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! :>

2 comments:

  1. Nice write up. I play this with my wife and daughter and we have a great time. Usually laughing about things that happen to each other.

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  2. I really like your approach to gaming. This game has been on my mind since I saw it in town for sale. Seeing that you find ways to play multi-player games in solo immediately struck a chord with me. This game looks great and sounds fantastic! I love knowing it is coming home with me next :)

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