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GTM #182 - Open Sesame!
by Antoine Bauza

Open Sesame is an interesting game and by that I mean it has a particular story. (And sure, it's an interesting game, you definitively want to give it a try!) It's a game that brought two different designers to the same table for the first time. I always enjoyed the Arabian Nights flavor and have had a few game seeds in my mind since my first days as a designer: Sinbad, Scheherazade, and Ali Baba. Those are well-known themes, so, when I started to work on Ali Baba, I checked the internet for other games on this topic: I didn't want to lose my time working on a game that could be close to an already existing one.

At this time, I discovered that a French designer was working on an Ali Baba-themed game and that designer was living... in the same city I just moved to! Well, that's a coincidence! So I reached Corentin by email to propose that we meet and compare our respective game designs. There were several common points. We both wanted to use Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves as the concept, and it was pretty obvious for both of us that it should be a 41-card small game: one card for Ali Baba, 40 cards for the thieves. Makes sense. At this time, we had the same publisher in mind, Cocktail Games, which is famous for its 40 square cards metal boxes collection. Design by constraints, they say.

Finally, we merged our respective designs and started to work on a common project. As it happens almost all the time in game design, we changed course a lot: we let down those 40 thieves cards. The cards will now represent the loot inside Ali Baba's cave and the players (of course!) want to get their hands on this loot! After a few playtest sessions, we had our game.

Open Sesame holds the distinction of its asymmetry: each round, a player takes the role of Ali Baba and the other players are the Thieves. They are facing a Say-Them-All mechanism: they must repeat (without error!) a verbal chain of objects that is expanding. Those objects are the treasures that Ali is trying to steal from them. Ali is facing a Push-Your-Luck mechanism: if he cannot stop in time, it can end up stuck in the cave and all lost to the Thieves.

We spent a lot of time to tune Open Sesame. That's the trick when you go with asymmetrical gameplay, it's way harder to find to proper balance. And by way of harder, I mean... way harder. For a small family-friendly game, we had to test a lot of different scorings, finding our way to one simple enough, intuitive, and balanced.

We also added some variants to allow players to experiment with different levels of difficulty regarding the memory part of the game. So, you can play with children, between adults, and why not make it a drinking game if you like!

Stephane Poinsot is the man behind the art. He managed to realize a bunch of very colorful, very warm imagery. Thanks to him, the spirit of the 1001 Nights and the magic inside the lamp is well represented in the little box.