Become a Vocabulary Assassin

Remember all those vocabulary tests and SAT Prep courses in high school that attempted to expand your language skills? Me neither. But if I did, they sure would probably come in handy with Quarrel. Originally for iOS, the XBLA port of Quarrel maintains the original’s Words with Friends wordplay addictiveness and its Risk style strategy. Now, though, the game has four single-player modes, including 12 different boards, a variety of difficult board-based challenges and match stipulations, and nine distinct AI opponents, to go along with its 2-4 player online versus mode. Not to mention the inclusion of your Xbox Avatar into your game icon.

The purpose of Quarrel is to eliminate your opponents and conquer the entire game board. At the start of the game, depending on the number of players, the board is divided up evenly, with each space being occupied by 4-6 of your troops. In order to conquer a territory, you must attack a neighboring space to one of your already occupied spots. In order to conquer this space though, you must form a word in a limited time worth a higher score than the word your opponent forms when revealed eight semi-random letters. Depending on how many troops you are attacking/defending with, determines how many letters you can use, with no more than eight and no fewer than two ever being available at a time. There are so many more nuances to the game though that strategy truly does reign supreme as you get further into the game. You can take prisoners, call in reinforcements just before a battle, or even earn more points towards reinforcements when other players are battling and you are on the sidelines.

There are a couple of minor drawbacks to the game though. Some words are not recognized by the game, including some interesting proper nouns. Like I tried to use the word “SATURN” and found out the hard way that the sixth planet from the sun would not be accepted. A minor inconvenience to be sure, but now that the game is using the joystick or d-pad to select and de-select letters, it can be a bit more time consuming when trying to fix a misspelled or unacceptable word in the time limit, compared to when you could use the iOS touch screen before.

The game also starts to lose its luster a bit when playing against the computer constantly, especially in the earlier matches of each mode so if you can’t get a couple of your friends hooked on this game it might be something that slowly drifts to the backburner of your gaming priorities.

Despite this though, the game for the most part is very fun. The cute little critters who serve as your troops and bash your opponents into oblivion with their letter cards when you win are very enjoyable and I love the fact that with each word you and your opponents makes, you see the definition come across the bottom of the screen telling you what it means. I had no idea that a “KO” was a New Zealand gardening tool similar to a hoe until I played Quarrel. If only I had this game around back when I was studying for those SATs, I might have actually retained some knowledge. On top of this, it also gives you the 8-letter anagram each random assortment of letters can make, really doing its best to trick you into expanding your vocabulary while you play the game.

The best and most surprising part about Quarrel though may be its price. Coming in at only 400 MSP (about five dollars), if you are a fan of word games, strategy games, or board games, Quarrel is a fantastic bargain if you’re looking for that next great product in any of those genres. I was really pleasantly surprised at the tremendous amount of content I was able to get for such a small price and even more pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had with it. If you’re looking for something to workout your mental muscles and don’t want the commitment of a plot driven game, then I can’t more highly recommend Quarrel.

SUMMARY: Quarrel is an addictive and fun strategy game that might actually trick you into learning a few things as you attempt to go for “Word Domination”.

  • THE GOOD: The addictiveness of Words with Friends with the strategy of Risk
  • THE BAD: Can lose its luster if you don’t have friends who play the game as well
  • THE UGLY: The look on your face after realizing the computer is smarter than you

SCORE: 9.0

Quarrel is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA) and iOS at the time of this review. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.