Tuesday, 27 November 2018


Plays: 2Px2.

The Game

Quarto is a short 2-player abstract game. It takes less than 10 minutes to play. The board is a 4x4 grid. There are only 16 pieces in the game, and each is unique. Every piece has four features. It is either tall or short, dark or light, solid or hollow, and square or round. The game pieces don't belong to any player. At first I assumed dark pieces belonged to one player and light pieces the other. Your goal is to form a straight line of four pieces which share one common feature, e.g. a line of four round pieces. Do that, and you win. In this photo above, whoever places a tall piece on that space at the top right would win the game. There is also an almost completed line of round pieces.

Players take turns placing a piece onto the board. Once placed, a piece doesn't move. A game is played over at most 16 turns, since there are only 16 game pieces. The twist in this game is you don't decide which piece to play on your turn. Instead your opponent picks the piece for you. Picking a piece for your opponent is a crucial decision. Not picking a piece which would let him win is just the minimum consideration. You need to also consider the many possible consequences when you pick a particular piece for him. Will it help him force you into a corner? Will it save him from trouble?

Pieces not yet played can be grouped by feature to make it easier for players to plan ahead. The tall pieces were grouped this way because at this time picking a tall piece would hand the victory to the opponent. So tall pieces were unsafe now.

The Play

Allen and I went to play at Boardgamecafe.net, and while waiting for other players to arrive, Wai Yan taught us Quarto. It's a short game, so it works well as a filler. Our first game was particularly short, because I was careless and Allen defeated me when we had only a handful of pieces on the board.

At one point I intentionally created a line of three tall pieces, thus making all remaining tall pieces unsafe. I wanted to manipulate the pace of the game. By making tall pieces unsafe, I was shortening the game. If I counted the number of remaining short pieces, I could work out when they would run out, and who would be forced to pick a tall piece for his opponent. Later I realised I was wrong about this. The board situation could change and unsafe pieces could become safe again. It was a simple matter of using a short piece to spoil that potential line of tall pieces. Once that potential line was disrupted, tall pieces would become safe again.

Another example can be seen in the photo above. Imagine if that leftmost square piece has not been placed yet. There would be a potential line of round pieces, and all available round pieces would be unsafe. However now that this square piece has been played, round pieces are no longer unsafe.

Analyse the board situation in this photo, and you will see there are three potential lines of tall pieces.

I won the second match by making a line of light pieces. Neither Wei Yan nor Allen saw this coming, probably because this was a diagonal line. I think Allen was quite focused on the threat of the tall pieces.

The Thoughts

I have seen Quarto before. It looked like the classy type of abstract game, with well-crafted wooden components. I have never sought to try it because I'm generally not into abstract games. Having played it now, I found it simpler and shorter than I had imagined. It is thinky, like how I imagine abstract games to be in general. Despite the low number of turns, sometimes you need to think long and hard because you need to think quite a few moves ahead. Both picking a piece on your opponent's turn and playing a piece on your own turn can be challenging mental exercises.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

You missed something in your third photo -- the leftmost piece not only blocks the line from being all round, it also makes that line all solid and so is a winning move!