Shahrazad is an abstract storytelling tarot puzzle tableaux game for one or two players, being published in the United Kingdom this month. Hats off to the fine folks at Osprey Games for letting us be among the first to see it.
Unlike most two-player games, Shahrazad has no versus mode. Instead, two players compete against the game itself (co-op style,) in an effort to impress the king with the telling of a coherent tale. Solo play is a delightful challenge too, played in just 10 minutes or so, sans time limit. Shahrazad isn’t poised to eclipse Solitaire as the world’s leading solo game anytime soon, but it’s earned its place at the same table whilst being somewhat of a quantum leap in abstract gaming.
Created by Yu Ogasawara (affectionately known as YUO,) and featuring the captivating artistic style of Kotori Neiko (also of Osaka,) the game of Shahrazad involves the randomization of face-down tiles, which are then drawn into hand(s) of the player(s) and played face up one-at-a-time upon the table, in sequences which will most impress the king (Shahryar.)
All three primary colors are represented here (as three of the game’s four suits of story tiles.) Significant? Yes. From primary colors spring forth all other colors, just as the player(s) must now take(s) on the role of fictional(?) ancient storyteller Scheherazade whose colorful tales (of Ali Baba, Aladdin, the Husband and the Parrot, the Merchant and the Jinni, et. al.) were spun from whole cloth to soothe the bloodthirsty Shahryar. The fourth suit is black; the absence of color, a symbolic reminder that all tales told will have their ebbs and their flows, peppered with the occasional lull and/or pregnant pause.
Points are scored by careful placement of story tiles. Colors and numbers are key factors. Like most abstract games, Shahrazad is relatively easy to learn (whilst being nigh impossible to master.) By a player’s third or fourth try, the game’s ingenuity becomes clear. Storytelling is rarely this much fun.
The oftentimes darker themes of One Thousand and One Nights are made brighter in the game of Shahrazad; made softer and gentler by the tiles’ delicate imagery (fanciful spins on fairy tales from all across the globe, many of which will be instantly familiar to players) and entertaining flavor text on the scoring tiles (“A stirring story indeed!”…”This was quite under-rehearsed.”…”I’m not crying, you’re crying!” et. al.).
Shahrazad scores high marks for its overall aesthetic. A lighter shade of purple permeates the entire game, from it’s outside cover to its inside cover to the backs of all story tiles; at once making it both recognizable to players who’ve enjoyed its wonders before and intriguing when seen from across the room by those who’ve not yet explored its mysteries.
Shahrazad is compact and easily portable. It fits snugly upon any shelf. Highly recommended for abstract game enthusiasts and strategists of all ages.
How great of a story can you tell? Let’s find out.