Disney is on a roll right now! Not only have they got their animated classics that form the basis of many of our childhoods, but now they’re going strong with Marvel, Star Wars, and Pixar movies. Honestly, well over half of the movies that I have seen at the theaters in the past 5 years have been from Disney. Beyond the films, there’s all the merchandising. Books, toys, clothes, backpacks… you name it, there’s a Disney version. There’s even a board game about being a Disney Villain! So if you’ve got a game out there and you’re hoping to beef up sales, then it only makes sense to throw some Disney on it, right?
That’s what has happened to the game Quartz, a 2015 game that has been re-released this year by USAopoly under the name Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: A Gemstone Mining Game. And while the ten-word long title may be a bit ridiculous, it is a theme that really makes a lot of sense. A game that has you mining for gems? Sounds like a job for those seven vertically challenged fellas. In fact, I can’t think of a better way to apply the Disney classic to a board game. The original was a decent game, so this addition should make it better, right? Well, after a few plays, we can say that while there’s a sprinkling of Disney magic, the game itself has lost a bit of its luster.
First off, I must say that I’m not the biggest fan of the 1937 classic animated piece. I understand that the movie was a tremendous accomplishment when it was released, but I was always bored watching it as a kid, and I haven’t seen it in years. However, I will say that the dwarfs were my favorite part of the whole thing. So it’s pretty cool to have a game that works for seven players, each of which is taking on the role of one of those diminutive miners. It’s unfortunate that the game doesn’t provide any individual powers or abilities, but it’s still kinda fun nonetheless.
Each of you will be going mining each day (round), with the hope of bringing back the most valuable stones before you have a mining accident. This is simulated by drawing gemstones of various colors from a bag. Each color represents a particular stone that has a particular value, except for the black stones that represent obsidian, which for some reason causes chaos. Should you ever draw two of these stones in the same round, you have to leave the mine empty-handed.
So you essentially have yourselves a classic push-your-luck game. On a turn, you are deciding whether to keep going for more valuable gems or to get out of the mine while you still can. Those that come away with gems are able to trade in their gems for pie, because apparently that’s currency for dwarfs?
There are bonuses awarded if you collect several gems of one type or if you have a high amount of variety in your gem collection. You can also get some bonus cash if you’re able to get Snow White the gems that she’s wanting that round, represented by a special set of cards. You keep mining and trading for pies over the course of five rounds, and whoever walks away with… the largest chance for obesity?… wins!
There’s a little more going on with the game than I have described here. Besides reaching into the bag to grab gems, you also have the option of playing cards, each of which has some benefit to you or some detriment to your opponents. Maybe you’ll steal a gem from an opponent, or force them to draw from the bag for you, giving you the good stuff and leaving them with the bad stuff. Each player starts the game with five of these cards, and while it may be tempting to play them all in the first few rounds, wise players will hang on to some so that they strike at just the right moment.
There are some solid elements that help to counteract the luck element that comes with drawing from the bag. As previously mentioned, if you ‘bust’, you lose all of your gems that you’ve collected, but you also get a special token that you can trade in during a future round to get rid of a piece of obsidian. This little mechanic helps to fight against those bad luck streaks that sometimes trap players in games like this.
The game components are solid – the gem pieces are similar to those found in Century: Spice Road and other recent games, and the colors stand out from each other well. The player guides are well made, taking on the shape of a mine cart and explaining the different values and special combos that players have to choose from.
One element of the game that’s a little surprising is the overabundance of text on the cards. Some have eight lines of text on them – a tremendous amount compared to that of a card in most other games. This is especially surprising when you consider that there is much less on the cards in Quartz. Perhaps the game designers received feedback that the rules need to be clearer on the cards, but I don’t think this is the right solution. I envision that this game would work well for younger players, but because of these cards, you may find yourself having to do lots of explaining while you’re playing.
Ryan and other players have noted a big rule change in which the final player can stay in the mine for as long as they want, rather than having to retreat and take a bonus. I personally found the ability to stay in kind of exciting. I had a run where I just kept grabbing good gems from the bag, and I ended up very wealthy at the end of the turn. However, because my gems weren’t worth all that much, it didn’t pay off as much as I would have expected, and I ended up losing the game. There is a variant in Quartz that allows you to continue but only to draw four more gems, and perhaps that would be a good compromise.
I’m a big fan of the press your luck mechanic, and games that pull it off successfully, like Incan Gold and Fire in the Library, are some of my favorites. SW&tSD:aGMG (it’s even long when you abbreviate it!) has some similar elements to those games, but they don’t feel like they’re executed quite as well. The text on the cards seems to over complicate the game, and while mechanics are in place to mitigate the randomness, you can have a round or two where you’re out super quick and are left to just wait until everyone else finishes. This happened a few time during our games, and those players ended up wandering off or playing on their phones, which takes some of the fun of the game out for me, even when I’m still in.
I think that USAopoly has made the best possible match that this movie could have in board games. Anyone who’s a fan of the classic Disney movie will find some enjoyment from the game. The theme makes it more approachable than other games of its ilk, even if the whole experience isn’t quite as good. I think that this could work well as a family game, though you’ll need to figure out something about the text-heavy cards. Snow White is by no means a bad game, and I had some good moments with it. I personally believe that there are better options that scratch the same itch that I would recommend that you purchase first. However, if you like the mechanic and if you like the theme, I certainly say that you could give this one a try.
- Great application of the theme
- Some good mechanics to keep the bad luck away
- Some questionable rules changes
- Why so many words on the cards?
- Sometimes players can be out of the game for long chunks of time