Storytelling boardgames

OnceUponATime

I love reading books with compelling stories. When I was little I used to read a lot of fairy tale collections from all over the world. This fascination never really stopped. As could be seen from some of my favorite boardgames it has followed me from one hobby to the other. Some of my favorite boardgames have a storytelling mechanic of sorts. While reading is a mostly solitary activity; playing boardgames is for the most part something that can be enjoyed with other people. To both sides there are exceptions and some boardgames are designed as an awesome solo experience as well. Here are some of the boardgames that can tell a great story and can be enjoyed with others!

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Tales of the Arabian Nights

The version I will showcase here is the reimplementation of a same title game from 1985. The players take on a role of a character from the world of 1001 Nights and travel the map of Eurasia and Middle East in daring adventures. What I really love about this game is how immersive it can be for all the players involved and not just the players whose turn of play it is. While one player decides his choices other players are equipped with matrices and tables to read out his options and results. While every player is a master of his own destiny some choices can lead to magical hidden places others can get a player turned into a monkey AND imprisoned at the same time.

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As the game progresses the storytelling aspect comes strongly to the fore. The results of the encounters are read from a hefty book with more than 2000 options to explore from which provides for the ample replay ability of the game. The game is decorated with beautiful illustrations and vibrant colors.

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It was published in 2009. and designed to be played solo or with up to six people. The experience and length of the game will slightly vary depending on the number of players but it is roughly around two hours playing time. The game is welcoming to both new players and veterans for it is easy to teach.

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Mysterium

Mysterium is one of those games that can be used in creating an unforgettable evening with friends. Story behind the game and the players ability to immerse themselves into the game are the best parts and the players all play cooperatively to win the game together. The game plays strongly on the mechanics of association and pattern recognition. In the lieu of Victorian mysteries and decadent parties the theme is strongly set. The premise of the game is that one player is a ghost and each other player is a renown psychic. There has been a mysterious murder and police need some supernatural help with the case. All players are invited to the spooky manor to help with deciphering what happened with the help of a ghost who will send them clues trough visions.

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The player who takes the role of a ghost will set the game and try to help other players solve their cases without saying a word using only vision cards. The seance lasts for eight rounds represented by the mantel piece clock. Thematically it is aptly described as the time when the veil between world is the thinnest and the ghost can send players visions.

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This is a deduction party game in which ghost player sets the pace of the story for each other player. Mysterium has been published 2015. and since then has had two expansions. The artwork is intriguing and vision cards especially set the spooky tone of the game. Many choose this game as a Halloween themed party game and with few simple touches to the decor it can turn to be a very fun time indeed. The game is meant for company from two to seven people and works excellent with maximum number of players. The difficulty can be balanced and set as per player needs.

 

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Above and Below/Near and Far

Both of these games are made by an amazing author and designer who does mostly all the work needed to make a board game – from design and artwork to production and marketing. Ryan Laukat has made a set of incredible storytelling games that are almost a continuation of the experience from one to the other. The players get to explore and settle the fantastic world author has created. Both games have players reading from a story book of encounters with addition to more common boardgame mechanisms of set collection, card drafting and dice rolling.

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Above and Below came out in 2015. and has a variety of promo pieces and even an expansion book of story encounters. Near and Far was published 2017. and with assortments of promotional pieces available has had a successful Kickstarter campaign for expansion named Amber mines late last year.

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Both games are designed for 2 to 4 players and will take up to two hours of players time depending on the number of players. I have Above and Below and have kickstarted Near and Far expansion with all the addons including the game itself. I hope it will arrive by Easter and it is a favorite already.

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This War of Mine

Thematically this is a darker implementation of storytelling into a board game. Main difference and innovation that this adventure survival game brought out a bit different players point of view. As many of other games offer roles of heroes and soldiers who do battle this game gives insight into the civilian life in war torn city. The theme and the game are meant for mature audiences. The most compelling sign to the craftsmanship of the game was acknowledgement by real life war and siege survivors on how authentic some parts actually are.

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The players play together to make sure the characters they all control on their respective turns survive the active scenario goal. The board of the game has two sides, one for a house shelter and one for a community building. The book of scripts that players read out of is filled with myriad of unique story scripts and characters.

