(One of the “Holy Grails” of gaming over the last few decades is a brilliant game of adventure set in the exotic locales of the Middle East. Rumors of its resurrection continually circulated and, in fact, a German language reissue of the game did appear in the 1990s. Now, with a new English language edition of this game finally released [and reviewed in this issue], we thought it was a good time to “flashback” to the original review that first appeared over 20 years ago. From the Fall 1987 Gamers Alliance Report, we present our review of this classic: Tales of the Arabian Nights.)

TALES OF THE ARABIAN NIGHTS (West End Games, out of print)


To capture the richness of literature in a game is a difficult task. To capture the feel of the classic 1001 Arabian Nights is an exceptional challenge. Talesof the Arabian Nights, designed by Eric Goldberg and developed by Doug Kaufman and Ken Rolston, succeeds at that challenge.

Bookshelf boxed, Tales comes with 160 counters, a 17″ x 22″ mounted mapboard, a 12 page rulebook, a deck of 64 cards, 6 character displays, an encounter matrix, 2 dice and the fascinating Book of Tales. There is a standard game for 2 to 6 players which runs about 2 hours as well as other versions of play (including a solitaire game).talesarabian1

In the standard game, each player begins by choosing a character (Sinbad, Aladdin, etc.) and devising a “Victory Formula”. A Victory Formula consists of Destiny Points and Story Points (the sum of which equaling 20). Destiny Points and Story Points are earned through the experiences of the players as they adventure through the world.

Each player uses a display which indicates the amount of Destiny and Story Points earned, wealth, treasure acquired and various statuses. (Statuses are the conditions a player finds himself in and they range from being “accursed” to “blessed” to “wounded” to “insane” and many more. A player is allowed only one
at at time so a player ‘s condition constantly changes as he adventures onward.)

The game begins with each player in Baghdad, Destiny and Story Point markers in the “1’ box on his display and with a wealth rating of “poor”. The deck of cards is shuffled and placed near the board. Each player then chooses one basic level (i.e. “talent”) skill (such as “quick thinking”, “courtly graces” etc.) and takes the appropriate counter. Additional skills may be gained and skills improved upon to “master” level due to successful adventures. On the other hand, skills may be lost due to events befalling the unlucky or unwary.

Movement is determined by the wealth of the character. The more wealth, the greater distance a character may move. After movement, each character must check for encounters and this is where the heart of the game, The Book of Tales, is brought into play.talesarabian2

Encounters are determined be referencing a picked card (be it a city, terrain or character card) against an encounter chart. A die roll (modified by areas, amount of Destiny Points, and/or any additional number on the board in the occupied area), indicates the specific entity or situation encountered. This, in turn, directs you to the encounter reaction matrix where you choose a reaction to your encounter.

Reaction options are wide-ranging (from “attack” to “bargain” to “pray” and many more) but not all options are available for each encounter. A chosen option (and a die roll which may modify the result) directs you to a specific paragraph in the Book of Tales. The Book of Tales is a series of paragraphs that tell, in story form, what happens and the results of you reactions. Results can vary from success (an increase in Destiny and/or Story Points, wealth, new and increased skills etc.) to failure (loss of wealth, skills etc.).

To win the game, a player must fulfill his Destiny and Story Points formula and return to Baghdad. Alternatively, a player may win by becoming a Sultan (the highest status) and entering Baghdad. (Two players – or even more – may win on the same turn!)

Tales of the Arabian Nights is easy to learn and fascinating to play. In capturing the flavor of the Arabian Nights, Tales offers a wide range of options and variables which allow the game to stay fresh and compelling to play. Highly recommended. – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy

copyright 1987, all rights reserved


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