Quarto Board Game Review
WBG Score: 8
Player Count: 2
You’ll like this if you like: Go, Chess, SHŌBU
Published by: Gigamic
Designed by: Blaise Muller
First made in 1991, Quarto has gone through many face lifts and make overs. This current edition from Gigamic is a beautifully made set with solid wooden pieces and a lovely wooden board. Quarto is a game I proudly leave out on display like a Chess set. Hoping to entice people to ask about it. Which in turn lets me teach them the game so we can play. And once we play this, why not one of the other hundreds in the house? If you will forgive the rather crude reference, is Quarto therefore, the perfect starter drug for board games?
The game has gone through multiple published editions I would suggest, because of its traditional appeal. A simple to understand, hard to master board game, that can be taught and played in minutes and by anyone. It has all the makings of a classic in both looks and game play.
In Quarto, players take it in turns to choose one of the 16 pieces to give to their opponent. They will then place it anywhere within the four-by-four grid. There are no placement rules, you can use any space you wish. Players will play in turn like this until all pieces are used and a tie occurs, or more likely, a connection of four is made, and spotted, in one of eight ways.
In this picture, you can see four of the eight ways a connection of four can be made. The first is shown the in the bottom row. All four pieces have the same hollowed top. you could equally have four flat tops to make a valid connection. Along the right column you can see four large pieces. Again, four small would also work. Running along the second column you can see four pieces all with a square shape. Four circular shapes would also win you the game. And finally, in the second row, you can see four light coloured shapes. Four dark shapes would work just as well.
When placing a piece, players need to look for the chance to build to, or complete one of these eight win conditions. But of course, the piece you are placing is not chosen by you. Your opponent will not want to intentionally help you. As both players are playing on the same board though, in order to help yourself you need to help your opponent. But in a way where they don't realise it. With eight different win conditions, it is easy to miss something. Like Connect Four, Chess, or any other popular puzzle or abstract game with different win conditions, you can be focused on one end goal and miss another right in front of your face. This happens a lot in this game.
Having played this game probably over a hundred times now, I cannot count the amount of games that have ended with me thinking I am one move from victory, only for the other player to then make a connection I had not even seen. And with the way this game works, when this happens, you are literally handing them the victory! Making the connection is not enough though, you must also spot the connection and shout "QUARTO!" If you don't, and continue the game, the connection can no longer win you or any other player the game. This sounds redundant, but I am certain there are many games where I have won but not even noticed!
There are a few variations to help with beginners or more advanced players. Either removing one or more of the win conditions or adding a new one. For beginners you can state that you can only win with the same colour or size for example. Or for an advanced game, you can add the possibility of winning with a group of four in a two by two square. With the horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, there is already a lot going one. Adding in this advanced variation brings in nine new ways for the game to be won! Or more likely, nine new ways to miss an opportunity!
Quarto is a great game to encourage children to try new games, learn patience, strategy, and how to be a good winner or loser. All the reasons I love playing games with my own children wrapped up in a beautiful wooden package. It is also great for teaching me how to be a good loser to them, which happens a lot anyway, but almost every time with this game. I think this is a young mans game!
Quarto has such a high level of accessibility due to its simplistic rules and visually appealing pieces. Just looking at this board makes people want to pick up and fondle the pieces. There is also a novelty in seeing something that looks a bit like Chess, but isn't Chess. It intrigues people in a wonderful way.
This does beg the question why is it that everyone has heard of and played Chess, but not Quarto? I suppose a few hundreds years has something to say about this. But come the mid 25th century, mark my words, Quarto will be as well known as Chess! OK, maybe not, but it certainly offers an enjoyable, accessible, and strategic game session, and looks lovely all set up now on my coffee table left after my last game with my son. Now, if I could figure out how he beat me again!