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Where needs a yellow diamond?

January 6, 2014

Abstract games are not really for everyone but, then again, games with prominent themes can put off as many people as they attract. Quirkle seems to have found a place in the world, though, as an abstract game that finds its way into mainstream retailers as a “family strategy game” and is also enjoyed by many hobby gamers. Basically it just involves scoring points by making rows of colours and shapes by placing chunky tiles into a growing cluster on the table (or floor). If you want to see it played, Qwirkle recently featured on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop show.

Nearly finished.  Pretty isn't it?

Nearly finished. Pretty isn’t it?

We’ve played a couple of games of Qwirkle so far, and I expect we’ll play it some more. Miss B enjoyed the games in retrospect, but during play things got a little… fraught. I think the problem is that Miss B has got to grips with the game enough to know that she is trying to find the best score she can for her plays, but hasn’t developed the instinct for actually seeing good moves. This is the sort of skill that gets learned with repeated plays, but for the moment her turns take a very long time, and often result in her needing some help to spot her best options. She is also having difficulty seeing how you can score “round corners” while only placing tiles in a straight line. This can all lead to frustration and a game that takes far longer than it should.

I’d say we are in a tricky situation at the moment. If Miss B thought about games less, she could probably just play tiles where they look nice and have a good time. If she knew the game better then she’d be able to make stronger plays without help (at the moment she is reluctant to accept help as she seems to feel that she should be able to “get it” herself). All we need here is practice. I think the game is good enough, though, that it is probably worth persevering.

It has occurred to me that if I remove half of the tiles of each type from the game we should have a much quicker game that could work well for training purposes, although we’ll have a lower chance of getting the bonus “qwirkle” plays where you get six tiles in a row.

One serious problem with the game, by the way, is the colours on the tiles. The whole thing looks and feels lovely but in less than perfect lighting conditions sometimes it is hard to tell some of the colours apart, even for people with normally no colour vision problems. Unfortunate. I’ve heard of some people writing on the tiles to help with colour differentiation.

The verdict from Miss B (aged 7): “It’s good, but it’s really, really tricky. My favourite bit when I played it was when I got 18 points doing a qwirkle.”

The game: Qwirkle (The Green Board Game Co): 2 to 4 players aged 6+.

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