Full disclosure: A review copy of Quiek! was provided by Big Cat Games.
So we’re back for another week of not-quite-Kickstarter-previews with Quiek! Technically, the Kickstarter is only for distribution, so, this is a review of a doujin game that’s hitting Kickstarter to try and see a wider release in the states via Big Cat Games. I’m always down to check out new stuff from Big Cat, so, let’s see what’s going on with this one. The Kickstarter is currently running to bring Quiek!, BLOCK.BLOCK (a personal favorite), and FILLIT to a wider audience, so if that sort of thing interests you, there’s a link above.
In Quiek!, you have a simple desire: cheese. Unfortunately, you’re in kind of a weird spot. It’s hard for you to just … go to it. It would help if you had a straight path to it. That’s not going to happen, so you reason out that you’ll just turn every time you hit a wall and make your way to it that way. But there aren’t any walls, yet. As players, you’ll be adding walls to the game to try and guide your mouse friend to its destination, but, with an adversarial twist. The player who makes it possible for the mouse to get to the cheese loses. So be careful, and make sure you play so that your opponent cannot. Which player will fail first?
Basically no setup. Set out the board:
Choose a player to place the mouse and cheese somewhere on the board:
That player is known as the Start Player. Don’t place the cheese anywhere on the outside edge of the board; you’ll see why later. Finally, give each player a set of two tiles in each color:
Place those on the appropriate spaces. Have the Start Player choose a tile and give it to the Active Player; they’ll take the first turn!
A game of Quiek! is played over multiple turns, as players work to force the other player to complete the path necessary for the mouse to reach the cheese. The problem is, the mouse can only turn when it hits the edge of the board or a wall tile, so, this can only get more complicated.
On your turn, you must play the tile you were given in the quadrant of its color, with the following restrictions:
- The tile may not be played in the same row or column as the cheese.
- The tile may not complete a wall that completely blocks the mouse from getting to the cheese.
- The tile may not be played within two straight-line spaces orthogonally of another tile. This one is visually confusing, but imagine the four orthogonally adjacent spaces, and then the space orthogonally adjacent to each of those spaces, but in the same direction. You can’t place a tile in any of those eight spaces.
Once you place a tile, choose a tile from your side of the board and pass it to your opponent. One important thing! You cannot pass your opponent the second tile of any color until the first tile of every color has been played.
If, on their turn, they say “Quiek!”, they may try to move the mouse to the cheese. The mouse moves in a straight line in the direction of their choice to start, but if it hits a tile or the edge of the board it may turn left or right. If they can reach the cheese, they win the game!
A player also loses the game if they’re forced to pass their opponent a tile that cannot be legally played. Be careful with that one!
Player Count Differences
Non-applicable; the game is for two players only.
- Don’t place the mouse and cheese too close together. I find that it makes it really easy for a short game where you get trapped. Give them a bit of space to find each other. As the game recommends, also don’t place the mouse in the same row or column as the cheese, and don’t place the cheese on the outside edge of the board. Those are both instant-lose conditions. It’s hilarious if your opponent doesn’t notice, but, is it worth the risk? Unclear.
- Keep track of possible failing moves. You should have a pretty good sense of where you can’t go to without losing. Try not to play there. Just also keep in mind that as the game progresses, previously bad spaces may become good because of other tiles’ placement. So don’t write off a space forever; stay a bit flexible and watch for changes.
- Also keep track of restricted placements, and use them to your advantage. This one is tough, since, functionally, the tiles can’t be placed in the same row or column as the cheese, the tiles can’t be placed too close to another tile, and you can’t wall off the mouse from the cheese. A tile you place can really restrict your opponent’s options in the same color area, and you may be able to force them into a play that gives you the game.
- Work your opponent into a trap. This is most of the game, honestly. Your goal is to trap your opponent before they can trap you, which means you have to be thinking pretty aggressively on your feet. The places to watch out for this are in highly-crowded color zones or in the zone that you just played. Usually, the restrictions I mentioned above will limit their placement to a valid location. Hopefully, that location is in a spot that allows the mouse to hit the cheese.
- Absolutely plan a few moves ahead. This whole game is about planning. You know what tile you’re thinking about giving your opponent; figure out which color to give based on the tile you just played.
- Watch out for placing tiles along the outside edge. Those allow the mouse to change directions, and that’s usually how they can make inroads towards wherever the cheese was placed. You don’t usually want to be the first person to place a tile on the outside edge, but if you must, make sure you’re placing it such that your opponent can’t Quiek! you.
