Quarto: A tic-tac-toe variant that packs a punch

Quarto

I found Quarto back in 2005, when I worked as a clerk at “Games By James”, a small board game store, in Minnetonka, Minnesota.  We had a demo copy of it on a stand near the door, and during the slow days, us clerks worked on gaining “product knowledge”, by grabbing demo copies and playing games at the front counter amongst ourselves.  All in the name of research, I swear!

After round after round of  ‘Snatch’, ‘LCR’, and ‘Farkle’, Quarto was a really nice change of pace.  It was hard to get the other clerks to play logic games (God forbid we play a game of chess),  but this game had simple enough rules to satisfy them, while requiring enough thought to be good at it, that it satisfied me also.  In short, this was the right game at the right time in my life.

Quarto is a tic-tac-toe variant, but don’t let that deter you.  You play on a four by four board, and your goal is to get four pieces in a row with the same characteristic. The characteristics’ are small/tall, light/dark, square/round, and holed/solid. There is one piece that encompasses any particular set of traits, such as, there is only one small, dark, round, holed piece in the set.  On your turn you will play one piece on the board, and you want to make that played piece the last one needed in order to fulfill the “four pieces in a row with the same characteristic” criteria.

Quarto pieces

Each piece encompasses four different characteristics. The two pieces shown here are exact opposites. The piece on the left is tall, dark, round, and solid. The piece on the right is short, light, square, and holed.

On your turn, your opponent hands you a piece.  Wait.  What?

You don’t get to pick the piece that you play on the board, your opponent does.  You get to choose where you play your piece, and what piece your opponent will then get to play.  This one simple flip in the rules is part of what makes this game so addictive.  When you play your piece you need to set up scenarios where it would be really easy for your opponent (or impossible for him not to) hand you a piece that will give you the win. But, you want to make sure that there is a piece still left to give your opponent that will not give them the win.  This is a very careful dance, and especially late in the game, it can be rather difficult to find a piece that will not make your opponent win.

This is a remarkably quick game too, or at least it can be.  A game typically takes about ten minutes.  This allows for replaying the game several times in one sitting.  We typically do a “best out of 3” or “best out of 5” in my house, and why not when the games are so short?

Since I discovered this game, it’s been one of my go-tos for quick 2 player gaming.  I was thinking about it, because it was broken out last game night.  My buddy Mario and I ended up whipping this game out.  He had never played it (or even heard of it for that matter), but we were under way in less time then it has taken you to read this far.

Game speed, unique mechanics, and logic without unnecessary complexity means that this game will have a place on my shelf for many many more years to come.

This entry was posted by The_Null_Entry on Thursday, December 2nd, 2010 at 12:21 pm and is filed under Abstract Logic Games, Board Game Reviews . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

32 Comments

  1. parkrrrr says:

    A moderately amusing solitaire game can be played with Quarto, too: try to arrange all of the pieces on the board so that no row, column, or diagonal wins. Another (small) puzzle is to arrange it such that every piece differs from its orthogonal neighbors in exactly one dimension. (Just don’t look up “Gray code” on Wikipedia first or you’ll spoil the fun.)

    Once you’ve mastered those, try the variant: arrange all the pieces on the board at random, then count how many swaps it takes you to get to a nonwinning or Gray (your choice) configuration. For more challenge, require that all swaps be of two orthogonally adjacent pieces a la Bejeweled.

  2. You never cease to disappoint when it comes to awesome ideas for logic games. 😀 I particularly like the nonwinning idea, it reminds me very much of the “fit 8 queens on a chess board without any of them being able to capture” puzzle.

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