Chairman of the Board: Story time

Illustration by Ed Appleby
Illustration by Ed Appleby

‘Once Upon a Time’ game review

By Ed Appleby, Illustrator

From Greek poets singing the songs of Odysseus to the poorly written Twilight fan fiction of today, storytelling has always been an integral part of the human experience. Now it is your turn, gamers.

Once Upon a Time is a storytelling card game for two to six players designed by Richard Lambert, Andrew Rilstone, and James Wallis, and published by Atlas Games in 1993. In the game, you are dealt several story cards and one ending card. Players use the story cards to craft a tale until they are interrupted or cannot continue. The game is won once a player uses all of their story cards and ends the tale in a way that makes sense with their ending card.

The experience of Once Upon a Time really depends on the players. Rule-minded players and hardcore gamers will find the open style difficult, whereas creative types and children will love the simple rules and the creativity that flows from the game. Many websites openly encourage having copies in primary school classrooms to help foster creativity in young minds.

I was delighted to discover that Atlas has put out several expansions for Once Upon a Time. You can now get cards that expand the tales to include more knights, magic, and seafaring. There is also a supplemental Once Upon a Time Writer’s Handbook that guides you on how to use the game to help craft your own literary works.

If you are looking for a game to play with artists or children, or envision yourself stepping into the shoes of the likes of George R. R. Martin or Sir Terry Pratchett, then I insist you add Once Upon a Time to your collection.