Quarto Review

Quarto abstract board game

A little while back, I ranked my top ten abstract games. After I made that post, you all (my readers) suggested a few more that I should try. Notably, Quarto and Arimaa. Well, I listened and traded for a copy of each of them. And, though Arimaa is yet to hit my table, it is time to give Quarto a review.

Quarto is a simple game (read: "this review will be short") of piece placement.  The game is played on a 4x4 grid, and there are 16 total pieces.  Each piece has four different attributes - color, height, shape (square or round), and hollow or filled-in.  On each turn, one player selects a piece and hands it to his opponent.  That player then places the piece on the board.  When placing a piece, if you successfully create a line of four pieces in a row that all share an attribute (and realize it), then you win the game!  If you didn't notice it, but your opponent does, then he can claim it and win.  Play continues until either all of the pieces have been played and there are nobody noticed a four-in-a-row's (you tie), or until one person has won.

The most brilliant pro about Quarto is that you select which piece your opponent plays.  If each person got to pick their own piece, there would be half as much strategy (maybe even less) and the game simply would not be fun.  However, since you get to pick your opponent's piece, you can give him pieces to try to force him into setting you up for a victory on your turn.  You also have to be much more aware of how your opponent is trying to win - if you give him the piece he needs, then you will inadvertently give him the victory! I was very impressed with the strategic depth that this presented.  I found myself thinking about which pieces would win the game, how I could setup more pieces to be "winning" pieces, and how to stage it so that I could give my opponent the last possible non-winning piece.  (And yet, with all this thinking, I still lost!)

Quarto game in play
There are only so many things to take pictures of in Quarto.
The next pro that I have for Quarto is that the game is easily visible.  In many of these "get a bunch of things in a row" games, there is something that either makes it hard to visualize what is going to happen, or makes it hard to actually physically see what is going on (Quadrago is a good example of this).  However, in Quarto, you can easily see all of the pieces, and each attribute is distinct enough that, though you may miss what your opponent is trying to do, it won't be because your vision was blocked.

My third pro for Quarto is that it is a great combination of fast and replayable.  Since the game can only take up to 16 turns (and each turn only consists of placing a single piece), it goes fairly quickly.  However, when you win the game (especially if you lose), you will find yourself wanting to play a rematch.  This makes Quarto a really good game to play when are looking to fill an indeterminate amount of time (when you're waiting on someone to show up, for example).  I also see Quarto being a great game to play while simply hanging out with friends to socialize - a coffee shop type of game.

The only real con that I have with Quarto is that each game seems to have a bit of a ramping up element early on.  What I mean by this is that the first few piece selections and placements probably will not have very much strategy.  After all, when there's nothing on the board, there's nothing that you really have to watch out for.  So, at least when I have played, the first few turns are somewhat like, "here, take this one - throw it on the board somewhere; then, randomly pick another piece, and I'll do the same."  I'm sure that people who have played Quarto a lot more than I have will find much deeper strategies, and will start executing them from the beginning of the game.  But, I still think that the first few turns (though necessary to make the game work) don't really matter very much strategically.

Overall, I give Quarto an 8.5/10.  I really like the game, and I will continue playing it.  However, I will play it as a time-filler or as a game to play when I'm wanting to chat while playing, not a game that I will get together with a friend specifically to play.

If you like abstract games, you should also check out Quoridor, Brandubh, and Dvonn.

1 comment:

  1. I really like Quarto. When my wife and I played it a lot, I found that we were seeing several moves in advance and really trying to outfox each other. It's been a while now, though, and I'm sure I'd have to relearn that insight. Fun game.

    Thanks for the recommendations for other abstracts. I'm familiar with Brandubh (which is pretty obscure - it's gratifying to find someone else who knows it) and have heard of Dvonn, but Quoridor is new to me.