I love stories! Both listening to them as well as telling them. Just ask my kids. A few months ago, I came into a copy of a storytelling game called Shahrazad, which is a solitaire game, that may also be played with 2 players cooperatively. The game was originally released in 2015 in a Japanese/English edition called Tarot Storia but is now being rereleased by Osprey with upgraded components. The game is really pretty basic and doesn’t have a lot of components. Only 22 story tiles, a few scoring tiles and a rulebook! That is it. It truly is a big surprise in a little box though….but may not be for everyone. The game consists of a small deck of nicely illustrated tiles. The tiles are illustrated with common fairy tales from around the world, such as Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel and Beauty & the Beast, as well as some that I didn’t know. These tiles come in 4 suites or colors including black, blue, yellow and red.
The game assumes that you are a bard named Shahrazad trying to tell the best and most engaging story to the King hoping that he will reward you with points for how proficiently you tell your story. The more points scored, the better your story was to the King.
What is Shahrazad About?
The rules are really pretty simple, although it took me a few games to really grasp them. Sometimes the simpler a game is, the more you have to think about whether you are doing it right. Maybe that is just a problem that I have but I digress. In the game, the player starts with one tile in hand and then draws a second. From these two tiles, they have to play one to the tableau. They are rules that govern where and how these tiles can be placed though. They have to be placed touching another tile, in columns left or right but shifted halfway up or down. In the one payer game, a column is limited to only 4 cards, while in the two player version, the limit is 3, which can be a little more challenging. What you are trying to do is play the tiles in such a way that no tile located to its right is of a lower number. The tiles are numbered between zero and twenty one. To help you out, each tile also shows what numbers are represented in that color’s tiles so that you can do some planning. One part of the design that I thought was really well done was the “push your luck” element where you may pick up an already played tile and add it to your hand, then replace it with your other tile. You will still have to draw a new tile at the end of the round. There is a price though as during your next turn, after drawing a new tile, you must play down two tiles. This is a great way to relocate tiles played earlier to avoid being turned over due to numbers not lining up or in an attempt to better group your tile colors for bonus points. But, there is also some risk in it as well as you don’t know what number or color of tile you will next draw, which could make it worse for your story. But, those are the chances one must take to enter the realm of storytelling greatness!
Once the tiles have all been played, the player must trace a path along the played tiles in the tableau from the left to the right side. If any of the placed tiles violate the number rule, they are turned upside down and do not add to your score but actually take away from it. Once again back to the theme. You must think about the tile laying and path creation as telling a believable and interesting story. If the numbers are not placed correctly, or the colors aren’t grouped together well, they will detract from the story and lessen the response and commensurate reward from the King. After all, who wants to hear about the Three Little Pigs with lasers, robots and time travel included?!? It just doesn’t fit!
Now to the scoring phase. After all tiles have been played you must be able to trace a path from the let to the right uninterrupted by flipped tiles. Any tiles not in the path are then flipped. You then score the largest group of adjacent cards in each suite or color of tiles in the path. But never fear. If you didn’t do as well as you know you can, this is just the first round. You note your score and promise to the King that you can do better as he has granted you another chance.
For the second and final round you may keep one column of tiles from the grid played during the first round removing any flipped tiles and start play the same as you did in round one. Once the story is completed a second time, you simply add your two scores together and compare them to the verdicts listed on the scoring cards and the King then will give his final verdict. Don’t worry. No “Off with his head!” from the Mad Queen of Hearts in this game! The King is much more forgiving than that.
Summary and Final Thoughts
Shahrazad is a great filler game that can be played very quickly. I enjoyed playing both solitaire and as a cooperative game and both ways were engaging and fun. The tiles are beautifully illustrated with eye popping colors and the game really is pretty simple to play and teach. I feel that it is a good challenge and I enjoy games that provide you with an opportunity to best a previous score. The choice with the “press your luck” option to pick up a tile is a neat addition that adds the need for some strategic thought. Where the game may not be for everyone is in the area of replayability. After having played a few times, I don’t have a burning desire to play again. Maybe that desire will come after the game sits on my shelf for a while and starts beckoning to me. But, all in all, a good solid filler game for your collection.