Updated: Apr 19
There are quite a few storytelling games out there - we've featured several over the years here on Board's Eye View, including Top Tale (Yub Nub), Rucksack (Grumpy Spider) and Gamestormers (GamestormEDU). Most encourage creativity but the majority are primarily party games that usually involve other players voting on the stories they prefer. This subjectivity almost inevitably results in players competing for laughs and/or shock value. Nothing wrong with that, especially in a party game but, with Song of Tales, designer Glenn Ford and publishers Man O' Kent Games have been looking to achieve something a little different...
In Song of Tales, each of the players takes on the persona of one of eight storytale characters. The characters are drawn from Anglo-Saxon, Arabic, African and Japanese folklore. In each round, one player is the Storyteller. They lay out their character's story beginning and ending card, and they place out cards between them that will form part of the narrative they will relate. Other players ('Listeners') can place cards above or below those in the Storyteller's story path. These represent branches off from the main narrative. The Storyteller can ignore these or can take the story to them, temporarily handing the storytelling over to the Listener that placed out that path. The Storyteller is incentivised to choose a fork in the narrative by bids that the Listeners place on their cards. These hand points to the Storyteller, but taking temporary control of the narrative also offers more opportunity for the successful bidder to score points.
You are mainly scoring points for using one of the six 'favourite words' on your character card but the cards also list synonyms for those words. If the Storyteller uses a synonym that a Listener has on their character card, then they too can earn a point. This is a clever device because it encourages and incentivises careful listening.
The test of the Storyteller's creativity tho' is the way in which they 'weave' together the cards in their narrative. Obviously, they need to be creative in filling in the details that take the story from one card to the next but they cannot actually move to the next card in their story path unless they satisfy the 'style' requirements of their character. These vary in difficulty - helping to make the game playable with those of different ages and competencies. Tanuki, the racoon from Japanese folklore, is merely required to work in two sound effects, whereas Shahrazad from Arabian Nights has to rhyme at least one in five words! The StoryTeller indicates where they believe they've satisfied what they need to do to move on to the next card, and any of the Listeners can confirm this.
Song of Tales draws well on various myths and folk tales and makes great use of art from Sean Donnen, Liga Klavina, Obaseun Ogunkeye and Dawn Williams. Its great strength is its promotion of speaking and listening skills, as well as encouragement of Storytellers' use of linguistic constructs (for example, Kitsune's requirement to create a haiku to weave cards together). That makes it a great tool for teachers and parents. But tho' Song of Tales has undeniable educational applications, it's a well designed game in its own right. Song of Tales' standout feature is that it's a competitive game that incentivises cooperative interludes and has scoring that's entirely objective: no need to court the votes of other players with crude jokes!
Song of Tales takes up to eight players. There's a solo version but we weren't wholly convinced by that, and even with two players you aren't seeing this game at its best. At Board's Eye View we certainly preferred it with at least three players. Song of Tales is due to come to Kickstarter on 15 September. We'll weave in a link to the campaign when it goes live.
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