Teaching Time: 15 mins
Playing Time: 10-20 mins
Setup Time: 1 mins
Value For Money: Low
Solo Play Review
Shahrazad is one of the purely best looking, best produced games you are likely to encounter which is quite typical of Osprey Games who continue to turn out stunning looking, high quality, low cost games often for less well supported player numbers.
The game consists of drawing and laying tiles into a limited space tableaux according to certain clear, basic rules in such a fashion that they score as highly as possible at the end of the round. Scoring is based on being able to trace a continual path across a set of matching tiles. You then knock out certain tiles that fail to score and repeat for a game end score. The process can be undertaken by 1 or 2 people, you then compare your score to an ideal score ranking and find out how well you did, which is all fine as far as it goes.
I have two fundamental issues with Shahrazad. The first is that each game mode has a single perfect win state that can be easily found with a little investigation. Once this state has been found and remembered game play essentially becomes a process of attempting to complete a jigsaw puzzle by selecting three pieces at a time at random from the box, with all the frustrations that would involve. My second issue is that the one truly interesting moment comes during the second round under one of the sets of play conditions where the removal of a tile due to a "failure" allows a higher score to be possible in the second round than in the first. It should be said that the game plays just as well using the two player tableaux rules (relating to limitations on the number of rows) and scoring when playing one player and visa versa. This potential is never fully examined or taken advantage of in the final game which feels like a waste.
For a game about story telling it is rather disappointing that there is no narrative element to the tiles that need to be placed. The line of correctly placed tiles form no sort of understandable story. Once again, by altering the game play conditions to force the elimination of specific tiles could have caused different tales to be told so again potential has been missed. As it stands, Shahrazad is a simple if diverting puzzle with a series of delightful attached fairytale images, but it has no more to do with the spirit or experience of stories and story telling than a jigsaw puzzle of a fairytale scene.
Playing without investigating the existence of a perfect scoring state can be enjoyable without being entirely satisfying, while finding the perfect state has the satisfaction that comes from a puzzle completed but removes much of the attendant fun. If your willing to forgo some curiosity in return for a distracting time filler there are few prettier things to put on your tabletop than Shahrazad, but if you expect a deeper or more satisfying experience you will likely be disappointed.