Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tales of the Arabian Nights - Story time!

I've enjoyed the 1001 Nights tales since I was a child. I watched the Seventh Voyage of Sinbad on channel 11 whenever possible and thought the Thief of Baghdad was the best movie ever. Years later I re-watched these films. They're pretty hokey but the basic premises of travel, mystery and adventure still hold up. Later on in life I also read the unedited 1001 Nights. Now that's an immortal classic! Just a tip- that version is not for the kids! When I saw the Tales of the Arabian Nights game I was intrigued. Is this a winner or an expensive paperweight?

The Tales of the Arabian Nights is a game in which your character travels the world, has a multitude of strange adventures, and tries to return home safe, wealthy, and wiser for the trouble. Players start the game by giving their character a name and an assortment of "skills." The skills are chosen from a list, they might include "quick thinking," or "magic." After a little more bookkeeping you're ready to play.

Each player moves their character token around the map. Each time you move you have an Encounter. During the encounter your character may meet a prince, stumble upon a magical creature, or smash your ship upon hidden undersea rocks. The game has a system for resolving these encounters. Players are read a brief description of what's going on and they choose how to respond. Their choice and any skills they may possess decides what happens next. When the encounter is done you may have gained money or fame, received a curse, or learned a new skill. Then play moves to the next player. The players begin the game with a set of goals. Once these are complete they must return across the map board to Baghdad and declare victory.

This game is less of a contest and more of an activity. There is really no interaction between the players beyond enjoying their stories. Instead the players take turns having their own tales emerge. Your character may have all sorts of fantastic experiences, lose and gain enormous wealth, meet supernatural creatures and marry royalty. In this sense it really mirrors its source material. The tales from the 1001 Nights carry a common theme being that cleverness and virtue are important qualities but luck is a factor in life which can't be denied.

Older readers may note that Tales of the Arabian Nights sounds a lot like the old Choose Your Own Adventure books. They would be correct. I think Tales of the Arabian Nights is another game which falls into the "almost role playing" category. In this sense it's similar to Sleeping Queens and Arkham Horror. Much of the game is about how your character fares as he or she adventures across the world. Specifically it's about how their story develops. Players looking for a competitive game should steer well clear of this. On the other hand, players who like stories and especially like outrageous stories with dramatic changes in fortune, treasures, magic, djinn, and marrying royalty are going to eat this game up.

For the right group of players Tales of the Arabian Nights looks like a lot of fun. I'd especially recommend it for story lovers and players who are less competitive. Players who enjoy the game should certainly consider reading the stories that inspired it, making sure to pick a text that's age appropriate.

Pros: a great story telling game, good replay value

Cons: the outcome may be too random for some, not a lot of player interaction

Beyond the Basics: good game of its type and great gateway to some fabulous literature

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