Shahrazad is a tile laying game that can be played solo, or cooperatively with two players. In the game, you take on the role of the fabled Shahrazad, a character from the Middle Eastern collection of folk tales, One Thousand and One Nights. The story goes that each night Shahrazad had to tell the King a fantastic tale in order to save herself from death. Her trick was to tell thrilling stories that ended with a cliffhanger so that the King would be compelled to let her live another day. This continued until Shahrazad finally ran out of stories, one thousand and one nights later, and by then the King had fallen in love with her and allowed her to live.
Shahrazad, designed by Yuo (ゆお),was originally released as a card game in Japan called Tarot Storia. Osprey Games re-themed and published the game as Shahrazad, while also upgrading from cards to beautiful and weighty tiles illustrated by Kotori Neiko (ことり寧子).
The goal of the game is to place all twenty-two story tiles without breaking the placement rules, which can cause plot holes in the story and leave it full of inconsistencies. There are four different colors of tiles included in the game (black, red, blue, and yellow), and each represent a different folk or fairy tale trope. The tiles are numbered from 0 to 22, and are broken down into four black tiles, five yellow tiles, six blue tiles, and seven red tiles.
The game is played over the course of two rounds. On a turn, a player must either place a tile from their hand or replace an existing tile in the tableau. If the latter is performed, the player must place two tiles on their next turn to compensate.
A tile can be placed on top of another one to create a column, or to the left or right of an existing title. When performing the latter action, the tile is placed offset halfway above or below the existing tile. The maximum number of tiles allowed in a column during a two player game is three and four during a solitaire game, but there is no limit on the number of columns.
The objective when placing tiles is to try to make sure they increase in number from left to right while also trying to connect as many tiles of the same color as possible. After all titles are placed, and before scoring occurs, check each column to see if a tile is touching a lower numbered tile its right. If this happens, the higher numbered tile is flipped face down. Face-down tiles harm Shahrazad’s story because they can block the remaining tiles from creating valid paths, which then results in more flipped down tiles. Additionally, any face-down tiles must be removed after the first round, so there are less tiles to create a cohesive story in round two.
To score, tally the number of remaining face-up titles that make up the largest connected group of each different color set. Use the two included double-sided scoring tiles to keep track of the first-round score. Round two plays the same as the first, except before the round begins, choose one column of tiles from round one to remain on the table. Add the scores from round one and two to determine the final score. Check the tallied score against the scoring tiles to see how well you were able to entertain the King.
Shahrazad is stored in a compact box, which makes it easy and convenient to take on-the-go. Games can be finished quickly in just 10 to 20 minutes, making it a great filler or a lunchtime game. Though it isn’t a part of gameplay, after a round is complete it is fun to look at the paths you created and see if you can piece together a story from the placed tiles. Could you entertain the King with your tales for one thousand and two nights?