September 14, 2011

Book and Board Game Match-Up: The Desert of Souls and Asara

The Book (by Howard Andrew Jones):In 8th century Baghdad, a stranger pleads with the vizier to safeguard the bejeweled tablet he carries, but he is murdered before he can explain. Charged with solving the puzzle, the scholar Dabir soon realizes that the tablet may unlock secrets hidden within the lost city of Ubar, the Atlantis of the sands. When the tablet is stolen from his care, Dabir and Captain Asim are sent after it, and into a life and death chase through the ancient Middle East.

Stopping the thieves—a cunning Greek spy and a fire wizard of the Magi—requires a desperate journey into the desert, but first Dabir and Asim must find the lost ruins of Ubar and contend with a mythic, sorcerous being that has traded wisdom for the souls of men since the dawn of time.  But against all these hazards there is one more that may be too great even for Dabir to overcome... --Amazon Product Description

The Game (from Rio Grande Games): Compete with your fellow players for the most beautiful towers. Players take on the roles of famous architects and using their chicanery, try to obtain the best construction parts. With these the exuberant towers are erected. Think ahead, use your tactical sense and it will help you to stay ahead of the other players and thereby become the greatest architect of the country. Exciting construction entertainment for the whole family. --Board Game Geek Description

The Desert of Souls is the kind of ripping yarn I could see being told late at night: it's filled with adventure, danger, and mystery.  Asara's the kind of game that keeps me awake late at night, with finger-biting choices overlaying strategic choices.  These both have a Middle Eastern setting, and even the board color scheme and the book cover seem to match, but it's that late-night component that really makes these two similar.   

The Desert of Souls is fine sword and sorcery, our hero perpetually jumping from frying pan to fire.  It's not just that, of course (I loved the narrator's elegant voice and the refreshingly honorable protagonist) but this story never gave me the chance to lean back, exhale, and stop worrying about the characters.

Asara leaves me with that same weightless feeling in the gut.  It plays a lot like Alhambra, with some monumental differences.  In each round, certain actions can only be taken so many times.  If enough people buy a tower base, for example, then I can't.  If I needed to build this round to score and the building spaces are gone, no points for me.  There's a balancing, figuring out what actions can be delayed and which ones have to be immediate.  Inbetween, there's the nail biting, wondering if another player is going to topple my carefully laid plans.  Reading The Desert of Souls, I'm similarly biting my nails, trying to figure out how they'll get out of this one.  Either one of these is a great adventure.

1 comment:

  1. These are such fun posts. I'm not a big game person, but this one sounds like tons of fun.