Introduction: Quarto Game

This is a boardgame that I did not invent : it was created by a mathematician called Blaise Müller and is now commercialised under the name "Quarto". I decided it would be fun to make one myself... And I will show you how I did it.

But, first, you probably want to know about its rules. Well, these are actually pretty simple. There are 16 pieces, each of which is either short or tall, either black or white, either round or square and either hollowed or plain... In such a way that each piece is unique but shares one or more characteristics with some of the other pieces. Taking turns, the two players place a piece on the 4x4 board, the goal of the game being to complete a line (either vertically, horizontally or diagonally) of four pieces that have at least one characteristic in common. Now, there is one last subtlety : you cannot just pick up the piece you want to place : your opponent is to choose the one you will play, and vice versa. In other words, player 1 chooses a piece and gives it to player 2 who places it onto the board. Then player 2 picks up a piece he gives to player 1 who places onto the board. Then player 1 repeats that, and so on until, eventually, one of the two players succeeds in forming a row of four pieces that share at least one of the eight characteristics. For instance, if by playing her/his piece, player 2 succeeds in completing a line of four black pieces, player 2 wins the game. The variety of possibilities and the necessity of keeping all parameters in mind make this simple game interestingly complex.


The materials you need :

- a piece hardwood for the board, 5" wide and 1/4" thick (thicker if you need to flatten it)

- a hardwood round stick, 11" long, 1/2" thick

- a hardwood square stick, 11" long, 7/16" thick

- some walnut husk dye or any dark dye or paint

- some boiled linseed oil

The tools you need (of course, you may replace any of these with another tool or machine) :

- a blockplane/apronplane

- a scraper

- a pair of dividers

- a coping saw (or a bandsaw)

- a flat rasp

- a flat file

- a disc sander (optional)

- some medium and fine sandpaper

- a pillar drill or a hand drill

- a handsaw

- a scriber

- a handsaw

- a ruler

- a square (optional)

Step 1: Making the Board, Step 1

Take a piece of wood, about 5"
wide and 1/4" thick (more if you need to flatten it). I used pearwood for the whole set of pieces and gameboard. Put it onto a flat surface and see if it lies flat : if it rocks, you must flatten it, using a blockplane.

Step 2: Making the Board, Step 2

Once you are happy with it, it is time to make it circular. Get your dividers, and pointing it to the centre of your piece of wood, draw a 2 5/16 radius circle. Mark the centre of the circle with a pencil : you will need it later on.

Step 3: Making the Board, Step 3

Using a coping saw or a bandsaw, cut carefully along the line... As close to it but being careful not to come inside the line. The more accurate and regular you are, the less work and time you will have to spend with finer tools in the next steps.

Clean up the side, using rasp, file and sand paper (or a table disc sander), making the board as perfectly circular as possible. If you do things correctly, with every finer tool you use, you should get rid of all marks left by the previous : only then you may go on to the next one.

Step 4: Making the Board, Step 4

It's time to mark the position of the holes. Mark a line crossing the disc and passing through its centre. Mark another line that runs perpendicular to the first and that also passes through the centre. Set your dividers to 1 11/16 in and, on those two lines, mark four points 1 11/16" away from the centre. We will name them A, D, G and J for ease of explanation. Draw light pencil lines between points A and D, between D and G, between G and J and between J and A. Dividing the length of segment [AD] by 3 will give you the right measure for positioning all other points : if you are using the same scale as I did, it should be about 13/16" . Setting your dividers to this measurement, mark points B and C between A and D ; points E and F between D and G ; points H and I between G and J ; and points K and L between J and A. There should always be the same distance between two close points. Draw a light pencil line between B and I, and another one between C and H : their intersections with line segments [AG] and [DJ] will give you the position of to the four other points... You now have all sixteen points drawn on.

Step 5: Making the Board, Step 5

With a 5/8" bit, drill each of these points. It only has to be deep enough to underline the places where the game pieces go : it is not even necessary to drill (you could just draw or paint small circles), but I find it gives a nice optical effect, especially if you let the bit slightly burn the wood, for more contrast.

You can now smoothen the surface of the board by rubbing in circle motion onto a sheet of sand paper placed on a flat surface. I would typically use sand paper grit 180, then 220, 280, 400 and 600 (I might leave it a bit coarser, or go with even finer sandpaper, depending on my mood).

For a better look, and in order to protect the board, smoothen the edges by applying a chamfer to it, with a file and some sand paper.

With a brush or a piece of cloth, apply some boiled linseed oil (buy it already boiled, as boiling it yourself would require some high precautions and a couple of hours of your precious time) and let it "dry" (it does not actually dry, but hardens through an oxydation process... For our project, though, it will be enough to consider it as drying time without getting into more detail). Caution : if you apply linseed oil with a piece of cloth, you have to wash it afterwards, as its oxidation on cloth rag may in some cases cause it to catch fire. However there is nothing to worry about, as long as you do take care : I have used linseed oil for over 13 years and never had any problem.

Congratulations : you are done with your gameboard.

Step 6: Making the Pieces, Step 1

Take your square stick : cut four 1" 7/16" long pieces out of it, and four 15/16" long ones.

Repeat the same procedure with the round stick.

File and sand the extremities so they do not rock when placed upright.

Step 7: Making the Pieces, Step 2

With a 3/16in drill bit, drill the ends of two long square pieces and two short square pieces, as well as of two long round pieces and two short round pieces. You do not have do drill very deep : only as much as to look hollowed, in comparison the the plain pieces.

Sand the pieces and smoothen the edges as for the board.

Separate the sixteen pieces into two groups, each of which is composed by a short and a long plain square pieces, a short and a long hollowed square pieces, a short and a long plain round pieces, and a short a long hollowed round pieces.

Step 8: Making the Pieces, Step 3

Set one group aside and dye the pieces of the other group with walnut husk dye or any dark dye or paint. Let it dry.

Apply some linseed oil to all sixteen pieces as for the board.

Step 9: Your Quarto Game Is Finished !

Congratulations, your quarto game is finished : you can now carry on having fun and play with it !

If my explanations lack clarity, please do feel free to let me know : I shall be glad to answer any question.

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