- Designer: Yuo
- Publisher: Osprey Games
- Players: 1-2
- Time: ~15 minutes
- Times played: 6 (3 solo, 3 in partnership)
Shahrazad was a game that I knew nothing about prior to it showing up on my doorstep a few weeks ago in a nice care package from Osprey Games. Apparently initially released in 2015 by Kocchiya under the name Tarot Storia – this game challenges you to tell a story (using tiles) that will please your eccentric king.
There are 22 thick tiles in the game, numbered from 0 to 21 – each of these tiles represents a story. You’re supposed to weave these stories together in a pleasing fashion to survive your night with the King. Apparently he really doesn’t like disjointed stories!
There are four different types of stories, each with a different colored background (yellow, red, blue and black). The whole tile set is shuffled facedown, and each player in the game starts with 2 tiles in their hand. These tiles are kept secret during the game. Play will alternate back and forth between players until all tiles are played. If you are playing solo, the rules really don’t change much – you simply take every turn.
On a turn, you can either place a new tile or replace an existing tile. If you wish to place a tile, you take one of the tiles from your hand and place it on the table. The first tile can obviously go anywhere. All tiles after that must touch at least one existing tile. It can be above or below an existing tile to form a column. If you place to the left or right (in a different column), the tile must be placed in an offset manner so that it is half-way up the neighboring tiles. Furthermore, there is a maximum of three tiles which can be placed in any column (four in a solo game). It is possible to leave a hole in a column if you want. After you play, you draw a new tile from the supply as long as one is available.
If you choose to replace a tile, you replace a tile on the board with one from your hand. The new tile must go in the same spot as the one you removed. You still draw a tile from the supply at the end of your turn. If the supply is empty, you cannot choose to replace a tile. You will now have three tiles in your hand, and on your next turn, you must then place two tiles following the placement rules above.
Once all the tiles are placed, then it’s time to score the table. First, you check every tile – if any tile has a lower numbered tile directly adjacent to its right, that tile is flipped over. Then, you must check you story lines – each tile must be able to trace a path to the rightmost column in the tableau. If it cannot, then that tile must also be flipped over.
Scoring is now based on color arrangements. You look at each color and identify the largest contiguous area of tiles of each color and then score one point per tile in that area. Next, subtract one point for each tile flipped over. Finally, subtract one point for any gap in a column. There are scoring cards that you can use to note your score – then repeat the whole process a second time to get your final score. There is a scoring rubric on one of the cards to let you know how you did.
My thoughts on the game
Shahrazad is a beautiful game, and the artwork on the tiles is very striking. The puzzle in the game was interesting to figure out – you are challenged to get the tiles in some semblance of numerical order (from left to right) while trying to keep the colors together in order to maximize your score. I have played the game six times so far, and I certainly don’t think that I have solved the puzzle (i.e. figured out what the ideal arrangement of tiles is).
However, the game never changes. The rules remain the same, and in the end, it is likely a solvable puzzle. The only difference from game to game is the order that the tiles come up in – but in the end, you’ll still always be shooting for the ideal arrangement of tiles – whatever you feel that is.
As a solo game, it honestly feels like playing Klondike solitaire. By this, I mean – you shuffle the tiles, play them out and then see how you did. As a partnership game, it is slightly more interactive – but the rules tell you that you can’t discuss where to place the tiles, so you’re really just getting to play half of a solitaire game and hoping that your partner plays where you think is best.
This is probably something that I would keep as a solo activity – a solitaire variant. There doesn’t seem to be enough here to call it a two-player cooperative game, because you don’t really discuss anything. You just happen to be playing together to the same tableau. The partnership game is also much harder to score well in due to the column height restriction of only three tiles as opposed to four in the solo game.
Given the small package and nice thick tiles, this is something that could be well suited for waiting out soccer practices or maybe on the beach/deck at the lake house – situations where a regular deck of cards wouldn’t make it.