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Subject: Quarto! - A Detailed Review rss

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This review continues my series of detailed reviews that attempt to be part review, part resource for anyone not totally familiar with the game. For this reason I expect readers to skip to the sections that are of most interest.

Summary

Game Type - Abstract
Play Time: 5-15 minutes
Number of Players: 2
Mechanics - Abstract
Difficulty - Pick-up & Play (Can be learned in under 10 minutes)
Components - Excellent


Image Courtesy of mluna99

Overview

This is the second in a series of reviews on the range of Abstract Games available from Gigamic. Why review a series by a particular company? Am I a company shill or received free copies I hear you ask? Well no, but I did do a short review series for my FLGS and gained access to the games for that purpose. I also took the entire series (plus many other games) to my school’s Family Games Night and the games were a big hit with children and parents alike. So I figured that a series of reviews could be of interest to users of BGG as well.

Quarto is the 2nd most played game in the Gigamic line of games, if the play stats of the Geek are anything to go by. I’m not surprised by this as the components are very engaging to look at and no doubt catch the eye in Game Stores all around the world.

It is also worth noting that Quarto, like many games in the series, can be found in a variety of formats and editions throughout the world.

Most notable is the newer, smaller travel editions that are now on the market and are worth slightly less than the asking price of the larger full sized editions. There is no difference in the playing of these travel editions, the game is merely smaller in size and therefore easier to transport and play on the run.

The Components

Whilst Quarto and other games in the series come in a variety of editions and therefore components may vary, these reviews focus on the ‘all-wood’ editions that are prevalent in my FLGS at the moment, so hopefully that is true for stores around the globe.

d10-1 The Board - The board is a rather unassuming square wooden affair that simply features 16 circles, arranged in a 4 x 4 configuration. Nothing to get excited about here.


Image Courtesy of familywontplay

d10-2 Playing Pieces - These are in fact the focal point of the game and there are 16 in all. They come with a variety of features and it is these very features that drive the play of the game. In all the pieces offer 4 different types of features, with two options within each feature type, making for a total of 8 features that must be tracked as the play develops.

They include; colour (brown/fawn), shape (square/round), height (tall/short) and design (solid/hollow).


Image Courtesy of Thordor

d10-3 Rules - The rules are all text and due to the abstract nature of the game, the minimalist rules manage to fit on a small single page. The rulebook is much longer however as it comes in a multi-lingual format.


Image Courtesy of Thomas_de_Monet

Amazingly that is all Quarto needs to make it tick. The fact that the game is a lot of fun and very engaging is a testament to its design.

The Game Play

In Quarto the aim is to create a sequence of 4 pieces that share at least 1 common feature. For example a row of 4 pieces that are all hollow. But the game has a very interesting twist that makes it somehow far more engaging than the normal way abstract games work.

d10-1 Set-up - All of the pieces are put to the side, within easy reach and sight of the players. A start player must then be determined. Boy was that demanding!


Image Courtesy of jtt765

d10-2 Select a Piece and Give it to your Opponent - This is the major twist I was talking about. Rather than select a piece and place it yourself, you have to select a piece for your opponent to place. Therefore it is possible to hand your opponent the winning piece if you are not careful. devil

The other twist of course is that the players do not take possession of their own set of pieces in Quarto! The pieces are instead table pieces and can be selected by any player as long as they are still available.

d10-3 Place the Piece - The player being handed a piece must then place it onto the board. Pieces can only be placed on an empty circle and once placed, a piece can never be moved.

After placing a piece the player should check to see if they have won. A win is secured if 4-pieces sharing at least 1 feature in common are lined up 4-in-a-row.

This can be achieved orthogonally or diagonally. If they haven’t won or fail to see the win the player finishes their turn by selecting another piece and handing it to their opponent. In this way the game continues until either player manages to win or all 16 pieces have been placed with no victor being found, thus resulting in a draw.