- Remember that you must use one of each color tile before you can use the second of any color. This just trips people up. Don’t build your strategy around giving a tile you can’t give until much later in the game.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- It reminds me of Rodent’s Revenge, but that might just be the thematic similarity. I just played about 10 minutes of it, and it’s definitely just the mouse looking for cheese bit. But I grew up playing that game, and I’ve definitely got a soft spot for it. Unlike SkiFree, which lightly traumatized me.
- If you have two players that aren’t subject to much analysis paralysis, the game can go pretty quickly. My friend and I can get games done in 5 or 10 minutes; even more quickly when one of us misplays and lets the other player win on turn 2 (my claim to fame, unfortunately).
- It’s interesting how decisions that would lose you the game at one point can specifically not, as the board evolves. That’s pretty neat. You’re almost building a maze, rather than just a path. But when it happened in our last game, we were both very surprised! We had assumed that a bad spot was Always A Bad Spot and I had all but conceded. To my great surprise, I had not lost, that turn. But my opponent had!
- I like path-building games in general. To be fair, this is essentially a path-avoiding game, but you have to do the same mental legwork to get the path avoided by simulating all the different paths you could build, so, in my mind, it still counts as path-building. Plus, you have to build the actual path to prove that you’ve won the game!
- Very portable. It’s a remarkably small box, especially compared to FILLIT or BLOCK.BLOCK. Out of the trio, it’s far and away the smallest. It’s a bigger box than, say, Coloretto, but not by much.
- Very colorful, too! I don’t think the color has any real meaning ascribed to it beyond a way to demarcate different areas of the board, but it’s a good demarcation strategy; it makes the game seem very bright and lively. And inviting, which is always nice for a game.
- The nice thing about the game is that setup is so easy that as soon as you lose, you can basically clear the board and play again. It’s what I refer to (politely) as the “rack ’em” rule; you can basically look at the state of the board, concede, and then rematch your opponent very quickly. It’s something I really liked about Santorini, as well.
- I’d like the game better if the cheese piece looked like actual cheese. This is, classically, me whining, but like, it’s just an orange circle. I get why that’s fine, but if it looked like Actual Cheese I’d maybe feel a bit more invested? Who knows; I’m complaining.
- I also wish the box were a bit more … detailed. The box doesn’t do a lot for the game, I think. It’s a bit sparse and bare, which is unfortunate. The full game is colorful! I wish the box showed that off a bit more.
- The exceptions to tile placement, even with the images, can slow the game down a bit. It just leads to a lot of “you can’t place that there”, which can be frustrating for new players. I understand why the exceptions exist, but there are enough that usually you’ll see someone learning the game trip up a lot in their first game. That hurts long-term adoption, because people tend to feel self-conscious when they make a mistake, even a small one. There just happen to be a bunch of exceptions.
- Pretty much the distillation of a game that causes analysis paralysis. Yeah, trying to figure out all the possible ways that paths can emerge based on the tile you’re playing is going to drive some people up the wall. The game recommends playing with a 30s timer after both players have learned how to play, and I agree, honestly.
- Lots of initial placements can make the game uninteresting. It seems like the initial setup and the placement rules can be a bit clunky at times, which sort-of restricts player freedom a bit. This one doesn’t restrict freedom, I suppose, but it does make it possible to invest in situations that you will literally immediately lose. That’s less fun.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, as a game, I probably prefer Quiek! slightly to FILLIT, but there are some things that generally push my rating down to the same general level. I think, at its core, Quiek! is very much my kind of game. It focuses on path-building; it’s exceedingly quick to set up and replay; and it’s a challenging little abstract game with a cute (though thin) theme on top of it. Where I think it struggles a bit is its presentation. There are lots of potential edge cases that emerge. There are places you can’t place the starting pieces, places you shouldn’t place the starting pieces, and places you can’t place the tiles on your turn. Even one set of those kinds of exceptions can slow new players down a fair bit, but all three can make the game feel a bit clunky. Thankfully, the game is too lightweight for that to really bog it down too much, but that path-building I mentioned? That’s a free ticket to Analysis Paralysis for a lot of players, since you have to analyze if it’s possible for your opponent to find a path that works on their turn, based on what you play. Every piece can induce multiple paths, and each of those paths can potentially lead to victory. If you’re quick about it? Not a problem. But players who struggle with that kind of spatial reasoning will likely struggle a bit more with this game than BLOCK.BLOCK or FILLIT. It’s a problem a timer can mostly solve, though. I think where this game shines compared to the others is its novelty, its simplicity, and most importantly, its portability. It’s a really small game without many components, and I think that works well for what it’s trying to do. And if that appeals to you, the idea of a quick, small, and light abstract with a lot of path-building and tit-for-tat potential, then I’d recommend Quiek! I’ve enjoyed getting to play it.