Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Arkham Horror

ARKHAM HORROR by Fantasy Flight Games
Published in 2005

Arkham Horror! This is one of the first really big and heavy board games I ever learned to play. Arkham Horror is one of my all time favorites, but playing it is such a long process that I seldom seem to find time for it.
So we are back to Arkham again. An Ancient One is threatening the city of Arkham, and a handful of mythos investigators are fighting unnatural monsters and events, gathering clues and hopefully preventing the Ancient One from rising into this world. The whole town is slipping into chaos, while more and more gates are opening into different "other worlds", monsters are pouring in, and some very horrifying events are happening all over Arkham. This is the setting for Arkham Horror (in my opinion, one of the best themes there are!).


The game requires a large area to play it. My table (110cm x 70cm) was just barely large enough, and the Ancient One himself had to be kept on another table.
The game board is a map of Arkham, with numerous locations for the investigators to visit. The 8 circular spaces below the map are the "other worlds".

I have two expansions for Arkham Horror, "Curse of the Dark Pharaoh" and "Dunwich Horror". The Town of Dunwich is left out, but all the other components and rules are in this game.

This is the AncientOne I chose for this game.
Shudde M'ell. I don't reacognize this creature from the Mythos stories I have read, but it seems that this one is the father of the Chthonians, an underground race of immense beasts, capable of creating earthquakes.

And true enough, during the course of this game, some of the buildings and locations in Arkham may be destroyed by Shudde M'ell's powerful earthquakes.








The goal of Arkham Horror is to prevent this Ancient One from waking up, or if it does wake up, then fend it off in a great Final Fight. The final fight will usually be a very tough one (next to impossible with some of the creatures), so better option is to close and seal enough gates in Arkham. After the sixth gate is sealed, the cosmic horrors withdraw from Arkham and the world is saved.

My two investigators for this game are the following:
Mark Harrigan, the Soldier.
This traumatized soldier has just come back from a war, where he saw something even worse than men killing other men... As he returned, he went to visit his loved one, Sophie, who always believed in his stories about the monsters he had fought against. But something really otherworldly happened to her, leaving Mark a broken and crazed man... So now Mark is in South Church, armed with his flamethrower and his expertise in combat, praying for Sophie's soul, as well for his own... since now it's time to make the monsters pay.

Diana Stanley, the Redeemed Cultist.
Diana desperately wanted to fit into the community, so she joined all the societys she could get into. Her efforts were paying off, and a few months ago she got an invitation from Carl Stanford to join a very elite club in Arkham - the Silver Twilight Lodge. At first she was thrilled to get into such a club, but then she quickly became aware of the horrifying and disturbing things that where going on in the Lodge. Diana decided to get away from the club, but not before she would put these unnatural practices to stop.

THE GAME BEGINS:

The first gate opens in Historical Society. This gate leads to the Abyss, and a Warlock comes out of it.

Mark heads to the woods, where he meets an old, wise man. The man offered to share his wisdom with Mark, but the Soldier - not especially well known for his intellect - doesn't want to spend his time listening to the old man.
Diana goes to Hibb's Roadhouse, and finds some clues there. She is also approached by the bartender, who is willing to sell some information to Diana. Diana doesn't have very much money, so she declines.

The "Southside Strangler" strikes! This mysterious madman will kill potential allies, as long as the investigators don't do something about him...


Gate opens up at the Independence Square, and a Cultist appears from it.






Diana explores the graveyard. She also spots a thief, who stashes his loot to the graveyard. Carefully following the thief, Diana digs the buried item up, finding a Book of Dzyan. New spells can be learned from this book.

Mark explores the Science Building of Miscatonic University. A Mi-Go attacks him there! Mark easily slays the creature with his flamethrower. A powerful Flute of the Outer Gods is left behind by the alien - Mark picks it up. This flute can be used to destroy multiple monsters at once, but using it will also affect its user with devastating mental and physical stress.





Suddenly, a gate opens to the graveyard. Diana is pulled through it, and she quickly finds herself from R'Lyeh! The sudden voyage also disorients and delays her.

Mark seeks to join the Silver Twilight Lodge. The Lodge sends him to the City of the Great Race to test his abilities. Mark is successful and learns a spell called "Mists of Releh". The Lodge is impressed by this, and grants Mark with the membership.

Meanwhile in R'lyeh, Diana is looking for a way out. She spots a boat, but is unable to convince the crew to take her onboard... She has to look for another way off the island.

An Egyptian Exhibit visists the Miscatonic University. Investigators may now try to read the strange hieroglyphics in order to learn clues.









