basic die that gives you Quiddity which is used to summon and capture monsters, a basic pawn type troop and a wormhole that gives you re-rolls. Each die type is represented by a card and these are laid out in the centre of the play area.

Next, you draw cards from a deck of spell cards and put them out so that you end up with three types of spells. Lastly, you draw from a deck of creatures and build what is called, the Quarry. This puts seven creature cards into play. Once all of these cards are out you put dice on them.

All but the starting cards get five dice each. To finish setting up each player takes a dice bag and fills it with eight basic Quiddity dice and four of the pawn dice. Like most deck-builders, everyone starts with the same starting set of dice. 

Note there are far more cards in the set than are used each game. Each die type is represented by a variety of cards at different levels with varying abilities.

The goal of the game is to accumulate more Glory than your opponent. You do this by summoning monsters from the Quarry and keeping them alive until the start of your next turn. The game ends when the market, called The Wilderness, has four empty monster cards or one of the players hits a set Glory target determined by the player count. 

Each turn starts with the active player scoring their monsters in their Ready Area. After scoring the player gets the option to cull one die from their collection. The main part of the turn starts by the player pulling six dice out of their dice bag and rolling them. Players then spend these dice.

Instant actions, which are usually re-rolls, are activated first. Quiddity, the currency in the game, is represented by blue droplets on a die face. Any die showing a monster’s face can be summoned by paying their level in Quiddity which moves them to the Ready Area. Similarly, spells rolled are also moved to the Ready Area at no cost. In addition, many of the dice have special symbols that break the basic rules, these are all explained on the die’s associated card.

After summoning and readying spells there is an attack phase. The active player attacks with all monsters in their Ready Area. Attacks target all other players who must then defend with the monsters in their Active Area. Attack power and defence are listed on each die. The attacker totals their attack power, then the defender chooses which die defends. If the attack power totals more than the defender’s defence the die is lost. The defender continues to select defending dice until all attack power is countered or there are no defenders left. Note, unlike other duelling games like Magic there is no way to directly damage a player.

Next, the active player gets a chance to go hunting in The Wilderness. They can take one die from the cards in the centre of the table by paying its cost with whatever Quiddity they have left after the previous phases. Costs are listed on the associated cards. Once the hunting face is done, all used dice and leftover dice in the Active go to a used pile. Dice in the used pile are tossed back into your dice bag once it becomes empty.

That’s the basics. Like most of these games with pretty simple mechanics, the rest of the rules are exception based. Each die’s card lists special abilities that the die has. These include things like spells that instantly kill monsters, ways to get re-rolls or draw more dice, ways to buff the attack, defence or glory value of a monster, etc.

The core game comes with over 130 dice so there is lots of variety there and the way you deal out the starting cards means that every game plays differently. The general strategy is the same as most Deck Builders. Start off with basic dice and use them to buy bigger dice that let you have more power and resources to buy even bigger dice while at the same time removing the weak dice from your pool to increase the odds of drawing what you want.

The Good:

I really like the overall mechanics of Quarriors! It’s a very unique twist on deck building. I love the tactile feel of the dice and I love rolling them. The variety of creatures and spells means that there is a ton of replay value just in this core set. In addition, I thought the way they use the same dice to represent different levels of monsters by their cards was brilliant. I found Quarriors! pretty easy to explain and the game plays very quickly while having a surprisingly deep level of strategy.

The packaging on this one is awesome. The packaging is a fine example of 5S methodology, there’s a place for everything and everything has its place. There’s even room to add more dice and cards from expansions. I don’t think I could have packaged this one better. The 2nd printing of the game, which is what I have, also includes some playmats that were not included in the original version. 

The Bad:

I think the major turn off for most people in regards to Quarriors! is going to be the high random factor. This game has a level of randomness above and beyond all other deck-building style games.

Not only do you randomize what dice are available each game, but there is also the random element of what dice do you pull out of your bag each turn. On top of both of those is the further randomness of the dice which are rolled when pulled.  So even though you may have saved up and bought that awesome Dragon, he’s not going to help you much if all you keep doing is rolling 1 Quiddity on it’s die every single time. [Note: there are some dice with abilities that let you re-roll other dice and these do help you mitigate the randomness a bit and give you some more control over your destiny.]

The Ugly:

It seems WizKids has had no small amount of problems with quality control on their dice. The quality of the dice in my set was not consistent at all.

Most of my dice look great but then I have a few that were very poorly inked. I also have one spell die that is actually malformed and has three sides you can barely read and an obvious protrusion on one side. I have seen many posts online from other people who have had similar problems. Almost all of these complaints have ended with “excellent customer service”, but, to me, this shouldn’t have been a problem in the first place. [With the age of this game now I doubt WizKids is still offering replacements].

Overall:

I’m very impressed with Quarriors!. It takes an established and somewhat overdone mechanic and does something totally new with it.
 
The game looks great, is fairly easy to teach and plays quickly while still having a very solid level of strategy and depth. That said, it has a very high random factor, higher than any other game in this genre. That will be the make it or break it point in a purchase decision. This is one I suggest you try before you buy if you can, and see if it fits for you. I found a lot to like here, despite some production issues that WizKids is being great about fixing.
 

My Current Thoughts on Quarriors!

Looking back on this review now there isn’t a lot I would change. I find it fascinating that this game basically started off its own genre of games, bag-builders which include some great games like Orleans. Today I wouldn’t consider Quarriors! a deck-builder at all. 

Similarly, the term Dice-Builder has come to mean something else. While there aren’t many games out there that use the mechanic, dice-building today means games where you can actually swap the sides on the dice in the game. The most popular dice-builder today would have to be Dice Forge

As for my thoughts on the game, they all stand. I did a decent enough job describing it and I went on to play Quarriors! many times after this review. I even featured it in a few local events including a Great Canadian Board Game Blitz tournament. Multiple expansions have been released, each adding a little extra something to the game and I picked up most of them, but then something happened that had me stop playing Quarriors!

In late 2014 WizKids released a new dice based duelling game, Marvel Dice Masters: Avengers vs. X-Men. This new dice game took the basic Quarriors! mechanics and refined and fine-tuned them. They also changed the game to a collectable format with starter sets and random booster packs. 

Dice Masters moved the game further away from its deck-building roots by completely removing The Wilderness, the central market, and instead having players do pre-game deck building similar to other duelling card games like Magic The Gathering. Now players would sit down to play, each with their own set of cards and dice. The goal was also changed to be closer to Magic, now you were attacking the other player directly, trying to reduce their life to zero with your group of heroes and villains.

Overall I found Dice Masters to be a better game. It is quicker to play, I find the Marvel setting to be more engaging and interesting, and I really enjoy the force building aspects of the game. Due to this, I stopped returning to Quarriors!. Though I did keep my copy of the game for bringing out to public play events. 

One advantage Quarriors! still has over Dice Masters is that it plays up to four players (Dice Masters only does two) and that each player doesn’t have to have their own forces built and ready to play. Quarriors! is ready to go out of the box and I find this useful for hosting public play events. 

At this point, I can’t really recommend Quarriors! If these bag building, dice rolling, mechanics do sound interesting to you I suggest you check out Dice Masters. At this point there are a ton of different Dice Master sets out there covering a variety of licences including Warhammer 40,000, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and even the WWE. Many of these licenced variants come in stand alone Campaign Boxes, removing the collectable element that many gamers are not a fan of.


Have you played Quarriors? What did you think? Let us know in the comments.

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