A Thousand and One Nights – A Game of Enticing Stories by Meguey Baker is a long time favorite indie/story game of mine. We have been playing it for years and I have demoed it on cons, or rather; We have been playing the playtest version for years… I got the playtest game from Meguey’s blog and have been playing it since.
I was ordering other games from Leisure Games, saw 1001 Nights and ordered one just to compare the retail version with the playtest version we have been playing.
The book itself is a small, almost square booklet of 48 pages. The layout is very odd, there is lots of space, and the game is a quick read. There are a few old full page illustrations by H.J. Ford showing scenes from the tales.
The setting is the fairy tales in A Thousand and One Nights, familiar to everyone. The book assumes familiarity and just adds some details like name customs and descriptions of clothing for the period.
Play takes place at two levels. The players play courtiers at the court of the Sultan, caught behind the palace walls. These courtiers scheme against each other and plot their escape. But they also tell stories, which makes a game within the game.
The game has a strong focus on the senses, smell, touch, sight etc. The courtiers are described by the senses rather than stats; What do they smell like? What do they feel like when touched? There is a section in the game describing suitable food for eating while playing,
The rules are simple, and mostly concern the story within the story-level of play, and are focused on the collection of dice. Yes, in 1001 Nights the players collect dice, any dice can be used, as long as they have an even number of faces. After every story told in the game the player assigns them to three pools, 1. Keeping well with the Sultan, 2. Planning escape and 3. Scheming against other courtiers, and then rolls them to see the effects the story had on the courtiers.
Since there are two levels of play, there are two different forms in the game, and both are clearly described. When playing the courtiers in the Sultan’s palace the game is GM-less free narration, coupled with events dictated by the end game of each told story, depicting the scheming of the courtiers. At the story level the game is more traditional, the story teller acts like a traditional GM, and the players are the players, playing the roles of the main characters in the story. Actions are resolved by the GM assigning the different outcomes of an action to ranges of result of a die, and rolling to see what happens. The players ask questions, acting as the courtiers, and all questions answered in the story give them one die.
The setting is weak as presented in the game, but since everyone knows the setting already it is not a problem for actual play.
The rules are good, there are enough of them to support the courtier level of play, without getting in the way in the story level. And they are clearly explained.
The form is good, there are clear instructions on how to play the game, and there is an extended example of play in the last chapter of the book showing the nuances.
Will I play it?
Well, I already did, sort of. I have played the playtest version lots. Most up to this point in this review is valid for both the playtest and retail versions of the game (the playtest version lacks illustrations and the example of play).
However the retail version addresses some issues we have had with pacing in the game, and is just a little bit more streamlined in other aspects, so I think we’ll switch to the retail version of the game from now on.
www.nightskygames.com – Official 1001 Nights page.