The Southside Strangler kills the well-known and respected Professor Armitage!
Mark is investigating the Strangler case over at Southside. He also comes across a Vampire, which he destroys with his flamethrower.

Diana is out of luck! She finds Cthulhu himself from the R'lyeh! Now she must fight Cthulhu - a fight that she almost definitely will lose...
Diana uses her rifle to fight desperately against the Great Old One, but it's of no use. The minor damage that she manages to inflict is healed by Cthulhu's supernatural regeneration...

Before long, Diana is devoured!









Luckily another investigator arrives to Arkham. An expedition leader Leo Anderson's ship docks in. Leo has a special ability in Leadership.

Leo also has an Ally with him, Dr. Ali Kafour. Mr. Kafour has knowledge about occultistic spells and strange creatures.






A gate leading to the Plateau of Leng opens up at the Unvisited Isle.

A famous painter, Richard Upton Pickman is found to be the next victim of the Southside Strangler!
But quickly after this, Mark manages to catch the madman! His investigation led him to Ma's Boarding House, where he was able to put together the clues to find the murderer. A handsome reward is granted for both of the investigators.
Ma Mathison - the owner of the boarding house - also offers loads of free food for Mark.

The first monster surge occurs! Total of five monsters appear, one from every gate. Most of these creatures begin roaming the outskirts of Arkham. The Ancient One, Shudde M'ell also is beginning to wake up; his earthquakes destroy Velma's Diner.





Erich Weiss, a famous escape artist and master of illusions cancels his show, that was scheduled for tonight... This happens after he learns that he's got something more important to do... During the night, the Warlock from Historical Society is killed, as well as a Witch that had been roaming the streets. Mr. Weiss was seen no more in Arkham.

Leo Anderson stops by at the Egyptian Exhibit in Miscatonic University. He manages to gain some clues from the ancient scriptures.

Mark does what he does best: He kills a Cultist from the French Hill streets.

Yet another gate opens. There is now six gates in Arkham... the investigators should try extra hard to close them.

Also, some very strange powers are affecting the area: The Cultist that Mark just burned, comes back to life! Surprised, Mark can't use his trusty flamethrower so soon again, but the furious soldier beats the Cultist down with his bare hands. Mark also discovers a Book of Anubis from the double-dead Cultist.
When ever another investigator is hurt, this strange book grants strength for Mark.







Mark collects clues from the Black Caves. He also finds a body there, ripped apart by some awful monster...

Leo visists the Curiositie Shoppe and buys a bottle of holy water from there.

Seventh gate opens! Only one more, and the Ancient One will wake up... The investigators recognize this, and run to the nearest gates, as investigating the worlds behind is the only way to close them! Leo begins exploring the freezing Plateau of Leng, while Mark wanders around the Great Hall of Celeano.

In Leng, Leo stumbles into a crevasse. While trying to climb up, he falls and damages himself... He will not be getting out anytime soon.
Nothing interesting is happening at Celeano, where Mark is looking for clues.

While the heroes are out of town, another monster surge happens in Arkham. The terror rises and Shudde M'ell's earthquake decimates the South Church of Arkham!

Some good news as well; A big storm sweeps Arkham and clears the outskirts from all the monsters in there.



Mark's visit in the Hall of Celeano remains uneventful. He discovers a body of some strange creature, but is unable to learn anything from it.

Leo - still in Plateau of Leng - comes across an altar, with a gigantic eye gazing at it. There seems to be a scroll of some sort on the altar, but Leo leaves it... The whole situation seemed very dangerous.

The Doom advances fast! Time of Shudde M'ell draws close.

Mark finds his way back to Arkham. He closes the gate with his strength, but is unable to seal it...







A new gate opens immediately. This one opens in the Black Caves, leading to R'lyeh.

Mark visits the Silver Twilight Lodge. He is a member, and so one of his Lodge brothers decides to help him, by casting a spell on Mark. Mark is blessed, now everything seems easier than before.

Leo finally finds a way out from the Plateau of Leng. He closes the gate behind him.

A gate opens in the Witch House again. This brings the impeding doom very close... The Ancient one will come forth very soon.

Mark decides to improve his mental capabilities, and trains some Lore in the Miscatonic University administration.







Leo explores the old house in Merchant District, simply known as "The Unnamable". While inside, the house is filled with terrible wails and screams! Only Leo's superior experience in strange adventures saves his mind from suffering mental damage from the event...

