Mini-Meeple is going maze crazy for Gigamic’s wonderful wooden abstract strategy game, Quoridor

Publisher: Gigamic, Hachette Board Games UK
Mirko Marchesi

Artist: N/A

Release date: 1997

2 – 4 Players

Age: 8+

15 mins

Favouritefoe score 9/10

*Up to 4 Players * Strategic * Maze Game * Wooden Game * Abstract * grid movement * Logic * Prediction/Anticipation * Accessible * Adaptable * Learning through play * home schooling *

What does Mini-meeple love to play more than anything? Maze games! I think I have probably mentioned it before, but it is a passion that shows no sign of stopping.

No matter what kind of maze, he loves it. The paper placemats they give kids at restaurants with games on them. Puzzle books with mazes inside. 3D Maze balls. Sliding maze game. Maze anything and he in his element. Needless to say, Logic Labyrinth by HABA, Labyrinth by Ravensburger, and Mazescapes by Kosmos are a big hit around here.

So when I placed Quoridor on the table ready to play a game with Bearded Moon, I had an inkling that Mini-meeple’s head might go on a swivel. Popping up from his tablet computer, his eyes went wide as the board emerged and the pieces came out of the bag. I hadn’t even told him the game was maze based and yet he was already working out how to use the walls and pawns to make a “mega maze for mummy to get lost in!”.

So how did he, or should I say “I” get on?!


Mummy’s in the Maze!

As with every game in this beautiful, wooden, abstract strategy series (for an overview of the collection click here), Quoridor is set up in seconds. Literally. Take board out of box. Place an equal number of wooden “walls” in the slots relative to the number of players (e.g. 10 each in a two player game and 5 each in a 4 player game), and place each player’s pawn in the square on the first row central to their wall of, well, walls!  

The rules are equally simple. Each turn, place a wall or move your pawn one space (orthogonally but never diagonally). You can place your wall in front of an opponent, so long as it doesn’t block them off completely. The first player to get their pawn to the other side of the board is the winner.

I should mention that to give Mini-meeple a soft entry (and me an excuse for losing!), he got 15 walls to my 5.

Mini-meeple got the gist immediately. With rules as easy as this, I hadn’t expected any trouble. And first game in, he merrily worked his way through his walls, sending me along a snaking path, giggling as he went. When he ran out of walls and I moved around the open edge, however, he looked at me. Not just that. He grinned and shouted “DOH!” as he facepalmed.

I didn’t prompt him or give him a clue as to what had happened. He knew. Immediately, he worked out that he had burned through his walls too fast. That he should have combined moving with blocking. That he should have thought ahead. After all, this isn’t a solo maze journey. This is one where he has to compete against others, and it’s in his power to slow them down.


Second Chance Sunday

Second game in and he was far more selection savvy. Moves took longer, and he was tracing paths with his fingers and his mind. He still went for walls to block me more than moves to help him, but thinking ahead and predicting my movements were evident. In the end, he created a maze that he got stuck in himself, but he had fun (the main thing!), and could see why it had happened.

Just Move or Block?

In Quoridor, the fact there is such a limited range of options is great. When teaching kids abstract strategy, I find getting bogged down in details and numerous move types drains their enthusiasm as well as their ability to grasp the game play. Move or block. That’s it. Or is it?

Again, without prompting, Mini-meeple started to explore a third way. What if he didn’t block me with the walls? What if he used them to streamline his own path to the end? What if he put up a wall that stopped me from diverting his own piece? Now that blew me away!


Move along Mummy!

Being 6 years old, a few games in a row and he was done with the lesson. He wanted to play with the pieces and just make mazes. And, to me, that is just as beneficial in terms of developing essential logic skills as actually playing the game.

What’s more, Gigamic feel the same way! They have produced sheets (available here or as a direct download at the bottom of this review) full of fun ideas for Quoridor to be used as an educative tool for kids aged 4 – 10 years. Not that the little gamers know it. To them, these activities are just an extension of the fun. To me, however, Gigamic have demonstrated a pure example of #learningthroughplay.

We are having a blast dipping in and out of them, mixing them in with full game play. And what’s more, I am learning too. My spatial skills are not the best (although I recently found out the reason for it -more on that another day), but the sheets and the games we are playing together are also helping me massively. Especially when it comes to games with 3 or 4 players. And that is coming from someone who turns 40 years old this week! I am NEVER too old to learn, and I never want to stop learning. I make a point of trying to learn something new (or correct a mistaken belief) every single day. Being able to share that experience with Mini-meeple is awesome, and I can’t wait for him to utterly smash me at Quoridor!

You have probably already guessed, but Quoridor has absolutely earned its place in the #favouritefoefunlearning library! The only reason it doesn’t get a favouritefoefunlearning top 10 mark is that sometimes the difference between winning and losing can be wide – there is very little you can do to catch up when you are mismatched in terms of skills. And that hurts (at any age!). But saving the mean play for the grown-ups with thicker skin, Quoridor is excellent. It’s beautifully made. Its educational benefits are obvious, and it’s a fun, thinky, fast playing game that hits the spot for us. What’s more, the way it works for us now will change over time. And that accessibility and adaptability is a double thumbs up from this game mad mummy!

If you like the sound of Quoridor, check out my 6 part series on the other titles in the Gigamic Abstract Strategy Collection or click here to go to my feature overview of them all!