I’m often left wondering which game I would keep if i could only own one (OK I’m not but just roll with it). There are a lot of strong contenders. Battlestar Galactica has a great theme and combines deception with harsh resource management. Skull and Love letter can be played almost anywhere by anyone of any level of drunkenness. And Netrunner is a game of great depth with a huge community. However the game that has won is Quantum.
Quantum is one of the first games I ever bought and as such carries a lot of sentimental value, but I think the game can also stand up on its own merits. Quantum represents everything I like to see in board games. It is a game about combat and map control which i definitely prefer to economic passive aggression, and at the same time visually appealing with its brightly coloured dice. Even though you can attack and destroy your enemy’s forces, getting back in the game is fairly easy so people don’t end up sitting out the majority of the game.
The main aim of Quantum it to put your quantum cubes down on planets and you achieve this through your ships. The ships are by far the best and most creative aspect of Quantum. Each ship is represented by a die, with the number on the die showing how fast a ship can move and how effective it is in combat, with combat favouring low numbers, and each ship class has it’s own special ability. If you aren’t happy with your fleet composition you can spend actions to randomly re-roll your ships, introducing a serious amount of risk/reward when you choose to do so. The two ways to place cubes are by increasing your dominance, a meter that increases when you destroy a ship and decreases when you lose one, or by placing them on placing them on planets which requires the total numbers of the ships around a planet to be equal to a certain value. This means you can either focus on small numbered ships for combat, or some higher numbered ships to place cubes on planets.
Being aggressive is heavily rewarded in Quantum, during combat the attacker can’t be destroyed, only the defender, making the risk of attacking much lower and encouraging less certain attacks for the chance to both build up dominance and remove and enemy ships. However the game balances the two styles of play very well, strong combat ships will be slow allowing opponents to flee and put their cubes onto another planet across the map, and the higher numbered ships needed to grab planets are vulnerable to attack. Even losing ships isn’t all that bad since they are simply re-rolled and placed back in your supply ready to redeploy. The game encourages early boldness in another way, cubes cannot be removed once placed so you don’t need to worry about defence as much, and each cube placed allows you to take one of the game’s upgrade cards for your faction.
Quantum’s upgrade cards allow the game to grow over time, either providing lasting bonuses which will change how your faction plays like improved defences or an ability to deploy ships anywhere on the map or one off effects that can alter the board state by giving you another ship or letting you re-roll and re position your entire fleet. Because different abilities are available for purchase each game how you develop your faction will be different every time, and the upgrades other players choose will impact your decisions. The upgrades also offer a nice way to catch up through the research action, if you have actions you don’t want to use on anything you can tick up the research die which will reward you with an upgrade when it reaches 6 before resetting.
The map Quantum is played over is also very varied, being made up of tiles which you can re-arrange many different ways. Unfortunately this is one area where i have a gripe with the game. The way some of the maps are shaped can lead to situations where one or more players are left on their own unchallenged while other butt heads, which ends up reducing the fun for everyone. But the map tiles are so flexible you could patch these problems out yourself with a little work, in fact I’ve been working on making and testing some maps that would allow me to expand the game to 5 or 6 players from its current cap at 4.
All of these elements make Quantum a game with multiple routes to victory , whether you hang back and research while other players fight it out, rush to get your ships in perfect position or throw yourself into the thick of the fighting. I love Quantum because it manages to be a medium complexity game done in around an hour with plenty of strategic depth. It’s no beginner game like Condottiere or Love Letter, but it’s easy to break out without consuming a whole day like Twilight Imperium and a bit more action focused than something like Concordia. If you’re someone who plays board games regularly Quantum is a must own, and quite possibly my favourite board game.