Do you ever have that player show up at your game sessions, who always seems to show up late, but then also has to leave early? I had one such fellow join my group recently, and in desperation (and ignoring the clamor for Battlestar Galactica) I pulled Tales from my collection and proceeded to set it up. It is here where I made a most valuable discovery, and I will get to that in a moment, but first let me share a little about our adventures.
It seems that every time my friends and I play this game we always have exciting encounters. These encounters seem to have a reoccurring theme depending on the player, which strikes me as odd considering this game is mostly random. We have one guy in our group who always likes to play aggressive, attacking what he can whenever he can do that. This time he battled a pack of dogs with some success (if I recall correctly); these same dogs gave another players some considerable trouble. Another player seemed to always encounter genies or the like, and almost no one else. That started from his first encounter card of the game and held through until the end. Myself, I have a theme that happens almost every time we play: trouble with enchantresses. There have been times when I have been grief stricken after meeting one of them. This time I was much more lucky, but I still had problems. I just don't seem to have any sway over magical ladies.
The oddest thing to happen this time was when one player, a guy who was playing one of the female characters, stole the wife of a prince and ran off with her. We were probably supposed to switch the genders in the encounter, but it was too funny and awkward to do that. He later reconciled easily with the husband.
After awhile, players started to leave, beginning with that one friend I told you about. We simply kept on playing as it didn't matter too much. It was when the game got down to just myself and one other player that some special things happened. Getting to the places of power is extremely difficult, but each of us got to visit one of them in those final few turns. My friend found his way to the Cave of Wonders (his second time there), and I discovered the Lake of Colors (my first time ever in a place of power). It is this kind of experience that makes me love this game so much.
As the party ended and everyone went there separate ways, I started to think about why this game had been so successful. Tales had fit a difficult situation almost perfectly. It was here that I discovered a potential new use for multiplayer solitaire games, where the interaction is next to non-existent. I have always tried to stay away from those games, and truth be told Tales isn't completely devoid of interaction. But when a player leaves early in a game of Tales, the interactive parts aren’t central to the game, and they are often very easily transferred to another player; so it makes little difference whether someone leaves the table early or not. This flexibility, inherent to many multiplayer solitaire games, could prove useful the next time I need to adapt a game to differences in people's schedule. A whole new world has been opened up to me. This might seem like old news to you (for all I know its been the point of raging discussion here on the geek), but I am excited to see what it might hold in store for me.
And I'll have to play Tales again.
Nice write up Dave.
It's funny, just last night at a weekly boardgame meetup my girlfriend and I attend, we played Tales, as one guy in our group wanted to try it before deciding to buy it (and I'm fairly certain he will now).
My girlfriend and I have played it twice just the two of us (I've only had it a few weeks), and love it, so we were interested in how a 4 player game would go down.
Well, maybe 30 minutes in, my girlfriend had to take a phone call, and consequently was away for a good portion of the game, so we invited another girl in our group to sit in for her, and take her character over. She knew how to play, and it was super simple to simply say "Well, right now Scheherazade is on a quest to find her a lost relative, so she'd probably be trying to go collect those quest markers", and that was all the direction she needed.
Alternatively, as you mentioned, we could have just let her character be, and easily go from a 4 player game to a 3 player game with no trouble.
But it is indeed an endearing quality of this game to allow for situations like yours and mine, and so seamlessly adapt to them.