Qwirkle

My grandparents used to tell me that I had an old soul. At the time, I thought that meant that they thought I was wise beyond my years, but now that I’m older, I’m convinced that it was their way of saying, “Thank you for not destroying the house like your cousins.” Qwirkle is one of those games that seems old even though it’s not.

I’ve met Qwirkle‘s designer, Susan McKinley Ross, and while I cannot speculate as to the age of her soul, I can state with a good deal of confidence that I do not believe she would destroy my house if I invited her over for dinner.

I can’t remember how I first heard about Qwirkle. I think it may have been from Eric Burgess, but I’m not sure. I picked up a copy at Target a few years ago when it was on sale. Being patient about things like that usually pays off. I brought it home and it was an instant hit with my wife and kids.

Qwirkle is a family friendly abstract strategy tile laying game designed by the aforementioned responsible dinner party guest, Susan McKinley Ross. The game was first published in 2006, and has since won many awards including the Spiel des Jahres in 2011. Yes, I know that’s odd, but American years don’t count, only German years. It’s their award and they can do what they want.

Qwirkle is fun for all ages 6 and up, and will take 2 to 4 players less than an hour to play. It has a Scrabble-like quality to the game play, but manages to capture the pattern completion enjoyment of that wonderful game with abstract shapes and simple scoring.

Qwirkle tilesQwirkle comes with 108 tiles in six colors. Each color set has three tiles of six different shapes. There’s a square, a diamond, and a circle. Then there are shapes that I call club, Sun Boy, and photon torpedo. Let’s see how many Legion of Super-heroes and Star Trek fans are reading!

Gameplay is very simple. Players play to the growing structure by placing a tile or series of tiles that either share the color or shape attribute of the other tiles in the same line. Each line may only have one tile of each of the six colors, so you will never have a line longer than six. Players replace the tiles they played from their hand by drawing from the nifty cloth bag provided. Little kids might need a little help with this at the beginning of the game, because the tiles are thick and made from wood, so early on the bag is like a bowling ball.

Scoring is also very simple. Players score a point for each tile in a line created or modified by their tile placement. It’s great to be able to place a set of tiles that scores in multiple lines, and I think that it’s that action along with the chunkiness of the wooden tiles that makes this feel like such a classic game. If a player manages to place six tiles in a line, then they score a Qwirkle, which gives them six additional bonus points. We like to add additional syllables to the word when we announce our successful Qwirkle. I think announcing your Qwirkle in a truly annoying manner adds a huge amount of enjoyment to this already great game.

Play continues until someone runs out of tiles. The last person to play a tile gets a six point bonus. I think this is a clever way to prevent that excruciating slow-down that would occur at the end when everyone would be trying to wait for someone to play that certain tile that would allow them to make a Qwirkle. That’s just good design, in my opinion.

This games seems like a classic and I think it will be around long enough to someday be classified in that way. I have a feeling that when many of the games I love has passed into obscurity, you will still find Qwirkle on floating anti-gravity dinner tables across the federation of planets.

I just found out last night that they have released a Big Box Qwirkle version that has two expansions and a score track. This was an Essen 2012 release, so I don’t know if or when that will make it to the states. Check BGG for more up-to-date information on this and just about everything else game related.

spiel_des_jahresThis is part of my Spiel des Jahres winner series. If you would like to comment on the 2011 winner, Qwirkle, then please do so on this post. If you would like to discuss or comment on the Spiel des Jahres award in general, please do so on the Spiel des Jahres series post.