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August 01, 2003

Favorite Games XXV

Another sadly nigh-forgotten classic today...

Eon games gave us Cosmic Encounter, but that wasn't their only product; pretty much every game with their simple "Name in a box" logo on it was a treasure. Near the end of their existence as a company, in 1980 and 1981, they produced Quirks and its two expansion sets, their last product (if memory serves) and, excepting CE, the one I enjoyed the most.

Quirks is, at heart, a simple game. Players compete to assemble plants and creatures to occupy the ecological niches of the game world. The most successful plant, herbivore, and carnivore rule the "top niche", and the object of the game is to have your creations in all three top spots, and to successfully defend against a challenge. Plants and creatures are assembled from 3 cards, representing a top (A), middle (B), and bottom (C) for a plant or a head (A), body (B), and tail (C) for an animal. Each card you can use has a trait or feature, a picture of an animal or plant that exemplifies it, and a few letters from a name. An assembled plant or animal, then, looks like three bits grafted clumsily into one, and their name will be the same (Tawsock for a long-toothed creature with furry paws and an electrical shock tail, for example). As a bonus, if the head of the Herbivore matches an icon on the top of the plant, it gets to "eat" the plant and is stronger. The same is true of the head of the carnivore matches the icon on the tail of the herbivore.

Play proceeds, with players trying to fight their way into the lower niche with an incomplete creature... just (AB) or (AC) rather than (ABC) or use their incomplete creature plus a new card from their hand to challenge for the top spot. Each card has a code, and each code translates into a point value. The highest point value in total wins, the loser is driven into extinction. Since three extinctions will cause you to have to leave the game, most players will back down if victory doesn't seem likely. If you don't feel like challenging, you can "mutate" your creatures in play, replacing one of its cards from your hand or the deck to try to improve it.

Adding to the uncertainty is an ever-advancing Climate Track. Every trait is strong in some climates, but weak in others. Fins are great in the ocean, not so handy in the desert. Each turn, the acting player can advance the climate track one or two spaces, either to linger in the current climate a bit longer or to rush forward as quickly as possible.

And that's pretty much it... A simple, straightforward game in rules, but with countless new and unexpected combinations that will show up in play. And the expansion sets added even more cards, and thus even more traits and creatures. Too much repeat play could result in players who knew the score values of various cards too well to ever mistakenly press their challenge (the rules don't allow you to check your score prior to deciding if you're going to withdraw), but if played occasionally and casually, this game is quick, easy-to-learn and great fun.

The market could use more games like this today, and it's style is very much like many Euro-games (such as Ursuppe). So why isn't this getting reprinted?

Posted by ghoul at August 1, 2003 06:00 AM

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Hmm. Never saw this one; I'll have to see if I can up a copy from among my group -- folks have all sorts of games, even if they tend to be grognards, first.

Posted by: Scott at August 1, 2003 08:58 AM

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