Quarrel – Review

Title   Quarrel
Developer  Denki
Publisher  UTV Ignition
Platform  Xbox 360 (reviewed), iOS
Genre  Word, Strategy
Release Date  January 25th, 2012 (XBLA)

What do you get when you take the basic premise of two decades-old board games and cross them together on Xbox Live Arcade? Well, assuming those board games are, for the sake of argument, Scrabble and Risk, and “you” were, for the sake of argument, Denki, a Digital Toy Boutique (by their own admission), then Quarrel would be the result of that cross breeding. Quarrel is indeed a mix of the tactics and troop movements of Risk, along with the word play and letter scorings of Scrabble (though not an exact match in terms of which letter scores what points) set against a colourful and vibrant looking world, brought to life with Latin American music and cutesy animations. It’s also a game that, when you first pick it up, will probably require a quick run through the tutorial to get an idea of the basics and the general gameplay.

A few options are available when it comes to the type of game to play, the simplest of which is the Quick Match, with a choice of how many opponents you play against, and which  of Quarrel’s twelve islands to play in and away you go. Your current XBL avatar appears on screen in a coloured circle and after a quick decision from the game on which order you’ll be playing, it’s game on. The islands are divided up equally according to how many opponents are involved, with each section given a number of troops to occupy it, and it’s these troops that decide how many letters you can use to make up a word when challenged.

There are three things you can do during your turn in a round: you can challenge your opponent by selecting a tile of theirs adjacent to yours but more about that in a moment. You can move troops from one tile of your own to another – but each tile you occupy must have at least one of your troops in situ. Or you can choose to do nothing and end your turn which, in doing so, drops one troop reinforcement on to each of your tiles. The challenge part of the game is where your Scrabble skills come in or, if you’re of the younger generation and haven’t seen a board game in your life, Words With Friends skills are just as useful.

You know the basic premise… you get a bunch of random letters and you have to make the best scoring word from what you’re given. In this game, you and your opponent are given the same letters, but your maximum word length is determined by the number of troops you have on your tile. If you’re lucky enough to have the full eight troops then there is a good chance you could win the round and gain another tile on the island as every single set of letters presented have an eight-letter word (or two) hiding among them. Sounds easy, right? Well, against the lower level opponents like Dwayne and Caprice, it can be quite simple. Against some others though, it gets very tough and all your wordsmithing skills are going to be needed to take the win from the likes of Malik, Helena and Kali.

If you’re the one doing the challenging and you win, you claim your opponent’s tile. Lose, and all but one of your troops are wiped out, leaving you in a vulnerable position. If you’re being challenged by another player, then winning reduces your opponent to a single troop, and you take prisoners. That means you get an extra troop or two on your defended tile, allowing for a longer word next time you’re challenged.


A turn then progresses until you (or your opponent) has made a move or challenge from each of their occupied squares, the turn ends and reinforcements are called in. Play continues in turn until one player has taken over all the tiles on the island and claims victory. Once the game is finished you’re presented with a stats sheet showing your best word score, your average word score, and a Word IQ Rating. All of which make for a nice little addition to show how you’re doing,  especially the word IQ rating… I found myself comparing each rating to previous games and getting annoyed if it turned out to be lower than before.

All in all, the gameplay is quite simple, and can be a little addictive, although with the tougher opponents I did find it frustrating. The Quarrel Dictionary contains 114,000 words which should be enough to keep any logophile happy, and with three variations of play in the single player game (Quick Match, Domination and Showdown), Quarrel has enough legs in it to last a while, even if you have no friends playing.

The multiplayer aspect allows you to play other people from around the interwebs easily, and even has an Xbox Live Party Play feature that allows you to limit your play to friends only. To be honest, I think that it’s the multiplayer aspect that will keep this game alive as it’s all very well and good playing the computer AI and beating them (or not, as it turns out with Malik), but the most fun to be had is with your pals, making the most of the stats sheets to provide fodder for banter and friendly arguments. The only downside with that is that I couldn’t see any way to play a local game with more than one player, which would be a great addition to the fold and could easily turn Quarrel into a more than reasonable party game.

For 400 Microsoft points, Quarrel is something of a bargain, I think. There’s enough to be getting on with by yourself in the short term while you persuade your friends on Xbox Live to get themselves a copy so you can show them what’s what in dictionary corner.

  • 114,000 word dictionary should stop it getting repetitive too quickly
  • Bright and colourful with fun animation
  • XBL Party play as well as online random opponents
  • Only 400 MS points
  • No option to play 2-4 player on the same Xbox
  • The music could get irritating
  • Higher level AI opponents may be too clever - or my vocabulary and word finding skills are worse than I thought

Overall, Quarrel is one of those games that will let you while away the hours quite happily, but still give your brain something to do at the same time. It's neither taxing nor tedious, and could very well become a staple for those wishing to mix a bit of arcade fun with brain teasers.

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  1. Rook says:

    Started this at the weekend, and had some fun. Re-tried one of the levels over and over trying to get an achievement but Malik kept defeating one of the other players before I even got a turn. Then when I reached the objective my achievement didn’t pop and I found out that I had to beat them all from my first go. Moved onto the next level instead and got beat by Malik. I will go back for more as it was fun, even it a quick go lasted more than just one game. :)

  2. Edward Edward says:

    Sounds like quite an interesting title, but sadly I’m not one of those people what are good with words, and I’m actually really terrible at these kind of games. Good review though Pete :D

  3. Ian says:

    I got a max on this last week but not after much wailing and gnashing of teeth when losing to obscura from Rex & Kali particularly. As I said in my TA review though, nothing less than essential for 400MSP.

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