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Chris
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I have been interested in this game since I heard about the reprint. I had a friend going to Origins and asked him to check the Z-Man booth to see if he had some copies. I got lucky and he did. I have had the opportunity to play this game with both 3 and 4 players. This is probably one of the most unique gaming experiences I have ever had. It is an experience not just a game. Let’s get down to it.

Components
The box weighs over 8 pounds. When you open the box you can see why. There are a couple sheets of tokens, a game board, a rule book, 6 Player boards, the matrix booklet and the Tales Book. The Tales book is 300 some odd pages and in big letters on the first page it states that it is NOT A RULEBOOK and should not be read.


The board is wonderful. The colors are easy to distinguish between although the numbers tend to be somewhat hard to read from any distance. I am kind of mixed about the 3 tracks on the board. They each face a different direction so in order to read them you must be on that side. It is not so bad on the Story and Destiny tracks but the Wealth track is a bit of a pain. When you’re sitting facing the board from the front you can’t read the wealth track as it is upside down from the rest of the board. I guess if you are playing with 4 or more players someone can keep track of that track. These things do not distract from my enjoyment of the board. UniversalHead did a great job with this one.

The cards are pretty much standard Z-Man quality. Not great but they will suffice. They are a bit on the thin side so People will sleeve them. I am not one to sleeve cards so I will just deal with the thin cards. The layout is great but the text is VERY small on the Quest and Status cards. VERY small white text in a nonstandard font can be a little difficult to read for some people. Again I have 20/10 vision so no problems here but some people will have problems. Also the White numbers on the City markers on the Location Encounter cards are hard to read and the same with the tiny numbers on the City Encounters.

They did squeeze A LOT of information on the cards and sacrifices had to be made. Again these small things do not take away from my enjoyment of the game but I thought I should mention them.

The Tokens were not very well punched and were tough to get out (I didn’t damage any but came close a bunch of times). The Skill tokens again have the same problem as the cards and that they can be tough to read and you really need to look closely to see which skill you are grabbing.

The other 2 components are the Reaction Matrix and the Book of Tales (The player boards are really part of the reaction matrix). The layout of both the matrix and tales book are easy to use and the matrix has some artwork for you to look at while being the matrix reader. The player boards are essential. They tell you the choices you have for the reaction matrix (more on the gameplay later). I will be tabbing my book of tales I think to make is easy to get to some sections easier. There are over 2300 tales in the book and some lead you to other pages. Digging through the book, while not a problem, can be made easier by tabbing. As I do not see myself trading or selling this game anytime soon tabbing the book is fine to me.

Gameplay
The rules are remarkably basic. The procedure tends to be “Odd” but once you know it the game just flows. The object of the game is to score 20 points (A combination of Story Points and Destiny Points that you secretly choose at the beginning of the game). You can play to more points for a longer game but 20 is fine for beginners. Each player starts in Bagdad and has to return there to win the game. Each player starts the game Poor and your wealth level sets your movement rate on land and sea (unless you have the seamanship skill). Each player will also choose 3 skills to start the game with. Skills are very important and will usually lead to better experiences in your adventures. A player’s turn is basically Move and have an encounter. It is pretty simple really. You move a maximum amount of space as determined by the higher of your two movement numbers and the maximum amount of a type is restricted by the lower number and type. So when you have 2 land and 6 sea movement you can move a maximum of 6 spaces and a maximum of 2 of them can be my land. You start the game with 4 / 4.


So once you get to a location you will draw an Encounter card. There are 3 types of encounter cards. The Person encounters have 3 numbers depending on the time of day (The time of day is determined by a marker by the encounter deck and each time through the deck you change the time of day). The city encounters have a small gold box with a number in it and the location cards have 6 different terrain symbols and a number in each. Your matrix number is based on the terrain type you are standing one.


Once you draw a Encounter and have your number you tell the person to your left (who will have the Book of tales) and they look it up in the book. The 1st 200 (?) tales in the book are just ways of looking up the correct item in the reaction matrix. They will then ask the player to roll a die and the result of the die role, plus some modifiers, will give the tales reader a number between 1 and 12 (results over 12 are considered 12). They then look and the book of tales and are given an Adjective and a Matrix number. So let’s say the card was a parson and it was a beggar. You die roll give the result Wounded on reaction matrix A. You would then look at your player aid and see that you have several choices of how to react to the wounded beggar.



