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Subject: Storytelling games rss

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The Hound
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I assume I'm not the only one who's noticed that there's a growing interest in board games that attempt to integrate story-telling elements - Mice and Mystics, Legends of Andor, etc.

I enjoy great storytelling in many forms: from novels, to video games (Planescape: Torrent is a great example) to comics and more, so it's great to see this trend. I have tons to say on the subject (you can see my recent - and unfortunately negative - review of Tales of the Arabian Nights for a taste), but I'd prefer to hear some of your thoughts first.

So my question is this: For those interested in games that have a strong story-telling element, what in particular interests you? Do you place primacy on the story, while the "game part" is just there to give it cohesion, or do you like a balance between story and game elements? Perhaps it's primary the game that interests you, but you like a strong theme to make the game interesting.

And for those uninterested, why? Do you prefer the perfect engine-builder, and the story bits only get in the way?



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simon cogan
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Have you seen or tried the Doctor Who Solitaire Storytelling game?

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/42142/doctor-who-soli...

A very strong story-telling engine built around a game framework that attempts to create a new episode of the TV series that is faithful to the feel of 'Doctor Who' (so no blowing away Daleks with blasters).

I'd be interested in hearing what you think as I designed it!
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James Palmer
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For me it depends on the game.

I just got into playing Fiasco, and the whole point of that game *is* the story - everyone wins if you create a good story. It's great fun with the right people.

At the same time, there are plenty of board games where fun stories can come out - some games have written story elements in them (like the cards in Arkham Horror) while others don't have very little "story" written out but the result of the game ends up still being a fun, exciting story (like Battlestations)

In general, I am happy with a game as long as the theme isn't just pasted on. There are great euros even that still integrate theme really well (games by Vlaada Chvatil are a good example).

Any way about it, I really enjoy games that after they are done, I can give a "session report" purely by describing the games in a story-type fashion. Even if while playing the game, I was focussed on gameplay rather than story, it always makes it more fun if we can talk about it in story terms afterwards.
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Brian M
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Quote:
And for those uninterested, why? Do you prefer the perfect engine-builder, and the story bits only get in the way?

As far as I can tell, "story" game normally means "lots of bits of irrelevant flavor text".

I absolutely hate flavor text, and, by extension, "story games". Boring, reduces my immersion/attachment to the game, usually at odds with what is actually happening in the game.

When I play an RPG, we create the story. It's our story. I like that. When I play a boardgame or videogame with "story", it's somebody else's story. If I want somebody else's story, I'll stick with a book or a movie, thanks.
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The Hound
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dragoncymru wrote:
Have you seen or tried the Doctor Who Solitaire Storytelling game?

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/42142/doctor-who-soli...

A very strong story-telling engine built around a game framework that attempts to create a new episode of the TV series that is faithful to the feel of 'Doctor Who' (so no blowing away Daleks with blasters).

I'd be interested in hearing what you think as I designed it!


I was not aware of your game - it looks interesting and I intend to take a closer look at it. One thing I noticed off the bat - it's one player, which is obviously limiting. Is there a reason you decided to build your game like this?


 
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simon cogan
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The Hound wrote:

dragoncymru wrote:
Have you seen or tried the Doctor Who Solitaire Storytelling game?

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/42142/doctor-who-soli...

A very strong story-telling engine built around a game framework that attempts to create a new episode of the TV series that is faithful to the feel of 'Doctor Who' (so no blowing away Daleks with blasters).

I'd be interested in hearing what you think as I designed it!


I was not aware of your game - it looks interesting and I intend to take a closer look at it. One thing I noticed off the bat - it's one player, which is obviously limiting. Is there a reason you decided to build your game like this?




Several reasons.

Primarily I have more time on my own than with players, so wanted to create something I could play by myself.

