Suleika: A short ride to the Arabian nights [Review]

The tales from One Thousand and One Nights filled my childhood’s bedtime stories, and it still fascinates me until now. Suleika brings back those memories with her gameplay and theme within. This time, let me walk you guys to one of my very first board games I enjoyed the most. We will be transported to the flying carpets’ grand bazaar by the Persian rug seamed with the yarn of our favourite colour.

Fun fact time! I refer Suleika as a ‘she’ because it’s actually a female name from its Persian root. It means brilliant beauty, or you may prefer the Arabic denotation, “bright and fair”. Whatever you pick, it fits perfectly with the depiction of this game.

A short disclaimer before you read my board game analysis

As an avid euro gamer and hardcore Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) LCG player, my reviews may reflect a preference for these styles, and I may not cover solo games/variants extensively. Please note that my personal remarks are based on my gaming experiences, and I aim to provide honest insights within the scope of my preferences.

A recap on how to play Suleika

To set up Suleika, we just need to prepare the board and place Omar in the middle of the 7×7 board. Each player gets the equal amount of coins and carpets. The number of carpets depends on the number of players.

Suleika is played over rounds, and within the round, each player takes turns to reposition Omar, roll the die, and place his/her flying carpet on the board. We can rotate Omar at maximum 90° making him face another direction. After the die is cast, Omar will move as many squares as the indicated die value. If Omar reaches the board’s edge, simply follow the curve painted for further steps. It looks as easy as ABC, but there’s a twist here.

Whenever Omar lands on a carpet owned by your rival, you have to pay equal to the number of continuous squares his/her rugs covering. If you are not careful, this can easily squeeze your money out of your pocket. After you pay any necessary tax, it’s time to place your own carpet on board. By doing this, you can cover other players’ toupee (and this is important).

The game ends when all carpets are placed on the board. Each player counts the money they have left and the total of their visible rugs’ squares on the bazaar board. One square and one gold contribute one point. Whoever gets the most points wins the game.

The picture was taken when we played Suleika with four players. There were initially 12 carpets and 30 coins per player. This number changes based on the player count.

How I feel about Suleika

My overall experience with this game is fantastic. My first escapade with Omar dated back five years after Suleika initial release in 2008. Some of you may be accompanied by Assam instead when strolling through the bazaar of the flying carpets. He comes with the box of Marrakech, a reprint from Gigamic in 2010. Nevertheless, I am sure both of them are good companions for us.

My first impression with Suleika

Albeit the saying “First impression lingers”, mine towards Suleika vanished into thin air. I was not impressed at that moment when I saw the D6 (read my disclaimer). It involves a bit of luck through the dice-rolling, even so, all players need to consider how the carpets should be placed after moving Omar. This is particularly important because we gain points not only by forcing other players to pay us money when they land on our rugs. I realised it a bit late in my first game that each visible carpet square will also help to win the game.

My insight after several games

Well, it did not take long until I u-turned and loved this game so much. After my initial session (with three player-count, I still remember it), I started to appreciate how well this game is designed. Truth be told, dice-rolling is not really my cup of tea, but I managed to tolerate this mechanic in this game. The die shows values 1-4, with 2 and 3 appearing twice. By implementing this value set, Dominique Ehrhard assures Omar to not move too far from his initial position, and it keeps the game balance. Small wonder Suleika was one of the Spiel des Jahres 2008’s nominees.

That D6 we rolled in Suleika. The pips were converted to hieroglyphs.

The die brings luck into the equation, that’s for sure. But, if you play Suleika a few times, you soon realize that good fortune does not guarantee you to be the victor. The carpets are the tiles in this game, and correctly laying them is also an important aspect to control the game flow. The most efficient placement will help you to earn the area majority. This part of the game is essential to gain gold from your opponent. The more your carpets cover, the higher the chance they land on you. Most of them may also remain visible at the end of the game and contributes points to your side as well.

Suleika belongs to the rare group of enjoyable games without depending on the player counts. Whether…

…we duel, play with either three or four players, Omar (and the carpets) will still be an entertaining host.

The components

Another thing to love from Suleika is the component. As a game with tile placement mechanic, the publisher could have simply decided to use cardboard for the carpet. This is a normal thing you may find in other games, for example Patchwork. However, Zoch Verlag (and Gigamic, too) published Suleika’s flying carpet with cloth material. The coins are made of hard plastic, and I am sure it will last longer than conventional cardboard. Overall, due to this extra effort, Suleika has a strong table presence. It helps me to attract new players to try board game.

A gateway game for beginners

For some players, Suleika may not be as entertaining as their more complex and ‘heavier’ games. The thing is, Suleika is designed with family in mind, and Dominique Erhard has managed to do it spot on. I have been bringing Suleika to the table with a bunch of potential new gamers, trying to test the water, you know. I got almost 100% positive responses from them. Some of them wanted to replay it (most of the millennials even googled them up and decided to purchase) and started their pilgrimage in this board game world from there.

This picture framed all the components in the game. Suleika is quite beginner-friendly not only because of the components, but also due to its easy nature.

With that being said, Suleika is really memorable not only for myself but also for those who played it with me. The new players, especially, has been in love with this game ever since. I suggest having this game in your arsenal if you want to introduce potential new gamers into tabletop gaming. Omar will be a delightful company whenever you need a filler as well.

Replay value?

Let us go off-track for food for thoughts here. There was once a big discussion in our board game group which honestly changed my perspective on the definition of ‘replay value’. I once defined this term as to how varied a game can be played for players to have different experiences and therefore pushes them to play it again in the future. However, some others engaged the discussion with a different denotation that I frankly have never considered before. They suggested that replay value may also determine how willing the players to repeat the game despite the game offering few variations to none.

From this point of view, I want to approach this segment in a broader spectrum. First, Suleika offers almost no variations in the experience when you repeat the game. Regardless, I personally still willing to play it often in the future. The easy-to-remember rules are mainly the reason why I love the game. In conclusion, Suleika still has a decent replay value.

The board situation when the game ended. The carpet configuration was pretty random thanks to the dice-rolling mechanic.

My verdict

Suleika is a must-have for every individual who enjoys board games during the quality time. Whether you are looking for something to indulge with your family or your group, this is a solid purchase choice. The rules are easy to understand and remember, making Suleika an easy pick for your more casual family member. It is also proven to be newbie-friendly. The game is pretty straightforward and intuitive, and it makes the points mentioned before valid. Not to mention that the components they pack inside the box are all top-notch, ensuring a strong table presence. I strongly urge you to buy this game in your local game store because it offers so much fun.

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