Reviewed by: Greg J. Schloesser
(Noris Spiele, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 20 minutes; €22.99)
I’ve always wanted to write a short, concise review that encapsulates a game in just one short sentence. With Cuatro, I think I can do just that: Connect 4 meets Yahtzee. There you have it.
OK. You know I cannot stop there; I am far too verbose for this sort of thing! While that short four-word phrase does give on a decent idea of the game’s flavor, it doesn’t fully explain it or convey my insights and opinions. Sadly, more words are necessary.
Just like Connect 4, Cuatro, a Jürgen P.K. Grunau design, challenges players to get four of their pieces in a row. However, the placement of these pieces onto the board is based upon the rolling of five dice. Dice are rolled up to five times in a fashion similar to Yahtzee, with the player attempting to achieve certain results and placing his piece on a corresponding location on the board. Get four in a row and victory is achieved.
The board depicts a 6×6 grid, with each space listing a Poker combination—pair, triple, quadruple, full house, straight and even a Yahtzee (five of a kind). There are multiples of each of these, and they are color-coded by type for easy identification. Players each receive 15 wooden tokens, each shaped like a miniature roof, enabling them to be safely stacked.
On his turn, a player may roll the dice up to five times, setting aside and re-rolling any dice as he sees fit. He may stop at any time and place one of his pieces on a space corresponding with the result that was achieved. For example, if a player achieved a triple, he may place one of his pieces on any board space that depicts the triple symbol. The next player then takes his turn.
If the player wishes to place a piece onto a space that already contains a piece—his or an opponent’s—he must achieve that Poker result with one fewer roll per piece already located there. For example, if the player is coveting a space requiring a full house, but the space already contains two pieces, he must achieve a full house in only three rolls (5 – 2 = 3). If successful, the player places his piece atop the other pieces already located on that space. If he fails to do so, he can continue rolling and hope to achieve a result that allows him to place a piece somewhere else. Failure after five rolls forces a player to discard a piece from the game.
To achieve victory, a player must align four of his pieces, vertically, horizontally or diagonally. The player’s pieces must all be atop these stacks, so as the game progresses, players will compete over specific locations. These desired locations will usually be fought over constantly, requiring players to achieve those results in fewer and fewer rolls.
As with Connect 4 (and others such as 5ive Straight), the key—outside of simply getting some lucky rolls—is to arrange your pieces so that you have several possible placements that will earn victory. The board is designed so that just about every possible four-way path has at least one space that is difficult to achieve. The easier spaces tend to get filled quickly, forcing players to fight over these difficult spaces.
Victory can also be achieved if a player achieves three “Yahtzees” (five of a kind). It matters not whether the player’s pieces rest atop these stacks; three Yahtzees wins the game immediately. This, of course, is not an easy task.
It is possible for the game to end with no player achieving four-in-a-row. When this occurs, players score points based on the stacks in which their pieces are on top. For example, a piece on top of a 4-story stack earns 4 points, while a piece at the bottom of a stack earns 1 point. The player with the most cumulative points is victorious. This ending to the game is extremely rare; indeed, it has not yet happened in the many games I have played.
Cuatro is one of those games that is simply fun to play. The rules are easy to understand, allowing players of just about any age to immediately jump into and enjoy the game. There are no deep strategies to pursue or insights that only come with multiple playings. Rather, it is a game of opportunity and luck. Spot areas where you want to place, roll the dice, play the odds, but most importantly, hope to get lucky. There is a lot of cheering when rolls go right, and moans when they do not. It is not a quiet game.
The game does require players to keep a careful eye on the board, keenly discerning when one or more players are close to achieving victory. This is not difficult to do, and usually results in combined efforts to block that victory by thwarting the player’s block alignments. This kibitzing may prove troublesome to some, but most consider it part-and-parcel of these types of games.
Sometimes as gamers, we concentrate too much on games that employ highly intricate mechanisms and require carefully refined strategies in order to succeed. We often overlook or even scoff at games that don’t contain these elements. Perhaps we shouldn’t. The bottom line is that Cuatro is fun to play. There are some tactics to employ, but at its heart, luck and fun rule the day. With Cuatro, that is just fine.
Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.
