Preview: Sultan’s Library

Sultan's Library Poster

Earlier this year I had an interview with Ryno Lourens, co-creator of Sultan’s Library. At the time, the game was launched as a kickstarter project. That project did not go as well as hoped but they were not deterred and went back to the drawing board with a few lessons learned. As part of the prep for a re-launch they released a few print & play and prototype copies of the game so people could get a feel for the game.

I managed to get some game time with one of those copies.

This Saturday I found myself in the company of Les Allen from geekxp.co.za, Gregg Barlow from geekofalltrades and Chris, he is a nice chap too. With a table full of snacks and a fresh pot of coffee on hand we got to the serious business of playing some games.

NB: This post is based on a prototype of the game, things may change.

For the TL;DR version click here.

Opening the Box

The specs on the box:

  • 2 – 4 Players
  • 15 – 30 min
  • There is no recommended age on the box itself, but I’d peg it at 10+.

The small box contains a pair of decks, the Location Deck and the Action Deck. 4 Envoy Cards and tokens which are the roles that they players assume during the game. The Envoy Cards also contain a handy summary of the elements of the game. A first player token, small rules booklet and a card representing the library itself finish off the content.

 

Sultan's Library preview
That’s a lot of stuff for such a small box.

Theme

The game is set in an Arabian Nights themed setting.  The Sultan has charged his envoys to travel the lands and bring at least 3 books to his library. During the course of the game they will travel to never before seen lands and face unknown dangers as they search for new books to bring back.

I really like the artwork on the cards, the envoys actually look like world weary travellers and I believe that each of them actually has their own back story, but this was not available in the prototype box.

The game does make you feel like someone who is going to explore the un-explored and face unknown danger in a race to get the rarest books for the Sultan.

Gameplay

It is very easy to get playing. We did find a few things that needed a bit of clarification but it was nothing major and Les will chat to Ryno during the week to see which of our interpretations were correct.

Setup is very quick. Each player selects an envoy and then places their respective token on the library. The Action Deck is shuffled and each player draws 2 cards.

As the Sultan is short of stature, he decrees that the shortest player goes first. This is something new to me, but as I’m usually the shortest I actually don’t mind!

During a turn the active player draws 2 cards from the Action Deck then plays up to 2 actions and finally, if they have more than 5 cards in hand they discard down to 5.

Sultan's Library preview
One of the prototype envoys with the token.

The actions is where they meat of the game is. You have lots of options, starting with Envoy specific abilities, to playing cards from your hand. The action cards allow you to do a host of things including hindering your opponents, drawing more cards or gaining more actions. If you plan well, you can execute a few good combos, sometimes including your Envoy ability.

The most common action is exploration. That is what allows you to leave your current location to lands unknown. On the way you might be waylaid or find some rest at a friendly oasis but in the end you will either find some place new or a book!

The new locations themselves can help or hinder you, robbing you of cards or actions, or giving you extra actions and opportunities.

If you find a book, then you still need to spend an action to pick it up. Then you need to spend another action, and resources, to get back to the library and then a further action to deposit the book.

You can hold up to 2 books at a time but each requires a separate action to deposit.

The thief, an Envoy who has the ability to steal the books you’re holding, on the prowl and action cards that can hinder your plans in circulation; a layer of depth is added to what otherwise appears to be a deceptively easy game.

As soon as a player has deposited 3 books, the game ends when the current round finishes. With the other players eligible for bonus points should they find more books or manage to return to the Library.

Once the game ends you tally up the Knowledge Points of the books each player has deposited, these are printed on the cards, and the bonus points. The Envoy with the most wins.

Conclusion

At first glance the Envoys do appear to be unbalanced; the thief looks like he is the best. However, it is fairly easy to thwart him, not to say that he is useless. The different characters do work, and the character that appears to be the weakest at first glance actually won our test games!

I do like it. It’s a quick, casual game. I won’t say that it’s a filler game but it’s handy to have around. The small box means that it will travel well and it’s got a very small foot print, which means that you will be able to play it in the pub at the airport while you’re killing time for your flight.

Sultan's Library preview
The game has a snug fit into the box.

We did find that the game ran longer than 30 minutes, +-45minutes. We are all seasoned Magic players. So we did spend some time finding ways to be sneaky, which for me is half the fun.

If there is a negative then it’s the colour of the cards. I know it’s a prototype but everything is white. Which means if you eat snacks with seasoning on them like biltong or chips the seasoning can rub onto your fingers and then the cards can get dirty. Sleeving the cards is an option but then it might not fit back into the box.

Can I play this at a braai?

For sure. It’s kind of satisfying to find a South African made game that’s braai friendly 😉

As I mentioned already it’s got a small foot print. It’s easy to setup and pack away and the game play is not intricate at all.

Keep an eye out for the new kickstarter project which is launching on 2 June.

Deville Louw sums it up nicely in his preview on Fortress of Solitude.

So if you are looking for a fun (sometimes brutal), easy to teach (and learn) and quick to play card game, then go and check out the Kickstarter when it launches.”

 

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