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.
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.
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