Quebec is Canadian publisher Le Scorpion Masque's 2011 strategy game. In Quebec players recreate 400 years of history, playing families seeking to build the historic North American city. It is for 2-5 players, and is playable in around 90 minutes. Does Quebec play as beautifully as the city it's based on, or is it just a poor recreation?
Well, the first thing you'll notice with this game is the box; it's large, sturdy and sports some nice artwork. Opening it you'll find a dual-fold sturdy board, 3 sheets of counters to punch out, player pieces in 5 colors (you can play as pink!), 3 rule-books (one for English, one for French, and one for German), and three sets of cards that match the languages. All of the counters are printed on thick card-stock and are finished with linen paper. The colors are vibrant, the ink precise and the artwork is quality. In fact, all of the components are quality; everything feels sturdy and, whats better, looks great.
The game itself is fairly straight forward. It is played over 4 centuries, with each century lasting roughly 5-7 turns. At the start of the game, you randomly place the 44 building tiles on the board. At the beginning of the game, you have one architect and three workers. Each turn you are afforded one action to perform out of the four (three in a family game) actions possible. Even though there are four, you will really only be doing two actions; starting a new building and contributing to an existing building.
As I stated earlier, there are 44 building tiles, each in one of four colors. The colors correspond to zones of the city; Purple for religion, Red for politics, Yellow for economy and Blue for culture. One side depicts the completed building, the other side depicts a "construction site", showing which age it belongs to and three spots for workers. Depending on where the tile is placed, anywhere between 1-3 workers will be needed to contribute to the building.
When you are starting a new building, you place your architect pawn over the age indicator (the Roman numeral), and receive three workers to use in future turns. Each building belongs to one of four districts of its color which dictates which "additional action" other players get from contributing to the building. Each building type - religion, politics, economy and culture - has its own unique set of additional actions, ranging from gaining victory points to placing workers. The player who owns the building (whose architect pawn is at the site) does not get to use the additional actions, however, but does get to earn points from the building when it's completed. A player decides when the building is completed, but will gain more victory points depending on how many of the 3 available spots is filled. When the building is completed, the player places the workers into the building's corresponding zones.
|The game boards with the five zones: Religious, Political, Economic|
Cultural and the Citadel
The age ends when either no buildings are available when a player tries to build one, or a player has no workers in front of him. At the end of each age there is a scoring phase, where the players go from zone to zone and gain points. A player gets one victory point per cube in the zone, but the player with the most cubes in a zone "cascades" half of his cubes rounded down (to a maximum of 5) to the next zone. So if in the Religious zone, player A has 5 workers, player B has 2 and player C has 7 each player gains their respective points, but player C takes 3 (half of 7 rounded down) of his workers and puts them into the next zone. Scoring continues until all zones have been scored, with the final cascading going to that players active workers pool.
So how does the game play? The artwork is great and the components superb, but is it fun? Quebec is, at its core, a simple euro game. It's got some very unique mechanics; the cascade mechanic adds so much to this game, and the balance of additional actions and victory points makes the game strategic through and through. Each turn the player is faced with difficult decisions, but it isn't unforgiving. A smart player can pull them self out of a poor building choice by capitalizing on the available additional actions and vice-versa. Predicting the demand of the additional action corresponding with your building is both difficult and incredibly satisfying. With the addition of Leader cards, combos begin to form.
The game is obviously a labor of love. Everything feels incredibly balanced, well thought out and tight. Early leads balance out, the aggressive player becomes passive and the underdog wins; nothing is guaranteed in this game. Each game is tense, fun and passes by in a flash. If you can't tell I'm in love with this game, which surprised me. Most of the games in my collection are thematic, with a few notable exceptions. I generally don't enjoy the hours I'll spend in a Euro game just to lose, but Quebec is different for some reason. Winning is incredibly rewarding, but damn, losing is still fun.
I can't say enough about this game. If you consider yourself a fan of Euro games, or if you've written them off as a labor, then you need to give Quebec a try. This very well may be my game of the year for 2011.