You probably know a lot about board games, if you heard about the Tales of the Arabian Nights. If you’re wondering whether to get it or not, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, I’ll talk about the most important stuff, concerning this fascinating game. This way, you’ll have a good idea whether this game is something you’d be interested in, or not.
Let’s get right to it by answering the most critical question…
What is Tales of the Arabian Nights?
Tales of the Arabian Nights is a 2009 board game published by Z-Man Games. Inspired by the fabled 1,001 nights, Arabian Nights is a competitive storytelling game. Players encounter wondrous lands, powerful artifacts, fantastic creatures, and dangerous magics. Players respond to their environment using a matrix, allowing for a wide variety of storytelling possibilities, and near-infinite replayability.
Tales of the Arabian Nights is the perfect board game for D&D-lovers. It provides players with an opportunity to explore a rich, unique world that differs from traditional fantasy settings.
How to Play Tales of the Arabian Nights?
While there is a slight learning curve to begin playing Arabian Nights, gameplay is rather simple. Like Betrayal at House on the Hill, the events and scenarios you come across in the game have instructions on what to do, so you don’t need to remember the minutiae.
Once you organize the game pieces and set up the board, you must choose your characters. There are up to six characters to pick from, including Scheherazade, Ali Baba, and Sindbad. You can play each character as either male or female.
Throughout gameplay, players encounter a variety of scenarios in which they act using a matrix of possible responses. The player to their left then uses this matrix to look up and read the outcome. They may ask the active player to roll dice based on any Skills that might apply. Players rotate through turns, sometimes helping each other, sometimes harming each other, each ultimately seeking to be the first to claim victory.
Players begin the game in Baghdad. Each player also begins with one Quest, which determines what their immediate goals are. If you’re familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, think of this as your plot hook. While you don’t have to finish any particular quest, each will help you win the game. Based on their chosen Victory Formula (a secret combination of Story and Destiny points totaling 20), players quest throughout the world of Arabian Nights, returning to Baghdad when they have met both of their Victory and Story point goals. The first player to return wins.
Tales of the Arabian Nights Review
Overall, Arabian Nights is a fantastic game. It allows you to explore a unique and intriguing world, experience countless variations of stories, and seek out great treasure. There is an incredible amount of depth to the game, with hundreds of pages of possible scenarios and combinations of quests, treasures, and events.
That said, Arabian Nights is not a perfect game. Its more specific flaws and boons are described below.
Gameplay and Story
Once you get the hang of it, the gameplay of Arabian Nights is simple and engaging. You’re deeply involved in the decision-making process, from deciding which quest to pursue, to how to get there, to how to respond to the bandit that gets in your way. Your decisions are all meaningful in a D&D-esque manner, as they directly affect your character’s future. Other players stay involved outside of their turn. They are responsible for reading the story in the Book of Tales and providing you with an outcome. Because of the many stages of each turn, some time can pass between turns in many-player games.
The scenarios themselves are, for the most part, excellent. With hundreds of pages of different possible events, not every one will be as engaging as the next. Nevrtheless, they are each interesting and serve a place in the story. Whether you encounter a band of brigands, come across a genie in a bottle, or are scorned by an efreet, you’re never sure whether any event will provide you with a great boon or crush you with a terrible curse.
The unpredictability of events makes each turn captivating (and terrifying, if you’re close to winning), but it can also sometimes be a downside. When outcomes are based on your responses to a situation, you should be able to predict a general outcome. However, some combinations of responses seem to have a mismatch with their outcomes and can leave you feeling like you didn’t mean to respond in a certain way due to the wording.
Overall, gameplay is fun and unique, but expect some hiccups here and there when it comes to events and keep an open mind about the flow of the story.
While the game strives towards a measure of inclusivity, such as allowing players to play as either male or female, these efforts fall short in some areas. Some scenarios involve events like slavery or forced marriage. Not to mention the removal of player agency, these themes are problematic to begin with, and often poorly-handled in game.
The game is based in a historical setting where slavery and forced marriage were not uncommon. However, whether they should be so common in a board game is another matter. Additionally, these events tend to disproportionately affect female characters, which, while it may be more realistic historically, has the unfortunate effect of punishing players for playing as women.
Inspired by myths and fables, the game is not historically accurate to begin with. The use of these problematic themes is unfortunate, The game would have done just as well without them, or at least if they were handled better.
Don’t let this section deter you from playing a character you want to play. While these scenarios aren’t ideal, they are less common, and you can omit them if you don’t want to play with them. Additionally, overcoming these maladies and succeeding in spite of them can be a worthwhile outcome, and make for excellent stories.
One drawback of the game is the so-called losing spiral. When a player starts to accrue negative effects, it becomes harder for them to succeed at individual events, therefore making it more likely they accrue more negative effects. This means one player often “collects” curses, injuries, and drawbacks, and they can feel singled out. This can be unfun for the player in question.
However, having more players in the game greatly limits this effect, and again, overcoming these difficulties to eke out a victory can be rewarding. One benefit of this spiral is that it gives other players the illusion you aren’t a threat. This allows you to to sneakily accrue the Victory and Story points you need to win.
The game has near-infinite replayability. It has hundreds of different scenarios, with each scenario providing you with a dozen possible responses for a series of branching outcomes. While the randomization is somewhat rudimentary (i.e., random adjective + random noun in many cases), it never feels clunky or low-effort.
Each character has a different personality, and choosing different responses based on how you think the character would act will always yield different results. The combination of scenarios, responses, treasure, and skills mean that no two situations will be alike. Playing with different people also help to keep the game fresh and exciting, as you learn to expect how people play the game and how they will act.
Arabian Nights is a game that continues to come down off the shelf, board game night after board game night.
There are a lot of game pieces in Arabian Nights. From 2d character standees to Skill tokens to Quest markers, they can be a lot to handle. Some of them aren’t intuitive: the Story and Destiny point system is complex and unnecessary; it’s much easier to keep track of on a pad of paper.
While the hard, sturdy cardboard pieces are tough enough to withstand hours of play, they will show wear and tear over time. The character standees will see the most abuse from the plastic bases that hold them upright; I recommend keeping them assembled between games to minimize damage.
The game cards, books, and board are sturdy and well-made. They’re easy to use and will last the test of time, especially if you take care of them. Overall, the game pieces are good quality, but could certainly have been improved upon.
Tales of the Arabian Nights is a massive, complex game that enables fantastic storytelling and competitiveness. It’s a ton of fun to play, especially for those experienced with RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. It’s not without its faults, but that’s to be expected with a game this size. Playing first and foremost to experience the randomly-generated story allows you to enjoy the game to its fullest extent.
It’s a game I’d definitely recommend and one you won’t regret picking up — if you can find a copy. Released in 2009, it’s out of print, and not one of the more common ones. That being said, remember to check with your local game stores before purchasing online. If they don’t have it in stock, they might be able to order it in for you.
If you’re looking for something more casual, then you should certainly check out our recommendations for the Best Party Board Games. You’ll be able to enjoy these even with players, who aren’t that into board games.