In keeping with the theme of widely available games that I would recommend to friends, Qwirkle is another solid choice for the addition to a game library. Qwirkle is a simple and engaging game for two to four players, ages six and up. For young players, the game relies significantly on color and shape recognition, and counting skills are recommended to to determine valid plays and to tally score. Though the game has a very simple appearance and a straightforward rule-set, competitive adults will find that there are some tactical opportunities to use to their advantage. Qwirkle has been the recipient of several awards, including the prestigious German Game of the Year award (Spiel des Jahres) in 2011.
Qwirkle consists of 108 tiles that are a mix of six shapes and six colors, with three of each combination in the set (6 x 6 x 3). The overall goal of the game is to have the most points at the end of the game, and points are earned by playing tiles to the grid play area. Players begin the game by taking a hand of six tiles from a blind-draw pool (a cloth bag). The players keep this “hand” of tiles hidden from the other players during play, primarily so that the other players don’t have knowledge of what plays they may be enabling or blocking with their own play.
Each player has three options on his or her turn. The first is to play a single tile to the grid of tiles, following the placement rules, which I will discuss in just a moment. The second option for a player is to play two or more tiles to the grid, following the placement rules. When a player plays two or more tiles to the grid, the tiles must all share a single aspect, i.e. they must all be the same color or the same shape. When multiple tiles are added to the grid, they must also all be placed in the same line, though they do not have to touch each other. Finally a player may take a turn to trade some of his or her tiles for new tiles from the draw-bag. Players draw back up to six tiles in their hands at the end of the turn.
The placement rules for the game are very simple. Basically, a line of tiles must share an attribute, either color or shape, but there may only be one of each of the non-shared attribute in a line. Thus, there could be a line of squares — blue, red, yellow, green — but it would not be a valid play to add another blue square to that line because there already is one present. Tiles can also be in different lines. A blue square could be in a line of squares in one direction, and a line of blue tiles in another direction. Players cannot play a tile in a place that breaks the rules about placement.
Players score points for playing tiles. Players score one point for each tile played as well as a point for all of the tiles that are already in the line(s) on which the player played. One tile can score two points if it is part of two different lines. Players also get a bonus if they add the sixth and final tile to a line of tiles — this is called a Qwirkle and scores twelve points for that line — six for the tiles and six more for the bonus. Also, whomever ends the game gets a six-point bonus.
There is not a lot of strategy to pursue in Qwirkle outside of attempting not to leave scoring opportunities open for your opponents. The tactics of Qwirkle are to recognize where there are advantage plays to be made with your tiles, and to make the most use of your tiles when you play by adding to multiple lines when possible, or setting yourself up for multi-tile plays in the future. Since you know that there are only three of each tile in the game, you can also see where some lines and Qwirkles are impossible to complete because the necessary tiles are all already played elsewhere.
Though the basic game of Qwirkle does not have any expansions in the American market, there are several spin-off games from Qwirkle including a card game, a dice-type game, as well as a re-theme of the base-game to a Star Wars license. Qwirkle has an MSRP of $24.99 and is available at hobby game and toy stores, Target, Wal-Mart, and online.