Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tales of the Arabian Nights

I'm going to kick off my blogging with talking about a game I played tonight, Tales of the Arabian Nights by Eric Goldberg (Z-Man Games). Tales is an adventure game set in the mythical world of Middle Eastern folklore. You will find talk of friendli Djinni, wicked Efreeti and scheming viziers.

How it plays

The way the game works is that you have a character chosen at the start of the game, such as Sindbad, Aladdin or Scheherazade. You then choose a victory condition, which is a number of Story points and Destiny points that together total 20 points. What you do then is travel the world and have encounters. You determine the encounter by drawing from an Encounter deck and then rolling on a chart in the Book of Tales, which determines what you encounter. After what you encounter is determined, the player decides how he responds. Each category will have a list of responses, and this will result in a paragraph from the Book of Tales, which in turn may give choices based on skills your character possesses. That may seem like a lot to digest, but here is an example:

I am playing Aladdin, and on my turn a I move a few spaces. I then draw an Encounter card, which is a Prophet. The card also has a number which corresponds to a chart in the Book of Tales. I roll a number on this chart, giving the Prophet an adjective: he is now a Mad Prophet. I then choose how to react to him. In this case, I will Rob him (I am Aladdin, a street rat, after all!). Another player who has a list compares my choice to a list and tells the player with the book what paragraph to read. The paragraph indicates that I stage a scheme with accomplices to take his wealth, and it goes well, but alas, he is poor. There are then two results, based on whether or not I have a specific skill. I do not, thereforefore I earn a single Destiny point and my turn is over and passes to the next player.

What I like about the game

What I like about this game is that it is an adventure game that seems to have enough variation to play over and over again. The number of encounters make it unlikely that one will repeat in the same game. A common issue with games in the genre is that they easily go stale. After about 5-7 plays, I still see myself playing this game more. As a person with a game library of more than 300 games, that is saying a lot. I'd play this over Runequest or Talisman any day.

What I dislike

There are some statuses that a character can acquire that sometimes seem a bit punitive. In addition to awards, a character may end up with a status of some sort. Some are good (Blessed and Vizier, for example), some are a mixed bag (Married and On Pilgrimmage), and some are just nasty (Accursed, Enslaved and Grief Stricken). The mentioned ones are not the entire list, but the bad ones just seem to stick around forever and some take away choices, or require specific choices. A minor dislike, but worth noting.

Final verdict

Tales of the Arabian Nights is a great adventure game. Don't open the box and expect to play this like a strategy game, though: it just isn't. You can't reliably expect to plan a strategy and execute it. It's a fun, random romp through a story-rich world. Expect to be amused by this light-hearted and enjoyable game.

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