iOS Review: Qwirkle

Of all the types of board games that have been made into apps, abstract games seem to be especially suited for digitization. The rules have no grey area, gameplay is typically simple, and scoring is very straightforward. Abstracts tend to be rules light and strategy deep. All of these factors add up to a format which can be easily played on a tablet or smartphone. The digital version of Qwirkle, by Mindware Corporation, proves this point.

Qwirkle is a very approachable abstract with simple rules. The game is made up of 108 tiles, each of which has two identifying characteristics: one of six different shapes and one of six colors adding up to three complete set of each.

On your turn, you will either play tiles or swap tiles, refilling back to six at the end of your turn. If placing tiles, you must build in a line off existing tiles (except, of course, when you place the first tiles) and must continue in a straight line which can not duplicate either shape or color. That sounds more confusing than it actually is…but it’s easy to pick up.

Screen captures are tricky when piece are blinking - hence the black squares.
Screen captures are tricky when piece are blinking – hence the black squares.

After you’ve placed tiles, you calculate the score of that move by counting all tiles in a line that you built upon, regardless as to whether you played them or not. If, on your turn, you complete a line of six tiles of the same shape or color? You score the normal six points for the line, and an additional six points for having scored a Qwirkle! That’s pretty much the whole game.

Upon loading the app, you’ll be able to choose between playing against the AI, pass-and-play against people in the room, or online through the Game Center. There are four different levels of AI, and they’ve done a fairly decent job with them. Online play is solid, and they seem to have ironed out the kinks that were there when this app first launched.

3D mode!
3D mode!

The visuals in the game are quite nice as well. When playing, you have your choice of backgrounds – a wood grain table, beach sand, tablecloths, and…clouds. Cause, you know, I often play this game while floating. Although, I HAVE played this app while on an airplane, so I’ll have to remember that option for my next flight. There is also an option to switch from 2D mode to 3D mode – which is nice…but also seems a little pointless.

Placing tiles is intuitive and the app will even help you out a bit here. When you drag a tile out onto the board so you can place it, the screen will show you the various places that are open for legal placement. Hell, it’ll even tell you if you’re able to use that tile to score a Qwirkle. Swapping is simple as well, just drag the tiles over to the bag and complete your turn.

Let me just take a second to rant here as this is one of the most important features for any board game app – confirm and undo. There are some great apps that are infuriating because they won’t allow you to confirm a move before it is made and there’s no way to take back a mis…um…click? Press? Tap? A mistap? Sure. We’ll go with that. But in Qwirkle, you have the chance to undo your move and need to click the “done” button prior to ending your turn. High marks for that.

QwirkleLaziness being what it is, there are some things that make this app a little more desirable to play than the actual physical copy of the game – you have someone keeping score for you, there’s zero chance of playing a tile illegally, you always know how many tiles are left…nitpicky stuff, but it’s nice that they included it in here.

All in all, Qwirkle is an app that is worth owning – especially for the three dollar price tag that it has carried for a while. It’s going to give you a visually pleasing app that can be played in a variety of situations. And isn’t that what we’re after?

[well]Qwirkle is available on the App Store for $2.99.[/well]