Meanwhile the person to your right is looking in the matrix at matrix A. You then choose how to react to the beggar. Remembering that you have skills and that some reactions will not use those skills. If you have the Piety skill and want to use that skill you have a better chance choosing the Pray reaction instead of the Attack one. So once you choose a reaction the player with the Matrix will cross the wounded adjective with the reaction you choose and get a number. They then tell that number to the person with the Book of Tales and they turn to the tale. STOP right there. You will then throw the DESTINY DIE. This will give you a chance of reading the tale number you were given OR the one before or after. This adds some more variety to the game. The person with the book then reads the entry and if there are skills or a no skill option they offer the player the option of using the skills shown if they have them or if they don’t they get the no skill option. They then read the results and if there is a reward they reward the player. The player then gets points or skills or treasures or statuses or many other things can happen. There are some more things that happen if you have master skills or statuses that can affect the way your character reacts or gets rewards.


If you have met your goal for points you head back to Bagdad and have an encounter there. If you are still there then you declare that you will win this turn. If nobody else gets there before your next turn you win.


There are also quests that you can do for points and there are treasures and there are statuses. All of these things make the game different every time you play it. You can read the rules posted here to find out more.

Conclusion
So what is my final verdict? I LOVE THIS GAME. This is one of the most unique experiences I have ever had. This is one game where winning isn’t the point. Win or Lose you will still have a great time. This is NOT a strategy game. The game is VERY random. People who have to control every aspect of a game WILL NOT ENJOY THIS GAME!!! This is an adventure game that is second to none.

There are status cards that will take away every choice that you can make. Getting Ensorcelled and Insane will make it so that someone else moves your character and insane lets someone else make a choice for you for the reaction. So on your turn you will roll the destiny die and may be able to choose if you are going to use a skill. I sure hope you don’t get grief stricken status because that will not let you use your skills. You can be along for the ride. If the idea of that happening doesn’t piss you off you may be able to play this one. There is a VERY good chance of bad things happening to you.
I look forward to playing this on a weekly basis. This will hit my dime list very soon.

In a 3 player game Everyone is doing something all the time. Add in a 4th player and there is one person who does nothing but enjoy the story. Go with 5 or 6? Not I. It will need to be a VERY special group that plays a 6 player version of this game. In a four player game I got up to do dishes between my turns and was not missed. I will play with 4 but I don't think I will play with 5. Most of the group I play with complain about any downtime in any game so playing with people who don't get into the stories or complain about downtime will ruin the game for the others. This in my opinion (and is why I bought it) is a game for 2 couples to have fun playing with their spouses. I have a friend who comes over on Fridays with his wife and look forward to when My wife gets home from vacation to play with the 4 of us.




Credit to
Universal Head
Australia
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Professional creative visual communication: www.universalhead.com
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Game summaries and reference sheets: www.headlesshollow.com
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Rob Corn
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How appropriate. You fight like a cow.
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for the images
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Tristan Hall
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LIFEFORM - LATE PLEDGE NOW!!!
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LIFEFORM - LATE PLEDGE NOW!!!
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Really helpful, well written review. Restored my faith in ordering this game after reading about people trying to fix it . . .

Good stuff!
 
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T France
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Makes me extra glad I preordered yesterday!...
 
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Chris
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ninjadorg wrote:
Really helpful, well written review. Restored my faith in ordering this game after reading about people trying to fix it . . .

Good stuff!


I can see no reason to "Fix" this game as it is not broken. If you want to tone done the impact of the Status cards there is a variant in the back of the book that will help but it applies to all statuses not only the bad ones.

Who cares who wins or loses this one it is the gameplay that makes this so much fun.
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Todd
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How long does the game take to play with 4 people?
 
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Chris
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Took about 2 hours
 
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Jamey Philipp
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lordunborn wrote:
It is an experience not just a game.


It is also true it because is an experience is also is not much of a game. I think this is a game that take more than a couple plays to "get" how little you're actually doing and how random things are.

