Once Upon a Time (game)

Once Upon a Time (game)

Cover of Once Upon a Time (2nd edition).
Designer(s) Richard Lambert
Andrew Rilstone
James Wallis
Publisher(s) Atlas Games
Players 2–6[1]
Playing time 15 minutes[2]
Skill(s) required Storytelling

Once Upon a Time is a card game produced by Atlas Games, originally released in 1994 with a second edition published in 1995.[2] One object of Once Upon a Time is to tell a fairy tale as a group.[1][2][3] While the story is developed by the whole group, the competitive aspect of the game is that each player has an individual goal of using all of the "Storytelling" cards he or she has in hand, and finishing the story with their own special "Happy Ever After" card.[3][4][5] Only one player at a time is the current storyteller, giving him or her a chance to play their Storytelling cards, while the other players have a chance to "interrupt" the story and become the storyteller if, for example, the storyteller mentions something on one of the interrupting player's cards.[1][4][5]



Each player is dealt a hand of cards that represent story elements: objects, people, events, and "aspects" often involved in fairy tales (for instance, there are cards for "crown", "key", "stepmother", "a death", "time passes", "sleeping", et cetera). These "Storytelling" cards represent ingredients of a fairy tale, i.e. words or phrases that are likely to appear in fairy tales.[4] From a different deck of cards, each player is also dealt a single "Happy Ever After" ending card, to be kept secret from other players until it is used.[2] The object of the game for each player is to use their cards in telling a story, finishing the story by using their Happy Ever After card.[4]

One player at a time is the storyteller. (The rules suggest the starting storyteller could be the "player with the longest beard", or any other method upon which the players agree.[6]) Whenever a story ingredient is mentioned, if any player has a Storytelling card for that ingredient, he or she can play it and become (or continue being) the storyteller.[1][2] A player may be required to draw extra Storytelling cards (for example, when they are the storyteller and are interrupted by another player who becomes the new storyteller, or if he or she hesitates for too long while telling the story[2][4]). If the storyteller ends the story with the ending on their Happy Ever After card, and is out of cards, he or she wins.[4] Players are expected to cooperate (to some extent) in order to avoid contradictions in the story as it develops, for the story to make sense, and (according to the rulebook) that any ending to the story is "satisfying".[4][5][6]


Dark Tales is a set of extra cards featuring 'darker' plot elements,[2] such as "trolls under bridges" and evil mothers-in-law.[3] One reviewer stated that when using this expansion "fiends stalk the deck, and characters are haunted or followed by murderers".[7] These cards, or a subset of them, are intended to be shuffled into the original deck. Decks of blank cards are also available, for people to add their own story elements.[7]

Awards and critical reception

In his essay on the game, British author and game designer Marc Gascoigne stated that Once Upon a Time is "one of the best ways [he had] ever found to grab a non-gamer by their imagination and fling them into our world".[2]

Once Upon a Time was named to Games magazine's Best Family Card Game section in the 1997 Games 100 list.[8]

In 1999 Pyramid magazine named Once Upon a Time as one of The Millennium's Best Card Games[9] and also as one of The Millennium's Most Underrated Games.[10] Editor Scott Haring stated "the game's just as good for kids as it is for adults."[9] Commenting on the second edition, reviewer Derek Pearcy said the game "is a brilliant example of what we should be getting in this new game market" and "not only is this game easy to learn, not only is it fast, fun, and an Idea Whose Time Has Come, but ... girls think it rocks" commenting upon "the occasional insulting lip-service [many game companies have paid] to their female readership."[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Darlington, Steve (1999-05-03). "Once Upon A Time: The Storytelling Card Game". RPGnet. http://www.rpg.net/news+reviews/reviews/rev_1613.html. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Gascoigne, Marc (2007). "Once Upon a Time". In Lowder, James. Hobby Games: The 100 Best. Green Ronin Publishing. pp. 224–226. ISBN 978-1-932442-96-0. 
  3. ^ a b c Dr. Matt J. Carlson (2005-11-13). "Once Upon a Time (Card Game)". GamerDad.com. http://www.gamerdad.com/detail.cfm?itemID=2779. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Jones, Spike Y (April 1994). "Pyramid Pick: Once Upon A Time". Pyramid (Steve Jackson Games) (#6). http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/login/article.html?id=647. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  5. ^ a b c O'Sullivan, Steffan (1993). "Once Upon a Time Review". The Game Report (2.2). http://www.gamereport.com/tgr6/onceuponatime.html. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  6. ^ a b Once Upon a Time game rules
  7. ^ a b Vetromile, Andy (2004-12-24). "Pyramid Review: Dark Tales & Create Your Own Storytelling Cards (for Once Upon a Time)". Pyramid (online) (Steve Jackson Games). http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/login/article.html?id=5150. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 
  8. ^ Atlas Games Once Upon a Time homepage.
  9. ^ a b Haring, Scott D. (1999-12-17). "Second Sight: The Millennium's Best Card Game". Pyramid (online). http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/login/article.html?id=1291. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  10. ^ Haring, Scott D. (1999-11-25). "Second Sight: The Millennium's Most Influential Company and The Millennium's Most Underrated Game". Pyramid (online). http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/login/article.html?id=1240. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  11. ^ Pearcy, Derek (March 1996). "Pyramid Pick: Once Upon A Time, Second Edition". Pyramid (Steve Jackson Games) (#18). http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/login/article.html?id=4545. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 

External links

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