Sultan’s Library is a 2-4 player tabletop card game in which players are tasked with finding lost tomes and bringing them back to the knowledge-seeking Sultan. Created by Photon Games, comprised of Ryno Lourens (designer) and Zane Atkinson (artist) Sultan’s Library is a competitive and brutal adventure through an exotic land, and will have you attempting to outwit your friends. Players spend their time hopping from one location to the next in search of long lost books of knowledge and power that will surely gain them the favour of the Sultan upon their return.
A typical game of Sultan’s Library starts all players in the Library location, a physical card that sits upon the tabletop. It is here from which all have received their order to seek out rare books from across the land. The players will have chosen an ‘Envoy’ to play as at this point. Aside from each player token and profile card, there are location cards, book cards, action cards, journey cards, and event cards. The location, book, and event cards are all shuffled together in one pile and the action and journey cards are shuffled in another. Everyone will draw two cards from the action deck and the journey begins!
Each turn the players will draw 2 cards from the Action deck, after which they may perform two actions. The actions available to the player are: ‘explore the area’ (by paying an explore cost of a location, players are able to search for a Book by flipping a card on the location/ book deck), ‘pick up a book’ (when in the same location as a discovered book, the book can be picked up), ‘deposit book’ (a book that is held can be deposited to the library), ‘play an action’, ‘perform a special action’, ‘travel to a location’ (players can move to any face-up location by paying the travel cost + 2 of the location) or players may ‘scrounge’ (opting to spend 2 actions to draw 1 card from the Action Deck.
Every action taken is done with the goal in mind of either finding a book, keeping a book you have found safe, or depositing a book to the library. With each player’s special action, you are constantly under threat of having a book stolen before you have the chance to pick it up, or – through unfortunate event card draws – losing all the books in your hand before you have a chance to get them back to the Sultan.
Sultan’s Library ends once any player has deposited three or more books to the Library, at which point all players will then have to tally their total points (based on the knowledge value of the books in their hand). The player(s) that did not initiate the game end state are allowed to take one further turn, while the player that reached the 3 or more deposit limit does not. This makes for a great tactical experience and somewhat of a gamble to be the first player to deposit over three cards, risking the chance that other players may pick up or reveal a valuable book with their last actions. It should also be mentioned that the players that did not initiate the end game will receive two bonus points for each book they are holding and a further two bonus points if they are in the Library location. Brutal!
I had a great experience playing Sultan’s Library after a somewhat shaky start. Due to the incomplete nature of the development version I played, there were some misunderstandings in terms of rules that set my play group back for the first two games. After contacting Ryno for some clarification (super helpful and friendly), I was able to play the game as intended, which made for a much better time.
My personal favourite aspect of Sultan’s Library is the harsh and unpredictable nature of the chance event draws, brutal action cards that can be gleefully used against your friends, and potentially quick games. In my personal opinion, shorter tabletop games are much better in a group situation, as it allows everyone participating to stay as engaged as possible in the experience, regardless of their attention span.
Sultan’s Library has unique art and a rich environment that players should be able to delve into with ease. The somewhat Ancient Eastern setting, combined with interesting character choices, makes for a thematically unique game experience that comes off as rather genuine. I was immediately able to find a character that suited my desired play style and have barely budged from using him since. Yes, its the Thief, if you were wondering.
Photon Games are currently running a brand new Kickstarter campaign. Ryno and Zane are seeking support that will allow them to produce Sultan’s Library to the highest standard and get the game in your hands as quickly as possible.