A monster surge ravages Arkham again: An earthquake destroys the River Docks, and the rising terror causes people to flee from Arkham; the General Store is closed.






Leo heads in through another portal; this time one leading to the Abyss.

Another monster surge, and the Bank of Arkham is destroyed. The terror level also rises fast... It won't be long until Shudde M'ell enters our world.

Mark searches through St. Mary's Hospital and "Ye Olde Magick Shoppe". In the shop, he gets to glance into a crystal ball, learning some things that might come to be soon...

In Abyss, Leo has to hide for a while; too many monsters are lurking around... His return to Arkham is delayed.

The eighth gate opens, allowing Shudde M'ell to awake! The final fight is at hand.

Leo is send back to Arkham, and the two investigators get ready to attack the monster!

Shudde M'ell - on the other hand - is aiming to destroy whole Arkham with his earthquakes!





The Final Battle:
Shudde M'ell is resistant to all kinds of damage, but not invincible.
Mark burns the monster with his flamethrower, while Leo spalshes his Holy Water at it. Some damage is inflicted.
Shudde M'ell responds with earthquakes, destroying more buildings from Arkham.
After using his holy water, Leo switches to his old shotgun, but fails to deal any further damage.
The Ancient One's physical form takes serious damage, but much more would be needed to drive it back...
Time is running out, as Arkham is quickly crumbling...

Not good enough!
The beast is halfway done for, but then the final, massive earthquake hits Arkham, destroying everything and ending any resistance that might still have been bothering the Ancient One!







Game over!


CONCLUSION:

It has been a while since I last played Arkham Horror, and maybe it showed! This was a poor game, I sealed zero gates... Also, many of the items and spells that my investigators had on them, were left unused. But it was still fun to play it, most of the encounters I had were new to me.
Arkham Horror is not that difficult game to beat. At least 50% of my games ends in victory, usually by sealing the required number of gates. But every now and then I come across a session that really doesn't go well - this was one of them.

There is quite a lot of rules in Arkham Horror. But there has to be: The theme is almost perfectly met, and to me this is by far the best horror board game there is. A player is not required to know any Cthulhu-Mythos stories, but it certainly helps! When I play this game, it constantly reminds me of the short stories and their dark, strange and threatening atmosphere.
Also, it would be impossible to fully document a AH session like this. The cards are filled with very cool, thematic stories and events to help the players to establish the sense of supernatural. Arkham Horror is like an interesting nightmare that you might have after watching some really peculiar and scary movies...

The game looks great! The board is dark and moody, but also informative and distinct. The encounter cards doesn't have pictures on them, but it's probably better that way... Everyone, who has read Mythos, knows that many of the creatures and events in there are extremely difficult to picture - and that's why in this case text feeds the imagination better than pictures would.

RATING: 10 /10

SOLO RATING: 8 /10

As said, AH is one of the best games I know of. And if you begin searching board games from the internet, you will quickly come across it, so I know I'm not the only fan of this amazing game!
But oh, how heavy it is! When playing with friends (very recommended, as it is so much fun to share the experience with someone) you better reserve about 4 hours for it... Sometimes the game goes much faster, but usually you won't get through with less than 2-3 hours.

Solo game works perfectly, but at least I do not usually have the time or energy to face something this big alone :)

Monday, April 11, 2011

World of Warcraft: The Board Game

WORLD OF WARCRAFT: THE BOARD GAME
by Fantasy Flight Games             Published in 2005

World of Warcraft. This is as close to WoW as I have ever gone. I do like the original Warcraft games very much, yet I have never played WoW... I guess I don't want to dedicate all the time needed to really get into the game. So here is my World of Warcraft!

In this game, the player takes control of 1-3 traditional Warcraft heroes from one of the factions (Alliance or Horde), and fights monsters with them in order to gain experience, gold and items. At the end, the heroes should be strong enough to challenge an Overlord in the last big fight.

World of Warcraft: The Board Game does not come with solo rules! But I actually found it pretty easy to make my own: The only thing missing in solo game, is the interaction between the two factions - in other words, solo game is fully cooperative, while the normal game would also have a big element of competition in it. But I like cooperative games, so I have no problem with that.

The game board depicts regions and areas, where monsters appear throughout the game. The heroes have quests to resolve, but all of these quests are just about killing one or more monsters, so this game really is all about fighting.
The fighting, however, is very well done and the mechanics offer plenty of room for strategizing.

The game has a LOT of components, including over a hundred plastic figures, 21 dice, and hundreds of cards and counters.


I play the game with two heroes, this time from the Alliance.