Secondly however, with the Doctor being so powerful as a character, there are no other parts for players. Being a companion doesn't quite live up to it! I could have designed a 2 player game with 1 player playing the Enemy but the show, with its mixed up genres, locations, times etc, doesn't lend itself well to an easy option here.
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Will Ross
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Have you played Android? It takes a very long time to set up and a very long time to play and I love it. The primary game mechanic that stops you from winning is the other players making crap happen in your life while you are trying to change your life for the better whilst still trying to solve a crime and figure out a conspiracy that's behind a murder and it's different every time. I like it when I get to play as the Android dealing with the concepts of morality and humanity or the psychic clone who can hear the echoes and thoughts of her clone "sisters" and dealing with a romantic attraction she shouldn't have and also her loose grip on reality.
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The Hound
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youarenotwill wrote:
Have you played Android? It takes a very long time to set up and a very long time to play and I love it. The primary game mechanic that stops you from winning is the other players making crap happen in your life while you are trying to change your life for the better whilst still trying to solve a crime and figure out a conspiracy that's behind a murder and it's different every time. I like it when I get to play as the Android dealing with the concepts of morality and humanity or the psychic clone who can hear the echoes and thoughts of her clone "sisters" and dealing with a romantic attraction she shouldn't have and also her loose grip on reality.



I haven't played, but I've read about the game, and was actually tempted by the recent FFG sale. The problem is that there's just no way in the world that I'm going to get my group to play such a behemoth. It also seems like an eclectic mess that only a chosen few have been able to appreciate

 
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Andrew Roy
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I've just bought Rory's Story Cubes and Rory's Story Cubes: Voyages for my class of 7-8 year olds. The game's simple: roll 9 dice, each face with a different image (e.g. key, ladder, speech bubble, weigh scale) and choose the 9 visible images in any order to tell a story! Stories can be quick or long, but, as there aren't really any winning conditions at all, I think the game leads more towards the 'story' side than the 'game' side.

So far, my class has loved it. We've done some together, and they are always grabbing for it and looking at it, and looking for any chance to play it!

I haven't really played any 'story' games, but enjoy the stories that my friends and I squeeze out of the games I've played.
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The Hound
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royboy_9 wrote:
I've just bought Rory's Story Cubes and Rory's Story Cubes: Voyages for my class of 7-8 year olds. The game's simple: roll 9 dice, each face with a different image (e.g. key, ladder, speech bubble, weigh scale) and choose the 9 visible images in any order to tell a story! Stories can be quick or long, but, as there aren't really any winning conditions at all, I think the game leads more towards the 'story' side than the 'game' side.

So far, my class has loved it. We've done some together, and they are always grabbing for it and looking at it, and looking for any chance to play it!

I haven't really played any 'story' games, but enjoy the stories that my friends and I squeeze out of the games I've played.



You know, this is actually an interesting point. It seems like quite a few story games are intended for children. It's almost as if the Euro revolution (you can make games that adults will enjoy!) hasn't caught on for adults. I would love to see more adult themes in these games (and I mean themes, not just violence or sex).


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Will Ross
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The Hound wrote:
I haven't played, but I've read about the game, and was actually tempted by the recent FFG sale. The problem is that there's just no way in the world that I'm going to get my group to play such a behemoth. It also seems like an eclectic mess that only a chosen few have been able to appreciate


You right about needing a good group. One game took 12 hours, but for me it's worth it because I love the genre of story and game.
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Fedor Ilitchev
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In my experience, the games that tell the best stories are not story-telling games.

In fact, some of them are themeless abstracts. That is because a story is not just about narrative. Its about drama and narrative arc.

For example, both commands and colours: ancients and summoner wars tell great stories. That is because their simple mechanics are BOTH great game-play mechanics AND are able to map back to thematic events. Your shadow elves behave like shadow-elves - but you don't think about that when you are playing the game. Instead, it hits you after some important move, that what just happened was full of story-value.

Tzaar is an abstract that tells a story, imo. That is because that game is full of drama and reversals and it does have a narrative arc which is facilitated by the shrinking board mechanism.

As for 'story' games. Well, those are different. Arabian Nights, for example - that game is fascinating precisely because your choices are rather divorced from any gamey structure of meaning. The game works only insofar as it is not treated like a game - once you try to play it, you wreck it, a la Heisenberg. Because of this, what meaning it has is bigger than game meaning - but it takes a bit of work to construct / see it.

