Lance
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This is the first offering in my attempt to write a review a week on the ‘Geek. My goal is to one day write a review for all the games in my collection, and by doing so, making me play all the games I own as there are far too many that are sitting in shrink wrap, waiting to be experienced. Wish me luck, and if there is a game in particular you want to see a review on, please let me know.

Disclaimer: Not that it should matter in the slightest (a good review is a good review) but all of my games were purchased by me or were gifts from friends/family. None of them were supplied to me by their publishers.

Tales of the Arabian Nights was a game that I had been anxiously awaiting for quite some time. I ended up pre-ordering it over a year ago when I heard that the release date was in early 2009, and then played the waiting game along with everyone else. Once it was delivered to my door, I tore it open, gave the rules a good read (I hate reading rules online, something about the feeling of the book in my hands) and then started in on convincing my girlfriend to play a game. Surprisingly, she agreed pretty quickly. Since then I have played it several times with her, and also with my gaming group.

So what do you get? You get a box on the larger side, with attractive art on the cover, that weighs in at around 8 lbs. Z-Man used a sturdy box though, and I didn’t notice any sagging on the bottom when I picked it up. Inside you get 3 sheets of cardboard tokens, 6 player mats, an attractive game board, 2 normal dice and a “destiny die”, a matrice “menu”, a rulebook, several decks of cards, and of course, a big giant “Book of Tales”.

All of these components are of top notch quality and the game in full setup mode looks very nice. If had to quibble about anything (and this is a minor quibble) I would mention slight dissatisfaction with the cardboard character stands. I don’t mind having a piece of cardboard representing my character, as a matter of fact, a lot of times I find them preferable to a plastic model, but these particular pieces of cardboard are a little on the large side. They tend to obscure locations on the board and if players are near each other, their stands are going to be butting heads. Like I said – very minor problems that are not likely to detract from your experience to the game but I noticed it, so I felt I needed to mention it.

I found the rulebook to be very straightforward and easy to comprehend. Illustrations abound and examples of play help with the flow. You could easily “play as you go” the first time the game hits the table and there would be very little downtime or problems. I have read that some people have run into specific situations where the rules don’t give an exact explanation as to how a certain situation should play out (such as being married, getting turned into a gorilla, and still having children) but in a game like this one, you need to roll with stuff like this, and just house rule it as you go.

If you have no idea how the game plays out, it is really quite simple. On your turn, you move your character a certain number of spaces (determined by your wealth – interestingly, the super rich get fast boats at sea but move slow over land because of all their belongings and entourage) and wherever you end up, you draw an encounter card. The encounter card will either be a place, a person, or a city, but regardless of what you pick, it will have a number that another player references in the Book of Tales and you adventure begins. By using a few random implements, such as dice rolls or the time of day, you determine what kind of encounter you will be having. Maybe the Princess you ran into is “Vengeful”. Maybe she is “Grief-Stricken”. Regardless, you will be given a “Matrice Letter” and you can check the options available to you on your player reference and choose a course of action. If you are familiar with the old “Choose your own Adventure” books, this will be very familiar to you. Do you want to help the Sorcerer you just found? Do you want to rob him? Do you want to hire the beggar or enrich her? Do you want to enter the lost ruins or avoid them entirely? It’s completely up to you.

Once you have chosen your action, in most cases, you get to roll the “Destiny Die” and you will get a result of a plus sign, a minus sign, or a blank face. Another player will now look up the paragraph specified by your action, add or minus one number from the result if specified by the die roll, and read your “adventure” to you. Depending on your characters skills, items, and other factors, you will get a result that will help or hurt you in some way, and then it is the next persons turn.

And that is pretty much it. Some of the rewards you will receive from your encounters will be Story or Destiny points. These are fairly important as you need to collect these to win the game. Prior to starting, each player chooses a formula of these points for them to collect to win. The formula must equal 20 total points, but you can pick whatever you want. I would suggest trying to make your Story and Destiny totals as equal as possible until you know what you are getting yourself into, but that would imply that there is an underlying strategy to winning the game, and you are looking for one of those in Tales of the Arabian Nights, you are probably missing the point of the game entirely.

Which brings me to my feelings about the game: it’s a lot of fun but it is not for everyone, nor is it a game you should be busting out every single game night.

For example, my gaming group has enjoyed the hell out of our sessions of TotAN, but the most common complaint I hear about it is the complete lack of competition. Technically, you are “racing” against the other players, trying to win the game, but winning is pretty much secondary to the actual playing of the game. There is next to no player interaction other than laughing at your friends’ misfortune, and when you get done playing, you can’t help but feel that you really didn’t play a game – rather you were just the ping-pong ball in a table tennis tournament that lasted a couple of hours.

