Designed by Grégory Détrez and illustrated by Henri Kermarrec, Qwarks is a speed memory game from Smile.
Tho' they look more like anthropomorphised amoebas, the illustrations on the cards are apparently elementary particles. There are three of these cute critters on each card but the first thing players need to observe is whether a card is a 'Prooton' (two Qwarks with tentacles and one without) or a 'Nootron' (two Qwarks without tentacles and one with). The number printed on a card represents its value if it is correctly scored.
The game itself is deceptively simple. Players (2–8) each have a deck of cards, preferably kept close to the centre of the table. Players all simultaneously turn over a card. They then race to completely cover a card with their hand. It can be the card they turned over or a card turned over by any other player. There will obviously be especially fierce competition to be the first to nab the most valuable (highest point score) card. But beware - this isn't a dexterity game...
Tho' players are in a race against each other, before covering a card they need to check that they know the answer to the 'question' about the cards which is posed by the icon on the now topmost card on the first player's deck. If the eye icon is showing, the players need to know how many eyes there are on the card they have covered; the tentacle icon asks how many tentacles are showing; the icon showing smiley/sad faces means players need to know how many of the Qwarks on their card are smiling; the colour icon requires that players know the three colours of their Qwarks. With the card still covered, they need to correctly answer the question and identify whether the card is a Prooton or Nootron in order to win that card and score its value.
As it turns out, this is harder than it sounds. In the scramble to nab the most valuable card, it's all too easy to miscount the number of eyes or tentacles. The Qwarks are always oriented in different positions so was that a frown or a smile viewed upside down? If your turn to answer comes after several others have already recited their mix of colours, you'll be surprised at how hard it can be to avoid getting muddled even over the colours on your card.
This all makes for an entertaining and surprisingly challenging party game. And it has the extra merit of being a game that can be played at least as well by children as by adults - making Qwarks an especially good small-box family game.
A sequel standalone game Qwarks Wanted is due to launch later this month on Kickstarter. Watch this space for our (p)review of that game.