Players: 1 to 6
Game Length: 120 minutes
Best enjoyed: With 3 or 4 players who want to have a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style game together
Tales of the Arabian Nights is a hugely ambitious game based on the classic 1001 Arabian Nights collection of folk tales. It is steeped in Arabic mythology and aims to give players the chance to have an adventure in the world described in these tales, filled with vengeful Efreeteh, ravenous Gooleh and all manner of magical objects and locales. It is first and foremost a story game, where you and your friends will be reading entries from an enormous book to detail your adventures.
Players start the game by choosing characters, a special skill (such as Courtly Graces, Enduring Hardship or Weapon Use) and a target number of Story and Destiny points to shoot for. These points will be earned over the course of the game – Story points for when you find something interesting, and Destiny points when something happens to you. You’ll also receive a quest to give you some direction, that will send you to some far-flung region of the world. However, the game is extremely free-form – you shouldn’t feel the need to complete your quest, and wandering the world to see what you encounter or attempting to reach particular cities will immerse you in the world just as well.
The main draw of Tales of the Arabian Nights is the immense Book of Tales, with thousands of entries covering all the possible things that can happen to a player. On your turn you will have some manner of encounter – whether this is with a beggar, a storm, a wild animal or something else – and you will need to choose a reaction. The game does tend to reward ‘good’ behaviour, so if you choose to beat a poor beggar, don’t be surprised if this turns against you.
You don’t always have a lot of information about your responses, however; you will only have a vague description of the encounter like ‘Violent Storm’, and have to choose from a variety of single-word responses, like ‘Hide’, ‘Pray’, or something more confusing like ‘Drink’. Frequently, you won’t know the intent of your action until you turn to the corresponding paragraph, and all manner of absurd things may happen; by ‘honouring’ a beggar you may inadvertently find yourself becoming a Vizier, while the next player who does the same is thrown in prison.
Ultimately, Tales of the Arabian Nights is a game where the journey is far more important than the destination. Points and skills will be awarded arbitrarily, but it’s much more about all the bizarre and magical things that can happen to you and your friends than trying to win the game; working out any rhyme or reason is an exercise in futility, as well as missing the entire point. If you’re happy to let yourself be taken on a trip by a unique and ambitious game, Tales of the Arabian Nights is an excellent game to try.