What struck me straight away with The Whatnot Cabinet was just how quick it is to play. I don't know if we are a board gaming group of over-thinkers, but this was a rare game for us. Quick to set up, quick to learn, and quick to play, even on the first go! However, the game's simplicity does not mean you should be overlooking it. It has quickly become one of our most enjoyed games, and a great one to slot into a full board gaming evening. I found it a beautiful game with various strategies I was keen to try.
What Is It?
The Whatnot Cabinet is a journey through the outdoors. Collect unusual objects to take back to your Whatnot Cabinet. Then, place these objects in the best place possible to score the most points at game end.
The Whatnot Cabinet is a tile-placement game for 1-4 players. You play over 6 rounds (3 for 1 or 2 player games). By the end of the game, you have a cabinet full of your collected objects.
Your rows and columns are then scored according to colour sets and object types. And, most importantly, where you have chosen to place them. You receive bonus points for fulfilling Wonder and Curiosity Cards, where your pawn/s are at game end, and the number of crown symbols on your tiles.
If you plan well and throw in a bit of luck, then the Wonder Card challenges will work alongside the plan you have for your Cabinet. When they don't, you'll have to decide which is more important. The Cabinet points on offer for that row/column? Or the bonus points for completing the Wonder Card?
Each round you have to choose where to place your pawn, and this determines the actions you can take. This can be a blind take from the tile bag. Or being able to flip lots of choices and choose from a table of options.
How It Plays
When playing in a 3 or 4 player set-up, I found the game to be very balanced. But in the 2 player games, there seemed to be a more overwhelming advantage to holding onto the first player starting space. This unweighted things somewhat as it seemed whoever went first was much more likely to win. However, as this is a lightweight, quick strategy game with a puzzle element rather than an epic battle to the end, we steered away from the obvious tactic. We instead allowed ourselves to be swept away by Beth Sobel's beautiful artwork and enjoy the game as a relaxed step away from the everyday.
Again I want to stress that I thought when playing with 3 or 4 players The Whatnot Cabinet gameplay was perfectly balanced. With that said, if there is an expansion coming (and I for one certainly hope there is), I would love to see this addressed. Probably simply by the introduction of an extra way to earn points. I would think that this would solve the very minor issue and the positioning points at the end would not be so important.
Having a solo mode is always a welcome addition to get maximum use of a game. The Whatnot Cabinet's Early Morning Outing solo play is delightful. But, The Whatnot Cabinet excels during 3 or 4 player games. With more people taking tiles, the pressure gets turned up when your perfect tile is sitting on the table and another player decides to swipe it out from under you!
Who to play with
My 7 year old asked to join in our game one night. He won (and yes we were actually trying to win ourselves). This made me like the game even more, because it now gave us more opportunities to enjoy the whimsical play. We are now able to whip out The Whatnot Cabinet on a Sunday afternoon for a quick family play, and all enjoy collecting the colourful shells, leaves, animals, bottles and crystals.
The Whatnot cabinet is also a good choice to introduce to people not as enthusiastic about board games as myself. The speed, simple turns, and calming colours make it a thoroughly enjoyable passing of time. I introduced a couple of normally non-gaming friends to Azul recently (they fell in love with it) and recommended The Whatnot Cabinet to them as their next purchase.
I would say fans of Azul, Patchwork, Sunset Over Water, and Calico, would find something extremely enjoyable in The Whatnot Cabinet.
I'm hungry for more, but even if there are no expansions (bar the minor Kickstarter one) coming our way, I will continue to enjoy The Whatnot Cabinet for a long time to come.
Overall, I'm incredibly happy I added this to my collection because what's not to like about The Whatnot Cabinet?!