Flipping through my Games Magazine back issues a whilke ago, I saw quite a few good-looking games which got away— games which are out of print and virtually impossible to find today. Quadwrangle is one of the games I regretted missing. Now, thanks to The Great American Trading Company's Inventor's collection, it's available once again.
Nine columns (labeled 1-6, LOW, HIGH, and RUN) stretch across the wooden playfield. A center island divides the playfield in half, with each half further split into equal scoring and non-scoring sections. Markers for each column begin the game on the island, and each player's goal is to bring three of them into their own scoring region.
This is done by rolling five dice and rerolling any of them up to twice more. If the final total is under 13, you can move the LOW marker toward you. The HIGH marker can move on a total of 23 or more. A straight (1-5 or 2-6) can move the RUN marker. If none of those options is used, the 1-6 markers can be moved one space for each matching die after the first. For example, 3-3-3-4-4 may move the 3 marker twice and the 4 marker once.
You can tailor your reroll selections to target specific columns. The question is whether to try for an offensive move (drawing a marker into your scoring region) or a defensive one (pulling one back from your opponent's region).
As with the rest of the Inventor's collection, the board for Quadwrangle is nicely (if imperfectly) made. Too bad the same can't be said for the packaging. A pouch is provided for the dice and markers, but it's very difficult to get it to fit back into the "box"— really just a cardboard sleeve with an open window for the board to show through. And the tiny dice are easily the most poorly manufactured ones I've ever seen. All of mine have defects, from minor annoyances like irregular dot patterns to major problems like oblong, non-cubic shapes. It's as if after paying for the nice board, there wasn't any money left in the budget for decent dice.
Gameplay is straightforward, but Quadwrangle left me feeling empty. The yanking of the markers back and forth resembles a tug-of-war without any catharsis. After a few minutes of shuffling markers around, one player gets the right roll at the right time and it's abruptly over. There's no sense of having won because of making the right choices, or thanks to superior skill. That makes victory feel hollow, and in a game molded so completely around a head-to-head struggle I want more satisfaction when it ends.
Which isn't to say it's a bad game. It's a perfectly fine way to pass some time, but it lacks excitement and staying power.