Them Bones – Qwixx review

Qwixx COVER

I’m really unsure of Qwixx. When I’ve played it it’s been entertaining enough, a grand way to pass twenty minutes or so, but something I the back of my mind is just niggling away at me. I mean, I can see that it’s solid. It’s interesting enough to warrant returning back to once in a while, but… well, I think the issue is the fact that it was one of the three nominees for this year’s Spiel des Jahres.

We’ve already covered the other two games that were put up for the award – Augustus and the eventual winner, Hanabi – but when comparing the three of them it feels like Qwixx falls far shorter than it should. Nominees and winners of the SdJ should be compelling and fun, dragging you back in again and again until the print is worn off their tiles or the cards are dog eared. In comparison, Qwixx feels like it is a disposable little affair from the moment you crack open the tiny box.

Inside it you’ll find six dice, the instructions (which when translated take up all of half an A4 sheets) and the scoring pad. That is it. Sure, this collection of components means that the price to pick a copy up is negligible – I paid just over a fiver for mine – so that’s certainly a point in its favour, but I kind of expect a bit more from a package that has got the German market into a tizzy.

As you’d expect, the rules are simple. Players’ score sheets are divided into four rows – red and yellow from 2 to 12, left to right, while green and blue count down from 12 to 2. At the end of each of these rows lies a padlock icon and (beneath a handy scoring guide) there are also four greyed out spots that we’ll cover shortly.

Each turn sees the Active Player roll the six dice – two of which are white, while the other four represent the previously mentioned colours. When rolled, ALL players may mark the number from the combined white dice on one of their rows. The Active Player then gets a second bite at the cherry, combining one white die with one of the colours to make another number which can also be marked off that specific line only (so, using a white and red pairing means that number can only be marked on the red line).

Of course, there needs to be a twist, and in the case of Qwixx there are actually two. First up, once you mark a number, anything to the left of it is officially off limits and can’t be touched. Second, if you’re the Active Player and you can’t mark off a number (and believe me, as the game progresses your options will become very limited indeed) you must fill in one of those four greyed out squares – cover them all and the game is over.

The game also ends if two rows are “locked” – when that aforementioned padlock icon comes into play. If you (or any other player) manages to cover five numbers in any one line including the one that is furthest to the right, you get to mark off the padlock as well. Doing so not only gets you an extra bunch of points for the end of the game – it also removes that coloured die immediately, limiting the possibilities of the other players. However the end comes about, everyone then checks the amount of numbers marked off each line and adds the totals up before removing five points for each of the failures denoted by the greyed out boxes. Highest score wins, of course… and that is it.

What's in the box? Well... not much actually.

What’s in the box? Well… not much actually.

Seriously, that is it. It’s super simplistic and entertaining enough – there’s plenty of opportunity for mocking your opponents when they fail miserable on a roll, for example, but so much of the game is down to chance I’m really surprised that the SdJ committee decided to put this on the shortlist for the big prize. I’m not confused over the fact that it’s a small game – I mean, I love Hanabi and that’s tiny – but Qwixx feels kind of… well, I said it earlier, it feels disposable. The one-use score sheets are kind of testament to that, as once I run through them I doubt that I’ll be scrabbling to get more. The dice will go into the pile to be used in future prototypes or if a d6 goes missing, and the game will never be heard from again.

I’m not saying that Qwixx is bad – understand that, please – but it strikes me more as part of a larger game, an element that can be combined with others in order to create something larger. It acts well as a filler and is fun enough, sure, but I honestly would sooner be playing something like The Agents or Pigpen to pass half an hour. It works well as something to chuck into a bag and keep the kids entertained on a holiday or a filler for a group waiting for others to finish, but where I’m sure that people will still be talking about Hanabi in five years time, I fear that Qwixx will soon be consigned to the dustbin of gaming history.

Qwixx was designed by Steffen Benndorf and was first released by Nurnberger Spielkarten Verlag in 2012. Between two and five can play with games taking around fifteen to twenty minutes. German language copies can be picked up from Gameslore for under £7, should you so desire.

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