Simply put – I have found that the vast majority of the decisions I have made in this game to be almost completely arbitrary to the outcome I have received. Each player gets to choose some skills at the beginning of the game, so lets say you pick “Weapon Use” as one of them, and you happen upon an “Angry Soldier”. You decide to “attack” them and when the other player looks up your paragraph they ask you if you have the “Beguiling” skill. Excuse me? I am trying to run this guy through with my sword, not ask him for a date! Admittedly, when the resulting paragraph is read to you, the situation makes more sense, but there is no way for a player to be able to know whether or not the skills they possess will actually help them in any given encounter.

In fact, there are many parts of this game that feel pretty vague and tacked on to me. I know the game is trying to be thematic, but your character has no stats other than a name and a gender. You may as well call yourself “Bob the Sailor” or “Trudy the Harem Girl” for as much as it matters to the story. Also, you get an entire sheet of Destiny and Story point markers that you are supposed to use to secretly pick your winning formula, and then hide these cardboard chits underneath your player card until you return to Baghdad to declare yourself the winner. Why even bother? When we play, we write it down on a piece of paper – it’s faster and your card lies flat on the table instead of wobbling around.

I know I am quibbling here, but if you are catching my drift, you can see this is not a game for everyone. In fact, I enjoy playing this with my girlfriend more than my gaming group. First – she is not a “gamer” in the traditional sense so the lack of competition appeals to her, and Second – she really, really likes it when something deliciously bad happens to me. In fact, one of the more enjoyable moments of playing TotAN was watching her face smile with devilish glee as she read the paragraph describing my hapless Ali Baba being tossed into a volcano after being caught trying to rob an Enchantress.

So – after reading all that, here is my final say on the game. I don’t give a number or a rating in any of my reviews, because I think that they are too limiting, but I will say this: If you would be able to enjoy being in a boat race that took you to all sorts of fantastic places and experiences, where you didn’t care if you won or lost and only had about half a rudder to steer yourself along than this is definitely a game for you – doubly so if you have a partner to share the ride with.

If you are looking for more meat in your sandwich, you will probably want to go elsewhere, but that is a shame, because this game is really a delight.
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Rob Corn
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Columbus
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How appropriate. You fight like a cow.
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Great review. Particularly:

UndeadViking wrote:
I would suggest trying to make your Story and Destiny totals as equal as possible until you know what you are getting yourself into, but that would imply that there is an underlying strategy to winning the game, and you are looking for one of those in Tales of the Arabian Nights, you are probably missing the point of the game entirely.

UndeadViking wrote:
If you would be able to enjoy being in a boat race that took you to all sorts of fantastic places and experiences, where you didn’t care if you won or lost and only had about half a rudder to steer yourself along than this is definitely a game for you – doubly so if you have a partner to share the ride with.

You captured the essence of the game very well in my opinion.
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Железный комиссар
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Excellent review. I've played the new edition once and the original quite a few times, and I've rarely played with a group that acknowledged the DP SP win conditions. We play for Sultan (you can find the variant in the files section for the original game). The game is significantly longer, but the adventures are so rich that everyone feels fulfilled. By contrast, if you play to DP and SP the game cuts off just as you're getting going.

Last weekend I was attending a huge game day and someone came up to me and said, brimming with self-satisfaction: "I just won Arabian Nights. The others wanted to play for 2nd though." In the world of boardgames, I've never heard something as nonsensical.
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Marshall Miller
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Malden
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The Warren is a roleplaying game about intelligent rabbits trying to make the best of a world filled with hazards, predators and, worst of all, other rabbits.
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Marshall is a Boston-based researcher and game designer.
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Personally, I'm fine with this game as is. However, I think that many would enjoy the game a bit more if we could just agree on when you have to drink and when you may choose to drink if you want...
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R. L. Lloyd
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Rock Hill
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...as in my brain fails me at times.
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Best title for a review I have read yet...
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Nick Bah Doo
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Excellent review, thanks! I think I may fall under the not-for-me-category.
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Marshall Miller
United States
Malden
Massachusetts
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The Warren is a roleplaying game about intelligent rabbits trying to make the best of a world filled with hazards, predators and, worst of all, other rabbits.
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While this game has been on my radar ever since the reprint was announced, this was the last review I read before pushing the confirm order button. Thanks for pushing me over the edge.
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Nikolaj Andersen
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UndeadViking wrote:
If you would be able to enjoy being in a boat race that took you to all sorts of fantastic places and experiences, where you didn’t care if you won or lost and only had about half a rudder to steer yourself along


This actually sounds very thematic.
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Robert Borosak
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Great review!

My wife and I enjoy game very much and I know that this is not "game" in way that most of gamers think game should be, but it is hours of fun, unexpected situations, and laughter.
Maybe gameplay drops if you play with 4 or more players but with 3 players or just 2 game was going smoothly and there was no downtime at all.
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MAD MONK
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A fine review my good man. Vance your style is easy reading. Keep it up ol'boy
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