Tales of the Arabian Nights

Complexity
Components
Enjoyment
Replay Value
Understandable Rules

Story
At some point in life, you’re bound to hear a story about a brave hero or heroine who goes on a great adventure.  Now is the time to create your own story, with yourself as the hero!  Step into the world of the Arabian Nights (1001 Nights) and travel across the land, either fulfilling a quest or just adventuring.  You’ll encounter everything from princes to mystical animals, maybe even the sex-change spring, but how you handle those encounters is completely up to you.  Over time, you’ll gain useful skills like seduction or quick thinking to aid you, but no matter how many skills you get, things probably still won’t turn out how you expect.  Get ready to share a fantastic story with all the twists and turns an epic adventure like yours deserves.

Game Mechanics
Storytelling, Dice Rolling, Exploration

Number of Players
1-6, but the game gets a lot longer with more people.  It seems to play best with 3 or 4 players.

Play Time
This really depends on how many players are in the game.  I’ve never finished a game in under two hours; it’s usually more like three hours with four people.  If we had the full six players, I’m guessing it would be a four hour game or more.  There is a very easy way to make it shorter though: just play to less points.

Down Time
This depends again on how many players you have.  Tales of the Arabian Nights tries to avoid downtime by having one person playing, a different person looking up the player’s reactions in a matrix, and a third person reading from the Book of Tales.  So with more than three players, there will be downtime, but it’s usually when everyone is listening to the stories being told and that’s the best part of the game.

How Does it Play
If you’re looking for a fun time with friends, just reading stories and wandering around exploring things, then Tales of the Arabian Nights is for you.  I never really feel like I’m actively trying to win this game, but I always have fun playing it.  This is because the encounters are so random that there’s no sure way for you to win, it usually just ends up happening.

The stories created by the encounters are the best part of this game.  For example, I encountered a beggar at one of the cities I went to.  Looking at the matrix, I had a variety of things I could do such as attack or aid.  The eight reaction options you get change based on who or what you’re encountering to keep things fresh.  Once you’ve chosen a reaction, another player reads what happens from the Book of Tales.  This book has so many twists that I’d never expect, which is what happened when I tried to be nice and steal some diamonds for the beggar, but ended up getting greedy and keeping them for myself.  For the rest of the game, that beggar pursued me all over the map since I couldn’t appease him.  I kept thinking he’d catch up to me when I got stuck in jail for a few turns!

One of the really cool aspects of the game is that you gain skills, like seduction or piety, from certain encounters that you can use later.  If you have the skill required from the particular story being read, your outcome might be a lot more favorable.  Or you might still end up being stabbed 1,000 times.  You just never know, but you’d probably get a skill like enduring hardship if you managed to survive it!  Or you might get a status like insanity, which allows a different player to choose what reaction you’ll use for each encounter.  That can get interesting….

For a more role-playing style game, try choosing all of your reactions based on what you think your character would do and what skills you have available.  That could make you choose things you might not normally choose, but it can really bring you into the story part of the game more.  If your skills make you think you’re a rogue, then act like one and have fun with it!

From these encounters, you could also gain various other things like treasures, wealth, destiny points, or story points.  These destiny and story points are how you win the game.  Once you hit the number of predetermined destiny and story points you need, you just have to make it back to the starting city to win the game.  Usually, a few players are close to winning at the same time so on the last few turns it finally starts feeling a bit competitive as anyone who can races back to the starting city.  There’s no way to know for sure what you’ll get from an encounter though, so devising a strategy in this game is nearly impossible.

Movement itself is a neat mechanic since how far you can move is determined by how wealthy you are at the moment.  For example, the wealthiest people can move really far by water, but only a few spaces on land.  Thematically, they probably hire boats to haul all their riches, but on land it’s slow moving.  Respectably wealthy people can move the same distance on land and water, but beggars and poor people can’t move far on either land type.

Complexity
The basic concept of Tales of the Arabian Nights is simple, move around and read stories, but some of the rules get complex.  Knowing how to resolve an encounter and find which story to read is hard for new players, but if one or two people handled that aspect of the game instead of passing the books around, it could easily be played with less experienced people.

Game Components
First off, the Book of Tales is fantastic.  It’s a spiral bound book, which is perfect for this game since you’ll need to flip through it all the time.  The reaction matrix, on the other hand, has seen better days after heavy use of the game.  I can’t even imagine the thought process the designers had to go through to link all of the encounters, to the reaction matrix, and then to this giant Book of Tales.  It’s amazing.

The player tokens are large cardboard pieces, which are good quality for cardboard, but they are a little too large.  They can sometimes block city names on the game board or crowd a location if more than one player are on the same spot.  The rest of the tokens are all good quality cardboard, as well.

The cards are a decent size and heavy enough cardstock to not worry about bending them all the time.

The game board is large, but the city names don’t stand out enough.  I often had to search for specific city names for certain encounters or quests.

The box has two different compartments to store things in, which is nice, but could be better for organizational purposes.  The books fit on top of the tokens and then the game board fits on top of everything.

Theme
Without the theme, there literally wouldn’t be a game left to play since the Book of Tales is the driving force of gameplay.  The stories are really well written and pull the players into the world of Arabian Nights (1001 Nights) in a fantastic way.  The people and locations you encounter feel true to theme as well as the skills and statuses you can gain from them.  Everything feels connected to the theme and creates a solid game.

