SNAP Review – Shifting Stones

Shifting Stones

Can you solve the puzzle of the Shifting Stones?

Match your pattern cards and score points! Cards can be used to manipulate the stones, or score points, but never for both.

Listen to our review of Shifting Stones in five minutes, or read on below.


Shifting Stones is a puzzle game for 1-5 players by J. Evan Raitt. It’s best for players 8 and up, plays in about 15 minutes, and it’s published by Gamewright.


This game is gorgeous. The nine chunky cardboard tiles are the focus of Shifting Stones. Although the game would be just as playable if they were solid colors, they’re beautifully illustrated by Kwanchai Moriya and elevate this game considerably.

The tiles have an embossed texture that follows the art. Small, irregular indents along each side make them easy to grip and flip over, and also make them look more like real stone.

A green plant tile from Shifting Stones

The illustrations also serve as a secondary aid to memory when flipping the tiles: A white seed becomes a green tree; the black moon becomes the yellow sun.

The cards used to score plays use pictures of the tiles (and sometimes gray spaces to indicate positioning within the grid). They’re easy to understand and don’t require any reading.

Tile Guide: sun to moon, fish to bird, horse to ship, seed to plant


Playing Shifting Stones is simple! On your turn, you may play your cards, one at a time:

Discard a card from your hand to either swap two adjacent stones, or flip a stone.

Or put out a card from your hand that matches the current layout to score points.

If you can’t score and you don’t want to play any of the cards in your hand, you may pass to draw 2 cards.

When your turn is over, draw back up to a hand of 4 cards.

Players take turns until someone has scored some number of cards (depending on the number of players). Then finish the round so everyone gets the same number of turns, and count up your scores!


Although we’ve only had Shifting Stones in our home for a few weeks, it first caught our eye at a convention. The brightly colored tiles stood out against a dark table, with no extra decoration needed. The shifting and flipping mechanics are immediately understandable, and very quick to explain.

It’s hard to part with cards that are so close to being able to score, but you’ll have to discard some in order to score others.

Maybe the other players will move the stones into the positions you need… or maybe they’ll move them farther away! You can’t plan too far ahead.

I love abstract games and games that have multiple-use cards, and I think Shifting Stones does both very well.


Shifting Stones does a great job capturing the tension between getting to your goal vs. being very close to your goal. It creates this tantalizing feeling of getting ALMOST where you want to be, but not quite getting there. It’s the kind of feeling that makes you want to keep playing the game.

Hand holding four cards in front of a Shifting Stones layout


In the rules, it states that all players need to score from the grid in the same orientation. This means all players must agree where the “top” of the grid is – which can be annoying, since usually we don’t all sit in a line to play a game. We recommend sitting side by side or directly across the table (which allows you to hold your cards upside down).

There’s really no reason why it has to be this way; we’ve played plenty of other games where each player can have their own perspective on a central play area.

We were very surprised that there’s a solo mode for this game! In this interesting variation, you create a smaller deck (16 cards). Try to score every card in this mini-deck before earning four “strikes” (earn a strike when you can’t score any cards on a turn).

Even better, there’s literally no reading required – except the rules, of course. So younger kids who aren’t good readers can join in to play, even if they won’t plan their turns well. (We’ve seen our six-year-old playing this game with an older sibling without any parents involved!)


We rate Shifting Stones 5 stones out of 5. Ask for it at your local game store, get it directly from Gamewright, or on Amazon.

Shifting Stones box

The Family Gamers received a copy of Shifting Stones from Gamewright for this review.

This post contains affiliate links, which do not change your price, but help support The Family Gamers.

SNAP review music is Avalanche, provided courtesy of You Bred Raptors?

Shifting Stones
  • Stones


Number of Players: 1-5 players

Age Range: 8+ (younger with some help)

Playtime: 15 minutes