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Review: Cube Quest

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Cube Quest box

The kingdom is at war! Use your meager resources to rally your troops and launch a full-scale assault on your opponent’s castle. Flick well, but be prepared for casualties.

Will your king be the last one standing when the dust settles? Find out in Cube Quest!

How It Works

Cube Quest is a cube-flicking dexterity game for two players. When one player’s king is knocked off the table, that player loses and the other player wins.

The player aids list costs, number of uncaptured sides, and a brief reminder of abilities for each cube. This is super helpful.
The player aids list costs, number of captured sides, and a brief reminder of abilities for each cube. This is super helpful.

Each player chooses a color of cubes and chooses a side of the playmat. Then, the players choose 40 points worth of cubes (according to the point values on the player aid) to form their armies. Using the box as a divider, players secretly and simultaneously arrange their cube armies on their side of the playmat. The only rule governing placement is that the king must be inside the castle square on the playmat. Once players have arranged their cubes, the game begins.

On their turn, players must flick one of their cubes. If the cube ventures onto the opponent’s side of the mat and lands face down, the player rolls the cube–if it lands face up, it is returned to the player; if it lands face-down, it is captured and removed from the board. If the cube lands face up on the opponent’s side of the board, it remains where it lands. If a cube lands off the mat, it is out of the game.

You can use the box as a divider and shield when you setup your armies.
You can use the box as a divider and shield when you setup your armies.

The cubes differ in cost and ability. The Striker, for example, has four uncaptured sides and is more likely do survive when flicked into opposing territory. The Helm can be flicked twice if the first flick lands on home turf. The Skulk, if it lands uncaptured in enemy territory, can come back later anywhere on the opponent’s side of the board (except in the castle).

The players take turns flicking cubes until one player’s king is knocked off the board. The other player wins.

Fun Cubed, or Blockhead?

I’ve made no secret about my love for dexterity games, and Cube Quest falls in line with the better ones I’ve played. It’s got great moments of tension, players battling through skill, planned trick shots–all of which can go hilariously awry. But what Cube Quest has to offer that many other dexterity games don’t is strategy and customization. If I were forced to compare Cube Quest to other games that exist, I would say it is a blend of Crokinole, Stratego, and a miniatures game. That’s quite a mix, so let me explain.

This is what we might call the wall strategy. Protect the king at all costs!
This is what we might call the wall strategy. Protect the king at all costs!

The game involves a fair deal of skilled flicking, which puts it in line with Crokinole. Granted, Crokinole uses discs and Cube Quest uses chunky cubes, but the skills are similar. Still, don’t underestimate the difference between discs and cubes. Discs are smoother to flick, but they are also static: you might be able to use them as dual function discs (as in Flick Wars), but they can only ever serve two purposes. With cubes there are six sides to work with, and Cube Quest uses this fact to its advantage. Why does a Striker cost more than a Grunt? Because it has a much greater chance of entering enemy territory unharmed. Of course, cubes aren’t as smooth to flick across a table as discs, but this isn’t a problem if you subscribe to my theory of dexterity games, that they should require enough skill that players can improve but enough chances for botched shots that new players can enjoy it. The cubes work marvelously according to this rubric.

The freeze cube comes in handy when an opponent comes a little too close for comfort.
The freeze cube comes in handy when an opponent comes a little too close for comfort.

Cube Quest also bears some resemblance to Stratego. Players choose their formations in secret, and while formations are much more open-ended in Cube Quest than in Stratego, there’s still the thrill of discovery when the battlefield is revealed and players must decide the best means of destroying their opponent’s king. It’s true that there’s less variability in where the target piece can be in Cube Quest vs. Stratego, but the added variation in the playing field makes up for it. You can set your cubes up as towers or walls. You can roll them randomly into formation. You can meticulously place them where physics dictates shots are likely to go. Arranging formations recaptures this fun and nostalgic part of Stratego.