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The artwork follows the theme in its dark and gritty design. Miniature pieces are well made. The game is designed to be played solo or up to six player together. It is fairly new game published 2017. Time of play can vary on how well the players handle difficulties set by the game from 45 minutes up to few hours. The people to play this game with should be chosen wisely since it is not light in play or theme and some parts might be too much for certain players to handle. There is also a video game counterpart of the same title.

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Forest of Fate

This last game I decided to highlight did not yet come out officially. While it was Kickstarter exclusive from last year the game should be arriving to the addresses of its backers very soon (March 2018). It is a somewhat smaller game in comparison to the others I mentioned. Also it puts a spin to storytelling games since its goal is for character players to get the chance to tell the story of their own great exploits. To do so they must come home.

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Game welcomes players who are new to role play games and veterans. It is made for two to six players and lasts up to one hour. What made my mouth water was the neat design of the storytelling book. And said book is slightly bigger than the game box for it is meant to fit the shelf nicely. I don’t have much on this game since I have not played it yet but from all I have seen so far I am very exited to try it out!

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Any boardgame lovers out there with suggestions of games I might have missed out on? Let me know!

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Reading in progress February 2018

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It has been a while since I was reading this many books at the same time. Reading more books at the same time was something I used to do a lot more while I was working in a bookstore. The frequency of the books I had on hand and information on them was higher and I was like a bee buzzing around with my nose in few different books a day even. Sometimes it all got too much and I had clearing phases to finish out the books I had dragged on for few months at a time.

This time I am in the middle of reading of five different books. Here are the books I am reading at the moment:

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Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades, #3) by E.L. James

I have been dragging this book out from the start of the year. It should be an easy read but I’m having trouble going trough it. I have passed 150 pages mark and hope it will go faster from now on…

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Strange Candy by Laurell K. Hamilton

This book is my TBR Jar Draw for February. I picked it out since I miss reading about some of my favorite characters from Anita Blake universe. So far I have read first two stories out of fourteen in total. I like that each story has an introduction by author and I am making little notes for each story so I can post a short review on each.

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Devil in Winter (The Wallflowers book 3) by Lisa Kleypas

I have managed to push trough this book for my book club reading at the beginning of March. It has been four years since the group picked out a romance book to read and I did a lot of work for it to pass as a reading suggestion. I am currently reading it for the fourth time and enjoying it immensely. I am also looking out for some book club fun ideas to make the meeting memorable for everyone. I have a tough crowd to please and I’m pulling out all the weapons I know! Oh and while I was meaning to buy the whole series in English one day my boyfriend bought a translated copy for me yesterday! English set is still on my wishlist though.

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A Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics by Erich Fromm

I have actually made progress with this book recently and I’ve passed the third of the book. I’m dealing with an older translated edition and some footnotes are giving me trouble. Reading this book takes all my concentration and sometimes I go back and reread some paragraphs. I’m taking notes as well and then look for English versions and it is all time consuming…

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Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This book is another book club project and this one is due in a week and a half. I was looking for a translated copy of this book but have been unsuccessful for now. While I still have some options for obtaining a copy I will try to avoid reading it in digital form and before bedtime since it kinda scares me….

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Reading five books at the time is not even my personal best but I will try to keep things moving a bit more faster and finish all of these by the end of the shortest month of the year!

TBR Jar Draw February 2018

I finshed my TBR Jar Draw for January fairly quickly. It was not a novel nor a short story but an indie RPG book The Shab-al-Hiri Roach by Jason Morningstar. Years back I used to play RPGs like Vampire the Masquerade and Dungeons and Dragons a lot more than I do now. I made a short review on the book and you can find it HERE.

After I finished this book I decided not to rush into the next TBR Jar Draw until February started. The two draws I have not read are going back in the jar:

# The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #3) by Rick Riordan

Dhampir (The Saga of the Noble Dead series #1) by Barb and J.C. Hendee

My three new TBR Jar draws are as follows:

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1# Sigvald (Warhammer Heroes #4) by Darius Hinks

I got interested in this book because of a board game I love playing Chaos in the Old World. It is part of a larger fantastical universe of Warhammer Fantasy. To really explain why I bought this book and I’m not interested in others from this series I would have to read and review it.

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2# Strange Candy by Laurell K. Hamilton

This has been on my shelf so long that I am unsure have I read it or not. I’m pretty sure I have read at least one of the stories in it but never have I read it as a whole book. I follow the author Laurell K. Hamilton and love reading short stories in general.

