Friday, July 28, 2017

Dave Reviews: A Game So Bad It's Not Even A Fucking Game, What The Fuck


There are times, no matter your job or hobby, when something comes to your attention that's so bad, that is such an egregious misuse of human capital, putting it aside and not making use of it doesn't seem like an acceptable option. However small your influence on the world--and it doesn't get much smaller than what I have here--you are compelled to use it to guard other people from wasting even a minute of their precious time left on this Earth on something which should have been set alight the moment it came off the production line.

Ladies and gentleman, this is Shahrazad.

It looks really nice, right? The art is very good, I won't deny that. If you wanted a bunch of tiles to use as small, attractive coasters, you could do worse than the game pieces in Shahrazad.

Thus ends our compliments section.

Let's start with the theme. You're telling stories. This makes sense, since the aesthetic is clearly ripped off from the myth of FUCKING SCHEHERAZADE, NOT SHAHRAZAD, IT'S NOT COPYRIGHTED, YOU CAN USE THE ACTUAL FUCKING NAME, OK? Except maybe it's better her name wasn't tainted by this trash pile, because you don't tell shit for stories. You put tiles down that refer to parts of stories, but there's not even anything on the back. If it had a story that ran from tile to tile, maybe you could get an extra three minutes of mild amusement flipping the tiles and reading them after playing.

It's not even the first game to use 'Shahrazad' as a name that points towards the mythical figure. Magic had a card named that, down to the letter. It's not a particularly egregious issue there, though, because it was part of the Arabian Nights set and the card's effect didn't have anything to do with the myth. So these fucking people didn't just come up with a dogshit non-game, they straight up swiped the off-brand name for Scheherazade from somewhere else.

As for the 'game': There are twenty-two story tiles numbered 0-21, of four different colors. You have two goals: line them up so any tiles that touch also go up numerically as you move left to right, and also try to make as many tiles of the same color touch as possible. (Tiles are placed in staggered fashion so that each tile can touch two from the columns to its left and right.) The color strings or blocks earn you points; having your stories go in numerical order and avoiding gaps in the tiles keeps you from losing points.

The game is scored on a sliding scale. You play two rounds, with a maximum of twenty-two points per round possible (having all the tiles of each color touching, with no penalties for borking the number ascension or leaving gaps in the lines). If you play with two people, 35+ is required for the highest ranking. If you play alone, 40+ is required. Since there's a limit to how much two players can communicate, the lower score for them makes sense... except they're also limited to a maximum of three tiles per column, whereas someone playing alone can use four. Thus, if you're solo, you can just create a line for each color and place or swap tiles as needed to keep their stories in order. It's possible for a very bad draw to leave you unable to finish a perfect round, but only needing 40 out of 44 points, it's extremely unlikely that you'll ever end up with less than the highest ranking once you figure this out.

Alright, so maybe the single-player rules were inserted as a way to give it a little more playability than if it was advertised solely as a two-player game. That happens all the time in the industry, right? How many games have 'variants' so you can play with only two people, even though it says on the box it fits from two to whatever? How many are simply not that good with certain numbers of players? It's an understandable decision.

Except the game is still completely solvable with two people. The only things that make it harder are a) the fact both people need to know the puzzle, and b) the deck of tiles runs out a little earlier, and you can only swap a tile with one in your hand if there's another one you can draw. The rule that you can only use three columns is a bunch of arbitrary bullshit; if anything it should be the other way around, with that limitation placed on a solo player, since that player has an easier time of it. But once you figure out how to place the tiles, with three columns or four, none of that matters. There's a correct placement for every tile if you want a max score, and if you know what that is, there is zero reason to experiment with anything else. You can't do better, and you don't have an opponent to outmaneuver. The game's done. There's nothing else to do.

Maybe the reason I keep seeing glowing (or at least positive) reviews about this game is that it would take longer to solve if you only play with two people. The reviewers didn't play long enough to realize just how dead the game becomes once you figure it out. I've written a lot of reviews for the store where I work--I started putting them here because I wanted to swear--so I understand how an opinion can be formed which would have been altered by just a bit more information. And the one very, very mild thing the designers did well is create something that does take a little effort to solve while rarely, if ever, being prone to bad draws screwing over the players. That can look like a reasonably good game.

But holy fucking shit, this thing is a travesty. If I was looking for an industry job and this was the only thing on my resume, I'd hand them a blank sheet of paper.

Score: Two mythical figures weeping in the pages of the books that are actual, competent creative works, unlike this shit, out of seventeen. Both of them like the pictures.

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