That Striker is awfully close to the king...
That Striker is awfully close to the king…

And Cube Quest also resembles a miniatures game. When my wife and I finished playing our first round together, she said, “It’s just like I was playing Warhammer.” Which made me think that she must know nothing about Warhammer. (Note: I don’t play Warhammer, or really any miniatures game, and she has been spared involvement herself.) But in one sense, her judgment was correct: given a target point total, we were tasked with forming our own armies. Granted, choices are limited to a truncated list of options, but that’s what places this game squarely (cubely?!) in the family category. You don’t have to memorize a 28097098375 page codex, and you’re not likely to have rules lawyers breathing down your neck. And the options for army building are still somewhat compelling. Do I send an army of Grunts against my opponent? I can sure have a lot of them for 40 points, but they’re not likely to remain on my opponent’s half of the board. Do I invest in Strikers and Helms? Those are awesome, but a well-aimed Grunt shot can take them out of commission, and then where will I be? Should I invest in Medics and freeze spells? Skulks? The 40 point limit is generous while still constricting choice enough to make asymmetrical battles likely and fun.

All of the above, as well as the game itself, takes place in 5-10 minutes, by the way. Maybe longer if you’re really bad. The game is almost faster to play than set up, but that’s not a slam: as I said, choosing and arranging your army (and then seeing what your opponent did) is half the fun.

The full assortment of cubes available from which to build your army.
The full assortment of cubes available from which to build your army.

I should mention that if I’m speaking favorably about a dexterity game, it means the components are good. Even though it seems like it should hurt your fingers to be flicking cubes around a board, the cubes are of light enough plastic that it doesn’t hurt more than other flicking games. The cubes are prestickered, which is something my fat fingers appreciate. I had heard some complaint about playmats (and, indeed, I believe the game is currently out of stores because of a fix for the next printing). My playmats are fine, albeit slightly curled (which doesn’t affect gameplay), but I received them in a roll from the publisher–they were not included in the box. The playmats are a nice touch, and the castle area is clearly marked on them, but it seems to me that a similar effect could have been achieved with a traditional gameboard since the playing pieces aren’t flicked in the traditional disc sense. Then again, you can stick small objects under the mat to make “terrain” if you get bored with the flat playing surface, something you can’t do with a board. All told, the components work very well for this game, and they disappear behind the gameplay, which is a major plus.

Here are the cubes side by side showing captured and uncaptured sides.
Here are the cubes side by side showing captured and uncaptured sides.

Cube Quest works as it is, but I think what’s almost most compelling about the game is that it’s a very good proof of concept. I’m not sure if expansions are planned, but this game practically begs for them. More cubes with more abilities, more army building potential, another set with different colored cubes for 4-player death matches–all of these would be welcome additions to the game. The game works great as it is, but the potential here is off the charts. In fact, the only thing I can say against Cube Quest is that it is for two players only, which limits its usefulness in some contexts. Still, within the two-player space, Cube Quest is a contender, and my wife and I enjoy it quite a bit (although don’t be fooled: under her sweet exterior, she is a Cube Quest shark).

The rules for the game. One sheet. The back of the rules has a cube glossary, but most of that information is also included on the player aid.
The rules for the game. One sheet. The back of the rules has a cube glossary, but most of that information is also included on the player aid.

Cube Quest successfully steers a tortuous course through the dexterity game field. Most hobby dexterity games I’ve played fall into one of two camps. There is the silly dexterity game camp, which has favorites like Animal upon Animal, Coconuts, and Click Clack Lumberjack–games that no one takes seriously but that are a riotously good time. Then there are the dexterity+ games that are more involved games with merely a dexterity component. Ascending Empires, Dungeon Fighter (which, while silly, is also somewhat involved), and Flick Wars–games that are probably too involved for kids but are great to play with fellow adults who can accept the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Cube Quest fits right between these categories. The game, while silly, doesn’t devolve into the mindless fun of the silly games, nor does it, despite its strategic layers, demand the rules attention of its meatier cousins. Cube Quest works as a game to play with children or adults or some mixture of the two. It has succeeded in winning over everyone I’ve played it with. Cube Quest is still somewhat silly, and players who don’t like dexterity games probably won’t like it. But if you want a somewhat strategic dexterity game that’s good for a broad range of two-player situations, Cube Quest is a perfect choice.

iSlaytheDragon would like to thank GameWright for providing us with a review copy of Cube Quest.

Summary

  • Rating 8
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Summary

Pros

  • Silly dexterity fun balanced with fun strategy and setup
  • Simple rules
  • Quick and engaging gameplay
  • The components work well for the game

Cons:

  • Two-player only
  • I would prefer a smaller box
8 Very Good

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

Discussion1 Comment

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