In our journey through life, everyone will have experienced a moment when the preconception of something dramatically undervalues the true worth of it and as such the ultimate appreciation of it becomes enriched.
Very heavy philosophical stuff for a Tabletop Tales feature, but nonetheless, I had one of those moments with a game I picked up over the summer. Seeing it on sale, I thought it would be a decent enough filler game. However, what I got was a something so simple yet bursting with sheer, wondrous joy.
Designed by UK based brothers Oliver and Gary Sibthorpe and published by Gamewright in 2013, Cube Quest is a simple dexterity game where two players flick cubes at each other. And that basic concept interested me somewhat, but hardly fascinated me or filled me with excitement. After all it is hard to get pumped over a game where the complexities of it stretch to pinging dice.
How wrong I was. Cube Quest is a very special game.
The goal is simple – knock your opponents king off the game map board and win. Facing off at opposite ends of the map, each player has 40 points to spend on a choice of six support units that will help lead the assault across enemy lines as well as defend their own king, which must be placed in your castle. Once units are selected they are deployed in a strategic formation on each players side of the map as they see fit, with stacking of cubes a perfectly acceptable strategy.
It’s clearly stated in the rules that the person with the squarest head goes first, but if you can’t decide who most resembles SpongeBob SquarePants, a simple coin toss will suffice. It is then taken in turns to flick a unit (or cube) of your choice at your opponents army. Any cube that is knocked from the play mat is eliminated from the game, even if your unit commits hara-kiri following an over exuberant or wayward flick. Each cube has a number of “shadowed” sides and if they land this side up in enemy terrorist they are considered “captured”. Captured units must immediately be rolled and if they land shadow-side up again, they are eliminated from the game. If they land face-up, they return to the player’s castle and are back in play.
While the actual gameplay is very basic, the choice of units and deployment does carry a degree of strategy. Certain units may cost more to deploy, but bring unique abilities. For example, the “skulk” (or ninja as I prefer to call it) can be removed from the map if it lands face-up in opposing territory. Instead of flicking a cube, the player may return this unit by placing it anywhere on the map later in the game. Freeze cubes sit on top of a specific unit and prevent them from being used, again instead of a flick; health cubes bring defeated cubes back into play based on a roll; and helms (or knights) get two shots if the first ends in their own half.
There is also superb scope for “house rules” in this game – with my group now always playing the game without the 40-point limit for a more all-out war experience. You could use a book or sheet of paper to create a divide for secret deployment; you can tweak the rules of returning captured units; you can have the freeze and health cubes on the board to start; and much more such as bonus points or extra moves for hitting a certain targets after leaving the play area (cock shots for example!) As it’s essentially a two-player shoot out with one set of rules, the customisation applies to both players so the possibilities really are endless. Amongst my regular group we now have another copy of Cube Quest and this opens up the option to play two-on-two or a fatal four-way mixing the mats to accommodate.
The end result is a fast, frantic, fun, flicking-fantastic game that will play in less than ten minutes. Despite being somewhat limited as a two player game, it actually is entertaining to watch and makes for a brilliant spectator game if using a tournament or round robin format with more players. Imagine if Subbuteo was actually a war game rather than a football game? Or think Blood Bowl, minus the distraction of any deep rules (or a ball for that matter!)
Cube Quest’s beauty lies in the sheer simplistic nature of the game, peppered with the dilemma of choice and light strategy of the set-up. This game creates brilliant moments of hilarity that will tickle the dourest of people and can be easily accessed by all ages, something I love in board games, as regular Tabletop Tales readers will know. I picked this up on sale for £15, and even at its normal price of around £20, the components are deliciously durable. The cubes are lightweight enough that they will not cause any damage should one go a little rogue and hit something like your TV (happened with us a few times). Actually the biggest risk is losing a cube! The mat is rubber lined (looks and feels just like a mouse mat) and tenacious enough to last the test of time – although it is a known issue that some copies contain warped mats, but Gamewright have been sending out replacements. It should also be noted that it’s the second edition available now where this issue has been mostly eliminated.
When I got Cube Quest in August, I was expecting something OK, a game a little different for my collection. Something that would be a light distraction from heavier strategic games and would find itself on the table a few times before being archived into the depths of my collection with the rest of the “good to have, but not really wanting to play often” titles I’ve amassed.
Since I took delivery it has been on the table more than any other game I own. We have played mini-tournaments, winner stays on, epic crucible level best of games and each and every time it does not disappoint. It has cemented itself as my number one warm-up game and it kicks off any games night perfectly, getting us in the zone and brining out our competitive edge. It can be set up very quickly, and plays even quicker, so its also a perfect filler or break game. It’s very emotive and competitive for what it is at heart and I can vividly recall the amazing wonder flicks we have seen over time, like a sports-package highlight real.
Cube Quest is fantastic! It really is. Uncomplicated, simple, accessible and downright great fun!
And I have no qualms in admitting I paid it a disservice with my expectations. It has reinstalled the age-old “don’t judge a book by its cover” principle in my approach to board games and I’m now more than happy to recommend this game to anyone looking for something a bit different, whether you are a gamer or not. Yet another Tabletop Tales highly recommended game, that if you were to give it a go, I’d guarantee you’d not be disappointed.
Kickstarter Camping of the Week
After missing the chance to bring you a Kickstarter campaign worthy of your attention last week for the, I’ve got two for you to have a look at this week…
First up is the latest Tiny Epic game from Gamelyn Games, Tiny Epic Quest. Gamelyn are old hats when it comes to Kickstarter, with this being their 12th project. The Tiny Epic series is all about big games in little boxes, and this one is an adventure game reminiscent of the theme of Heroes of Might & Magic computer games. The campaign runs until the 27th November and has already smashed its target, with $400k raised by over 11,000 backers so far. As such, there has been a tonne of stretch goals already unlocked and you will be getting a fair chunk of game for your minimum $20 (+ shipping) outlay. The coolest thing about this game though is it’s the first game to feature item-holding meeples! For more details, see the campaign page.
Secondly, Nothing to Declare, a UK based game that is still to hit it’s funding of £5,500 before the 1st December, but is well on track. From designer Paul Spencer in his first venture into Kickstarter, Nothing to Declare is a quick press-your-luck card game about passengers smuggling a range of bizarre goods acquired on their travels through customs. All the items are based on actual items confiscated by UK customs over the past few years! I’ve actually had a hands-on look at this game and it is a very fun light filler game for all the family, striking a good balance between luck and strategy with the take-that element keeping it interesting and replayable. The art style is also very cool, and the theme as a whole is great. With the basic pledge coming in at £17 (including shipping) its worthy of your attention, so go and check it out.
NEXT WEEK: I look at a surprising Spiel des Jahres (Best Game) winner that has polarised the board gaming community.