Some games amaze me. Qwinto is a filler game that uses three dice, scoring sheets, and pencils.
Everyone starts with a blank sheet. During the course of the game you take turns rolling dice to generate numbers which you fill into the blanks on your respective sheets. Everyone gets a chance to fill a number every turn, no matter whose turn it is. You can choose to forfeit this, but usually you want to fill in a new number every turn. When you are the active player, i.e. the one to roll the dice, you get to choose how many and which dice to roll. However if you do not or are unable to fill in a number, you get a 5pt penalty. There is no penalty if you don't fill a number on other players turns. If you roll more than one die, you don't have to use all of them to generate your number. You can use a subset. This means the more dice you roll, the more options you have, but also the more options your opponents have.
Refer to this scoresheet when I describe the restrictions and the scoring below.
The numbers in the three rows must be in ascending order. The colours of the dice (or die) you add up to make a number determines which rows (or row) you can put that number. There are only five columns which have three spaces. The numbers within such a column must not repeat. These restrictions sound simple enough, but when you play, you will realise how challenging they can be. Scoring works this way. If you complete a row, you score the rightmost (i.e. largest) number. In the photo above I have completed the yellow and blue rows. For incomplete rows, you score based on how many blanks are filled. Thus the 4pts for my orange row. As for the five columns, if you complete a column, you get to score the number in the pentagon. In the photo I have only completed three columns, so I only score these three.
The game ends when one player fills two rows, or one player is penalised the fourth time.
The simple rules and components belies the challenging nature of the game. There is more than meets the eye. You need to plan carefully and consider your options carefully. You need to consider the consequences of your actions. As you fill in more and more numbers, you will find that your options dwindle, and you become more and more at risk of being unable to roll a number you can fill. If you are not careful, you may create dead spaces - spaces where it is impossible to fill any number. You want to keep your options open, yet you also want to score as much as possible. You are constantly weighing your options, and how they will affect your future prospects. For such a little game, it is amazing how often you need to make tough calls. Sometimes you have to seriously consider forfeiting the chance to fill a number, because that number may throttle your subsequent plays. Yet you are always under pressure to fill a number every turn. Miss a few turns, and you may be outpaced by your opponents. Your opponents may force the game end before you line up your scoring. So speed is yet another layer to consider.
Qwinto is still a filler, but what a challenging and fulfilling one it is. It is a short burst of intense mental workout. Player interaction is low, but not non-existent. When you decide how many and which dice to roll, it affects the other players. Ideally you want to deny them the use of your die roll. This is a game of constantly evaluating risks and probabilities. No matter how to fill your sheet, you need to be prepared for the consequences. This being a dice game means there is luck. However there is a decent amount of strategy, enough to make the game a satisfying one.