Published on June 8th, 2015 | by Nicole Jekich3
Knowledge is Power
Review of Sultan’s Library
Not every ruler craves gold and glory. In Sultan’s Library, you represent one of the envoys selected by the Sultan to go on an epic quest: find and recover books of great knowledge and add them to the Sultan’s personal collection. The envoy who returns with the most valuable knowledge is the winner and forever in the Sultan’s favor.
A Rich World to Discover
Sultan’s Library caught my eye immediately for a couple reasons: the diverse and well-illustrated group of envoys players can choose from and the focus on books as the most prized possession. The envoys to choose from are The Historian, The Poet, The Merchant and The Thief. Each envoy has their own interest in collecting the literature but only one will earn the Sultan’s Favor. It is refreshing to see realistic characters as these envoys instead of the usual gaze of young, beefy male heroes and scantily clad female heroines. These characters are quoted on many different cards in the game and add to the narrative of this world. I would like to see even more characters, books and locations as stretch goals or future expansions.
**This copy we are playing with is the prototype copy and all art, production and rules are subject to change depending on the Kickstarter campaign.**
The World Awaits…on the Library Steps and Beyond
Each envoy starts at the Sultan’s Library and have a variety of actions to perform on their turn. As books contribute toward victory, players will want to explore and venture to the different locations most of the time. At these different locations, envoys can randomly find books but also risk encounter hindering events like sandstorms, religious zealots, low supplies and just plain bad luck. These events cause the player to discard cards and sometimes even books in their hold.
To travel to explored locations, players must pay journey points equal to the number on their destination plus 2. These journey points are in the forms of a good blessing from the Fortune Teller or using the official travel signet from the Sultan or just using resources like money in your stash to make the journey. Envoys are trying to out-collect the competition and must watch out for opponents on their journey too, especially the Thief can outright steal a book from another player in the same location.
Each turn players draw 2 action cards and players use these cards to aid themselves on their journey. Items like Extra Guards (cancels an event effect or action against this envoy), Courier (deposits books to the library without traveling there) and Sponsored expedition (draw 2 additional cards) are examples of the different aid players can expect. There are also action cards that target opponents and forces them to lose action points, cards in hand or books.
The game ends once an envoy successfully deposits 3 books in the library. Players score up their books’ knowledge points and the player with the greatest number wins–players earn an additional 2 points if they are in the library at the end of the game. Sultan’s Library is a quick player. Beginning to end takes around 10-15 minutes for a 2 player and around 20-30 minutes with a full group of 4.
Sultan’s Library has a lot going for it in the theme and story department; however there are a few bumps in the road tying those mechanics and theme together for a strong gaming experience. For instance I experienced multiple games where envoys discovered book cards at the Sultan’s Library location-this can often occur at the start of the game when players are attempting to leave by finding other locations. Gaining books that early on in the game and without visiting another location isn’t very challenging and feels silly in a game where the “grand journey” to find these ancient tables just required a stroll outside the library grounds.
Throw Strategy to the Wind
I fell in love with the art and design right away in Sultan’s Library. Everything from the detailed envoy portraits to the gorgeous location landscapes, every illustration really impressed me and I really want to see what the fully-illustrated game looks like. I wanted all my enthusiasm to also translate over to Sultan’s Library’s gameplay but the game itself wasn’t as challenging as I hoped.
As the game stands in its prototype format, there are too many random factors that make planning your journey extremely difficult or too easy. In the 2 player game I either stumbled onto the trove of books very quickly or continuously game across bad luck and negative events. There is definitely a balance issue and with so much reliance on luck I feel less like I’m in control of my character’s journey and success. Thankfully changing the Sultan’s Library to make it a more challenging and rewarding game just means more testing and listening to user feedback. I still plan on backing Sultan’s Library because I want to see games that look that good to be available–and the issues I have with the gameplay are easy fixes.
Sultan’s Library by Photon Games is currently on Kickstarter until July 2 . Photon Games is also holding multiple contests where the winner could win a print and play copy of Sultan’s Library; win a final copy of Sultan’s Library or have your likeness made into one of the new characters for Sultan’s Library. More information on this contest is available on Photon Games’ official website.