Burbonn Fang.
A Dwarven Hunter, with exceptional ranged combat. He may also call pets to aid him in combat.






Alissi Quicksting.
A Gnome Rogue, with some less than orthodox skills and strategies. This character may be a bit difficult to play efficiently... but her skills are interesting.





The monsters that those heroes are fighting, come with hugely varying difficulties... from the weakest Murlocs to the mightiest Infernals. Then there is also the Overlord, which in this game will be Kel'Thuzad.

Kel'Thuzad, the Lich, is waiting for the heroes at Stratholme, which is a place far north on the region of Plaquelands.

Kel'Thuzad is kind of a trickster of an Overlord; he adds some nasty event cards in the game, and while his combat stats are not overpowering, his other abilities will make the final battle very challenging.



THE GAME BEGINS:

Both of the heroes begin with some training. Burbonn learns a "Hunter's Mark" to hone his marksman's skills, and a "Scorpid Sting"- special attack.
Alissi learns her first finishing move, the "Eviscerate", as well as a special attack "Sinister Strike" to charge the finishing move. The Rogue's most prominent skill is her ability to charge "finishing moves" with other maneuvers, then unleash the stored power in one attack. Rogues also have a choice, whether they want to use a bow, or if they'd rather rely on stealth.

Gnolls are easy opponents for inexperienced adventurers, so both of our heroes find themselves a Gnoll.

Burbonn attacks his Gnoll with a deadly shot form his Old Blunderbuss. His newly learned Hunter's Mark aids, and the Gnoll is killed with a single shot. Burbonn levels up and learns a new talent: "Lightning Reflexes".

Burbonn claims two items as trophies from the Gnoll: A Bent staff, and Soldier's Armor. Both of these will probably be sold to the merchant.
The Armor would be efficient, but neither of the heroes can use "mail"- type of armors... they are too heavy.





Alissi confronts her Gnoll. This fight is not quite so smooth and fast as the previous one, but Alissi slays the creature nonetheless, using some of her dirty tricks. Alissi also gains a level, and learns "Ruthlessness". This talent makes her surprise attacks more efficient.
Alissi trains a "Stealth"- skill.

Burbonn takes a zeppelin flight back to Southshore, the Alliance city where our heroes started their quest. There he sells the items and learns to summon a bear as a pet. The bear will be of great assistance in the future combats.

Lots of Murlocs right next to Southshore!

The heroes probably should try to kill them off.






The heroes decide to join their forces, and attack the two Gnolls at Hillsbrad Fields together. It's two against two:
Both Burbonn, and Alissi attack the Gnolls with extreme fury! One of the beasts is killed right away. The other one fights back, but is no match for the two heroes.

This "Combat area" is the figurative space on board, where the combats are resolved. The Hit Tokens and Armor Tokens are placed on the Damage, Defense and Attrition spaces according to the combat rules. (This system is the heart of this game, and it would not be easy to explain it fully, so if you are interested, check the rules from the manufacturer's website.)

Minor healing potion, and a Robe of Apprenticeship is found. Alissi takes the potion and Burbonn takes the robe.

The heroes are determined to clear the Silverpine Forest from these critters, so their next target is a group of three Murlocs over at the Azurlode Mine.
This time the heroes' combat is not as organized as the last time. (the empty Attrition area tells that Alissi's finishing move didn't work).
Burbonn shoots one Murloc down. The other two Murlocs attack back, and wound Alissi slightly. The heroes manage to kill another Murloc with their combined melee fighting. Now only one monster is remaining.

Alissi forgets about the stealthy approach, and draws her Ashwood Bow. The last Murloc is shot and killed by Burbonn's gun and Alissi's bow.

More potions were found from the Murlocs' stash. Burbonn takes a Minor mana potion, and Alissi takes a Minor Agility potion.

The heroes part their ways. Burbonn is exhausted, and stays behind to rest for a while. Alissi continues to take on another pair of Murlocs at Dun Garok.

Kel'Thuzad's evil is beginning to affect the surrounding area! The Lich spreads a plaque across the accordingly named Plaquelands.







Alissi enters a stealth-mode, and attacks the Murlocs. The Murlocs severly injure Alissi, but Alissi stays in fight by quickly drinking her healing potion. After this, Alissi slays one of the Murlocs with her Eviscerate. But the other Murloc manages to strike Alissi - lethally.
The Rogue is defeated and transported back to the city for resurrection. This will slow down Alissi's levelling.

Burbonn moves to finish the other Murloc off. His initial ranged attack fails, but Burbonn enters the combat with his bear, and mauls the Murloc down.

