The puzzle/RPG hybrid is almost its own genre now, but there's still plenty of room to inject casual gameplay modes into more traditional styles of gaming. Quarrel stakes out new territory by fusing Scrabble with Risk, creating a wonderful little hybrid that was one of the unexpected, hidden gems on the E3 show floor. It's had a checkered history getting to publication, bouncing from publisher to publisher, but Ignition has finally given Genki's nifty little creation a home.
Assuming you can find people who aren't abusing a Scrabble dictionary app, Quarrel's multiplayer is loaded with promise.
Quarrel is a strategy game where battles are fought Scrabble-style, with opposing armies using the same letters to try to form the highest-scoring word. Level maps are divided into areas controlled by the players' troops, numbering from two to eight soldiers, and each soldier can be assigned one letter. An eight-letter word from an official Scrabble dictionary is jumbled, and you need to use those letters to make as high a scoring word as possible. Obviously, the player with more troops has an advantage, but a defender using four troops has a very good chance of holding off an attacker with five or even six units depending on how clever he is with the letters. The winner keeps all their guys alive, and the loser has either his space taken over, if he's defending, or isreduced to a single unit if attacking.
When an attack is won, the attacker moves all troops but one from the attacking space into the claimed area. You can attack as much as you'd like during your turn, but it's only possible to move troops a limited number of times without an attack involved. The maps are relatively small but it's still very easy to overextend, leaving a chain of areas defended by a small number of troops behind as easy pickings for your opponents. After each turn is complete, your controlled territories get a few extra guys, but having a long string of territories defended by two units instead of one isn't much help if the enemy breaks through your heavily-defended front lines.
While Quarrel can certainly be played against the computer, with intelligence ranging from "Duh, letters" to "I am a walking dictionary of war!", the real fun will be had against people. Unfortunately Quarrel only had one console on the E3 floor, so there was no way to test this properly, but assuming you can find people who aren't abusing a Scrabble dictionary app, the multiplayer is loaded with promise.
Turn-based battle strategy Scrabble isn't the kind of thing one goes to E3 expecting to find, but it's just these kinds of pleasant surprises that make scouring the show worth it. While initially finding the idea only mildly interesting, I found myself drifting back to it every day for another round as it wormed its way into my head. Quarrel manages a tasty blend of simple ideas and addictive strategies, and is easily worth anticipating every bit as much as the big-budget blockbusters that surrounded it.