The publisher Holy Grail Games have been putting out some pretty cool sounding titles. Games like Rallyman GT, Titan, Dominations and Museum are all theirs. So when an email dropped about a new family game coming to Kickstarter I was intrigued. Tiles of the Arabian Nights looked incredible from the teaser info in the email. However, the gameplay was not my usual thing, in fact it wasn’t a game I would ever choose. Having told my kids on countless occasions at the dinner table it is good to try new things, I thought perhaps I should take my own advice. I boldly said yes.
Then the prototype arrived. I stared at the beautiful box, the beautiful box stared back at me. This stand-off lasted a week as my excited acceptance of the game had been replaced by the feeling my kids must have, when faced with a vegetable on their plate. Reading the rules I was worried this game was not going to be for me. However, after the stand-off, I reminded myself I’m a seasoned reviewer, so I pulled the game to the table. Read on if you want to know whether Tiles of the Arabian Nights won me over!
How it plays
At the start of the game each player is dealt four hidden objectives. These range in victory points according to their difficulty. All objectives will involve moving around the board to collect certain tiles. Movement is dictated by the amount of camels in your train, collecting further camels from around the board means you can move further on your turn. You can only collect one tile per turn. Certain objectives require you to slay enemies, these tiles can be collected if you have enough weapons to overcome the beasts and mobs. Slain enemies can also earn additional victory points at the end of the game. Other resources can be collected and traded for victory points at markets, but these same items will be needed to tempt explorers and possibly count towards your hidden objective too, and here is the crux of the strategy.
So at its heart, Tiles of the Arabian Nights is a set collection game with a few different ways to score points. These familiar mechanics are blended with a narrative. You see, to cash in your hidden objectives you have to go back to Baghdad (the middle square) and regale the Sultan with a tale of your travels outside the city. Telling your story using the tiles that you have collected as prompts. You will not only be aiming to woo the Sultan, but your opponents too who will rate your story. All votes will be tallied, including a random score from the Sultan and your score logged (if it is your highest so far). You can also bribe the Sultan if you think your story is going to be amazing to get more points!
The game ends when a player has told their fourth story or all the Sultan tokens have been used. The player with the most Victory points wins.
Can you tell me more about the game?
The game is designed by Olivier Melison and Matthieu Podevin and is adorned with wonderful artwork by Joelle Drans & Amber Scharf. Tiles of the Arabian Nights is being funded via Kickstarter.
The judging mechanic is one of my least favourites in board and card games I must confess. It was one of my reservations stopping me from getting it to the table. As a board game mechanic it opens a game up to corruption. However, in early rounds of this board game, judging around my table was really fair. Before playing our first game, I pushed that voting had to be unbiased and not tactical, not least because if you score unfairly, it will be to your own detriment when you are looking for votes later on.
However, the dispassionate voting is really tricky to maintain on the final story, when you know someone could beat you on the story tracker and you know there will be no comeback until the next game. I’m not sure what can be done about that. The main counterbalance to this is the other ways to score victory points. I am unsure if it is possible to get enough points without telling a single story. I’m yet to be brave enough to test the hypothesis you see!
Final thoughts on Tiles of the Arabian Nights
So, were my fears and suspicions about this game correct? I guess my concern was that my young teenager would be too reluctant to embrace the storytelling aspect. I was truly amazed when he wasn’t. George (10) was equally as bold which pleased me too. Now our stories give slayed beasts names and describe the crazy places we visit. It was brilliant that Tiles of the Arabian Nights had taken us out of our comfort zone. As a result, we were laughing and giggling and ultimately, having great fun around the table.
I did play this game once at a two player count with my wife. Without the family around us, it felt a bit forced and awkward. Whatever the reason, it didn’t shine for us in that situation. Just like a break up, I think this was a case of ‘it’s not you it’s me!’
With my two older boys this was brilliant fun. It was lovely to relax into a game that we wouldn’t normally play. Making up stories based around this beautiful board game was very entertaining. Oh boy, oh boy is it a beautiful board game! The artwork is fantastic. When you set it up on the table it demands attention from your eyes.
I am certainly looking forward to more yarns about Giant Ugg beasts and Dave the Explorer in the land of Wallerbingbong – just outside the city walls of Baghdad when playing Tiles of the Arabian Nights more.