The Tales of Glory board game is a fantasy themed tile-layer for 2-5 players, lasting up to an hour. The box says for ages 10+, but gamer kids a little younger could probably get to grips with it. There is only a small amount of hidden information, so discussing options is easy during play.
The game was released with a whiff, rather than a bang, in 2018. The initial run was dogged with production issues and the publisher didn’t exactly cover itself in glory sorting them out.
This is a shame, as Tales of Glory is a slick and fun little family game. And while not overly thematic, the fantasy idea works to gel the mechanisms together. You’re essentially piecing together your character’s adventuring legend: the places they’d been, the battles they fought, and the prizes and powers they achieved. But basically, it is an abstract puzzle.
And those production problems are very much behind them. The iconography is simple and clear and the cartoony artwork first class. Which is what you’d expect from Small World/Seven Wonders artist Miguel Coimbra. In the box you’ll find a small tile board, 76 cardboard tiles, 40 cards and well over 200 cardboard chits. The quality is excellent throughout. For what you get the box is slightly oversized, but it has a good insert – and at around £30 it is good value for money.
Teaching the Tales of Glory board game
The game lasts 10 rounds, with players claiming then placing a tile in each. Each player starts with a different character (start) tile, which also gives them some starting resources. Everyone gets some money (used to buy certain tiles – usually characters and places). And you may also get some initial combat and magic tokens, which represent your prowess in the adventuring arts. These are mostly needed to ‘pay’ for creature tiles; but unlike money, they’re not spent. Think of them as you gaining combat experience. And you’ll get some potions – used to make up the difference if you don’t have the skills you need.
Each round, a number of tiles are placed onto the adventure board. Players have a deck of cards equal to the number of spaces on that board (six or eight, depending on player count). Simultaneously, players choose which tile they want (each space is numbered) and put the matching card face down on the table. Then everyone flips their card and (in player order) takes their tile. If two or more players pick the same tile, it’s first come first served on player order. Anyone missing out gets their pick of what’s left after all first choices have been taken. So no one misses out – and there are always plenty of tiles to choose from.
Telling your tale of glory
All tiles have a ‘right’ way up, and must be placed as such in your tableau. Each also does or doesn’t have a connector; and again, like must meet like. Some connectors also have half a key on them. Get keys on both sides, and you’ll be able to open a chest on one of the two tiles (these contain various bonuses). And connectors may also have rewards directly printed on them; sometimes automatic, while others may need you to connect to a specific type of tile (monster, treasure etc). In addition, the tile itself will usually give you some sort of benefit. Generally, characters give skills; monsters and treasures stuff; and places give benefits when you link them to other tiles.
Each player also starts with a couple of bonus tiles. If you meet the placement criteria, these can be added as extras on any of your turns. And, of course, many tiles also give you points. Some are immediate, while others will accumulate (score X points for each X tile you have in your tableau etc – you know the drill). Finally, there are four ‘majorities’ trophies players compete for: combat, magic, potions and coins. Whoever has the most in each category takes the token at the end of the game (all who are equal first get the same points). And yup – highest score wins.
The four sides
These are me, plus three fictitious players drawn from observing my friends and their respective quirks and play styles.
- The writer: Some games just have an X-factor that defies description. The Tales of Glory board game doesn’t bring anything new to the party. But is incredibly slick, from the rules to the production. It’s quite simply satisfying. No, it never rises above that. But still manages to be a joy to play. You always feel like you can do something, and that something will be cool. But at the same time, you want to do more. By the end you look at your little tableau and see towns, creatures you defeated, and friends you got along the way. And loot, of course. Lots of loot. It just presses all my nerdy buttons. And I make no apologies for that.
- The thinker: There is some little strategy here, and some thought goes into taking and placing the right tiles. But this is not a game that will win awards for depth. However, it is a perfectly pleasant experience and at 30 minutes for two players (once you have it down), and very little setup, it fits nicely into the ‘enjoyable filler’ category. Especially as the different strategies seem well balanced.
- The trasher: With five players, I enjoyed Tales of Glory. Battling for turn order becomes important and you genuinely worry about getting the right tile. Trying to go for a different route to your opponents then has real merit, and sometimes denial is a solid tactic (as no tile is intrinsically bad). But at lower counts, it loses that tension. With two or four players, even if you don’t get the tile you want, you get to pick from five others. So there’s almost always something pretty reasonable. This takes a key tension away for me, so I only really enjoy it with the maximum player count.
- The dabbler: Great game! The cartoony art is super cute, and it plays fast and fun. There’s a nice feeling of trying to work out what other people want. And placing your tiles to get clever combos is a nice little challenge. This can be a little frustrating at first, but after a few plays you get the hang of it. And it becomes really satisfying when the right tile comes up just at the right moment. It’s not thematic, but if you use your imagination it does tell a story. So for me it is a definite winner.
Tales of Glory has two potential issues for me: fragility and longevity. The fragility is evident in the sheer number of tiles that need to be available in each round. There is an enviably large number of routes to take for such a small, light game. But for that to work, you need a lot of choice. Which unfortunately takes the tension out of the clever yet simple auction/draft mechanism. I still really enjoy it, but a few less choices would’ve really ramped this up. I guess the designers thought the game was more in making a cool tableau, than in the fight for tiles. That’s fair enough – but I think they maybe skewed slightly too much the other way.
Which bring us to longevity. Sacrificing tension for variety may hurt the game. Tension keeps players coming back, over and over. I’m thinking of games such as Coloretto, 6 Nimmt, or No Thanks. I think they had the chance to make that kind of impact here. But instead, we got a few more ways to score points. That’s fun, don’t get me wrong. And I’m still really enjoying it after five plays. But I’ve kept those plays spread out. And wonder, without expansions (which don’t seem forthcoming), if this would survive the closer scrutiny of regular plays. Because the different ways to score points aren’t that different.
Finally, it’s always risky putting a fantasy theme on a clearly abstract puzzle game. I don’t mind at all, but there is the danger of people picking it up expecting one thing and getting something else. I don’t see this as a valid criticism, at all. But it is going to happen if you put a dwarf with a sword and a dragon on the box – then give people a tile laying brain teaser.
Conclusion: Tales of Glory board game
Despite a few worries about how long the relationship will last, right now I love Tales of Glory. The gorgeous cartoon art and simply, puzzley play have won me over. And the game is also the perfect length (including simple set up) for what it offers. If you enjoy light drafting and tile laying games, I would urge you to check this one out. And if you like a bog standard fantasy them pasted on op, even more so. It found its way into my last annual Top 40. And I can see it staying there for some time.
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