The Murlocs had a lot of gold with them, as well as Cured Leather Armor and a Scimitar. Since Alissi suffered a death while fighting these the monsters, Burbonn decides to give the Armor and some of the gold to her.
Burbonn will keep the scimitar though.







Burbonn reaches the third level! He improves his "Hunter's Mark"- skill. This skill has proven itself very useful.

Some more dangerous monsters are showing up; an Ogre is seen at Ruins of Andorhal!







Alissi takes a good rest in the city of Southshore, and regains her strength and energy. Burbonn also stops by to give Alissi some gold, and the Cured Leather Armor. Burbonn also learns a new attack; "Multi-shot". This should further increase his ranged combat capabilities.

The heroes move south to Purgation Isle. Both of them hunt down some Murlocs. At this point, Murlocs no longer should pose any threat to our heroes.

Alissi reaches her third level, finally. She learns some new assassination tricks; an "Improved Ambush", and a "Cheap Shot". I can't wait to see her in action!

Burbonn attacks a dangerous Naga!
His newfound skills prove their worthiness, scoring a lot of damage on the creature. However, Burbonn's defense was left a bit open... the Naga hurts the Hunter badly, but Burbonn wins the fight anyway.






A lot of interesting items were found from the Naga's belongings: A Greater agility potion, Felstone Good Luck Charm, and a Skullsplitting Crossbow! Burbonn will definitely replace his Old Blunderbuss with this weapon.





Burbonn also gains a level again. His new talent is "Mortal Shots", improving his accuracy to extreme levels.
 


The heroes have learned a lot since the beginning!






Burbonn heads back to city, where he sells the Greater agility potion for some good money. Then he upgrades his pet from a bear into a White Tiger!

Alissi takes a flight up north, to the Plaquelands. There she cures some of the Kel'Thuzad's disease, gaining some experience in process. The disease also makes the monsters stronger in that area, so it is strategically a good move to get rid of it.

A lot is happening on the board. Alissi continues to treat the disease at Plaquelands, while Burbonn rests to gain strength for his next challenge: He is going to challenge an Ogre!

The two heroes - dwarf and gnome - are small in size... They are the two grey figures on the board.






Burbonn attack an Ogre in the Ruins of Alterac with great success! The opening ranged attack is almost strong enough to kill the Ogre... But while the Ogre does get a chance to attack back, Burbonn takes the hit effortlessly, finishing the Ogre off with the help of his pet tiger.





Burbonn finds a large amount of gold, a Lesser agility potion, and a Scroll of Greater strength from the Ogre's lair.

Meanwhile, Alissi finishes her job; Kel'Thuzad's disease is removed.

Both of the heroes now roam the Plaquelands. Time running out, and the final combat against Kel'Thuzad must be fought soon.

Alissi attacks a Wildkin! This beast may be too powerful for her, but none of the weaker enemies are around.







Alissi's stealth attack is moderately well executed, she definitely has a fighting chance!




She did it! The Wildkin survived the first round of combat, almost killing Alissi in a melee... but the Rogue backed away, drew her trusty Ashwood bow and fired an exquisite shot at the monster. The Wildkin dies.






Alissi finds a Lesser healing potion. She also gains a hard-earned level! She learns a talent of "Premeditation", which improves the use of her finishing moves.

Burbonn takes on another Ogre, this shouldn't be too difficult for him anymore:
The Hunter's attack is extremely strong. The Ogre is instantly killed with the shots from Burbonn's Skullsplitting Crossbow!







Burbonn finds a Decapitating Sword - better than his old Scimitar. He also gains his fifth level - the highest level a hero can get! Now Burbonn needs to train one last time, and he should be more than ready to face Kel'Thuzad.

A mighty Doom Guard is terrorizing the Noxious Glade. This demon would be a good challenge for Burbonn's abilities, but the time is running out, Burbonn is going to have to pass this tempting quest.








Burbonn an Alissi make their final preparations in the Alliance City that is in Pestilent Scar, an area in the middle of the dreaded Plaquelands.

Burbonn spends his impressive amount of gold to learn a powerful "Immolation Trap", and to buy a Solid Iron Maul for Alissi. He also buys a healing potion and a mana potion. Alissi learns "Vanish" and "Rupture". Rupture will replace her old finishing move, the Eviscerate.







And so it begins! Our heroes arrive at the Stratholme, to meet the most dangerous foe they have ever fought. Kel'Thuzad does not only have terribly powerful attacks, but he also constantly repairs his undead body... For this, the best strategy would be to throw in everything the heroes got right from the start, and hope that it is enough to destroy the Lich before it regenerates.