Should a player fail to see a win but their opponent does see it, they must declare the win upon being given a piece by their opponent.

That’s all there is to Quarto!...so where is the appeal?

So Where's the Games Appeal?

d10-1 The Challenge - Despite Quarto’s apparent simplicity, the game is much more challenging than it appears. With 8 features to keep track of and 10 possible lines in which to achieve that victory it can be very easy to not see a potential winning feature and select the wrong piece for your opponent.

Thus the game allows the players to set up cunning pitfalls for the other player to fall into. This invariably leads to...

d10-2 The Doh! Moment - This is the x-factor that can make some games darn addictive. It’s that realisation that you’ve made a stupid move but you know you can do so much better, so you just want to play one more game and get it right! Quarto! has this in spades. cool

d10-3 Time Friendly - The final cog in the trifecta is the ability to play a game in a short space of time. Quarto! takes around 10 minutes tops for most people and perhaps blows out to 15-20 minutes for serious analytical players.

Combine a short time frame, with maddening addiction and you will find that Quarto! is a great investment in quality gaming time as it hits the table over and over again.

d10-4 Alternate Win Condition - Quarto also offers an additional challenge by altering the win condition for seasoned players.

As well as the standard way to win, victory can also be attained by creating a 4-square of pieces with at least 1 like feature. This offers an additional 9 ways to win the game and will keep even the most experienced of players on their toes.

d10-5 Visual Appeal - The combination of colour, height, shape and design makes Quarto! a visually appealing game to have sitting in a prominent place in the house. It’s almost a work of art.

Any Concerns?

d10-1 Possibility of a Draw - I had trouble finding any but I guess the potential for good players to play each other to a draw is one. However with the alternate win conditions I suspect this is rather unlikely.

The Final Word

Quarto! is my second favourite game in the series. The combination of its fast play time, addictive quality and considerable challenge makes it a winner for me. I highly recommend that fans of abstract games check this one out but even casual gamers can enjoy the experience as it is so simple to learn.

Gigamic have a real winner here.

Links to other Gigamic Game Reviews

d10-1 Quoridor

d10-2 Quixo

d10-3 Quads

d10-4 Pylos

d10-5 Skybridge

d10-6 Batik

d10-7 Inside

Links - To other Abstract Games

d10-1 Hive

d10-2 Hive: The Mosquito

d10-3 Army of Frogs

d10-4 Logan Stones

d10-5 Pick 'n' Pack

d10-6 Kogworks

d10-7 Ubongo

d10-8 Streetsoccer

d10-9 Polarity

d10-1d10-0 Qwirkle
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Russ Williams
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Neil Thomson wrote:
d10-2 The Doh! Moment - This is the x-factor that can make some games darn addictive. It’s that realisation that you’ve made a stupid move but you know you can do so much better, so you just want to play one more game and get it right! Quarto! has this in spades. cool

Indeed!

Quote:
d10-4 Alternate Win Condition - Quarto also offers an additional challenge by altering the win condition for seasoned players.

As well as the standard way to win, victory can also be attained by creating a 4-square of pieces with at least 1 like feature. This offers an additional 12 ways to win the game and will keep even the most experienced of players on their toes.

12? There are 9 small 2x2 squares.

We started playing more generalized, e.g. there are also 4 3x3 squares and 1 4x4 square, giving 14 possible square wins. E.g.:
. x . x
. . . .
. x . x
. . . .


And then we also allowed squares not aligned with the grid, e.g. 45 degree angle:
. x . .
x . x .
. x . .
. . . .


and even more skewed like:
. x . .
. . . x
x . . .
. . x .


Quote:
d10-1 Possibility of Stalemate - I had trouble finding any but I guess the potential for good players to play each other to a draw is one. However with the alternate win conditions I suspect this is rather unlikely.

Agreed. I've seen ties, but playing with squares as well as rows for a win decreases them, especially if you generalize to all possible squares, not just the little 2x2 squares! (Playing with all possible squares also increases the amusing "Doh!" factor...)
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Thanks for the catch Russ - stupidity rectified.
 
