Quarrel Deluxe (Quarrel DX in Springboard) is a cross between Scrabble (which I don’t love, although I did, like many people, play Words with Friends for quite a while) and Risk (which I do love, but rarely play non-digital because of a lack of people to play against), and may well be better than either.
The setup is essentially like Risk: a board of locations (countries in Risk) that each have a number of armies and varying numbers of neighbouring locations. The options in a turn are similar as well: attack, fortify (i.e. move armies from one country to a neighbouring one), or pass. Even in fortification Quarrel beats Risk – rather than only being able to fortify at the end of your turn, you can do it throughout the turn, but once you’ve moved armies from one location to another, neither of those can then fortify or attack later in the turn (they can receive armies from another neighbour).
Attacking is where Scrabble comes in – rather than relying on the luck of the dice, like in Risk, each player is given the same eight letters (that always form at least one eight-letter word, as well as many smaller ones) and whoever makes the highest scoring word wins the battle. Not only is there more skill (and less luck) than in Risk, there’s more than in Scrabble, too, since you always have the same letters to work with as your opponent. The length of the word you can make depends on how many armies you have (so if you have three and your opponent has seven, you’ll need a pretty awesome three-letter word). All the ‘double letter’, ‘triple word’, ‘use a letter from another word’, ‘make multiple words at once’, and hard limits to board size elements from Scrabble are gone: these are the parts I hate most about Scrabble, so for me that’s a clear win. It’s all about making the best word (i.e. longest and with the highest point letters).
Speed is also a factor – if your word is the same number of points as your opponent’s, then whoever finished first wins. This comes into play quite a lot – it’s often better to go for a high scoring word really quickly than take a bit longer trying to find the best word possible. Games can also be against the clock, which adds considerably to the difficulty.
There are many other subtle elements to the game, which clearly indicate that it has been well thought out. In addition, the graphics and sound are very well done (cutesy little stylised fighters).
I’d recommend this game to anyone that likes word games and/or strategy games like Risk. There’s very little luck involved (none, really, if you exclude the computer opponent behaviour), and a lot of strategy required. Games can be quite simple but also range to very difficult.
I’d love to see a future version include a multiplayer (i.e. multiple iPad) game option. It could also possibly borrow the concept of “continents” from Risk and have some additional larger boards where there are locations that give additional reinforcements if you’re holding the entire island.