Also, note that the choices in ToTAN are 'what' choices and not 'how' choices. In my estimation, that has a lot to do with the nature of its success. If, instead, you would have choice about 'how' to rob the blind beggar as opposed to what to do with him - the game would be entirely different and conducive to telling a different kind of story, perhaps a more constrained / pre-written one. I am curious about how SMERSH will handle this.

Hopefully, the current resurgence of interest in the genre will see some new masterpieces come out.... there is lots of room for innovation. I just hope the designers of the story-telling games of the future hire professional writers... or at least people with writing talent. Else, they will be limiting themselves before they even start.
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Johnny P The Voice
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Storytelling game are GREAT for kids, they love to be told a story. I think you cannot read enough to kids.

Take Mice and Mystics for exemple, you can read a story to them and then get them to play the story, best of both world.
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Adam Kazimierczak
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I love the idea of storytelling games, but the reality is that they are not usually a well implemented fusion of story and mechanics.

"But how hard can it be? What about RPGs?"

Roleplaying games "cheat" by leaving the details to the gamemaster and players who do a lot of backstory and improvisation to make everything work.

A stand-alone board game on the other hand needs everything to be neatly packed into the box and ready to go. Also the designer must address replayability and game balance, otherwise you're left with a one-shot choose your own adventure book with dice.

So I end up not liking most storytelling games. The few that manage to balance game and story (City of Chaos comes to mind) are brilliant; the rest are missed opportunities (or licensed drivel).


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Craig Phillips
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Tales of the Arabian Nights is the best Story-Telling game I've played. Quest:A Time of Heroes is fun as well, but you're not making up the story in either of those, just being part of it while it's played out. If you have a creative group, I have had great luck with Once Upon a Time. The new edition just released looks great, too.
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Adam Kazimierczak
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I've played Once Upon a Time, and it felt less like a game and more like interactive fantasy Mad Libs. I see it as a vehicle for telling stories, like Rory's Story Cubes.

Android has a more balanced mix of game and story, however I think where Android stumbles is that you don't actually play the character but rather one of many directors trying to change the story to flow towards their specific endings. That breaks the fourth wall by having you essentially "plant evidence" to implicate a specific suspect.

Twilight Struggle is a great storytelling game if the Cold War is your thing, because you essentially get to rewrite history and play out cat and mouse games as the U.S. and U.S.S.R. in a dynamic evolving world. This kind of alternate history storytelling holds a lot of potential in strategy gaming, but sadly I'm not enough of a history buff to craft that kind of game myself.

I also like the idea of alternate classic fiction storytelling games: if the author of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies licensed a game it could be dynamite.
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John Weber
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Check out the latest series of AARs for Andean Abyss entitled "A Modern History of Columbia" for a good example of storytelling through the lens of a recent game.
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jan w
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i've been so into this lately but still haven't found the chance to actually play anything. that being said, i have amassed a few games that, for me, fill the story-telling bill.

What i really enjoy is the idea of having more freedom in a boardgame. being able to go beyond the borders of the box and allow the players to make something their own.

Fiasco has been mentioned, and is a prime example of game elements that somewhat guide a sort of improv exercise for the non-innitiated. It has such simple mechanics but gives just enough fodder to get players going. It has a large following, too, and bully pulpit is putting out new scenarios every month!! Get this people!

Next, older perhaps, is the Amazing adventures of baron munchausen. Again, the rules are ever so slight. Imagine being an adventurous rich person in the victorian age. Seen baron munchausen? You get the gist. Just tell a tale of adventure and peril and how you, against all odds, vanquished the ottoman army with nothing but a pig.
I love how this just puts you in a hard spot and requires you to put your creative hat on. That and the fact that you simply need to read the rules once, and you can play it anytime anywhere. This is the most portable game ever. I played this over a camping trip in scotland, midges nipping at our cheeks as we downed a bottle or two of the best whiskey in the cheap range and told stories by the campfire. It was a memorable night I can't tell you how much I love this game!