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Todd Redden
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I'm a big fan of 2 player abstracts, and Quarto is truly one of my favorites. Thanks for the review. I especially love Quarto puzzles, and when presented with a board in mid-stream I can't stop from analyzing and finding the win (or loss as it may be.)

I am wondering however... what Gigamic game is played more than QUARTO?
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tmredden wrote:
I am wondering however... what Gigamic game is played more than QUARTO?


Quoridor with about 2000 more plays.
 
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Nice review of a nice game!

Back in 1996 my girlfriend and I visited our local gamestore and bought this one as "our" first game. Today we're married, still buying games in the same store and hitting the 150 titles barrier ;-)
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bvongunten wrote:
Nice review of a nice game!

Back in 1996 my girlfriend and I visited our local gamestore and bought this one as "our" first game. Today we're married, still buying games in the same store and hitting the 150 titles barrier ;-)


That good sir is true love. You are one of the lucky ones...as am I!
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bvongunten wrote:
Back in 1996 my girlfriend and I visited our local gamestore and bought this one as "our" first game. Today we're married, still buying games in the same store and hitting the 150 titles barrier ;-)

Interesting! Quarto was the first game gift my fiancee gave me! The relationship continues, and we've since acquired several other Gigamic games as well.
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I just finished the 3rd review of the Gigamic Series for those interested -

Quixo - A Detailed Review
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Skybridge Review just posted.

Skybridge
 
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Neil Thomson wrote:

d10-1 Possibility of Stalemate - I had trouble finding any but I guess the potential for good players to play each other to a draw is one. However with the alternate win conditions I suspect this is rather unlikely.


I had this concern last eve as I played this. We attempted to play a game with this as a goal and were unable to cause a stalemate. We then took turns placing pieces at random. After a couple tries we did succeed at getting a stalemate situation but it was pretty clear that even with a player attempting to cause a stalemate, it's a difficult thing to achieve. I doubt anyone could succeed for long with this strategy.
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Not sure what you mean by "stalemate." Usually, that term means being unable to move without causing your opponent to win, but being that in Quarto your move consists of handing your opponent a piece, that represents the way wins always occur. You want to force your opponent to hand you a piece that wins for you.

I've had many games that end in a draw, where neither player wins, though we never play with the advanced 9-square rule.
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The term "stalemate" as it applies to Quarto would be a point where neither player can win. If you are at a point where you must give your opponent the winning piece, that is the definition of a win for your opponent. A stalemate is a situation where all 16 pieces are on the board and no one has a position that causes either four in a row or a square block of 4.

There are 16! possible combinations, (2092278988000). (I think, feel free to check my math here) To the best of my knowledge only one of those possibilities will lead to a true stalemate - with no winner.

Anyone who says this game is shallow is just playing the wrong opponents.
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antimom wrote:
The term "stalemate" as it applies to Quarto would be a point where neither player can win. If you are at a point where you must give your opponent the winning piece, that is the definition of a win for your opponent. A stalemate is a situation where all 16 pieces are on the board and no one has a position that causes either four in a row or a square block of 4.

There are 16! possible combinations, (2092278988000). (I think, feel free to check my math here) To the best of my knowledge only one of those possibilities will lead to a true stalemate - with no winner.

Anyone who says this game is shallow is just playing the wrong opponents.

Yes, that's what the op seemed to imply by using the word "stalemate" in that context. However, that meaning is more commonly refered to as a "draw". Stalemate means something else not really applicable to this game, as I described earlier. surprise

Perhaps a more appropriate usage for "stalemate" in Quarto is when you put your opponent in a position where any piece he gives you loses for him, though that is a very common ending in Quarto.
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tmredden wrote:
Yes, that's what the op seemed to imply by using the word "stalemate" in that context. However, that meaning is more commonly refered to as a "draw".