Not saying it is a bad thing. But the game tries to disguise how random things are with the book and the matrixes but if one is truley objective it all boils down to they had to write some choice responses that make sense, and some that didn't make sense to provide the "unknown", and there is no way to figure out which ones are which one. Might as well chuck some dice every turn and see what happens to you instead of giving you some "choices" with completly unrelated outcomes.

I met a princess in the middle of the ocean and visited her house, and while choosing the being nice choice to a NPC I ened up killing him.

Those saying the game isn't broken may be right. It seems to play they way it was intended; with close to no player input that alters gameplay and very loose.

A great game for nights when you played other games that had TOO many choices and your brain is burned, and you are OK with sitting back and watching a game play itself. On nights when you want to be an active player this will get old in a few plays.

I guess the best way I can describe it is I would never play this game when I am really wanting to play games. I 'll never be like "Oh, lets play Tales!". This will see my table when I really do not feel like playing games, yet I want to do SOMETHING. If that makes any sense. In that light, while it is not a very good gaming experience, it certainly has a place and fills that "Meh, I'm bored but do not really want to do anything" mood.
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Chris
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While everyone is entitled to an opinion I have to say that I do not agree with yours at all.

The game is not broken. The instance that you describe could make sense. Just because you start your encounter in the middle of and ocean doesn't mean it has to be a huge squid. Lets just forget about the narrative for a second and look at the Matrix and Tales book. The Matrix allows for dozens of different choices. Just because you were being nice to someone doesn't mean you don't kill them. There are over 2300 different tales and intermix that with all the cards and matrix choices and skills and you know what, if there is 1 or 2 that are out of context I think I can cut them a break. You just happened to get a bad one. I got a Whirlpool on a desert square.

As for the statement that your choice doesn't matter. There you are very wrong. If you have the Weapon Use skill you should be choosing the attack reaction. If you have Piety and choose attack or trick instead of pray guess what? Your not playing the game your letting the game play you. You have choices and your choices do effect the outcome of most encounters.

Nobody ever, ever ,ever said this was a heavy Euro Strategy game. This is a Choose Your Own Adventure Game. As I said this is a Choose You Own Adventure Game that is second to none. There has never been a Choose Your Own Adventure Game as good as this and I doubt there ever will be. Oh and see how many times I wrote Choose Your Own Adventure Game. If you go into this thinking anything else it is not the game that is broken but your judgment.

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Anders Gabrielsson
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I kind of agree with both of you.

The game succeeds admirably at what it sets out to do: provide a lighthearted adventure in the spirit of the Arabian Nights.

However, depending on how you define "game", some people won't find it a very good "game" even if they enjoy playing it. I think what Superhawk means by choices not mattering is that you can't predict whether a specific choice will likely be beneficial or not. You can easily win the "game" by insulting powerful princes, tricking wise wizards and courting vengeful spirits without the appropriate skills, or, perhaps worse, just acting randomly, in the process beating someone who does his best to make intelligent choices - praying with piety, spending lots of time on the ocean with seamanship, conversing with wizards with wisdom and so on.

For some people this will mean TotAN fails as a "game" the way Chutes and Ladders fails as a "game": if the amount of randomness is so great that you can't learn to play it well it's not a "game". They may still enjoy the experience of playing it, of course, but not the way they enjoy playing a "game".

This is how it is for me. I love TotAN and I can't wait for this new edition to make it here (even though my old version is still fully playable) but playing it is more akin to talking your way through a movie with some friends than playing a typical game: cool things happen and afterwards you have all these stories and funny events, but it's not so much that you've created a story as you've had it happen to you.
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Jamey Philipp
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lordunborn wrote:
While everyone is entitled to an opinion I have to say that I do not agree with yours at all.

The game is not broken. The instance that you describe could make sense. Just because you start your encounter in the middle of and ocean doesn't mean it has to be a huge squid. .............


Not what I was refering to at all.

lordunborn wrote:
As for the statement that your choice doesn't matter. There you are very wrong. If you have the Weapon Use skill you should be choosing the attack reaction. If you have Piety and choose attack or trick instead of pray guess what? Your not playing the game your letting the game play you. You have choices and your choices do effect the outcome of most encounters.


