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Once Upon A Time: The Storytelling Card Game Review

Once Upon A Time Feature

Let Me Tell You A Story…

Once Upon A Time, there were four gamers, sat about a table looking for something to play. The eldest of the gamers said, “I want to play a card game!” The second of the gamers said, “Well I want to play a collaborative game!” The third of the gamers said, “Well I want to play a game where we tell a story!” The youngest of the gamers, who was the wisest, reached into her bag and placed a box onto the table. “Fellow gamers,” she cried, “do not worry. I have a card game which is collaborative and requires us to tell a story. Let me deal out the cards and I will begin. Once Upon A Time…” The gamers laughed and groaned and played again and again, each weaving fantastical tales with their friends. But every one of these tales began, as all stories do, Once Upon A Time. 

The Game

Who doesn’t love the whimsical joy of a fairy-tale? Once Upon A Time: The Storytelling Card Game (designed by Richard Lambert, Andrew Rilstone and James Wallis) brings that feeling back and lets you step into the role of the Brothers Grimm or Walt Disney, writing stories which will be spoken of for years to come… at least by whoever was at the table at the time.  

How To Play

Quite simply, you’re telling a story together. Much like being a Dungeon Master or Game Master in an RPG, you’re sculpting the world and introducing the characters, places, events, aspects and things in it. You play cards with each of these elements into the general play area, developing the story as you go along, similarly to Gloom. However, be careful in your choice of words, as other players may interrupt you by playing a Story Card with an element you have mentioned or with an Interrupt Card. If you are interrupted, your turn is over and you draw a card. A game of Once Upon A Time ends when a player has used all of the Story Cards in her hand and brings the story to a satisfying conclusion, playing her Ending Card correctly. 

Likes & Dislikes

Like: Not all stories end happily. This might sound like a flaw, but the reality is sometimes a great story comes from tragedy and strife, and the original fairy tales were written as morality stories. The lessons learned from the Ending Card are what we should take from our story.

Dislike: This game does suffer from a flaw. It has the possibility of a single player taking one turn and ending the game without involving other players. Conversely, it can also drag on if the cards you draw aren’t quite what you need to bring your story to a satisfying conclusion. 

Like: This game plays to the whimsy of a child and can be used in the classroom to help children develop. With key focuses on reading, cooperative play, creativity and decision making, it’s a fun way to introduce and develop those skills for your children. 

Like: Once Upon A Time is wonderfully replayable. Regardless of the order in which your cards come out and the ending you have to get to, you will always be able to tell a tale. Added to this, six expansions exist, letting you add Knights and Animals and mash up different fairy tales. You can even write in your own cards, much like Cards Against Humanity (though less… let’s say “adult.” Or not, that’s up to you!) 

Like: This is a game, and so winning is a factor. But ultimately, victory isn’t the reason you play this game. Like Cards Against Humanity, you’re playing for the joy of the game. The story is the thing, not winning. 

Final Thoughts

Once Upon A Time is wonderful to play with the creative types you know. With 51 unique endings and 114 story cards, it gives great inspiration to Dungeon/Game Masters for RPGs, and it’s a great game to play with kids. And, if I may, an abbreviated story from one of our games.

Once upon a time, there were two children, who wandered into the forest. They were captured by a dwarf and taken to his tower to be imprisoned. However, they were able to escape, for the dwarf could never remember his keys and so left an axe by the doors…

That dwarf is scheduled to appear in my next Dungeons and Dragons campaign…