Other Fall 2014 GA Reports
Reviewed by: Kevin Whitmore (Numbskull Games, 3 to 6 players, ages 8 and up, 1-2 hours; $59.99)
Numbskull Games latest offering is C.C. Higgins Rail Pass. This is a game for railroad fans. The show piece of the game is the large and detailed railroad map of North America. As a railroading game fan, I have seen a lot of railroad maps. But this map ...Read More
Reviewed by: Marty Goldberger (Rio Grande Games, 2 to 5 players, ages 12 and up, 100+ minutes; $64.95)
It is said that "All roads lead to Rome". In Concordia, the latest design from Mac Gerdts (creator of such gems as Imperial and Navegedor), the roads lead FROM Rome. In this game, an excellent melding of deck-building and production/territory acquisition, players are vying to score the ...Read More
Reviewed by: Chris Kovac (The Game Master, 1 to 6 players, ages 12 and up, 30 minutes; $39.99)
Countdown: Special Ops is a 1-6 player co-operative game designed by Dutch game designers, Hans Van Tol and Gertjan Oomis, where players are members of a counter terrorist team performing various missions which need to be accomplished before time runs out. To set up the game, you ...Read More
Reviewed by: Greg J. Schloesser (Noris Spiele, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 20 minutes; €22.99)
I've always wanted to write a short, concise review that encapsulates a game in just one short sentence. With Cuatro, I think I can do just that: Connect 4 meets Yahtzee. There you have it. OK. You know I cannot stop there; I am far too verbose ...Read More
Face (book) Forward Face it. The world is getting smaller. You can credit (or blame, depending on your point of view) technology for that. Scientific advances used to create the internet, smart phones, Skype, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have made it happen. While technology may not always be our friend, there's no denying its impact. So, Gamers Alliance is once again facing forward - and ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Days of Wonder, 2 to 4 players, ages 13 and up, 40-80 minutes; $60)
There is something rather romantic - and exciting - about the lands and times of the Arabian Nights. Game designers have been well aware of that as many games have that time and locale as their setting. The latest game to make use of that venue comes from ...Read More
Reviewed by: Al Newman (Czech Games Edition, 1-4 players, ages 8 to adult, about 30 minutes; $4.99)
They say in space, no one can hear you scream. But they may hear you laugh. A lot. Particularly if you're playing Czech Games brand new iPad app Galaxy Trucker ($4.99 for a limited time). This is a faithful representation of the board game with one wonderful exception ...Read More
Reviewed by: Andrea "Liga" Ligabue (Portal Publishing, 1 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 20 minutes per player; $55.99)
There is no doubt I'm a fan of Ignacy Trzewiczek productions: Stronghold, Pret-a-Porter, Robinson Crusoe and the 51st State series. So, I was really intrigued reading about Imperial Settlers, an empire building card game that inherits some core mechanics from 51st State. What I really like ...Read More
Reviewed by: Peter Sbirakos
[In this issue, we say "G'day" to Australian Peter Sbirakos as we welcome him to our pages. Like many of us, Peter started his gaming early. He says: "I purchased my first game in 1979 at the tender age of 12 from the supermarket which was Attack Force by the TSR company. Over the next few years in the early 1980s ...Read More
Reviewed by: Pevans (Asmadi Games, 2 to 6 players, ages 13 and up, 15-20 minutes per player; $30)
“The impulse is an only child, he’s waiting in the park…” I don’t know what it is, but the title of this game starts Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” running through my head… just me, then. I’d better tell you about the game. Impulse is designed by Carl ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Mayfair Games/Lookout Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 60-90 minutes; $35)
The exotic city of Johari nestled in Jaipur is the hub for gems, jewelry and jewel sales. Players, as gem merchants in that far off locale, compete in selling valuable gems (as well as fakes) in order to gain the most prestige in this new game by ...Read More
Reviewed by: Frank Hamrick (IDW Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 30 minutes; about $24)
Machi Koro was one of the real hits at Essen 2013. This Japanese game designed by Masao Suganuma was in great demand, in part because there were relatively few copies available in English (a few more in Japanese). In addition, the beautiful artwork and simple, yet engaging game ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy (Hurrican Games/Asmodee, 2 to 4 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $39.99)
The 19th century was a time when pirates sailed the seas and, during that turbulent time, Madame Ching was one of the fiercest. As one of the few female pirates, Madame Ching roamed the China Sea commanding at the height of her career about 2000 ships and 50,000 ...Read More
Reviewed by: Herb Levy ( R&R Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 12
and up, 60 minutes; $39.99) It's exciting to explore unknown lands and claim them for king and country. It's quite another thing to solidify that hold on the land by colonizing it! This was not an easy task for those brave souls in the New World but that is the challenge players must face in ...Read More
Reviewed by: James Davis
The themes of these games of ours are as varied as we are. We have games about virtually every war and event in history. There are games about space travel, science, fantasy, trains and even theme-less abstracts. And we have at least a couple hundred games just about trading during the Italian Renaissance. That is one of the things I like ...Read More
Reviewed by: Joe Huber (Taikikennai Games, 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, 10 minutes; about $24 plus shipping)
Back in 2000, Stephan Riedel created a new genre of game. Old Town is often classified as a deduction game, but it’s not – players have no information to deduce. Instead, they make plays in order to try to prove information, scoring for doing so ...Read More