Burbonn reads a Scroll of Giant Strength and launches his crossbow. His tiger rushes towards the Lich.
Everything is not going well, so the Hunter decides to deploy the Felstone Good Luck Charm... He also activates his new Immolation Trap.
Alissi ambushes the Lich from behind, but the super-intelligent undead isn't taken by surprise, and hurts Alissi with his magic. The Rogue drinks potions of Minor agility, and Lesser healing.





This picture has the different skills and attacks pointed out.











All of the participants take damage, but not lethally.
The fight continues and Alissi uses Vanish to enter stealth-mode again. Burbonn fires his Crossbow again, with deadly accuracy and force. Hunter's tiger also rends the Lich furiously. Alissi tries another stealth attack, but apparently a Lich cannot be surprised like that... Kel'Thuzad sees the Rogue and kills her with his horrifying spells... Burbonn is alone now.


The Lich is almost done for! Only one more hit would be needed, but will Burbonn survive long enough to enter a melee fight with the Lich...









Yes! Burbonn's loyal tiger is killed, and the Hunter himself is barely standing, but the last needed hit is delivered... Not even Kel'Thuzad's fast regeneration is enough to save him... The monstrosity is dead!

The game is successfully completed! Alissi died, but I guess she can be resurrected like she was after the defeat against the Murlocs.






CONCLUSION:

This one was a really long game! WoW board game is always a long one, and with multiple players it would take even longer to play it... Still, if a game manages to occupy almost three hours of game time with just one player, it starts to be a bit too much. But for some reason the time really went by fast, I actually was surprised to see the time after I finished: The game was interesting, and I really wanted to see how it all would end.

Well I beated the Overlord, which is not an easy task. I was really proud of my level 5 hunter, it is rare to reach the fifth level... but when it happens, the resulting hero is usually a very tough one. The red Doom Guard would have been a nice challenge to test the hunter's limits, but there was no time.
The rogue on the other hand was left a bit weak. And it always seems to be the case with that class... Rogues are difficult to play with, maybe so difficult that I don't get the right strategies, but for some reason I never play well with rogues. Which is a shame, because I like the class very much.

But the rogue did offer me at least one good fight; the one against Wildkin. That was a good fight, as was the last fight against Kel'Thuzad.
While writing this, I realize that this game probably is not that exciting to read about... It's all about fighting and moving the tokens around - I'm sure, without knowing the rules, all that seems confusing.

RATING: 8 /10

SOLO RATING: 7 /10

World of Warcraft: The Board Game is not intended to be played solo. My solo rules are very close to the official rules (ask me about them, if you are interested! :>), but of course some elements are left our. Many of the most interesting events don't work in solo, and the whole Player vs. Player combat is out too.

But I think the game still has enough to offer for a solo player. The combat system is very innovative (maybe a bit abstract though), and it's very entertaining to watch the heroes gain strength and find powerful weapons and items.

If you like to play the real WoW - stick to it, I'm sure this game offers nothing new to you.
But for someone like me, who likes the fantasy setting and likes fighting monsters and finding magical items, but who also likes to keep it simple and "compact", this game might be worth playing.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tales of the Arabian Nights

TALES OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS
by Z-Man Games     Published in 2009

Tales of the Arabian Nights! I have to say that this is my most favorite board game in the world. Even so much, that this review may be a bit biased... But then, this page won't be so much of a review, as a documented run of the game, along with some info and opinions of mine.
Tales of the Arabian Night is an immersive storytelling game, where the players assume the role of some of the most legendary characters in the world of 'One Thousand and One nights'. The game basically follows the lives of these adventurers; beginning when they leave their home in Baghdad, following the amazing adventures they run into, and ending when they return back home with stories of faraway lands, and their destinies filled.


The game board depicts a map of Europe, most of Asia and northern Africa. The map is not an especially accurate one... but that just adds to the feel of old times, that the game is trying to sink the players into.
Eventhough the game box is pretty large (and surprisingly heavy!), there is not so many components involved.

The main component of the game is shown here: The Book of Tales.
These 300 pages are the heart and soul of Tales of the Arabian Nights. Thousands of different outcomes for the encounters are written in this book. Which page will be used, is determined by three factors: The location where your character is, some dice rolling, and the way you choose your character to react to the situation.




There is 18 different skills for the characters to learn, which will help them to get better outcomes from the encounters. Three of the skills are picked at the beginning of the game.