Long story short, I haven't seen a mention for Once Upon A Time, which just got a new version and has some more expansions in the pipeline. I love how this seems limited, and then you read the variant section here on the geek and one twist makes it a whole other game. The variant? A deck of cards which decides what kind of fantasy setting you play in. Roman mythology, norse, greek, kelt, egyptian... it changes the whole outcome of the game whilst you still use the same cards.

Cat&chocolate (texas zombies is the new remake) is a storytelling game. I love the concept, but the execution could have been better. I'd love to see a funny style macguyver version of this. I might have to do it myself.

The Big Idea. This too is a storytelling game of sorts. It requires short burts of creativity and that is exactly what storytelling is all about.

What I love about storytelling games is that they are more inputs towards creative play than actual well defined strict rulesets. They encourage play with a minimum of intervention and allow and encourage hacking the system. Often they result in nothing more than a prompts and props, but it's amazing how far these will bring you. I am in awe of people who design these things. Simplicity is king!
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Casey Lynn
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I love storytelling games. Though typically I tend to think of that in a very pure sense, in which the point of the game is the story - so the best example being Once Upon a Time. I also really enjoy games that encourage you to tell stories but don't force you too, though - so Gloom comes to mind.

I'm actually working on designing a storytelling card game myself - and this is another one where the point is the story (except it's not round robin like once upon a time).
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Flying Arrow
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Once upon a time is great for storytelling. As far as being a game, it breaks if you care more about winning than staying in the spirit of storytelling. For a truly competitive game, though, you just need an independent umpire to call 'silly' without a vested interest in their vote.
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I like Star Wars Miniatures for storytelling - it tells the story of a skirmish. We link them together to tell a longer story, but the campaign is on us to design... kind of like an RPG in that regard.
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Enrico Viglino
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FlyingArrow wrote:
Once upon a time is great for storytelling. As far as being a game, it breaks if you care more about winning than staying in the spirit of storytelling. For a truly competitive game, though, you just need an independent umpire to call 'silly' without a vested interest in their vote.


I agree with everything but the need for an umpire.
With a good group, even a player or two who IS trying to
win can be brought into line by the others - as well
as providing an added source of amusement.
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J Boomhower
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Story is everything for me. I even play my video games (Fallout, Skyrim) for full immersion (play as character would, no quests that don't make sense, no fast travel). My next storytelling game to get?

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
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calandale wrote:
FlyingArrow wrote:
Once upon a time is great for storytelling. As far as being a game, it breaks if you care more about winning than staying in the spirit of storytelling. For a truly competitive game, though, you just need an independent umpire to call 'silly' without a vested interest in their vote.


I agree with everything but the need for an umpire.
With a good group, even a player or two who IS trying to
win can be brought into line by the others - as well
as providing an added source of amusement.


Sure, but the definition of 'good group' is a group who is more interested in having fun and staying in the spirit of the game than they are in winning. If everyone is trying to win at all costs, they have every motivation to vote another person 'silly' right before that person is about to win - thus the game never ends. That's why you can't play cutthroat Once Upon a Time unless there's an independent voice to decide what's silly or not. You would only need an umpire if the group really wanted that competitive storytelling atmosphere... personally we've never used an umpire and it's always been fun.
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Enrico Viglino
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FlyingArrow wrote:


Sure, but the definition of 'good group' is a group who is more interested in having fun and staying in the spirit of the game than they are in winning. If everyone is trying to win at all costs, they have every motivation to vote another person 'silly' right before that person is about to win - thus the game never ends.


I'd suggest this just ain't the game for THAT kinda group.
Unless you're trying to engage in behavior modification.

Quote:
That's why you can't play cutthroat Once Upon a Time unless there's an independent voice to decide what's silly or not. You would only need an umpire if the group really wanted that competitive storytelling atmosphere.


Can you imagine a group of hyper-competitive players enjoying being
over-ruled by something so subjective?

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