Monday, July 14, 2014

board game review: tales of arabian nights

[Guest author: my husband, Jeff!]

Bit by bit I have (and by extension my beautiful wife, Amanda, has) been getting into board gaming. [editor's note: I swear, I didn't ask him to say that!]

The first game that we really purchased together was Pandemic.  It is a wonderful cooperative board game where you try to cure various diseases before the world erupts in chaos.  Amanda wrote a bit about it here.  That game helped to nurture the new interest because it was easy to learn, cooperative, relatively short (<60 minutes), and exciting to play.  Since we bought Pandemic, we (more I, I guess) have been adding bits and pieces to our collection.  When buying games, I first and foremost try to understand the mechanics in order to see if it is something Amanda and I might enjoy together.  Seems simple enough, but Amanda typically doesn’t like hardcore competitive games or games with a large degree of luck.  [editor's note: Risk is the worst.] Board games can be quite expensive, so I don’t like the idea of buying one that she will never want to play.  To be fair to Amanda, she is a good sport and will pretty much play any of the ones we own even if they aren’t her favorites.

One game she does enjoy is a newer purchase: Tales of Arabian Nights.  Tales of Arabian Nights is a storytelling game based on 1001 Nights and those types of classic Arabic stories.  Think Aladdin, Sinbad, Scheherazade, etc.  The game is played with 1-6 players (yes - you can play by yourself!).  Mechanically it is quite simple: You move your pawn (Aladdin, as an example) a number of spaces determined by how wealthy you are.  Once you have finished moving, you have an encounter in your current space.

Encounters are dealt with by using certain numbers and some dice rolling to guide you to a particular paragraph in this BEAST:

I won’t go into the whole process of finding the results of your encounter, but the guys at the board game website Shut Up and Sit Down do an excellent job of explaining the mechanics and why this game is great.  The book of tales is essentially a giant book of crazy stuff that happens to your character. Think choose your own adventure stories, and you are not far off. Encounters can give you Story or Destiny Points, which are how you “win” the game.  The game really isn’t about winning, though.  It is about the crazy, fun experiences you have playing it.

Here is an example:
One time when we were playing, my Sinbad character got married.  Isn’t that nice?  Marriage is great, because you earn more Story Points.  However, one turn later I was adventuring when I came across a wizard of some kind.  I failed to impress him and I was turned into a beast.  Perfect.  Shortly after that, I became ensorcelled and went insane.  Those last two statuses meant that another player had to move my character and another player had to choose how I reacted to situations.  Essentially, Sinbad went crazy and made erratic decisions and his every movement was being controlled by some distant sorcerer.  Brilliant use of mechanics to convey story.

A lot of bad things happen in the game, but they are always funny.  The gameplay isn’t deep or difficult, but the theme and the stories you get to tell are wonderful. This is a great game for anyone who just wants to sit down with friends or family and have a silly, fun evening.

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