The Art of The Whatnot Cabinet: Collecting Objects
Gather a collection of crystals, shells, and more in The Whatnot Cabinet to find out just how intriguing objects can be.
Hurray for a newly arrived game! I know my shelves are overflowing with unplayed gems… But how could I resist putting off The Whatnot Cabinet?! This beautiful game arrived much earlier than expected. If you know me, you probably know exactly why I wasn’t going to let this languish. A specific animal tile is quite appealing to me. Ha ha!
To be fully transparent, I’m currently the sales manager at Pencil First Games but backed this game prior to starting that role. I paid for this copy and the opinions presented here are my own personal thoughts. My role doesn’t make me automatically love any games… I’m still as picky as ever and present everything honestly, including any negatives.
Game Name: The Whatnot Cabinet
Publication Year: 2021
Designers: Eduardo Baraf, Steve Finn, and Keith Matejka
Artists: Kim Robinson and Beth Sobel
Publisher: Pencil First Games
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Over the course of just a few rounds, new objects fill up a cabinet to form a full collection. There are bonuses for aligning colors and types in the right places, while actions offer very different ways to acquire tiles. Did I mention how beautiful everything is, too?! So bright and pretty!
February 13, 2021
February 17, 2021
20" x 18"
Box Insert Surprises
Not every game offers a nice storage solution, and there are arguments to be made about how an insert is mostly to protect the components during transport. Why not both?
Voila! I was so impressed with this plastic insert that I had to capture it. Everything fits nicely, including the wooden pawns in their own designated areas.
The pawn spaces also include silhouettes to make it easy to put them away since the shapes are unique. Easy to use!
Never mind the extra well on the right: I wanted to show the space for the cards, while the bagged tokens fit on top.
Off on a Journey
The solo mode only uses 2 different sets of pawns, but here they all are! Note that the colors are different, as are the shapes. This makes it very easy to tell them apart.
At its core, the game offers just 5 actions to choose from each round. There are varying degrees of risk associated with them, and victory points for relying on a blind draw.
It’s all very fast and simple, though! I read the rules while exhausted, and felt ready to dive in pretty quickly.
A reference sheet provides quick descriptions of the actions, too, although they’re intuitive after playing.
The Fanciest Cabinet
My first play might have been the most comical moment I’ve had in ages. It all seemed pretty easy, so I expected things to go well without much thought. No, Jessica. NO.
A cabinet always ends up filled, so don’t think I did all that well. I actually scored just a hair above the lowest scoring tier and literally laughed at myself. So much for that!
The columns and rows award victory points based on what’s on the shelves. It’s simple on the surface…
But don’t play as I did! The decisions aren’t going to take hours to figure out, yet there’s a lot more going on here.
Taking a Step Back
With that learning play out of the way, because we’ll just leave it at that, I looked more carefully at the ways to score victory points. Thoughtful planning is certainly needed.
Special cards worth 1-2 victory points present situations to complete certain goals. For instance, the far-right awards 1 victory point for filling in all of the corners.
Ah, but don’t think it’s easy! 2 of these are flipped over in the first rounds of the solo mode. They go away quickly.
It can also be lucrative to take more risks in the solo mode. The first 3 spaces award a lot of victory points, actually.
The artwork is simply so bright and cheerful! But like the pawns, the colors are also augmented with banners. Note how these are illustrated here, along with a type icon.
There are plenty of duplicates, yet not enough to seem noticeable during play. Identical tiles can actually be very useful when putting together a row or column.
Also note that some tiles feature a crown icon. For the most part, this means an extra 1 victory point.
It’s all quite strategic, though! Crown icons can seem nice at first, but the actual object needs to be the right sort.
A Few Extra Points
Besides the crown icon is another little bonus associated with a certain type of object. For the solo mode, a random card like this is drawn during setup.
For instance, I wanted to collect shells over other objects when it made sense. The smallest boost is important!
All in all, though, this is still a rather light sort of game. And to be clear, that’s far from a negative. Sometimes, it’s nice to appreciate lovely artwork and simply relax.
I kept playing! My breaking point when a game feels repetitive is pretty high, so there was no stopping me. Ha!
While aligning colors in columns and types in rows are the most reliable ways to earn victory points, every tile placement must be thought through carefully.
Depending on how the solo opponent acts, the number of tile options can vary greatly. Blindly drawing from the bag is also possible, especially when the right ones are hiding!
But placement also depends on the other ways to score victory points. Like this example: How to make it work?
As I mentioned, the decisions are balanced and not designed to think through for hours, or even minutes.
Highlighting the Best
Alright. I’ll give myself away. That there is a Stealthy Elephant! This was part of the reason why I knew I needed this game. Ha ha! Such an adorable one at that, too.
It was funny when I didn’t pick up this tile because I didn’t need it. But didn’t I?! Every collection needs some sort of elephant. That’s just a simple fact of life.
Yet don’t despair if you really wanted to do a search. This post features a Stealthy Elephant hiding elsewhere!
I still wasn’t too thrilled with my skills, though they were improving. I even broke into the 40-point tier!
Play Number: 1-8
Solo Mode: Included in the Base Game
Outcome: 23, 33, 35, 45, 40, 31, 36, 44 (3 Wins & 5 Losses)
Take a look at this splendid collection! I nearly ended up with the perfect cabinet, which would have resulted in 3 victory points per row and 4 victory points per column. Note the middle column should have a 2-value token. This worked out nicely, but I still need to practice. I’ll make it there at some point! This was a lovely kind of experience that didn’t get repetitive until right around the end. Still, though, that’s 8 plays in a row. Not bad at all!
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- Play time is very quick and consistent, typically lasting about 10 minutes with plenty of interesting decisions.
- Choosing tiles isn’t haphazard since every row and column needs to follow a pattern in order to maximize points.
- Everything is bright and colorful, yet unique shapes and icons ensure that the game is colorblind-friendly.
- The solo opponent takes practically no time to run as it simply blocks actions and removes specific tiles.
- There are always ways to think about earning victory points so that even the worst play doesn’t feel wasted.
- All of the components fit neatly inside the included insert, and the total required table space is very reasonable.
– Cons (Negatives)
- The object tiles are a little smaller than might be expected, although they’re still perfectly usable and easy to see.
- Although the cards aren’t used that much, the lack of a linen finish is a bit disappointing amidst the high quality.
- Some luck is needed in order to reach some of the highest scoring tiers, especially during the final round.
- Duplicate tiles aren’t an issue, but it would have been nice to see the artwork mirrored for more visual variety.
Score 40+ Points
- Overall Goal Progress 50% 50%
Goals and Milestones
Score at least 40 points.
Score at least 45 points.
Complete the perfect cabinet with 24 victory points.
Score at least 50 points.
Continue the Conversation
What do you think about The Whatnot Cabinet? I can always proudly say I backed it for the Stealthy Elephant. Ha ha! Do you have a favorite object from the game? I enjoyed the simplicity of the rules and strategic level of lightweight play. In a nutshell, collecting objects and arranging them is quite a fun experience. I look forward to playing some more!