Here is another game review by the great Tom Vasel. This time tom reviews a game of my own design: Quadrovex!
Carabande is the heaviest game I own, with several boxes full of chunky wooden pieces. Quadrovex (Stephen de Chellis, 2005 - self published) which is a smaller game, still comes close to challenging Carabande in the weight category - with a bunch of heavy stone tiles in a small wooden box. The game itself looks like dominoes, but the rules invoke a bit of math. High quality from this limited run gives the game a quality, almost antique feel.
I've found that the game is fun, in a "mathy" sort of way, and can be a very educational game for children. The teenagers that I've introduced the game to found it fun; and while I worried about some of their attention spans, all of them did well and had an excellent time with the game. Quadrovex is a classy, well designed simple game with educational values - one that will look good on my shelf or coffee table. It is being reprinted by a game company later this year, but I'm very pleased to have a copy of this high quality limited version.
The game is made up of only thirty six tiles - each with a number in the middle, from "4" to "12". On the outside of the four sides of the tile are numbers from "1" to "6", represented by a series of dots. All the tiles are placed on the table, face down in the "Quarry". Each player draws four tiles from the "Quarry", and one stone is placed face down in the middle of the table. Players then pick one stone from their hand and place it face down - with the lowest number determining the player who picks the starting player. The tile in the middle of the table is flipped over, and the game begins.
On a player's turn, they must pick one of their tiles and place it on the board, touching at least one tile, side to side. The tile must be placed in such a way that the dots on the two attached tiles, when added, must equal the main number on the tile being placed. If a tile touches more than one tile, then it must meet this condition on both tiles. For example, if I am placing a "7" tile, I can touch the side with two dots to an already placed tile with five dots on an extended side. After placing the tile, one scores points equal to the number on the tile. If the tile touches more than one existing tile when placed, the score is multiplied by the number of tiles touched.
Score is kept on a paper or another method, and a player draws another tile from the Quarry after playing. Play continues until all tiles have been placed, and then the game ends - with the player scoring the most points being the winner!
Some comments on the game:
1.) Components: I'm always happy to have a limited edition, and Quadrovex shows one of the reasons why. It comes in a wooden chest, which snugly holds the stone tiles in place. Each tile has the dots and numbers painted on and has a green felt bottom to keep them from sliding all over the table. The game is signed (mine is # 20 out of 50 total), and really exudes a feeling of antiquity when opened. Connecting the tiles makes a satisfying clicking sound, and it's the type of game that you can leave set up on a table as a conversation piece.
2.) Rules: The rules are on a single sheet of paper; and although they are concise and contain everything, I think they could have been a bit clearer. They are out of order, with the setup in the middle and are too short for full clearness. I'm sure they'll be updated and expanded for the upcoming commercial version. The game itself is easy to teach, even teenagers who I thought would have a problem with the math did very well, and the game was a nice exercise for them in arithmetic computations.
3.) Education: This may possibly be the strongest selling point of Quadrovex, as the game will really help kids (or anyone, for that matter) learn to quickly compute simple sums in their heads. I was actually rather pleased to see that the kids enjoyed it as much as they did.
4.) Math: As a math teacher, I'm fascinated by the combinations that can be formed in the game. There are an equal number of dot combinations, and there is no number that is impossible to complete. At first, I fully expected that the chance to connect two or more sides would be rather difficult, but found it actually fairly easy and common (although connecting three sides seemed much more uncommon). The percentages seem to be fairly even, and no number is better than each other. EXCEPT: It does seem to be better to continually to draw higher numbers, since you'll get more points for those tiles. What good does it to connect the "2" tile to three others, when the "12" tile trumps it? Still, since the numbers seem to distribute fairly evenly (and you could even do this when passing them out), it works out well.
5.) Variants: There are three variants, alternate rules, that are included within the rules. I personally prefer the Predetermined Point Game, which forces players to go for a target point total, with the player who comes closest without going over winning. This works extremely well and causes players to think more carefully about the total number of points they score - and yes, adds more math to the game.
6.) Time and Fun Factor: When the game is played fairly quickly, with players putting out tiles without perusing the board too long, it is a jolly fun time. However, a player can sit there and maximize their points, thinking several moves in advance each time. While this will most likely help that player do better, it can drag down the game to a standstill. Fortunately, I've only ran into this with one player, and they caused only a bit of blockage to the game. The game should be played lightheartedly (although I suppose you could play a more lengthy brain-burner session), especially with kids.
I have a special place in my collection for limited edition games, especially one as nice looking as this one. But gladly, I don't want to waste the game by placing it away on a shelf. It's going to my math classroom, where I'm sure the kids will have a blast playing it, while I sneak in a bit of math learning in the form of a game. When the commercial game comes out, I'll gladly switch them out; but as pretty as the game is, it has an educational function that is covered in a simple, fun little game. Certainly better than Dominoes!
"Real men play board games"
You can read more of Tom Vasel's game reviews as well as listen to his weekly gaming podcast over at The Dice Tower!