Before I begin, I was provided a prototype of the game in exchange for an honest review. This is not a paid preview. If you would like to watch a video of this review you can check it out below. Learn more about the game, and pledge for your own copy here.
I love me a game that is chock full of strategy but light on rules. You know who makes games like that? Pencil First Games. So when they reached out to me about previewing The Whatnot Cabinet I was in. This one, however, promised to be a little bit of a different experience for me, because in this instance I was not particularly excited about the theme, but I knew my wife would be. So would I still dig it without the promise of outer space aliens, or foxes battling gigantic monsters?
In the Whatnot Cabinet you are competing with other players to create the most amaze-balls cabinet of Whatnots. Each round you go outside and collect leaves, or glass, or shells, or whatnot to place in your cabinet. If you manage to place them in the most attractive order you earn points. Now, “most attractive” is not a subjective thing in this game, rather it is clearly determined each game. Having rows of identical object types, or columns of identical colors get big points, while each game you have a different set of random objectives that you can achieve, such as being the first to fill the four corners of your cabinet.
The core of game is a bit of a mix of set collections, grid placement, and a hint of worker placement. Each turn your will place your pawn on a space that allows you to collect tiles from the board, or the bag. Of course once an action has been used it cannot be used again that round, so there is a benefit to going earlier in the round, though the actions that also translate to going early are tied to the more random tile draws.
The game ends after everyone has gotten to take six actions, and whoever has the highest point total is the winner.
So what do I think?
Simplicity. It is so easy to learn how to play this game, even with the variant solo rules that go with it. It does not take any more than 5-10 minutes to learn the game, then to play the game it is pretty simple to get a game completed in 20 minutes. (Faster for a solo game!)
I also really appreciate the five different actions that you can take. They are all so similar, yet so different. You see unlike most games with a worker placement element to them there is no resource management or anything like that. No matter what action you take you will be winding up with two tiles, the question becomes how do you get those? Do you want to take your chances drawing from the bag, do you want to wipe all the available tiles and replace them? Do you want to add more tiles to the available pool and then choose from the new larger pool? Its great.
This is a very attractive game. It looks lovely on the table. I also think there is a very solid solo mode. If you like the game, then the solo mode will be very satisfying to play. The solo mode is a beat your score challenge, so that may or may not be your bag.
I will also add here that, in case you had not gathered this yet, this is a very light game. It is not a filler game, it is more than that, but if you are looking for a deep crunchy game this is not it.
All I have to add here, is the same thing I saw with any game with placing tiles, whether it be in a grid like this game, or a traditional tile placement game, it can suffer from a bit of AP as you try to figure out what the perfect tile to place in your cabinet is, as there are several variables that you are considering.
Bringing it all together
The Whatnot Cabinet Is a sweet, gentle game. It is about as high stress as the actual hobby it depicts would be. There is nothing stressful about a gentle walk collecting interesting things you find along the way. The game looks lovely on the table, and it is perfectly streamlined as far as the rules go. It is not a complicated game, it is quite light, and the true joy will come from mastering the few actions that are available to you.
I got shells to collect get to the point
* Light, fast game that is easy to learn
* Sweet game, that looks good on the table
* Challenging, fun solo mode
* Clever use of worker placement elements, without resource management
* Very tight ruleset