14 July 2017
Can this gorgeous tile-laying game keep its head?
Shahrazad is a beautiful game. From the finely-textured box to its 22 gorgeous oversized tiles, each featuring a different mythical or fairy tale reference, illustrated by artist Kotori Neiko, there’s no doubt that this revamped version of designer Yuo’s Tarot Storia more than looks the part. The problem is the beauty only goes skin deep.
Shahrazad’s title refers to the 1001 Nights character who tells stories to a bloodthirsty king to spare her life. The game takes this setup and attempts to apply it to a simple tile-laying mechanic, where all of the squares must be arranged from left to right in ascending numerical order and placed adjacent to matching colours in order to gather points over two rounds.
There’s technically a co-operative mode that simply splits the task of placing tiles between two people, but Shahrazad plays best as a solitaire title with one person trying to maximise their score.
The theme appears to be very confused – there’s tarot-like titles (‘The Magician’, ‘The World’) left over from its previous incarnation as Tarot Storia and the illustrations often depict Japanese folktales or 19th-century European fairy tales, while the framing takes place around a thousand years before in the Middle East in line with the 1001 Nights. This jumbled delivery undermines the commendable attempt to link the thematic concept of Shahrazad telling a coherent story to the mechanical need to form unbroken runs of tiles.
Outside of the theme, the gameplay is interesting as a quick diversion, but it’s not gripping enough alone to serve as anything more than that. Despite the random drawing of a tile each turn, there’s very little variation between games and the pressure never mounts, making it a rather humdrum affair.
Sadly, if it was this game attempting to keep the king distracted, it’s unlikely it would’ve kept its head past night number one.
Genre: Tile laying
Time: 10-20 minutes
This review originally appeared in the June/July 2017 issue of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here – or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
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