Reviews

Qawale review — Tic-Tac-Yes

Continuing on my quest to play every two player abstract game that Gigamic and partner Hachette Games has to offer, we have arrived at Qawale. A mix of Tic-Tac-Toe and Mancala, Qawale is a unique entry in the lineup. If you haven’t already, check out our reviews of Pylos and Quarto from the same publisher.

To win a game of Qawale, you need to get four of your colored stones in a row either orthogonally or diagonally. It’s not as easy as just plopping stones down in a row though. On your turn you place a stone on top of an existing stack of one or more stones of any color. Then you pick up the entire stack and deposit one stone at a time following an orthogonally adjacent path until each stone in the pile is in a new place. Once complete, if you have managed to get four of your own stones in a row, you are the winner. If at any time both players run out of stones, the game ends in a tie.

As stacks of stones get higher, the reach of each new stone increases and it becomes harder and harder to anticipate where the other player is going to act. Blocking is extremely important in Qawale. You need to worry about what is right in front of you as rows are formed but also what is underneath. A stack being moved can be a double edged sword. Opening paths for yourself but also the other player if you are not careful. Thinking in three dimensions is rewarded and setting up win conditions ahead of time is required if you want any chance of not losing or ending in a tie.

Box with standard reference lemon for scale

Our review copy of Qawale is the Mini edition. One of my main critiques of previous games in the series was the box size and shelf real estate required for such simple games. The Mini edition is exactly what I wanted to solve that problem, but introduces a new one – fat fingered mayhem. The Qawale board features built in stones that the game pieces stack on and knocking stacks over while trying to maneuver pieces on the board was extremely common. It’s simple enough to correct, but if you are someone that suffers from tremors and/or are just generally not very nimble with your fingers, the full size version may actually be better for you. That’s the most minor of complaints though, and overall I am very happy with mini editions being my go to version of these style games. 

The small footprint, wooden pieces, and emergent strategy of Qawale make it feel like an instant classic. Quarto was fun, I wasn’t a fan of Pylos, and Qawale is my favorite of the bunch so far. Even if evenly matched players can end in a tie, the quick gameplay and clever puzzle opportunities make it a game that is worth checking out. While it doesn’t pack quite the same punch as GT favorites Shobu and Boop, it still has a place on my shelf.

Lead Tabletop Editor | [email protected]

A life long video gamer, Mark caught the Tabletop itch in college and has been hooked ever since. Epic two player strategy games are his favorites but he enjoys pretty much everything on the tabletop, just no Werewolf please. When he gets a break from changing diapers and reading bedtime stories he can usually be found researching new games or day dreaming about maybe one day having time for a ttrpg. Some of Mark's favorite games are Star Wars: Rebellion, A Feast for Odin, and Nemesis.

80

Great

Qawale

Review Guidelines

Stacking stones being fun in and of itself aside, Qawale offers a nice bit of strategic depth in a head to head game that rewards clever planning, but can too often end in a tie with experienced players. That just makes surprising your opponent with a win all the more sweet.

Mark Julian

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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