SNAP Review – Qawale
[Anitra] I love two player abstract games, and I especially the type where you need to get four or five pieces in a row. There’s something so refreshing about these games – the rules are simple, the goal is obvious, but there’s layers of strategy to uncover between you and your opponent.
[Andrew] I especially love them when they’re a delight on the eyes. A coffee table game, one might say. And we’ve got one of those today.
This is a SNAP review for Qawale, a new abstract game from Gigamic. Qawale was designed by Romain Froger and Didier Lenain-Bragard. It’s for exactly two players (like you and me). It’s for ages 8 and up, and takes about 10-15 minutes to play.
Let’s talk about the art in Qawale.
It looks a lot like other Gigamic abstract games – three colors of beautiful, simple wooden pieces, and a black gameboard.
[Anitra] In this case, the pieces are all designed to look like flat river rocks – the instructions call these “pebbles”. They’re pleasant to hold and stack. They’re just lovely, as we’d expect from Gigamic.
[Anitra] So why are the pebbles in these three colors, and what do we do with them? Let’s talk about the mechanics of this game.
[Andrew] The board starts with a stack of two of these yellow pebbles in each corner. One player takes the eight red pebbles, and the other player takes the eight light-colored pebbles.
[Anitra] On your turn, you place one of your pebbles onto a stack of at least one other pebble. Then, you lift the whole stack. Move one space on the board – left, right, up, down. Then drop the bottom pebble onto that space. Move one more space and drop the next pebble. Keep doing this until you have placed every pebble from the stack.
[Andrew] You are not allowed to double back to the space you just left, but you can loop around to that space if you have at least four pebbles in your stack.
[Anitra] Win the game by creating a line of four pebbles in your color in a row, in a column, or diagonal, all on the top of their respective stacks.
[Andrew] So Anitra, what did we expect from Qawale?
I love how all of these games are full of simple and beautiful wooden pieces – they look great on the table and they’re really easy to explain how to play.
[Andrew] I had seen people playing Qawale before we reviewed it, so I knew it was a logical abstract game (like a lot of Gigamic stuff) that involved multiple steps on a turn – one of those easy to understand, difficult to master kind of things.
[Anitra] That leads into our surprises.
Although Qawale starts with a wide open board, like many of these abstracts do, you don’t actually have very many choices at the beginning of the game. You have to go into one of those four corner stacks. As more pebbles are added and the stacks get higher, your possible decision space actually gets larger and larger. I wasn’t expecting that at all!
This also isn’t primarily a pattern-recognition game like Quarto or Quantik are. Instead you need to be looking ahead at how you can distribute a stack of pieces, and figure out how to maneuver to get the pieces where you want them to be.
It feels kind of like chess to me – I could usually figure out what moves I did not want to make, but figuring out what I did want to do was a lot harder.
[Andrew] It’s funny you bring up chess, because that was exactly my thought when considering Qawale. This is definitely the most chess-like of any of their abstracts so far in my opinion.
With most of their other games, your turn is a single step: in Quarto, you place one of the columns; in Quoridor you either place a piece or move your pawn; in Quantik, you place a shape, et cetera.
But with Qawale, there’s so much more to watch out for. Yeah, you only place one piece, but as you direct what I call “the falling of the column”, it could go anywhere. It forces you to look ahead many, many turns, and project where you think your opponent might want to go, potentially, maybe? Not just the one thing that you’re doing, and then the one thing that they’re going to do in response. And that is a lot like chess.
[Anitra] So Andrew, would we recommend Qawale?
[Andrew] It’s an interesting new entry into the world of abstract games. It’s best for players who want a game that forces them to look a few moves ahead, like we said before. And it’s a game that you can grow into for a long time, discovering new strategies, new little tricks, and ways to maneuver within those simple rules.
We’re going to rate Qawale 4 pebbles out of 5.
And that’s Qawale, in a SNAP!
The Family Gamers received a copy of Qawale from Gigamic for this review.
This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.
SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?
Number of Players: 2
Age Range: 8+
Playtime: 10-15 minutes