My character for this game will be portrayed by Sindbad. This time I wanted to make him as a swashbuckling thief, so the three initial skills are "Weapon use", "Stealth and Stealing" and "Quick thinking".






Every character will also have a quest drawn randomly for them. It's not mandatory to complete these quests - rather, they are another reason to travel into certain parts of the world.
However, the quest for my Sindbad could not have been more suitable for him: "King of Thieves". (I swear I did draw this quest randomly, and only after I had decided to make my character a thief :> )

This time, I will tell the story of the game in a first person view. It just feels better that way, considering the heavy story elements in the game.

THE STORY BEGINS:

My father has assigned me with a quest. He - also known as the "King of Thieves" - wants me to become his successor! In order to achieve this, I must steal something that he never could: Two precious gems called the "Eyes of the Lamia". At the moment, these gems are located thousands of miles apart, one is said to be in Timbuktu, while the other one is far east in Lhasa.

I head east, towards India, and meet a wise Sage at the mountains. I try to engage a conversation with him, but he dismisses me, unimpressed by my lack of culture, and my rugged appearance.






I reach a city of Herat, where I find a noble Wizard. In hope of finding magical items, I try to rob this wizard... but get caught! Luckily, he spares my life... though now I am an outlaw in the city of Herat, so I will have no further business in Herat.

I leave Herat and reach Lhasa, the city, where one of the Eyes of Lamia should be located. I find out that the gem is owned by a shady individual, who is greatly feared by the locals.

I try to steal the gem, but the man reveals to be a terrible magician, foiling my attempt and transforming my body into a beast form as a punishment!
I had never been too adept in the art of seduction, but from now on I can forget about impressing anyone with my looks.

This transformation may be permanent...





I wait around for some time, pondering about my new form... and see how the gem changes owner. Now that the magician no longer has it, I try to steal it again! This new owner flees when he sees my attempt, but I best him with my quick thinking. The first Eye of the Lamia is mine, along with some other riches that the man had with him!

I travel south.
While going through a forest, I find an Efreet! These genies are known to be powerful and unpredictable...
This particular Efreet is extremely lovesick, groaning over its loneliness. I use this in my advantage, tricking the creature to believe that I have a suitable mate for him, a human woman, which I am willing to sell to him. The Efreet buys my words and grants me with riches... I leave the forest, leaving the genie behind me.
As the genie learns of my deception, he comes chasing after me..!



I try to flee from the vengeful Efreet, by embarking a ship and sailing west, towards Africa. However, the crafty genie lays a trap on my path, which results is a total humiliation for me. Maybe I got this coming... I am scorned.

I decide to clear my name by going on a pilgrimage. I will travel to the African city of Bilma, then return to Mecca as a holy man.

I arrive at the city of Bilma. There I manage to steal a strange artifact: The Brass Horseman.
This statue may yet lead me to the fabled, hidden "City of Brass"!








My adventures are beginning to pay off. I have learned many new skills during my travels.







I return to Mecca, completing my Pilgrimage, clearing my name and learning some piety. In Mecca, I spend an evening with a friendly Princess. She tells me stories of a places faraway. I might have been interested in courting her, but my cursed appearance is not very popular among the ladies.

Now it's time to continue my quest for the second Eye of the Lamia! I should be able to find it from Timbuktu.

On my way to Timbuktu, I stop by at the Bilma again. There I am invited to visit a "Palace of 100 closets"! My host gives me the keys to all of the closets, but warns me not to open the hundredth door... Looking for treasures, I open the last door anyway, finding a trapped Efreet! The Efreet casts a spell at me, but my Beast Form blocks it.

I search Timbuktu for the second Eye of the Lamia.
I locate the gem, and enter the house where it is kept. A guard arrives, but I quickly defeat him with my expertise in weapon use. The second Eye is mine, as well as a Magic Tunic that I happened to find from the same house.







I completed my quest! Now I am the King of Thieves...
I become fabulously wealthy, and also come to possession of some strange Colored Fish. Something tells me that these fish have powerful secrets to tell, if only they could speak... And some say that they can!






My life looks good now, at least if could get this damned beast form removed from me!

But then, strange things happen!
When I wake up at one morning, I find myself far east, in a city of P'an P'an! Apparently I had done something to enrage a Djinn, who has now carried me away...
I am completely lost.




I find my bearings rather quickly, and set sail towards Baghdad. My fabulous wealth allows me to hire the fastest ships and the best crews...

I find my way back to Baghdad. I also mastered the skill of "Enduring Hardship".