Replay Value
As long as the players enjoy a storytelling game, Tales of the Arabian Nights has a very high replay value.  At times, you’re bound to encounter the same scenario as you have in the past, but the game adds features to try and avoid it if possible.  There is a destiny die that gets rolled during each encounter that helps change your story by having the story number being read increased or decreased by one.  The skills you gain also randomize the stories you might get because once you have a skill mastered, the reader can move to the story option (out of three choices) that would use the mastered skill you have.

Plus, the Book of Tales is pretty large.  You’re unlikely to memorize a lot of the stories in it even if you played often.

Favorite Part
Definitely the storytelling aspect, but that’s probably everyone’s favorite part of this game.  I often catch myself reading other stories when I have the Book of Tales open and have to stop, since that’s spoiling the surprise.  They’re all so interesting though!

Least Favorite Part
Even though I like the game, it usually feels like it’s dragging after a while.  I sometimes hope somebody will win just so we can change games after three hours of the same one.  I’m guessing a lot of players wouldn’t like this aspect of the game, so maybe ending the game sooner (by having a lower number of story and destiny points to win) would keep everyone entertained better.

Similar To

Above and Below is another storytelling game with a book of stories like this one, but a much different fantasy theme.  It also has more of a “game” feel to it instead of just reading stories.  Granted, I could easily sit and read the stories all day long since they’re also well done.

Tales of the Arabian Nights is a remake of an earlier version of the game.

Expansions
None.

The Bottom Line
With the right group of people, this game is a lot of fun.  It’s definitely one I’ll keep around, but it doesn’t get played very often because of the game length and style of game.

 

Rule Clarifications

This section is for confusing rules.  Basically, if I had to look a strange rule up, I’d rather make it easier on anyone reading this and list it here.  I apologize if I’m wrong on any of them, please feel free to correct me.

Honestly, the rules themselves seem straightforward, but once you start playing you will inevitably have a bunch more questions about specific card actions.  ZMAN Games has a FAQ for the game.  http://www.zmangames.com/uploads/4/7/1/7/47170931/tales_of_the_arabian_nights_faq.pdf

Morning, Noon, and Night: When you first set the game up, put the morning marker next to the encounter deck.  When you run out of encounter cards, reshuffle them and change the morning marker to the noon marker.  Then if you have to reshuffle again, change it to the night marker.  You’ll see these symbols at the bottom of each character encounter card.  Depending on the time of day, you’ll be directed to a different section of the Book of Tales.

Resolving an Encounter: First, open the Book of Tales and find the encounter charts in the beginning.  Find the correct chart by going to the black heading number of the encounter you’re having.  For example, the ‘Efreeteh above would be encounter chart 116 if you hadn’t shuffled the encounter deck at all yet so it was still morning.  The image below is for 6, not 116, but it’s the same concept.

Then have the player roll one die.  Add the die roll, the number printed on the game board city you’re on (if there is one), and any modifications based on the destiny track (you will get +1 or +2 depending on how many destiny points you have).  This is explained on page 9 of the rules.

Use this number to read the corresponding option in the encounter chart above.  For example, if the number added to 3 (anything above 12 counts as 12), the encounter would be with a skillful thief using reaction matrix D.

Open the reaction matrix and go to D.  Have the player choose how they’re going to react to the encounter; they should have 8 options listed on their player board for each matrix (they’re also listed along the top of the reaction matrix).  Looking at the reaction matrix, find the option on the left with the same label from the encounter chart.  In the above example, it would have been “skillful”.  Using the reaction they chose, line up the top reaction and the left encounter to find the paragraph number and read it for the person with the Book of Tales to go to.  The player then roles the destiny die, which can add or subtract one from that paragraph number for variety.

City Encounter Cards: On page 9 of the rules, “If you draw a City Encounter, you immediately go to the paragraph printed on the bottom of the card to have an encounter. The City Encounter card also names a city and a list of results numbered from 1 to 6. You may choose to keep the City Encounter card to play later, or you may choose to discard it.

If you keep the City Encounter card, and you are in the named city at the end of a future encounter phase, then you may play the card. When you play the card, roll a die. The die roll indicates the award you receive. Apply the result immediately and then discard the card.”

Terrain Encounter Cards: If you draw a terrain encounter card, you go to the paragraph number based on what terrain type the city you’re in (the symbol on the game board where your character is) shows.  There is a legend on the back of the rulebook that will help you.

Sometimes, the terrain encounter card might not show a number, but a letter instead.  On page 8 of the rules, ” One terrain type on each Terrain Encounter card refers you to Reaction Matrix N instead of a paragraph number. Go right to the Reaction Matrix if you are in this type of terrain.”

Skills: The paragraph read in the Book of Tales might have skills listed.  If you don’t have any of the skills, you must choose the no skill option.  If you have one or more of the skills, you may choose to use one of them, but you don’t have to unless it is labeled mandatory.  Don’t read what happens if they use certain skills until the player chooses to use the skill or not, just read the skill options.  This is described on page 12 of the rules.

On page 13 of the rules, “The Reader does not inform you if one of those skills is mandatory! Since most mandatory paragraphs are harmful to you, knowing if a selection is mandatory would encourage you to avoid it.”

If you have mastered a skill, the reader checks the three paragraph options to see if any of them use your mastered skill.  If none do, the destiny die is rolled like normal to decide.  If one does use your mastered skill, the player can choose to use that paragraph.

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