Monday, June 6, 2011

FRESH BAKED - 'Qwirkle' by Susan McKinley Ross (Review) - Lucky Charms the game, or Brain Food for the Avid Gamer?

Ok, here goes. I don't want to hear any complaining that I'm looking to get a bunch of attention due to my writing reviews of first '7 Wonders' and now 'Qwirkle', recent Spiel de Jahres nominees (well, Kennerspiel de Jahres for 7 Wonders).

Qwirkle box cover

 Honestly, it's purely coincidence. I will freely admit that I did the 7 Wonders review and timed it with the nominee announcements only because I'd just opened and played the game and it worked out well that way. HOWEVER, I did not also intend to open, play and review Qwirkle just because it was nominated as well.

As fate would have it, several days prior to the announcements, I literally opened and took pictures of BOTH games on the EXACT same day. Seriously! When I saw Qwirkle was on the SdJ list I was astounded, not only because of the openings foreshadowing the announcements, but I was also thinking "Hasn't Qwirkle been out for a while?!" Who would have guessed (well, here in the US at least) that it would be nominated or even considered? I mean, it was first released in 2006! Well, apparently it was just released in Germany in 2010, thus qualifying it for the SdJ.

Anyhow, that's my story and I'm sticking to it! And, in case you don't believe me, I can show you the timestamps on the pictures. Actually, here they are:

File properties as proof...

After the announcements, I considered sending Susan McKinley Ross (Qwirkle's designer) an interview request but then I heard Garrett's Games podcast from Kublacon over the Memorial Day Weekend (which included her, Richard Borg, and Aldie) and knew that it was pointless then as I wasn't going to top that...there might be a few interesting questions to ask, but I don't think I'll pursue it at this point.

But, I can still do a review, right? Ok, now that I've gotten that out of the way, here's my review.

Qwirkle is a very simple game in terms of rules and it sounds a bit like Scrabble (the similarities here are undeniable, although there are definite differences as well):
  • On your turn, play tiles of various colored symbols from your hand to form 'words' (the rules call them 'lines' but 'words' makes more sense when describing it, especially for Scrabblers)
    • All the tiles you play must legally create or extend ONE existing word.
    • It's possible to also create/extend branching words, just like in Scrabble.
  • Score points based on the word(s) you create. 
    • You get 1 point for every tile in the word you create or extend, even if you only added 1 tile.
    • If you create/extend additional words branching off of that word you also get 1 point per tile for those words (thus, some tiles might be scored twice, once per word they are in)
    • You can also earn an additional 6 bonus points for completing a 'Qwirkle' which is a 6 symbol word (the maximum length)
    • There are no other bonuses.
That's it!

Ok, sorry, there's a bit more info that's important to know:
  • The tiles have 6 possible symbols consisting of 6 possible colors on them. 
    • There are 3 sets of these tiles. 
    • Thus: 6 symbols x 6 colors x 3 sets = 108 tiles, so 3 of each color of each symbol. 
      • This is important to remember, especially as the game draws close to the end as you know what tiles haven't been played yet and, conversely, you can determine if ALL tiles of a particular symbol and color are out.
The sealed block of tiles you get (3 layers of the same set of tiles)

  • A WORD consists of one of two things:
    • x different symbols, all of the same color (where x = 2 to 6)
    • x of the same symbol, all of different colors (where x = 2 to 6)
    • NOTE: x different symbols of x different colors is NOT a legal word - each word has one and ONLY one similar attribute - symbols OR colors.
Thus, the smallest word you will create is of length 2 and the longest word you will create is of length 6, making a range of 2-6 points per word PLUS 6 more points in the case of a 6 tile word. Of course, creating branching words will give you additional points although getting huge scores in 1 play doesn't happen very often - I think the biggest score I saw was 15 --> 12 for completing a Qwirkle (6 tile word w/ bonus) + 3 for also extending a 2 symbol word by 1 tile.

The only other thing to know is that there is no board and there are no doubling or tripling bonuses outside of the Qwirkle bonus (which is effectively a doubling bonus).

Example end of a 2-player game