30 Minutes, 2-4 Players, Low Complexity, High Strategy
Abstract games tend to get overlooked compared to their flashier, more thematic cousins, but Qwirkle’s simple tile-laying gameplay is like slipping into a warm bath after a long day. It’s a classic, and rightfully so: Qwirkle draws upon games like Rummy and dominos for inspiration, and the result is charming, unique, and deeply strategic despite its simplicity.
Qwirkle is one of the easiest games to teach that I’ve ever encountered, which is especially impressive given the amount of strategy the simple wooden tiles can provide. Players will take turns playing as many tiles as they want in a single line (that can attach to many other lines) before counting up their score for that round. The limitations are easy, any tile you put down must match either the colour or the symbol of the tiles next to it. You score points based on the new length of all the lines you added onto, and if you can complete a row, you score a Qwirkle, which nets you 6 bonus points. That said, be careful! You want to finish off those rows and score the bonus points, but you don’t want to set your opponents up to do the same. It requires some crafty positioning and a bit of insight into the other player’s strategy, and it means that while a whole lot of the game happens on the table, the best players are the ones who try to get in their opponent’s head. A well-played strategy feels amazing as your opponents look on in horror and wonder “how come I didn’t see that coming?”, but the nature of Qwirkle means you just opened them up for their next big play! It’s fast and furious, and an absolute blast to have 5 different plans at the same time. Sure, they might all fall to pieces, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll be able to score a few Qwirkles with one brilliant play.
Can you find the Qwirkle and score 6-points?
This might be a bit pedantic, but Qwirkle is probably the most aesthetically pleasing game on my shelf. There’s something inherently pleasing about arranging shapes and colours, and the thick wooden tiles are a delight to handle. It’s also worth mentioning that Qwirkle might have the highest pedigree of any game I’ve ever reviewed, with an impressive number of awards under its belt, including the Mensa Select Award, the Parent’s Choice Gold Award, and the 2011 Spiel des Jahres, arguably the most prestigious award in boardgames. It was even featured on the show Tabletop, where the world’s most famous board-gamer Wil Wheaton played it with his family, claiming it was one of their favourite games to play together.
Qwirkle quickly becomes qomplicated.
Overall, Qwirkle will appeal to fans of classic games with a good bit of strategy. It’s quite often referred to as “Scrabble with shapes and colours” but that might be doing both games a disservice. If bright tiles, spatial management, and head-to-head battles of intellect sound fun to you, then Qwirkle is a classic that belongs in your home.
If you like Qwirkle, be sure to check out the travel edition, the sequel, Qwirkle Cubes, and the Qwirkle app, for the gamer on the go!
Distributed by Outset in Canada