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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Tiles & Tales

Today we are reviewing a game that is still not up for release for another 2 weeks.  We want to give a special thanks to Osprey Games for sending us this little co-op game for review.  Hop over to their website here to check out all of the other games they have for release.  With as great as they’ve been toward us, we wish we could say the same for The Well.  When we’ve attended The Well in the past, they were better then but after today, for whatever reason, we see that their service has taken a drastic nose dive.  Weak, lukewarm tea was given, when iced tea was requested, the amount of food was severely lacking, I had more tortilla wrap than actual food.  I guess my gratuity was not high enough for them when we had to pay on their Square scanner for our already overpriced items.  Well, going forward there's plenty of other coffee shops and establishments that want our business.  After shaking off that poor experience, it's time for this weeks review as we look at Shahrazad a micro co-op tile laying game for 1 - 2 players.  Read on to learn more of this Arabian Tale.

This game takes its title from the storyteller in One Thousand and One Nights. In this story, The king was terrified his wife would cheat in him, so each day he would marry someone new and kill the wife from the previous day. Shahrazad was remarkably intelligent and well read in topics from history to science, poetry and art. She volunteered to spend one night with the king, but asked to first say goodbye to her sister and tell her a story. The king overheard the story and was completely enthralled, but Shahrazad advised him that he would have to wait until the next day to hear the ending. This went on for 1000 nights, with each night a new story, even better than the last.

In Shahrazad, you can either play solo or up to two players where you are wanting to play tiles in as much of a sequential order as possible in order to tell the perfect story for the King.  We must be careful though, as it is possible to take too many risks in your storytelling, and tell a story which makes no sense, which will vex the king.  We need to achieve balance between the competing aims in order to do well.  The tiles are placed in columns, and can be played anywhere as long as it is touching one existing tile.  If placing to the left or right, the new tile is offset half-way up or down the existing tiles.  There is a maximum of three tiles allowed in a single column for the two-player variant of this game.  If solo, you can play up to four tiles, and there is no limit to the number of columns allowed.  During the game you can also swap/replace an existing tile with one from your hand.  You must put the new tile in the same space the replaced tile just came from.  If you have replaced a tile on your turn, then you must place two tiles on your next turn, and cannot replace any additional ones on that turn.  Once the draw deck of tiles is depleted, the first round ends, and it's time to score your points.

Before you can score points, you have to see if your story made sense.  You have to check two things in this order: 1) Check each column from left to right.  If any tile is touching a lower-numbered tile in the column to it's right, you flip the higher-numbered tile face down.  2) Each face-up tile should now be part of a path from left to right, starting from the left-most column, and touching a face-up tile in the next column until you end in the right-most column.  If any tile cannot form part of a valid path, flip it face down.  This means that if any entire column is face-down, no points can be scored for those tiles.  You then identify each grouping of colors and gain 1 point per tile in the largest group of each type.  Flipped tiles and empty spaces are negative 1 point.  For round two, you remove all face-down tiles from the game, and place them back in the box.  The player/s will then chose one column of tiles to keep, pushing the tiles together if it has any gaps.  This becomes the startup for the next round.  Shuffle the remaining tiles together to form a new draw deck, and deal two more to each player.  The play continues as before, you then add the score for both rounds to receive your final score for the end of the game!

This game is something of a puzzle.  The production quality is top notch.  Beautiful art, the tiles are substantial and have a nice finish, and even the box art looks lovely.  The images on the tiles are clearly influenced by fairytale, folk-stories, classic books and tarot.  However one can't help but feel that it is odd to have a game about story telling, with pictures from stories, that is about...numbers and colors?  The theme just seems to clash with the mechanics, which for such a lovely game is a real shame.  This isn't to say that it ruins the game, it only seems a little offset for an Arabian theme to encompass artwork from Pinocchio, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Peter Pan, Little Red Riding Hood, etc. etc.  
Claire found the solo version to be much more pleasant. You are allowed columns of 4 rather than 3, which helps considerably. However, since there are no special skills or roles that the players take on, the two player game has the feel of two people playing a game intended to be solo.  Neither of us really play solo games, but if you enjoy them, this is worth a play to see if you like it.  The components and art are so nice and truly enhance your game play.  

Overall Meeple Rating: 6.0/10

Game Mechanics:
1) Cooperative
2) Tile-Placement

Have any thoughts or questions?  Leave a comment below.

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