Or a "tie".

I find it useful to distinguish thusly:
"draw" = the game is "drawn out" forever, never terminating, as can happen in some games where pieces move around freely. Since the game goes on forever without finishing, there is no winner. In practice, players agree to stop and "call it a draw".
"tie" = the game terminated, but with no unique winner.

In that sense Quarto (like many "placement games") can end in a tie but not a draw, whereas a game like Hive can end in a tie (both queens surrounded simultaneously) or a draw (neither queen ever surrounded as pieces move around forever).

But yeah, "stalemate" is something else.
 
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Ok lads...term changed to draw.
 
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russ wrote:
tmredden wrote:
Yes, that's what the op seemed to imply by using the word "stalemate" in that context. However, that meaning is more commonly refered to as a "draw".

Or a "tie".

I find it useful to distinguish thusly:
"draw" = the game is "drawn out" forever, never terminating, as can happen in some games where pieces move around freely. Since the game goes on forever without finishing, there is no winner. In practice, players agree to stop and "call it a draw".
"tie" = the game terminated, but with no unique winner.

In that sense Quarto (like many "placement games") can end in a tie but not a draw, whereas a game like Hive can end in a tie (both queens surrounded simultaneously) or a draw (neither queen ever surrounded as pieces move around forever).

But yeah, "stalemate" is something else.


russ, you should add those definitions to the Wiki. Then I can refer people durign my spurts of pedantry, as everyone knows the Wiki must be correct and everyone should know everything in it!
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Jugular wrote:
russ, you should add those definitions to the Wiki. Then I can refer people durign my spurts of pedantry, as everyone knows the Wiki must be correct and everyone should know everything in it!

In that spirit, it would be more generally useful to have a wiki page that just says "Sorry, you are wrong!"

I follow the tie-vs-draw distinction from Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays since it is useful, but certainly many people use the 2 terms synonymously (for better or worse), e.g. the official FIDE chess rules use "draw" for a completed game with no winner and never use the word "tie", and dictionary.com defines "draw" as "a contest that ends in a tie; an undecided contest" (at least "tie" is not defined there recursively as a "draw", but rather as "a state of equality in the result of a contest, as in points scored, votes obtained, etc., among competitors"...) So I wouldn't say anyone is wrong to use "draw" to mean "tie", just that they're missing an opportunity for a useful distinction.
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It seems simple enough with definitions that seem to apply to all cases. Each game has differences that prevent the use of certain definitions in them. In chess, both players can't be checkmated simultaneously, therefor no "tie."

Draw means when neither player can win. This would be appropriate for Quarto in the case where a board is completed without a victor. In chess, both players score 1/2, which can happen due to:

the same position repeated 3 times.
50 moves without check.
Insufficient material.
Both players run out of time simultaneously in a timed game.(This is very rare.)
Stalemate (yes, in chess a stalemate is a draw. In other games, like Chinese Chess, a stalemate is a win.)
Agreement (Either player can offer a draw.)

Tie means when both players win, as in a race to the finish completed simultaneously. In many games players complete victory conditions with equal results, though tie-breakers abound.

Stalemate is a chess-specific term that means a player draws the game when his only option is to move his King into checkmate, and probably doesn't apply to too many other games (does apply to Xiang Qi as mentioned above.)
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tmredden wrote:
Both players run out of time simultaneously in a timed game.(This is very rare.)

How is that even possible, barring player/clock error? At most one player's clock should be running at any given moment, so only one player's clock could run out, unless chess timing is bizarrely different from timing in other games...?

Quote:
Tie means when both players win, as in a race to the finish completed simultaneously. In many games players complete victory conditions with equal results, though tie-breakers abound.

If both players "win" a 2-player game, I don't see how that's any different from both players "losing" a 2-player game. My goal is to do better than you in the game. If we do equally well, it's a tie, for me. E.g. if we both reach the end of the race at the same moment, that's equivalent to us both not reaching the end and time running out, for me. But perhaps some tournament formats make such a distinction... and that would certainly have an effect on in-game strategy as players worry about the tournament meta-game.

