Recently I played a few rounds of Once Upon a Time. It is a relatively straightforward game and easy to pick up.
The rules are that one person begins a story using the cards they are dealt. Each card contains a different element of a story such as a character, an event, or an aspect. The storyteller attempts to play all of their cards and play their ending card. An ending card is a card with some text on it that describes how the story should end. However, the storyteller can lose control of their story if another player decides to interrupt them. This can be done in a few ways.
First, if another player has a card that says interrupt on it, they can play that card and gain control of the story. The problem with this rule is that if a player is not dealt any interrupt cards it is hard for them to gain control of the story.
Or, if the storyteller says something that another player has in their hand, they can play that card and gain control of the story. The problem with this rule was that after a few rounds, we were pretty familiar with the cards in the deck and the storyteller would purposefully avoid using any words that were also cards.
Another way to gain control is if the storyteller stalls or contradicts themselves. This rule can be a bit challenging because sometimes it is hard to remember every detail of the story up to that point if the story has been going on for a while.
There is also a rule about not getting too silly with your story. However, we decided to ignore this rule, because we found that silliness made it more interesting. We still avoided having contradictions and made sure the story still made sense.
The rules only took us about ten minutes to read, which was a nice change from some of the games I’ve been playing recently.
To decide who starts the game, you flip the top card in the deck and decide which player best represents that card. The card flipped for our first round was a queen.
It was decided from that that I would go first. This was lucky for me because I was dealt no interrupt cards.
The story started off with a cook who was making dinner one day, when she accidentally used some magic salt and caused the pot she was making stew in to come to life. Unfortunately, I was interrupted and it was revealed that the cook was sad because the pot coming to life scared her and she had to go to the church to pray. The cook realized that the magic salt came from her long-lost mother who was a blind witch, who was actually disguised as the ruler of a far off kingdom. Once the cook realized this, she decided that she needed to go catch the pot and stop it from causing mischief. However, after the cook caught the pot, she ran into a guard who was also a thief. This guard stole the pot and ran off. The guard tried to fight off the cook with an axe, but the guard was crazy and broke the axe. The breaking axe made the guard realize that they couldn’t actually steal the pot. And the ending card that was played was “So they returned what was stolen to the original owner.”
The story didn’t take very long, and there were very few actual interruptions. After playing my initial two cards, I never regained control of the story because I had no interruption cards. Only three other people contributed to the story.
We played many rounds after that and altered the rules a bit to allow for more interruptions. We decided that if you had a card of the same type that was just played, you could use it as an interruption card. And interruption cards could be played on any kind of card.
This lead to some very interesting stories that allowed everyone to participate.
At one point, I found a card with a typo on it.
Notice how it says Rescured instead of Rescued? I always get a kick out of finding typos in things.
Overall, I would say that our experience was more interesting once we changed the rules a bit. The original rules were easy to follow, but they didn’t allow the stories to be as interactive as we would have liked.