Shifting Stones by Gamewright
Players: 1 to 5
Playtime: ~20 minutes
Perfect for: Duos or small groups that enjoy quick strategic pattern manipulation games.
Shifting Stones is a game of tile arrangement! To begin Shifting Stones, one to five players are each dealt four starting cards, with tile patterns on them distinct by color and orientation. In the communal area is a 3×3 grid of nine double-sided tiles. Players must move and flip the flat stones into patterns corresponding with those found on the cards in their hands. There is a catch, however, as individuals must discard cards in order to manipulate the tiles in front of them—one card for one action.
On a turn, a player may perform as many actions as they can (i.e. tile movement or scoring a card from their hand) or pass completely to have six cards in their hand on their next turn, which presumably would give them more opportunities to arrange and score. Rare or complicated patterns score more points, and when one person has acquired 10 VP the game concludes. As one might expect, the person with the most points wins.
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What works in Shifting Stones is the simple yet engaging gameplay and the well-crafted components. Learning and playing Shifting Stones is a very easy undertaking, making it accessible for gamers of all ages. It’s incredibly rewarding to play a series of cards and optimally score points just as intended. Furthermore, the tiles are quite decorative. Great care went into the design and craftwork resulting in tiles that one could mistake for real ceramic. A subtle touch, but it elevates the overall Shifting Stones experience.
Players who do not enjoy more solitary gaming experiences may not enjoy Shifting Stones as much as others. While other people can inadvertently help or hinder a well-crafted plan to move tiles and score points, for the most part the strategy comes down to making the best of the one’s situation on their turn. For this reason, Shifting Stones might be best played solo or between two people in a duel-like manner—with larger groups, individuals may find themselves simply waiting to see what configuration they’ll have to work with when the order comes back to them. One final recommendation: you may consider a house rule that allows for the cards to be played/score to the orientation of the player. Otherwise, some people may have to consistently evaluate the board upside down when trying to make patterns.
Shifting Stones is a lovely little family game that is both engaging and aesthetically pleasing. While it might be recommended for smaller groups, there’s enough replay value to enjoy Shifting Stones several times over.
Recommended if you like: The Great Heartland Hauling Co., Carcassonne: The Castle