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3# The Witch with no Name(The Hollows #13) by Kim Harrison

This is the thirteenth and the final book from The Hollows series. It is the only one I have not read. This series has been with me for more than a decade. I truly enjoy this urban fantasy series and have recently recommended it to a friend from my book club – and she loved it so much she went trough it on a span of few weeks. It would be good to finish a book series but it would also be a bittersweet experience since it is a series full of characters I love.

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All three options are good and inviting. I am a bit shamed for letting so many good books stay unread on my bookshelves. I’m having one of those moments where I’m glad to have started challenging myself to read more of the books from my bookshelves with TBR Jar Draw!

Monthly reading review – January 2018

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Monthly reading review – January 2018

This January I have read:

The Scoundrel Takes a Bride (Regency Rogues #5) by Stefanie Sloane ★★

The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, #1) by Philip Pullman ★★★

A Test of Mettle (The Iron Druid Chronicles #3.5) by Kevin Hearne ★★★★

A Prelude to War (The Iron Druid Chronicles, #7.5) by Kevin Hearne ★★★★

Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson and Chuck Wendig ★★★★

Taurus by Božica Dragaš ★★★

The Shab-al-Hiri Roach by Jason Morningstar ★★★

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1. How many books you’ve read last month? Are you happy with the amount you read?

In January I have read six books in total. I have decided leave the short story from one of them out of the count. I would like to read a bit more in general and get the number of books I read in a month closer to ten.

2. What was the best of all the books you’ve read in January? Any scenes or characters that made a lasting impression?

I loved getting back to The Iron Druid Chronicles in the form of short stories and they were the highlight of my reading in January. The Shab-al-Hiri Roach has given me some food for thought in January as well.

3. Were there any not so good books for you last month? What made it hard or not enjoyable to read?

The historical romance The Scoundrel Takes a Bride did not impress me much. I guess I was not in the mood for romance books this January.

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4. How did the books you were reading last month fit in your reading plans if you had any?

Only planned reading I did was finishing The Golden Compass from December and reading the Taurus book for my book club meeting at the start of February.  The rest of the books, excluding the TBR Jar Draw The Shab-al-Hiri Roach were not planned.

5. Any updates on the series you are reading or are you starting any new series?

Technically I tried out three new series: His Dark Materials #1) by Philip Pullman, Blud short story by Delilah S. Dawson and Miriam Black short story by Chuck Wendig.

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6. Would you like to recommend any books or authors you’ve been reading this last month?

This January recommendation goes for Kevin Hearne and Iron Druid Chronicles. I enjoy the stories from the world of Iron Druid a lot and hope to continue reading the next book soon.

Final thoughts on January reading

I have posted three book reviews in January:

The Scoundrel Takes a Bride (Regency Rogues #5) by Stefanie Sloane ★★ – REVIEW

Three Slices by Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson and Chuck Wendig ★★★★ – REVIEW

The Shab-al-Hiri Roach by Jason Morningstar ★★★ – REVIEW

I am still reading A Man for Himself: An Inquiry into the Psychology of Ethics by Erich Fromm and I am slowly trudging on with Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades, #3) by E.L. James. I am having trouble with it and hope to finish it by the time the movie comes out.

I have yet to do the TBR Jar Draw for February and start on the other book for my book club reading in February which is Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

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The Shab-al-Hiri Roach – Book Review

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Finished reading

The Shab-al-Hiri Roach

by Jason Morningstar

★★★

Expectation

This was an impulse purchase in homage to the role playing games I used to play. I got it late last year and got to reading it after I pulled it out of my TBR Jar. First of all let me explain what kind of book this is. This short little booklet contains a Lovecraftian RPG (role playing game) meant to play in the course of one evening or afternoon for fun. It comes with a set of forty cards for players to use. I liked the concept of a weird setting with dark comedy elements at the start of the twentieth century academic environment. I wanted something short and quirky to try out with some of my friends and gaming group.

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Summary

This Indie RPG book is filled with black and white illustrations and news clips from the Pemberton University. The time this adventure is set is in 1919. and it starts with a tragic death of the university entomologist William Appleby-Jenkins. This story then follows the escape of a new and unique species mentioned entomologist brought back from his  expedition in the Mesopotamia region where he discovered the specimen in the cave near the Shab-al hiri potash mine (potash is a substance used mostly as a fertilizer in potassium poor soils).

