It Came From the 90s

It Came From the 90s

September 17, 2019 0 By Ryan Sanders

We look at three Giagmic abstract games – Quixo, Pylos, and Quarto

Note: All of the following games, though originally published in the 1990s are STILL in print in the year 2019. Also, this review was originally published on our brother site, The Inquisitive Meeple, and may be edited from its original format. 


  • Designed by Thierry Chapeau
  • Player Count: 2 or 4
  • Abstract Rank on BGG: #289
  • Year Released: 1995 

Quixo is an x-in-a-row abstract game, the object in this game is to get 5 in a row of your symbol before your opponent. This one is extremely simple to teach. The game is played with 25 nice chunky wooden cubes. 4 of the sides are blank and the other sides have either an O or an X on them. The cubes are inset in a 5 by 5 grid and are all blank to start off with. On your turn, you simply take a cube along one of the edges and you slide it in at the end of the same row or column (but NOT where it came from) with your symbol showing, pushing the other blocks to fill in the gap you just made. You may not choose to pick up an opponent’s symbol but can pick either a blank or your own symbol. Players go back and forth like this until someone has made a line of 5 of their symbols, either diagonal, vertical or horizontal.

There is a partnership variant game, but I haven’t played that. You notice with the blocks, there are little dots on them. In the partnership variant those dots matter. You can only move your team’s symbol blocks if the dot is pointing a certain way. So for X – if it on the left, is one player, and on the right for the other player (etc). 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Simple right? But it is a pretty good game, the quality of the deluxe version is very nice, and could even be used as a coffee table display piece. Besides the quality of the wooden piece, another thing that stands out about Quixo is its pushing mechanism, which works very well with how they have made the inset part of the board, the cubes push pretty effortless and stay in the row or column they need to as they push. 

Quixo plays fast – say maybe 5-10 minutes and it’s so easy to reset, we found ourselves playing multiple games in a row. I will say because of the simplicity – this one would be a PERFECT next step for young children, you want to teach abstract games after they have learned Connect 4. I am actually a little surprised that Gigamic doesn’t have a kids version with some kind of colorful blocks and character faces for symbols. Much like the children’s version of Gigamic’s Quarridor – Quarrior Jr. (See our review from earlier this year for that one). The box itself is ages 8+ – but if your children can play Connect 4 they are ready or about ready for this one – it’s just another rule or two and longer x-in-a-row. With this being such a simple abstract of course beside children, it would be great for teaching to non-gamers or even elderly or if you just want to play a game that plays 8 mins or so. I do however, it is not as good as Gigamic’s Quarto – which is a more puzzling brain-burner 4-in-a-row. 

Gigamic does offer Education sheets/worksheets for the classroom about teaching the game of Quixo to your students/children. It’s geared towards children ages 5-11 (Kindergarten thru 5th grade).  That can be found at Gigamic Quixo’s page for download:


  • Designed by David G. Royffe
  • Player Count: 2
  • Abstract Rank on BGG: #180
  • Year Released: 1994 

Pylos is an abstract stacking game. In the game, players will be building a pyramid with wooden marbles (one player plays light and the other dark). The object is to have your marble be first to reach the top of the pyramid. You can also win if your opponent runs out of marbles. 

On your turn, you place a marble in one of the holes of the 4×4 grid. Alternatively is a set of 4 marbles make a square you can place on top of a square, either with a marble that is already on the board (not supporting another marble on top of it) or from your reserve. If you make a square of 4 with only your color, you immediately can take 1 or 2 (your choice) marbles back in your reserve, that is not supporting another marble on top it. Also to be able to move a marble on the board already, it has to be moving up a level. So if it was on level 2, it must move to level 3 in the pyramid. That is the gist of the game, keep going until someone plays their marble on top of the pyramid, thus winning. 

Pylos does come with both a children’s variant and an advanced variant. For children, the rule about taking back marbles when you make a square of just your color is gone. For the advanced variant there is a rule about making lines (vertical or horizontal not diagonal) of 4 on the first level or lines of 3 on the second level of your color and being able to take marbles back. 

First off, like most of Gigamics’ wooden games, Pylos is beautiful. Out of all the Gigamic games, this one just begs to be left out on the coffee table or display cabinet – but only if you don’t have pets or children that will knock the wooden balls everywhere. Though I haven’t played Pylos somewhere public, I can only imagine that the table presence of the wood and stacking this nice wood marbles will draw people in to see what you are playing. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

However look beautiful and having a nice table presence is all well and nice, but it doesn’t mean a thing is the gameplay isn’t there. So, how does it play? 

