REVIEW: Shahrazad – A Few Thoughts on a Simple Game

Box and contents for the SHahrazad board game on a table next to a glass of beer.

What is This?

Shahrazad is an abstract game by Japanese game designer Yuo, who’s known for the card game Songbirds. My version of Shahrazad was published by Osprey Games and comes with coaster-size tiles instead of cards.

If you read on the back of the nice box you get the impression that the game is about trying to tell the best story possible by placing 22 randomized tiles in the best possible pattern, but don’t be fooled; this is a totally abstract game about optimizing the placement of tiles according to their numbers and colors. Since each tile drawn from the shuffled face-down pile has to be placed adjacent to another tile, you are sometimes forced to put one in a less than ideal spot.

Game of SHahrazad in process on a table with candles. One of the game tiles is used as a coaster for a glass of beer.
One of the tiles has gone missing!

The solo game (I haven’t tried the cooperative two-player variant) takes a maximum of ten minutes, and when you’re done you check to see if any tiles are illegally placed. Those are turned face down. Then you score – one point per tile in the largest group of connected tiles in each of the four colors. If you get under ten points, the “story didn’t make any sense!” Between 10 and 19 the story’s “[a] little clich├ęd.” 20-29 is not bad, 30-39 is really good and 40 or above is “[t]ruly wonderful!” On my first attempt I got a score of 32, on my second 38. I haven’t managed to “write” a truly wonderful story yet, but 32 has been my lowest score.

Nitpicks and Components

The tiles are thick and really nicely illustrated, but when I unpacked the game for the first time, one of them had come apart. The back and front had to be glued back together. One or two other tiles look like they might be about to fall apart as well.

Broken tile from the game SHahrazad, a glue stick and a heavy book to keep the glued parts in place (The COllected Works of H.P. Lovecraft).
One of the tiles had come apart, but I solved that with some glue and something heavy!

The rule book is good. The rules are easy to grasp in about three minutes of reading, but it’s a good idea to glance at the page with the tile placement rules once in a while during the first game.

Somewhat Charming, But Not a Keeper

This is an incredibly simple game. You have to plan ahead to make sure to leave some empty spots for upcoming tiles of a certain numeric value and color, other than that you can play on autopilot after one playthrough. The experience is meditative rather than exciting. Since you can’t really win or lose, and a low score is nigh impossible if you’re somewhat sober and not too distracted, this is not at all challenging. Despite that, I found the experience pleasant. I enjoyed handling the thick tiles with the beautiful artwork.

An ongoing game of Shahrazad, with many colorful tiles on the table.
The game sure looks good on the table.

I will not keep this game, however. It has become remarkably samey after a just six plays. Not for me, but not bad either. Shahrazad is rather elegant in its simplicity, and if you’re into solving easy-level Sudoku puzzles to relax, this might be for you. It might also be a fun game for kids.

This short game got a short review. Since it’s not really a game for me, there’s no point in me writing about it at length. Thanks for reading! The cats say “Meow!”

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