WBG Score: 7.5
Player Count: 2-4
Published by: MindWare
Designed by: Susan McKinley Ross
Qwirkle is an absolute modern classic. First made in 2006, this game feels like it could have been around for hundreds of years, both in its timeless design and its well-oiled mechanics. Qwirkle is a colourful and engaging board game that combines elements of strategy, matching, and pattern recognition. It is similar to other comparable games, where players seek to maximize their turn by not only placing their best tiles but also placing them in the best location. The game is designed for 2-4 players and is suitable for ages 6 and up. Let's see how it plays.
Inside the box is one large bag filled with chunky square wooden blocks. Take the bag out of the box and have each player randomly draw six tiles. The person with the largest set will go first, and must place this set down. A set is either a group of tiles with the same colour, or shape. You can play one to six tiles at once. You cannot play two identical tiles in the same line at any point.
How to Play
Once the first player has placed their tiles, players will take it in turns clockwise around the table to place tiles. You must place one to six tiles from your hand somewhere into the common play area, touching at least one of the existing tiles there. You can join tiles orthogonally, and must always obey the same rules, where tiles are in lines of matching shapes or colours. And you must never have two of the exact same shape and colour in the same line.
There are six different types of each colour, with six shapes. If ever you lay down tiles into a line to make for a line of six, this is called a Qwirkle and will score you six bonus points. Usually you will score points for the number of tiles in the line or lines that you added to. Place one tiles into a line of two to make a line of three, and that scores you three points. Add two tiles into a line of three to make a line of five, and you will score five points. Add any number to make a line of six and this will score you12 points. Six for the usual scoring, then six bonus points.
When you place a tile you must immediately replenish your hand back up to six tiles. If ever you cannot go, then you can replace as many tiles as you like with fresh ones from the bag, but this will forfeit your turn this round. The game will continue like this until the bag runs out of tiles, and the first player places their final tile without being able to replace it with tiles in the bag. At this point, the game will immediately end and the final scores will be announced. As you score as you go, there is zero end game management. And to pack up, you simply sweep the tiles back into the bag. It is big enough to make this a simple and let's be honest, an enjoyable process!
Is It Fun?
Qwirkle has a classic feel and style to it that instantly makes you feel at home. It is hard to describe why, but picture this. Playing classic games like Scrabble or Chess, or any game that I have fond memories of from my childhood brings a sense of calm to me. I find this is common with many games that are familiar to many people. When playing Chess for example, players must use strategic thinking and logical reasoning to anticipate their opponent's moves and plan their own. This requires a level of focus and engagement that can be both challenging and rewarding. But also one that creates a feeling of relaxation and peace. Despite the challenges in the game. As players progress through the game, they may feel a sense of satisfaction as they successfully execute their strategies and outmanoeuvre their opponent. But win or lose, all players are rewarded with the serene vibe that is created. The pieces are chunky (most the time, if you have a nice set) which feel great on your hands. And the game is often played in a relative state of calm and quiet. Qwirkle feels very much the same as all this. And the familiarity only adds to the soothing environment.
There is a huge sense of satisfaction from find clever spots to place your tiles. Such as in games like scrabble and Rummikub, I found a lot of joy from placing tiles is clever spaces to maximise my point return. Tiles can score in multiple lines you see. Such as the three green above. When these were placed above the line of four yellow, the square score twice, both for the line of three that it was in, but also the new line of two it formed with the yellow square. This is a very simply example, and as you play more regularly, you will find that you spot these sorts of places for your tiles more often, and in more ingenious ways.
Finding little holes and gaps that a few of your tiles can fill for a big return is a never ending addiction in Qwirkle. I enjoy places fewer tiles for larger rewards. This can block up the board a little. A little like in Scrabble if both players do this, and no one plays nice long words to come off. But because you are not making works here, just lines of matching colours or shapes, you can always find a blocked up area to start a line off from the end or beginning. It's not like you are always hoping for an "S"!
One thing I really appreciated about Qwirkle is the quality of the game components. The tiles are made of high-quality wood and have a nice weight and texture that makes them easy to handle and place onto the table. The tiles feel sturdy and well-designed, with clear markings and a colourful layout that adds to the overall enjoyment of the game. In low light, some of the colours can be hard to decipher though, and I can imagine this may be tricky for those that suffer with colour blindness.
The bag the tiles come in is huge. It has a nice large opening for even the largest of hands to fit nicely in. Having played many games with small bags, this is a welcome addition, trust me! it is of good tough, durable quality as well.
I would recommend this game to anyone who enjoys classic feeling games that offer a smooth, and simple gameplay. This game is suitable for all ages and my family have enjoyed ending many game sessions recently with a game of Qwirkle. It is one my mother has really enjoyed, and my Rummikub obsessed Uncle I think would enjoy this too. This is something I love about games. Their ability to bring people together. Qwirkle has done this for my family and I think it could do it for yours too.
There is a simple and pure pleasure about playing with these chunky tiles in your hands.
Finding the best place to lay them. And scoring those illusive Qwirkles! I can see this game quickly becoming a family favourite, and I am surprised it does not get more mainstream coverage and distribution. Everyone should own Qwirkle. It deserves a place in everyone's home in this board game reviewers opinion.