That night, I see a strange dream, in which I am told to go to a faraway city of Herat, where I should be able to find a fabulous treasure! But I am hesitant - first of all I am still an outlaw in the city of Herat, because of my deeds in past. Also, I am already fabulously wealthy, so I am no longer as tempted of material gain, as I used to be...
I decide not to go after my dream. Instead I examine the Colored Fish that I had aquired in Africa. From these strange creatures, I learn where they originate from - "the Lake of Colors"! I discover the location of this miraculous place, and decide to visit it. I start heading towards the east African jungles.

I am closing in on the Lake of Colors - crossing a desert - when suddenly, a terrible thunderstorm is on me. A bolt of lightning hits me! I survive this with some minor wounds, but I can't help to think, if this is a warning for me... Not to go at this strange lake.
I have to rest for a little while, to recover from my injures.

I finally reach the Lake of Colors!
The lake is filled with huge fish - red, blue, yellow and white. The fish can talk, and suddenly I remember legends from the old times... These fish used to be people! This indeed is a cursed and a doomed place.

On the other side of the lake, I see a grand city, made out of black basalt. When I head closer to it, I hear cries and anguished moans from inside...




I sneak in to the city to take a look. There I find a prince with his lower half turned to stone! The evil enchantress responsible for this atrocity arrives and casts a spell at me... but again my bestial form saved me from any further ill effects! However, I must leave the city, as my skills are now match for the sorcery displayed in here.

I leave the Lake of Colors behind me, never forgetting the adventures I found from there.

Once again I head back to Baghdad. I feel like I have fulfilled my destiny, and completed my adventures...
Once is Baghdad, a garrulous Prince tries to get my attention.. but I turn him away. I have earned my rest.
Maybe it's time to find a way to restore my own form back to me, and then find a wife somewhere and settle down. The Magic Tunic, that I found from Timbuktu is said to help one to find love...
          ...but who knows, maybe Sindbad's adventures are not over yet!


CONCLUSION:

An infinitely enjoyable game, as it usually is with the Arabian Nights!
Tales of the Arabian Nights is not about winning or losing. Technically, I won this game: I met my story- and destiny points quota. But with this game, it's all about the stories, about the ever changing adventures and events that keep on amusing and entertaining me!

My final summary was: 18 story points and 16 destiny points (the maximum is 20). I became a Master of "Enduring hardship". Also I had the following skills: "Weapon use", "Stealth and Stealing", "Quick thinking", "Piety", "Acting and Disguise", "Wisdom" and "Magic". My wealth was at fabulous level, which is the highest possible level.
I believe this was the first time ever for me to reach the fabulous wealth.. It really is not that easy.
Also, I had never visited the Lake of Colors before. That place is one of the 10 "places of power", which cannot just be entered any which way. I still have half of the places of power unvisited...

The game mechanics are surprisingly simple. There is not very much to learn or memorize, and the game flows nicely, without too much downtime.
Tales of the Arabian Nights has a great replayability. I have played the game for about ten times, and so far I have only had few encounters to come to me more than once. And even if same event does play again, the "destiny dice", your reactions, or your skills will probably ensure a different outcome.

The game components are high in quality. The board is beautiful and the pictures on the cards are somewhat simple, but still very well done.

RATING: 10 /10

SOLO RATING: 10 /10

Tales of the Arabian Nights is not actually meant to be played alone. Many cards in the game tell you to "let another player to decide something for you, etc.". This usually is a bad thing, when considering about the solo playability... but in this game, I feel it doesn't have to be a detriment.
One example on this: A character may become insane. If this happens, all of the reactions that this character chooses to use, are picked by another player. Well naturally, the other player will want to make your game more difficult by picking all the craziest of reactions... why not to do this to yourself as well? :) I've had some of my best adventures with the "insane"- status. Let's say I run into a large band of armed brigands, only a crazy person would willingly mock them... And that's exactly what may happen if you choose your reactions "insanely" enough!

So while more players will definitely equal to more fun, this game is still extremely enjoyable in solo - you just need to forget about following the rules to the point, and enjoy the stories. That's how I get so much out of this game: It's like a framework for an interactive stories of the Arabian Nights.

I well understand, that Tales of the Arabian Nights is not a game for everyone. The level of strategic thinking is minimal, and the game is hardly well balanced or fair.
You may end up watching your friend gathering riches as a Sultan, and marrying a beautiful wife, while you yourself are spending a turn after turn in a prison, trying to get out... That would really suck in a real life, but that's what games are for! :>