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Quicksand: Gotta be Fast!

Quicksand Board Game
Quicksand board game, published by Horrible Guild

Quicksand, a real-time cooperative timer-flipping board game published by Horrible Guild, brings every millennial’s fear of quicksand back into the forefront of their mind and onto the gaming table!

Designed by Hjalmar Hach and Lorenzo Silva, of Railroad Ink fame, the Quicksand board game utilizes a series of timers whose sands you need to keep flowing in order to win the game. If they all run out, you’re done!

So, let’s channel our inner Pitfall Harry as we jump into Quicksand!

Quicksand Gameplay

The Quicksand board game is all centered around the various cog-like discs and the sand timers that rest on top of them. Your goal is to get all of the timers neatly lined up at the other end of this line of discs while all of them are still running their sand.

First and foremost, this is a cooperative game where all of the players are working together. Each player has three cards and it’s open season as far as anybody being able to play cards whenever they want.

When a card is played, any timers on cogs matching that card are flipped over and advance one cog forward. This could be a matching symbol or matching color, so some coordination is needed for players to chain together their cards in a positive way in order to make progress down the track.

If there’s a timer on the next space ahead of a timer that needs to be flipped, it simply gets flipped and stays in the same location it’s already at. This can create some logjams where you need a specific card to progress.

There are also varying levels of difficulty which increase the length of the track or add special rules on top of the base game. For example, you might need to play without speaking, or you could run into tokens that require a timer to be flipped twice before proceeding onwards.

If a timer runs out, it gets set aside next to the cog that it ran out on. This clears the way for lagging timers, but you’ll need to play one of the rare Wild cards in order to get it back into the mix.

Managing to maneuver all of the timers to the very end of the track wins the game! Whew! Just in time!

Staking Our C.L.A.I.M. on Quicksand!


It’s time to talk about the components for the Quicksand board game! See what I did there? There isn’t a whole lot that goes into this game, so the components had better shine and all have a purpose, which they definitely do.

The main attraction is obviously the set of timers that come with the game. I love the contrast between the orange sand and the green ends of these timers, setting them apart from the -boring- white-sanded timers you might be accustomed to. I should also note that the tops of the timers are different and indicate which timers are faster and slower than the others. This is important for the different scenarios that you can play through in the game.

All of the cards are rounded and square – the same size as one of my favorite games, Wild Space. The iconography on all of them is large and instantly readable across the table, which is really key in a cooperative game like this.

The cardboard cogs are also a nice step up from using more cards or something as a base. Their varying edges adds a satisfying bit of visual interest, all lending themselves to the swirling nature of a raging sand-tornado.

Quicksand Board Game


What’s really interesting about the Quicksand board game is that the strategy is all about timing and coordination. Intuition would lead you to believe that in a game about trying to NOT run out of time, you should be playing cards as quickly as possible. Playing fast means you win, right?

Not necessarily!

Sometimes you’ll explicitly want to wait until a timer is almost gone so that you get the maximum benefit from flipping it over. Or you may need to quickly play two cards right in succession because you’ll have to undo one of the timers that get flipped on the first. It’s actually a really clever system that offers enough variability to never lend itself to be a ‘solved game’, while also giving plenty of difficulty through the scenarios and variant rules outlined in the rulebook.


Again, with not much in terms of components, it’s really important for the existing aesthetics to really shine through in the Quicksand board game. The color choices are easily distinguishable from each other, so from an accessibility standpoint there really aren’t any red flags to mention.

The game itself is more on the abstract side, and I think that’s the only major downside in terms of table presence. You’re just concerning yourself with various core shapes and colors but the only thing really tying the mechanics together thematically is the use of the timers.

That’s not to say that the game wouldn’t grab your attention as a passerby at a game store or convention, because the timers and constant action definitely sell the game on its own merits. I just wish there was a little bit more visual interest while still recognizing that I respect and appreciate the simple iconography and design.

Quicksand Board Game
The tops of the timers indicate how fast they spill their sand.


One of Quicksand‘s greatest strengths is that you can set the difficulty to be as nerve-wracking or as easy as you like. Now, I will caution that even the easiest difficulty can be a challenge if you just play cards all willy-nilly, but for the most part there is a really wide range and variety in how you play this game that leaves something to like for almost any gaming group. It plays really smoothly as a 2-player game, whereas there’s a bit more chaos with a table of 4.

If you’re a fan of other real-time games, perhaps like Captain Sonar or Pendulum, Quicksand has a a much more condensed ruleset that will get you up and running in no time at all. It also plays really quickly, even at the higher difficulties, all because of the literal clocks built into the game.


The Quicksand board game gives you that kind of anxiety and just a dash of stress that can only be felt with a real-time game. It can be frantic, exciting, devastating, and harrowing all at once. If you can narrowly flip a timer right before it falls it is such a satisfying feeling. But it’s also a feeling that is short-lived because you immediately have to worry about the next timer and the one after that.

This is not a game that lends itself to conversational table talk; everybody needs to be engaged for the game to work and for the team to be successful. Although that puts it out of ‘Beer and Pretzels’ range, the amount of interaction that you get by trying to quickly order cards means that everybody can feel a part of the win (or loss) and have that sense of accomplishment!

Quicksand Board Game
Reaching the end is the key…so long as all of the timers are still running!

Quicksand: Not a Pitfall!

Even though quicksand itself isn’t nearly as much of a day-to-day threat as our parents may have led us to believe, the Quicksand board game is certainly a threat to my limited free time! It reminds me a lot of the back-and-forth you have when you play those first opening moves in a chess match, pressing down the timer in that nice rhythm, except that eventually you hit a wall and have to make quick decisions to stay in the game.

Quicksand feels innovative in how it leverages timers of varying durations to achieve a sense of urgency and satisfaction with every turn of the sands. For that reason, we’re happy to aware Quicksand with the Nerds on Earth Seal of Awesomeness Award!

You can pick up a copy of Quicksand from Horrible Guild directly, from Amazon, or better yet – your FLGS!

[Disclaimer: Nerds on Earth was provided a copy of Quicksand from Flat River Group in exchange for an honest review.]

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