I hate Risk. As Vagary’s resident hardcore strategy gamer, you might think that this is because it’s too simple, but that’s not actually the reason. My objection is that too often, the battles come down to luck rather than skill. If I assemble an army of 20 to attack an army of three, I should win quickly and decisively. Thankfully, Quarrel has an elegant solution to this problem: instead of rolling dice, make the winner determined by a word game.
Quarrel consists of a map, on which you and up to three other players hold a bunch of territories. Each of your armies will consist of two to eight bouncing minions, be they ninjas, Vikings, soldiers, or what have you. The cute aesthetic is one of the game’s best attributes. Defeated troops will cry, and final victory will get you a huge victory block party. You attack adjacent territories, in an effort to conquer them all and win the game. Battles begin with a word scramble of eight letters. For each unit in your army, you can use one letter to make a word. Different letters have different values (like in Scrabble), and the highest value word wins.
You can play with a timer or without. I recommend playing with a countdown every time, though, as with infinite time, a larger army can take its time and win every single battle. The timer also makes the battles quite frantic, as you scroll back and forth, trying to get in your words, and come up with something before the time hits zero and you auto-lose. In addition, the case of word value ties, the quicker player wins, so speed counts. Typically, I spent most matches trying to build an army of 8 (the maximum), but you have to be quick: at the end of each turn, the game system will load reinforcements onto the map through a variety of methods. Wait too long, and your enemies will grow very powerful.
The game includes multiplayer (though no local co-op, because you could see each other’s words). I tried the multiplayer, but I found that since I was unwilling to cheat (word unscramblers are everywhere) and I had no chat pad (the game in chat pad compatible) I was destroyed. Sticking with single player, there were a couple of different modes, but all boiled down to the same game (conquer territory by making words). Though I enjoyed the gameplay mechanic very much, I eventually grew bored from the repetitions. It would have been nice to have letters cycle through, or disappear as time went on (use the high value Z before it vanishes!). I can’t help but thinking that the concepts here are ripe for expansion with future releases. I know I was left wanting more, not simply in terms of more play, but also more depth and variety.
Quarrel’s biggest asset is its price point. In an era where even $10 releases are becoming few and far between, $5 US at release is an absolute steal. This game is worth far more than that (though its previous release on iOS may have forced lower pricing), providing addicting gameplay and several different game modes. There aren’t enough brand bending word games on XBLA, and this one adds strategy and conquest to that equation. For a few evenings of wordtastic fun, it’s tough to quarrel with Quarrel.
- Interesting blend of strategy and puzzle solving
- Frantic fun
- XBL matches
- $5 price
- Occasional framerate hitches
- Could use more gameplay variety
4 / 5