Overview of the Theme and Setup
In Quantum, which was released in 2013 and designed by Eric Zimmerman, each player is a commander from one of the four factions of humanity, struggling to conquer a sector of space after a devastating war in 1984 (I love the timeline of this game) destroyed the earth trying to fuel the oppressive Six-Dimensional Quantum Displacer or Quantum D6. A Stellar Council was called in 2023 of the four remaining factions of humanity including the ruthless Kepler Imperium, the heroic Orion Republic, the scavenging Vulpes Alliance and the scientific Andromeda Confederacy, but their efforts were futile as an assassin destroyed the Council with a smuggled quantum device that obliterated the delegates as well as any hope for peaceful cooperation.
Each commander controls a fleet of ships that are represented by dice, with each single die representing a specific starship, with the value of the die determining not only the movement of the ship, but also its combat power and its special capability. Combat in the game is as simple as it gets with a roll of the die, being modified by various Advance cards, and adding to the roll the pip value of the starship in the combat with the low numbers being more powerful. So a [ 6 ] is a quick but fragile Scout ship while a [ 1 ] is a slow but mighty Battlestation.
The Ship Abilities
Each type of ship also has a special power that can be used once per turn, as a free action. The 6 different ship types with their corresponding powers are:
- 1 – Battlestation – Strike – the Battlestation can free attack a space adjacent to it (normally you must be able to move into the shared space of another ship to attack).
- 2 – Flagship – Transport – the Flagship can pick up any ship in the spaces around it and carry it along with it as it moves. At the end of it’s 2 movement, it must drop the carried ship in any space surrounding it.
- 3 – Destroyer – Warp – the Destroyer can swap places with one of your other ships (dice) anywhere on the map.
- 4 – Frigate – Modify – the Frigate can modify its configuration to either a Destroyer (3) or an Interceptor (5).
- 5 – Interceptor – Maneuver – the Interceptor can move and attack diagonally on the map.
- 6 – Scout – Free Configure – the Scout can simply reconfigure itself by simply rolling. If the roll produces another 6, then the Scout can roll again. Any other number must be accepted.
These powers can be used in combination for devastating effects. It is amazing to see the versatility that certain ships provide you. I have seen players win by warping a Destroyer across the map to take the place of a Battlestation in orbital position to meet the planetary requirements to place their final Quantum Cube. Or, move an Interceptor diagonally to avoid contact with others to get into orbital position for the win. You must be aware at all times where each player stands with their victory condition (how many Quantum Cubes they have placed?) and how they can possibly strategically move to take victory. At the beginning of the game, each player will roll their 3 starting ships and then use those on their first turn. If you do not like the configuration or combination that you have, you aren’t stuck with your starting ships, however; you can use Quantum technology to spend actions to transform (re-roll) your ships. Randomness does play a role in the game, but only when you want it to. There are many ways to mitigate the randomness using cards, abilities or strategy. In my opinion, Quantum is very much a strategy game.
The Goal of the Game
So what is the goal of the game? Unmitigated domination of your enemies? Destruction of their entire fleet? Reaching the pinnacle of civilization and developing the best technologies? None of these are the goal, although some will help you to obtain victory. You simply win by constructing Quantum Cubes, which are massive planetary energy extractors. You build them by positioning your numbered ships (dice) around each planet in order to meet the planetary requirements. If the planet is a 7 value, you must place ships (dice) in orbital positions that total 7. You cannot place a cube if you don’t exactly meet the needed number. So to place on a 7, you will need a combination of 2-3 ships that total 7 such as a  & a  or a , a  and a ! Each time you build a new one on a planet you gain access to one of the many Advance Cards, which come from two decks, the Gambit cards or the Command cards.
These cards allow you to expand your fleet, earn a new permanent ability, or take a one-time special move. I have found that the cards are very important. In a game the other day, one player (Tim) had the card that reduced all of his combat rolls by 1. This is extremely powerful as if he was attacking with either a 1 or a 2 ship (Battlestation or Flagship) the worst he could do was tie and ties always go to the attacker. The board itself is made out of modular tiles, and you can play on one of the 30 pre-determined and play tested layouts that come with the game or be creative and design your own setup. Smaller maps tend to lead to more combat and a fight over the fewer planets while larger maps lead to less combat and more strategic thinking about how to place the needed number of Quantum Cubes. I personally prefer less fighting as it is the most random part of the game and takes away from what the game does well, the strategic movement and positioning of ships. The ship powers, player abilities, and board designs combine to create a limitless set of possibilities for how to play and strategies for how to win.
What I love about this game!
I truly enjoy playing Quantum and will always jump at the chance to play. The components are amazing as I love dice and these dice are both beautiful (very bright colors that are translucent and almost appear to be glowing) and functional (they are very weighty and almost chunky). The mechanics are amazingly elegant and provide a great deal of flexibility. The game play itself is truly simple and the rules are well written and intuitive. This is a great game to play with lighter gamers since the rules can be explained in five minutes and people who don’t regularly play board games will catch on to the strategy in a couple rounds and feel like they actually have a chance to win against more experienced players. I am also a big proponent of re-playability and with 24 modular tiles and an infinite number of predetermined scenarios, and the ability to make new scenarios, this game will never be the same at each play! But my favorite part about the game is that the playing time is very short. A four player game can be played in under 45 minutes if all players are familiar with the rules. For a game with this amount of depth and detail, that is a truly amazing feat of engineering (maybe Eric used the Quantum Cubes to foresee the future and choose this outcome) and design.
With elegant mechanics, an infinite number of scenarios and easy-to-learn rules that lead to deep gameplay, Quantum is a unique game that will appeal to deep thinkers who crave complex strategy as well as your more relaxed players. I would dare to say that Quantum is the best game that you’ve never heard about!
P.S. There are 2 expansions that I do not own nor have I played so they are not included in this review. Those expansions are Quantum: The Void (2013) and Quantum: Entanglement Add-on Pack (2014). I would love to add them to my base game in the future.