Monday, June 5, 2017

Quicksand: not great but works even with folks who think Catan is a wine

Quicksand is a bit like the lost child of 13 Dead End Drive and Candyland. You move pulp heroes down a track to a temple with color-coded cards but anyone can move any of them and who owns which is a secret. It's a so-so game but it does a few specific things well enough it's stayed in my collection.

It dates back to the days when Fantasy Flight's silver line wasn't so fancy. The cardboard bits, both tokens and boards, are fairly thin and the cards aren't the best either. The board, instead of a fold, is two pieces that fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. (Although I do wonder if it will hold up better over time that a fold) To be fair, if it was another company other than Fantasy Flight, I don't know if I'd notice.

Quicksand is themed around pulp fiction jungle action, with artwork reflecting characters like Indiana Jones and Tarzan. It doesn't really have a thing to do with the mechanics but it does provide some artwork. Six different, color-coded pulp heroes are set at the beginning of a track that ends at an ancient temple. Special spaces on the board let you discard cards, so you can manage your hand, and put characters into quicksand, which just means it costs an extra card to move them. 

Players get a token that lets them know who their secret character is and a hand of six cards. The cards let you move specific characters, wilds that can apply to anyone and put characters into quicksand.

On your turn, you play cards to either move characters or put them in quicksand. You get to more than one card but you can only move one character on your turn. Then draw back up to six. First person to get their secret character to the temple wins.

Quicksand is a pretty quick game, around fifteen minutes, and it's also a pretty simple game. Which isn't a knock. I have seen games that are simple that have that spark of brilliance. Pico 2 or 6 Nimmt or Love Letter, for instance. Quicksand isn't one of those games. Hidden roles, hand management, moving down a track, it's all been done before and done better.

What Quicksand does is present them in a very simple and accessible way.  I was going to say it is like a bridge between 'mainstream' games and designer games but it's more like a 'mainstream' game with a dash of designer. (I used quotes because mainstream board games in the U.S. have changed a lot over the last ten or so years. I really mean mainstream for 2003, when Quicksand came out. Feel free to disagree with me) 

It might sound like I was bashing it when I compared it to Candyland. But, in actuality, that was actually legitimate praise. It took the basic formula of movement from Candyland and added it to strategic game.

It also introduces folks to hidden rules while not being a social deduction game. Don't get me wrong, social deduction is a great genre and an important one. But having an alternative and one that is is it introduce to people is kind of nice.

A while back, I went to board game meet ups semi-regularly. And that is where Quicksand really shined for me. I could out it on the table and have the game going almost immediately, usually playing two or three in a row. I remember that it was particularly popular with teenagers.

Another thing that kept it in my collection is that it is small enough that I could have it share a box with another silver line game and throw the Quicksand box out.

Honestly, I am sure there are other, better options out there for hidden roles and hand management that are accessible to non-gamers. But I have had fun and success with Quicksand and, for what it's worth, I already own it. 

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