Quarriors v. Tanto Cuore: Board Game Rumble
Ladies and Gentlemen, we’re in for one heck of a fight tonight! While both Quarriors and Tanto Cuore are relative newcomers to the Western Analog Game market, Tanto Cuore has been has been wrecking the scene in Japan since 2007, and has proved that it has what it takes to compete for the title of best English Edition Deck Building Game of 2011! But first, it will have to take on the new kid on the block, made by Deck Building Game veteran, Bill Elliot, in a no holds barred, card flipping, dice rolling death-match! Game On!
So, first things, first, Terry. Talk to me about how these two games present themselves.
You got it, Steve. Quarriors has some odd packaging for a game. The entire box is built like a die. This matches the game’s theme, because when you spill out the contents, its filled with 130 dice. All the dice, dice bags and cards have a nice visceral impact. So far, Quarriors is unique, in that it is the only deck building game that uses dice instead of cards to build your deck out of. As the game progresses, you use your dice to buy new dice, which end up in your dice bag. On your turn, you take 5 dice out and roll them. If the game was just dice with pips on them and a few small pictures in the game rules, this game would have a great feel to it. But the great artwork on the cards, throughout the box and on the rules insert makes the game look dynamic, promising a fun time.
Sounds great! Rick, tell me about Tanto Cuore.
Tanto Cuore is covered in Japanese artwork featuring numerous Italian Maids. Strange, I know, but for all the oddness that is modern Japanese aesthetics, it’s beautiful. In fact, the game developers knew that this lush artwork would be a great selling tool for the game, so they pushed it to the front. Three-Quarters of every card in Tanto Cuore is a splash panel of various house maids doing, what appears to be, very little work. I mean, I pay you girls to clean the house and make my food. Stop looking at yourself in mirrors and kneeling, with one hand on your face, blushing. And the girl dropping a tray of glasses… why did I even hire that klutz!
Erm… okay. So I suppose we can agree that there is no clear winner in the presentation category. Next up: Gameplay. Terry, why don’t you lead us in?
In Quarriors, Questers start with 12 dice in their dice bag. On their turn, they quarry 6 at random out from the bag and roll ‘em. With the amount of Quiddity their dice show, the Questers equip themselves with new dice from the center of the town square of Quaria, selected at the quest’s start. Consequently, the player may pay more Quiddity to put Quarriors on the battlefield, and sequentially attack their friends with their quarry. If their Quarriors don’t quit before that player’s turn queques again, they score victory and can cut quarry dice from their discarded quarry pile, slimming their ‘deck’. It’s a nice mechanic, because it rewards risk-taking by players who spend all their money early to get a few points, by making their decks tighter. Quarriors.
Fascinating. Rick, how does Tanto Cuore work.
Tanto Cuore is a classic deck building game. Players draw 5 cards a turn, use cards in hand to buy cards and dump them in their discard pile. When they can’t draw any more cards, they shuffle their discard pile up and make a new deck. They’re goal is to get victory points in their deck, but cards with victory points chunk up the reliability of your deck, giving other players a chance to slingshot themselves back into the game. One of the nice things about Tanto Cuore, compared to many similar DBGs, is that a number of the maids (did I mention that almost every card in this game is a maid?) have the ability to be sent to your chamber for a cost. So if you have the ability to use extra ‘love’ and extra actions, you can lead less impressive maids out of the main hall, and into your chamber, where the less spoken about this transaction, the better. Oh! And there are also a bunch of cards on the table called ‘Bad Habits’. You can buy these cards that give your opponents negative victory points, and fill their deck with them. It may seem cruel, but many deck building games don’t have a way handle players that are doing super crazy awesome good. If one player is pulling too far ahead in Tanto Cuore, however, the other players can conspire to give that player some bad habits, making his parents disappointed in him, and evening out the playing field. Both the Chamber mechanic and the Bad Habit cards also do another nice trick. They give you a reason to use what are normally wasted extra actions and buys in other deck building games.
Very nice. So it seems that you two have only positive things to say about your games?
I don’t know if…
Let me start, Rick. What’s got to be the biggest drawback of Quarriors is the sheer randomness of it all. Deckbuilding games already had a sense of randomness, because you are at the whims of the cards you draw. But, at least, you will draw every one of those cards every time you go through your deck, its a matter of order and timing. With Quarriors, though, you can buy a dragon, and draw the dragon die five times in a game, and never roll a dragon. Many players will find this exciting, but for some players, this interaction is frustrating. Also, there doesn’t have much of a feeling of building a deck of dice, so much as filling your bag with powerful dice. In many deck building games, you need to buy lower cost cards to make your deck stronger, to buy higher cost cards. In Quarriors, however, I’ve seen players get lucky with their rolls and just buy the most expensive dice on the table. There are a few dice that improve the overall quality of your game, but it feels more like you’re drafting dice than building a deck.