In multi-player games, I see a distinction between a "draw" (in the nonterminating sense) and a "tie" (some but not all of the players winning).
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I played for the first time last night. (My first game, my friend's third game.) Our first game ended in a draw -- or whatever it is you're calling it when all 16 pieces go down and nobody wins. It didn't seem all that improbable to me, but we only played two games. In the first game we were both playing with a defensive attitude, which I assume contributed toward leading to a draw. For the second game we were both more aggressive, and it did end with a win. We weren't playing with the squares variant.
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russ wrote:
tmredden wrote:
Both players run out of time simultaneously in a timed game.(This is very rare.)

How is that even possible, barring player/clock error? At most one player's clock should be running at any given moment, so only one player's clock could run out, unless chess timing is bizarrely different from timing in other games...?

Quote:
Tie means when both players win, as in a race to the finish completed simultaneously. In many games players complete victory conditions with equal results, though tie-breakers abound.

If both players "win" a 2-player game, I don't see how that's any different from both players "losing" a 2-player game. My goal is to do better than you in the game. If we do equally well, it's a tie, for me. E.g. if we both reach the end of the race at the same moment, that's equivalent to us both not reaching the end and time running out, for me. But perhaps some tournament formats make such a distinction... and that would certainly have an effect on in-game strategy as players worry about the tournament meta-game.

In multi-player games, I see a distinction between a "draw" (in the nonterminating sense) and a "tie" (some but not all of the players winning).


With older style clocks that are still in common use, it was quite common where one player's flag would drop and the other flag dropped immediately, just hanging on a bump. This could only happen when very little time is left on both player's clock (it is possible.)

You presume I meant 2 players in a 2 player race/game. I meant 2 players who tie in a multiplayer race by crossing the finish line at the same time. For 2 player games it is merely a syntactical difference.
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tmredden wrote:
russ wrote:
tmredden wrote:
Both players run out of time simultaneously in a timed game.(This is very rare.)

How is that even possible, barring player/clock error? At most one player's clock should be running at any given moment, so only one player's clock could run out, unless chess timing is bizarrely different from timing in other games...?


With older style clocks that are still in common use, it was quite common where one player's flag would drop and the other flag dropped immediately, just hanging on a bump. This could only happen when very little time is left on both player's clock (it is possible.)

Interesting. But if both flags dropped like that because of the nonactive one being bumped, wouldn't it still be obvious whose time actually ran out? I.e. it must be the active player.

Or is the idea that maybe both flags dropped earlier and neither player noticed and both kept making moves and hitting the clock, and so the game should be declared void/whatever as if they both ran out of time?
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russ wrote:
tmredden wrote:
russ wrote:
tmredden wrote:
Both players run out of time simultaneously in a timed game.(This is very rare.)

How is that even possible, barring player/clock error? At most one player's clock should be running at any given moment, so only one player's clock could run out, unless chess timing is bizarrely different from timing in other games...?


With older style clocks that are still in common use, it was quite common where one player's flag would drop and the other flag dropped immediately, just hanging on a bump. This could only happen when very little time is left on both player's clock (it is possible.)

Interesting. But if both flags dropped like that because of the nonactive one being bumped, wouldn't it still be obvious whose time actually ran out? I.e. it must be the active player.

Or is the idea that maybe both flags dropped earlier and neither player noticed and both kept making moves and hitting the clock, and so the game should be declared void/whatever as if they both ran out of time?

There were specific federated rules for what happened when both flags were discovered to be in a dropped state. The game was considered a draw.
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Actually, Quarto as a game has been solved. If played perfectly by both players the outcome is a draw.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solved_game

In other words, a draw is very possible if you're both perfect players! If not, then I guess a draw isn't something you'll have to worry about.
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