Thursday, September 30, 2010

#89: Tales of the Arabian Nights

Tales of the Arabian Nights
  • designer: Eric Goldberg, Anthony J. Galella, Kevin Maroney & Zev Schlasinger
  • publisher: Z-Man
  • date: 2009
  • BoardGameGeek rank/rating: 148/7.38
  • position on my top 100 in 2005: did not appear
  • age: 12+
  • # of players: 1-6
  • print status: in print
  • cost: $35.97 (Boards & Bits)

So, how do you decide what makes a great game? Is it intricately designed mechanics? Or perhaps it is fidelity to theme? Maybe it is the quality of the production - the artwork & the components? Or is it simply how much fun you have playing it?

In the case of Tales of the Arabian Nights, the primary reason it made it into my top 100 is pure & unadulterated fun. With the right crew of people, this is a delightful 2 hour romp through Arabian fairy tales - with you as the featured protagonist.

Tales of the Arabian Nights is what we gamer types call an "experience game" - meaning while there are a number of decisions to make, the game plays you as much as you play the game. If going along for a wild & capricious ride (based on the game system) doesn't appeal to you, you should avoid this at all costs.

OTOH, if you enjoy storytelling & a bit of roleplaying, this is a delightful way to pass a couple of hours. (Those of you who've played the game are getting ready to sue me for false advertising every time I type the words "couple of hours" - I promise I'll explain myself in a minute.)

If you remember the Choose Your Own Adventure books from the late 70s/early 80s (ah, there I go dating myself again), you're going to be familiar with the engine that drives this game - a HUGE book full of paragraphs, many with choices that lead to other paragraphs (and possible fortuitous or calamitous results). Add a board for movement, a card deck & dice to randomize the process and you're whisked back into the magical milieu of the Arabian Nights.

Now, I do put some pretty serious constraints on how I play the game:

  • No more than 4 players (and I prefer three, as that keeps everyone involved in the game)
  • Players must have a sense of humor
  • Players must have the ability to read well/dramatically (so much of the game is taken up with RPG-lite descriptions of the situations you face... it's a shame to play it with someone who isn't going to "get into character")

So, with 3 players, you can easily play a "full" game in 2 hours... and with 4 players, you simply adjust the winning score down by 3-4 points to get the game to fit into that time frame.

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