Tanto Cuore is far from perfect as well, Steve. Many of the mechanics of Tanto Cuore are very similar to the game that launched the deck building game craze, Dominion. We’ve seen a few years of deck building technologies. But, Tanto Cuore was designed in 2007 and blithely ignores them. It does incorporate more player interaction, with the card Bad Habits, but, in the wrong play group, Bad Habits turns into a spiteful festival of vendetta among two players who hate personal attacks. You may be able to convince your friends that Bad Habits doesn’t need to be in every game you play, but those games will probably feature someone running away with the game.
Well, that’s unfortunate. Let’s turn our attention to something less controversial then. Looking at my list of talking points I have… Legibility of the game pieces? Why would I…
Kill the Umpire! Boo!
Wait, wait. What’s going on here, Terry?
It’s a major disappointment for both of these games. Maybe the manufacturers decided that only 7 year-olds would play, but the font is tiny in both games. It makes sense in Quarriors, since little dice with lots of activities are going to require little numbers. But it feels like the manufacturer went out of their way to make some numbers illegible.
Tanto Cuore is no better. Remember how I said that three quarters of every card is artwork? That doesn’t leave much room for game text, and that text is Yu-Gi-Oh! small. They did find a neat way to incorporate the +1 action, +1 buy, etc. symbols into the cards, but they probably should have printed those symbols smaller, so the text could have more space. Unlike Quarriors, where you can put the die up to your eye to see the detail, Tanto Cuore cards need to be bought from the center of the table. And every time you lean over to read a card, you’re projecting your strategy.
That is unfortunate. Let’s move along, now. How customizable are both games?
Tanto Cuore has a standard number of cards for a deck building game giving you plenty of options, but nothing we haven’t seen before. It does have one cute quirk, though. There’s a deck of special maids, which are randomized, and, if purchased have a continuous effect on your game. Different special maids can greatly alter the strategy of their employers, creating a different type of game even within the same set up.
Sounds good. How does Quarriors compare, Terry?
Quarriors has the greatest variety for any deck building game’s initial set up so far. There are 18 different colored dice in the game, 15 of which are non-basic. For each of those non-basic dice, however, there are 3 different versions of those cards. That’s quite a different array of unique possible set-ups per game.
Awesome. Now let’s get down to brass tacks. How much do these games cost?
Tanto Cuore retails at $54.95. The box is a little small compared to its deck building brothers, but that doesn’t mean it has a smaller quantity of product. In fact, the smaller size means it will fit better in your game collection… at least better than the oversized cube that is Quarriors.
Quarriors retails at $49.99, but you could always argue that what you get for your money is a tremendous value. $50 is a very low price to pay for 140 dice, 4 dice bags, and 53 cards. Wizkids must have worked hard to find a way to keep the price down so that the game was affordable, but still profitable to them as a company.
It sounds like these two games are evenly matched. Is there any factor that sends one game over the top?
Terry and I were arguing about this before the pre-game interview, and we agreed that it boiled down to taste. But not the individual tastes of the purchaser of the game, but the sort of group that person would play the game with.
That’s right, Rick. Since both games are roughly equals in almost every category, one should probably focus on how often they’d pull either one down from their game shelf and play it with their friends. Many people think the slap-dashing fantasy styling of Quarriors to be annoying. There’s a general stigma against the world of fantasy, and I know a number of people who refuse to play a game just because it features star strewn old men with conical hats in the artwork. There’s another group of people, who just don’t dig goofy artwork because they feel it looks childish.
The same could be said about Tanto Cuore. Some people are a little put off by the Japanese culture’s love of youth. These people can’t look at Japanese anime without being disgusted at people who lust after teenage girls in maid costumes. The game isn’t like that (despite one obvious fan service shot), but it might be wise to show Tanto Cuore to your girlfriend and ask if she’d be interested in playing it before you attack her with super-fun-time-maid-dress-up-game.
So to sum up, Tantoe Cuore has a few good new ideas for a Deck Building Game, but is very similar to the other DBGs out there. Quarriors has a very different take on the genre, but the hefty amount of randomness may turn some players off over time. Either way, whichever game you choose, you’ll probably have a fun time. This is Steve “The Salmon” McGillicutty, reminding you to spay or neuter your pet, and to tune in next time, for another Board Game Rumble.