Quoridor is one of a series of beautifully produced abstract strategy games published by Gigamic and distributed in the UK by Hachette Games. All come in matching white boxes and the games in the range are distinguished by their satisfyingly chunky wooden components.
The game was originally designed in 1997 by Mirko Marchesi. It's been published over the years in many different editions, including travel versions, but Gigamic's edition has perhaps the most striking table presence - not least due to the clean unfussy design and solid wooden components.
The game itself is super simple. Players each have a pawn that they have to advance from one side of a 9 x 9 grid to the other. The winner is the player who gets their pawn to the other side first. On your turn you can move your pawn one space in any direction orthogonally or you can place out one fence anywhere on the board. In a two-player game, each player starts off with 10 fences; you each have five fences if there are four players. The limitation on placing fences is that you cannot complete block a player's path. That means you are diverting your opponent and making them take a longer route; ideally one that forces them to double back on themselves.
So you both end up putting each other through labyrinthine mazes. Of course, you can only place fences when you have them available to place - when your opponent has used them all up there's nothing to stop you rushing your pawn to the other side... Except that the maze you erected to delay your opponent may now be making your own passage more difficult.
If your opponent's pawn ends up next to yours, you can jump over them, and pulling that off to gain extra ground is more often than not what determines the winner.
Quoridor plays quickly in a filler length 15 minutes. It feels like a game that you could mathematically model, and doubtless there a programmers out there who could and probably already have programmed a perfect game. Savvy players can make tactical use of the fact that paths cannot be completely blocked; for example, by using a fence to close off your own pawn's double-back route so that an opponent 'wastes' some of their fences.
The game is at its best as a two=player tussle but there's also the four-player option. Tho' the rules are the same, having players going east/west as well as north/south, can make for a sometimes seemingly chaotic game. There's also more opportunity to profit from the potentially game-winning 'jump' move.
If you enjoy short easy-to-play abstract games, you should certainly check out Quoridor. And, with this edition, know that you're buying a game that doubles as an almost sculptural display piece.
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