1. I hardly call those "choices". Of course if I am at sea I will choose the seamanship skill over the basketweaving skill, so would everyone,so it really is hard say that making your choices does matter. Except the one time they conjoule a way to make the basketweaving one work just to keep you on your toes. Problem is NO one ever will pick it serioulsy. So yes, if you happen to have a skill that applies to the situation you get to repeat "yes I will use my related skill" over and over again. All but the seriously retarded will be able to see this.

2. You get your skills randomly assigned based on the outcome of a randomly assigned encounter. I needed weath badly in one game, but there is no seeable way to achieve any desired result, period. I had to wait until I lucked into some. But that is the core mechanic in this game, luck. Can't seem to draw any encounters that use any of your abilities? Tough luck. Lucky for you the game will randomly give you some more skills "just for playing"and that will increase your odds as the game progresses. To bad you have steered none of it yourself.

3. All of the encounters have one or two skills listed that may infulence them. If you do not have those skill there is no choice for you. If you do happen to have one of the skills then you feel obligated to pick that "path" as you were lucky enough to draw an encounter that you could have a choice at all on, so why would you pass it up? I've never had an experience where I could pick between two skills I had. I am sure it happens but for me it was either no choice or only a choice for an idiot.

I understand this is not intended to be a heavy Euro. Note where I said it does what it is supposed to do and I like the game for that. The problem is people painting this different than it is, and the bottom line is this game is almost an entirely luck based ride, not a game.

I've played this game plenty now. I've done just as well by "trying hard" to do well as I have not trying at all and picking my choices by saying "first one", or "second one". This is the 1000 monkeys and the typwirters story or the man gets beat by the monkey choosing stocks story. And that is what it is supposed to be and it is fine that way. Becasue I am being clear about what the game really is doesn't mean the game stinks or even that I don't like it.

But lets be clear on what really happens under the hood of this game when reporting it others. The bottom line is this; the game is a random encounter generator that offers unconnected encounters and a one-input variable which may have the max of three different outcomes, of which you may have 2, 1, or no choice to make to get to the outcome.

To paint it any other way for those wondering if it is for them or not doesn't seem right to me.


BTW - coolest. animated. avatar. ever.
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Jamey Philipp
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AndersGabrielsson wrote:
You can easily win the "game" by insulting powerful princes, tricking wise wizards and courting vengeful spirits without the appropriate skills, or, perhaps worse, just acting randomly, in the process beating someone who does his best to make intelligent choices - praying with piety, spending lots of time on the ocean with seamanship, conversing with wizards with wisdom and so on.



Yes! Anders has hit it right on the head!

And I do not have a problem with that, if that is what is stated. It seems the people who have a nostogic feeling for this game are able to overlook how random this game is when reporting about it. By saying it was never intended to be a heavy Euro really deceives IMO. Nor was it intended to be the lightest of light Euros. Seriously a game of Uno has more rational connected choices adn outcomes than than this even comes close to.
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Alexander Corzo
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I've always wanted this game ( which I just bought today!!!) because of it's storytelling potential.

You are correct, this is not a normal game, but that's why I've always wanted it. Something to chill with my wife and friends and have a good time. Not being competitive is actually an interesting experience.

With so much randomness, you are bound to get nonsensical results sometimes, so you just laugh at them.

This game will shine with the Storyteller variant, and can even get competitive with the Merchant variant.

I just think if anyone doesn't understand what a paragraph game really means, they're just being delusional.

ToTAN has been around forever and the original has all these same flaws and still commands outrageous prices on Ebay.

If you go into playing this game and expecting competition then it will fail massively...

I already have over 100 competitive games and now a unique one so I'm happy...
 
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Don Clarke
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This thing about randomness is a tricky one. My view is that there is a heavy dose of randomness in all games where there is any degree of player interaction. I just finished a game of Agricola at Manorcon (UK) yesterday and the guy I ended up 2 points behind (with 33) bleat on about the fact that I had stitched him up every turn. In fact I was just trying to maximise my own position with each play. I wasn't looking at what other people needed. What other people do in every game is the 'random' factor, because they may not behave according to your own sense of logic. This idea works for every game including games of 'pure skill' like chess.

I do like games with 'fog of war' (even if they're not wargames!) and crisis management.
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