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Once Upon a Time: The Storytelling Card Game» Forums » Reviews

Subject: A Magnificent Storytelling Game rss

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MGS
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"Once Upon a Time is a game in which players create a story using cards that show important elements from fairy tales."

"The object of the game is for players to enjoy themselves and to tell a good story. The player who uses all the story cards in her hand and guides the plot to her ending, wins the game"

I decided to start this review with these 2 quotes from the first paragraph of the rules booklet because I think they wonderfully summarize what the game is about. They also define the guiding principles of gameplay and what to expect to get out of the game.


Components

The game comes in a small box that fits the 168 cards divided in 3 piles, side-by-side. The cardboard of the box seems rather fragile but I have had my copy for quite a few years and it has been holding its own pretty well.

The cards are of good quality, fairly resistent. The artwork is evocative of the theme.



Rules

The booklet is small. It has 16 pages but only fits a couple of shorts paragraphs on each page. The rules are clear and there are a number of examples. The rules are simple and can be taught in 5 minutes.


Gameplay

There are 2 types of cards. The Happy Ever After cards which are the "ending" cards. And, the Once Upon a Time cards which are the storytelling cards.

The storytelling times are of 2 types: either cards representing elements of the story which are more common or "interruption" cards which are quite powerful.

Each player receives one Happy Ever After Card and a hand of storytelling cards. The number of cards varies depending on the number of players.

One player is chosen to start the game. On his turn, he starts telling the story and every time he includes elements from one of his cards in the narrative, he discards the card. It has to be meaningful to the story. So, on average, you discard one card per paragraph or so.

The other players can steal the narrative authority by interrupting the narrator. It is usually done by using an interruption card that matches the group of the card the narrator has just used/discarded (the groups are: item, aspect, character, event, place). Or, if the narrator mentioned an element on his story and a different player has that card, that player can steal the right to continue telling the story from that point on. Other ways to change the narrator are: if the narrator gets stuck and voluntarily passes, if the narrator stops makes sense or contradicts something that was previously introduced.

Once the narrator runs out of cards and is able to bring the story to his ending, he wins the game.


Discussion

I think the greatest merit of Once Upon a Time is to bring the milenar, enjoyable activity of telling stories into a game with well-defined rules and a winning condition.

Narrative authority - this is the most important aspect of the game. You can only win using all your cards and bringing the story to your ending in a sensible manner. Therefore, you want to have the power to tell the story as much as you can. The game very effectively gives the players opportunity to gain narrative authority and interrupt the narrator. The easiest way is to use interrupt cards, so, you have to use them very wisely.

The fact that several players will have the opportunity to contribute to the story makes the game richer, more challenging and more enjoyable because you have to use elements introduced by them in your narrative and it takes the plot to places you did not imagine and, very often, did not want to. So, you have to have the ability to keep an open mind and roll with the punches.


Conclusion

Once Upon a Time is easy to learn, has near-endless replayability and effectively allows the players to enjoy themselves and tell a good story which is the game's intention. A true masterpiece.
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DK Kemler
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I really enjoy OAAT, but you do need the right group, who know that they are getting into to get the full experience out of the game.
 
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MGS
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This is a very common comment about this game. But, if you think about it, every game needs the "right group". Furthermore, Once Upon a Time spells out in the first paragraph what it is all about and it is up to you to decide if that is what you want to play or not.
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