The Great American Trading Card Co. is establishing itself as a consistent producer of attractive and entertaining abstract strategy games. Their previous offerings, Quarto and Pyraos, are excellent strategy games which play in under fifteen minutes and are as attractive on a coffee table as they are entertaining.
Quixo is their latest game (watch for another, Quads, later this year), and like its predecessors its rules are simple. The game board consists of twenty-five wooden cubes. One face of each cube shows an X, the opposite face shows an O, and the other faces are blank. A turn consists of removing a cube from the board— thus producing a gap— and pushing it back onto the board from an edge, sliding the intervening cubes into the gap. If the cube was blank, it is first rotated to show the player's symbol on top. Only blank cubes or cubes showing your own symbol can be removed— you can't move an opponent's piece.
As you've probably guessed, the object is to form a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line of cubes showing your own symbol.
The first thing to realize about Quixo is that the opening phase of the game, in which players claim blank cubes, is critical. Although a play may arise which tempts you to remove one of your own cubes, unless it gives you a victory you should avoid it as long as blank cubes are available. Since there are twenty-five cubes, one player will always wind up with more cubes than the other and thus an advantage. This favors the first player, so you may want to play games in pairs to even it out.
My initial experience with Quixo was profoundly negative. To be fair, we didn't play a normal game. Instead, we played a "perfect" game— we didn't allow the other player to make a move which handed over the game. As a result, after over an hour of play, the game showed no sign of ending— despite the fact that one player had a two piece advantage. It seems clear that if both players play perfectly, the game will never end.
In practice, however, players rarely play perfectly. At my games class players managed to get through three games in under an hour, enjoying themselves in the process. Still, something in me finds Quixo aesthetically displeasing because of the statemate potential. Quarto could end in a tie, but it always ends after sixteen moves. Quixo could, in theory, go on forever.
The production values are up to GATC's usual standard— solid wooden cubes and a smooth plastic base. The instructions are illustrated, clear, and multi-lingual. Quixo is not a game for players who like to think through every move in detail and plan a few moves ahead, because such players will likely find themselves trapped in equilibrium. In other words, it's not for most abstract strategy game fans. But if you play it more casually— or with a chess clock— you might find Quixo to your liking.