...And so the wicked witch was cast forevermore into the palace dungeon, then the prince and the princess lived happily ever after...or did they?
Sometimes, there is not always a happy ever after, especially with Dark Tales; A game wherein your actions throughout this Gothic portrayal of traditional fairy tales paints a story of dark fables and the odd villain here and there to stomp out any hopes or dreams your friends may have of winning their fairy tale ending.
So, armed with nothing more then a quill, my storytelling hat (...I love that hat) and a few enthusiasts for stories and all that is dark and dreary, I set forth to answer the simple questions we all have on our minds..
What is Dark Tales?
Conceptualised and designed by Pierluca Zizzi, along with artwork by Dany Orizio, Dark Tales is a game published by dV GIOCHI. It is a rather quaint game where the interaction between objects and cards can be used to gain score in order to succeed at the end of the game, thus securing your victory over other players at the table. Moreover, every time you play, you start by randomly drawing two objective cards (Labelled into two piles of A and B), meaning that each game provides different uses for items and a different way to earn coins at the very end of the game.
Each of the cards tends to provide the player with some form of storytelling or another through the use of dark depictions in a Gothic-retelling of traditional story archetypes. While the cards themselves have no direct narrative attached to them, the designs and appeal of each provide the players with a new outlook into morphed fairy tale narrative within their heads, allowing them to feel immersed enough within the dark, twisted world of Dark tales.
While this appeal may not sit right for everybody, if you and your friends are the kind of people to immerse yourselves into gameplay, then this game will take you on an adventure and a half!
Components and Set-Up
Within the box (Which I must say is rather neatly packaged for a box of its size) you will receive 48 playing cards, six setting cards, eight gold coins tokens, four sword tokens, four armour tokens, four magic wand tokens, 66 victory point tokens (of varying score) and a rulebook. While this may seem like a fairly small amount of components, I have to admit that the game does still pack a whole load of replay-ability, as the settings cards tend to grant a new aim and goal each time a game is played.
The playing cards themselves are fairly long in comparison to traditional cards, however this is for good reason. The art embodies a more Gothic portrayal of cliche characters and settings within fairytale stories and does so in elegant fashion on each of the cards, allowing anyone to be at least drawn in by the art itself. Meanwhile, the tokens themselves are a little flimsy here and there, but are otherwise very simple, easy to grip and use when needed. (Plus, the box does come with a resealable bag inside, which is always a positive in my book!)
As for set-up; the owner of the game simply takes the setting cards and deals them into two piles based on their letter type (A and B) then shuffles them and draws a card from A and a card from B. These cards then become the rule for what each item does, and how to gain extra points at the end of the game. The other four cards are then put aside.
Once this is done, the player will shuffle the deck of cards, hand each player two, place the deck down in the centre side. Taking a night card from the deck, they will place it next to the deck (Which will then-onward be known as the “Play Zone”). Once these are done, you will then take each of the tokens (Other then the score tokens) put them into a pile each and place them beside the main deck. When all of this is in place, you may then begin with the game!
How it Plays
Dark Tales tends to play just like most traditional card games. Following in suit with traditional rules, player's must follow a set number of steps in exact order, and cannot break this order of steps unless told to do so. These steps include;
- Players start their turn by drawing a single card from the top of their deck.
- Then, the players have the option to use one of their items (Either a sword, wand or armour), this is an optional step, and will vary in effect depending on the setting cards in play, as well as the type of item used.
- Finally, the player must then play a single card from their hand and follow the instructions on the card. All of the cards in the deck can be played at any time, even those that would otherwise do no effect.
These steps will continue until a player can't draw or play any cards, in which case each of the players will add up their scores based on their total number of victory points and the end goals from the settings cards. The player with the highest score will then be the victor!
The gameplay in Dark Tales is relatively simple, however due to card effects and the unknown of what may affect the end goal of the game makes the overall gameplay relatively fresh. Even with the lack of cards, I have currently played around seven to eight games, and each time everything feels a bit new and fresh despite knowing what each card does and how it can be used.
I noticed that other players even began to combo certain cards to get additional effects, all while madly ranting stories related to the cards played (You may not find this when you play, but then again you don't have Steve at your table...unless you do, in which case you may share the same struggle as I do).
Final Thoughts on Dark Tales
Dark Tales is one of those games where everything is done well enough, but always feels like something is missing. The art is beyond stunning (Albeit, I know that is subjective. I just have a soft spot for any kind of Gothic or Victorian artstyle) yet lacks details to make a narrative possible to players without investment. The gameplay is fun and engaging yet feels like there could be a lot more added, the tokens and the accessories look lovely and are compact, yet could do with some polishing and a few bits of detail…
At the end of the day, when all has been said and done, Dark Tales is still a rather detailed, fun game that can be enjoyed by those with an interest in getting involved with a story, or those just into a well-designed card game. While it does feel like a few things are lacking, it more then makes up for it in the fact that the game is all-round fun, engaging, re-playable and easy to set-up/put away.
...And who said that dark tales couldn't have happy endings, eyy?