I have played Pylos with both normal and advanced rules, and really enjoy the advance way – with just one more way to get your marbles back, so one more way you have to think about and watch to block if your opponent is going for it. Overall, we found it to be a pretty cool game and kept playing “just one more game”, and even then we walk away looking forward to playing again. 

The only negative I can think of when it comes to this game is that there is a chance for loops to happen. For example, (multiple of my plays) you can make a set of 4, take one back, and if your opponent doesn’t block you, you make the set of 4 again, take off the same piece. Again and again and again, until your opponent wises up and blocks you. Why would you do this? Because you are not wasting any pieces as your opponent does. Now the main issue with that is if you and your opponent, ever make a loop at the same time – it would be never-ending (this hasn’t happened to us yet, only because my opponent didn’t notice they could do this in one of our games in the advance variant). In that case, either you have to be less stubborn and block them or make a house rule ahead of time about how many times you can loop in a row. Overall though, I feel players leave the time thinking that was pretty neat and fun, and they want to play some more (after playing multiple times in a row already). 

Just like Quixo, Pylos has education sheets for teachers, for the age range of 5 to 11 years old (Kindergarten thru 5th Grade). You can find it for download, here:

Quarto/Quarto Mini

  • Designed by Blaise Muller
  • Player Count: 2
  • Abstract Rank on BGG: #58
  • Year Released: 1991 

Quarto is a game I have owned from many years now, in fact, I am on my second copy. To me, it is one of the best examples of what modern abstract games (ones that have been made in the last 60-70 years) has to offer. In the game, there is a 4×4 grid. The object of the game is to get 4 in a row. No one owns a set color/pieces and they come with various traits. Some are tall, while others are short. Some have a hole in the top, while others are solid. Some are circles, and some are square. And finally some are dark and some are light. When making a 4 in a row you need to have all of one trait – ie all tall, or all with the hollow top. “Okay, that sounds cool, but why are you making it out to be amazing?” you may be thinking. Because of one last rule – you don’t pick the piece you are going to place, your opponent picks the piece for you. With that last twist, the game goes from an okay abstract game to a brilliant one. It’s easy to teach, it’s addicting to play, and is good to draw game to introduce to gamers that may not be into abstracts games (yet). To me, it is a modern classic, and one worth having in your collection. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I will say I correctly have the mini version – which plays exactly like the big version but is smaller. QuartoMini doesn’t currently look as nice as Quixo or Pylos – due to board having the circle cutouts that expose the particle board underneath (see pictures above). However, that’s not the end of the world. Just like the above two games, Quarto has education download for teachers to teach the game from ages 4 to 11 (click here: Why this one is lower in age than Quixo, I don’t know as this is more advance game. I probably recommend this one for ages 7+. 

Meeple-Sized Summary

Quixo – is an excellent step up for children after they learned Connect 4. It also is a good one for non-gamers or elder to learn. 

Pylos is a game that has a nice table presence because of that and its 3d nature, it would be a good one to pull in people that may not game or don’t play abstracts to try one. 

Quarto – While it doesn’t have as good as a table presence as Pylos – it does have a very unique twist that really makes the game shine in picking your opponents pieces. If you were to ask me what abstract games worth having, my answer along with Hive (and maybe some Project GIPF games) would be Quarto.

ALL three of these games have the ‘Let’s play again” factor to it, and you may find yourself playing multiple games in a row. 

I would rank them from best down Quarto, Pylos, and Quixo. However, my 5th-grade son who has played them all of them as well, actually ranked them in reverse order of mine: Quixo, Pylos, and then Quarto. Showing, you should probably try ALL of the games. 

The last word

Note: Thanks to Gigamic for sending us review copies of Quixo and Pylos for an honest review. As mentioned above – all these games are currently in print in 2019, even if they were originally published in the 1990s.

Ryan Sanders is the founder, owner, and editor-at-large of Adventures in Gameschooling. He’s also the guy behind its social media accounts. God has blessed Ryan and his wife Mary, with five children, which he homeschools. As a Christian, he believes that he should not only look out for your own interests but other peoples too (Philippians 2:4) and this is one of his guiding principles for Adventures in Gameschooling. Ryan’s expertise is informed by almost two decades of experience as a stay-at-home father and from the running The Inquisitive Meeple where he performed over 300 written and podcast interviews within the board game industry.