Words are wonderful; trust me, I copyedit for a living. Not surprisingly, I enjoy a great number of word-based games, such as Scrabble, Scattegories, Apples to Apples, Zip-It, Balderdash, and so on. Basically, if it lets me flex my word-creation or word-pairing muscles, I’m in. However, I’ve never been great at seeing anagrams, especially under a tight time limit, which is why I quickly dropped away from Quarrel a week or two after I got it back in January 2012. You might have noticed that I “completed” it a few weeks back, giving it its very own haiku.
By “completed,” I am talking about the critical path to defeating everyone in the Showdown mode, as well as dominating the known Quarrel world through the domination mode. Both these modes are various scenarios where you battle against one, two, or sometimes three AI-controlled opponents, all fighting for colored territory. There is online play and a number of challenges and Achievements to go for, but I think I’m mostly done going after those. Also, by “completed” I totally mean cheated.
The process went like this. Since I always was picked to go last in both the Showdown and Domination modes, this meant waiting and watching. If an opponent attacked another opponent not named PaulyAulyWog, my girlfriend and I would quickly look at the eight letters given to us, pause the action, and then load up an anagram solver on her cell phone. After plopping down all the letters, she’d select an eight-letter word and tell me what to create. I’d do this as quickly as possible, though sometimes my fingers would slip or I’d hit the wrong letter by accident, forcing me to panic and swiftly amend my error. So long as I got the anagram submitted in time before the two other players put in their answers, I was awarded an extra back-up unit, which are beyond helpful. The process, more or less, went the same when I got attacked, but it was never a guarantee I’d win because I might not have enough letters or still was too slow when buttoning in.
Honestly, I don’t feel too terrible about using an anagram solver for Quarrel. I would for nearly every other word-based game, especially the ones I mentioned earlier. For many of the Showdown and Domination matches, the first fight against you is absolutely crucial for determining how well the remainder of the round will go. If you don’t win or at least take a prisoner early on, it’s basically over, and not a whole bag of fun to sit through everybody’s turns knowing you are a lost cause. Perhaps there are people out there that see a string of six to eight letters and immediately, within seconds, know what the strongest word to create is–I am not those people. Before giving in and relying on an anagram solver, I attempted to play these two modes, only getting as far as two or three rounds in, and those were farces, with me somehow staying alive long enough to watch everyone else kill each other and feast on their remains when the smoke cleared.
When you’re tasked with creating a three- or four-letter word against an opponent with the same objective, speed often trumps complexity. However, when you have the opportunity to make an eight-letter anagram, you make that eight-letter anagram. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what arsenite or ergatoid means; they are knockout words, and the faster you put them down, the stronger your army will grow. You might be quick enough to remember those eight mixed up letters and pause the game yourself to search for a word, but I recommend having a partner next to you. Eventually, my girlfriend would begin memorizing the first four letters, and then I’d pause, giving her the last four, and saving us a second or two of time. That might not seem like much, but Quarrel‘s AI opponents do not kid around. Unless we’re talking about Dwayne, that is.
So yeah, Quarrel. There’s a lot to like; on the flip side, there’s a lot to dislike, and perhaps it speaks to the quality of the game’s challenge that I had to look outside my noggin for extra help. Again, maybe there are super geniuses out there with fingers like that one bot from Ghost in the Shell that can figure out the anagram right away and submit it faster than light. I suspect many might not suffer the same difficulties as I did, but this is one puzzle game that was more frustrating than fun, even when you figured out the way to win.