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The game is meant to be played without game master and that sets it apart from most other RPGs I am familiar with. The game can be played with 3 – 8 players but it is recommended for 4 – 5 players. Each player will need a character sheet that is available at the site of the designer Bully Pulpit and can be found along with some other merchandise  –> HERE

Along the character sheets, players will need a variety of playing dice from four sided to twelve sided that can be found in most RPG dice sets. Last thing the players will need are somewhere around fifty tokens that will represent characters reputations – the coins are suggested and of course some snacks and good humor. All players are meant to take a role of one Pemberton University residents and faculty.

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Book has six chapters that explain everything from character creation and sequence of play to scene framing and resolving of the conflicts. The conflicts are encouraged and the players are instructed to use their imagination within the bounds they set for themselves. The whole game is meant to be played trough six Events during which every player has a chance to construct the scene to benefit his reputation. Players bet their reputation points on the outcomes and winner is determined by roll of the die. Players are supposed to play the scenes according to the results.

Plot revolves around an ancient life form that is the The Shab-al-Hiri Roach – ” a soul-eating telepathic insect bent on destroying the human civilization.” Players can choose to let it control them willingly which will give them more chances to come on top in conflicts with other players. To win the game after the last Event players need to find a way to have the most reputation and be free of the Shab-al-Hiri Roach’s influence.

Conclusion

I did not try this game yet. What I did not like about it is how much it reminds me of improvisation groups and actor practice groups. Something about it in the end did not sit well with me and I did not find the theme inspiring enough. Games like this one by my experience, tend to balance mostly on the motivations and involvement of the participating players. I was also not very impressed with the quality of the cards provided with the book. The game won a Kenneth Hite’s 2006 Outie Award for its uniqueness. I’m glad I got to read trough it for my TBR Jar Draw reading challenge.

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Three Slices – Book Review

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Finished reading

Three Slices

by

Kevin Hearne, Delilah S. Dawson and Chuck Wendig

★★★★

Expectation

I was going trough the list of short stories I missed reading for Iron Druid Chronicles after one of my friends asked for reading recommendation. Naturally I turned to Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles. I found a few short stories and novellas I have not read yet and this one stood out as an interesting one. I gave up on reading the short stories in order since they are not so easy for me to come by. I was actually surprised to see that the story A Prelude to War is almost on point for book 7. which is the next book I need to read for this series. I have heard for Delilah S. Swanson and her Blud series and even put it on my TBR some years back. I have never read anything of it though. This is my first Chuck Wendig story and I had no idea what to expect.

Summary

These three stories have in common the theme of tyromancy. Tyromancy is the art of divination and telling ones future using cheese hence the apt title Three Slices. While each story is set in its own universe the cheese part is what connects them in a quirky way.

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A Prelude to War

by Kevin Hearne

★★★★

This story was relatively easy for me to get into. It is divided into two segments. One follows Atticus the main character of the series in his exploits to recruit the help of someone he used to know and to get better insight for dealing with his enemies. The other part of this story follows Granuaille on her training to be a druid. While Atticus was one of my most liked parts of the Iron Druid Chronicles I did prefer Granuaille and her way of dealing with druid business and foes. I suspect the part with Atticus has more meaning to the main story of the book series and will have to read on to find out.

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Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

by Delilah S. Dawson

★★★★

Second story  in this collection presented a bit of a challenge to get into. As a short story from a fully developed and fantastically rich world it brought out an array of new creatures and a world that follows its own rules. Since I knew nothing about any of it the first part of this story had me going slowly to try to understand dynamics of the creatures and the rules they abide by. I knew there was a vampire type creatures of some kind in the center of it all and that’s about it. I like the main character Criminy Stain and his sense of flair. The character itself is very strongly portrayed and driven. In retrospect the story was full of macabre and strange but it was all very nicely put together and I did not mind the brutality of some parts. Its a very dark story set in a dark world with some dark characters. I ended up liking it.

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Interlude: Swallow

by Chuck Wendig

★★

This author and her characters I knew the least about. From the very start it read more like a mystery thriller than anything else. While the story Delilah S. Swanson before it had more macabre elements this one was much more scary for me. The way it was written did not help either. The story was put together by little chapters out of order. The way they continue is that they turn forward in time and back in time in the most intense parts of the plot. I had no love for this and did not like it all that much.

Conclusion

While all three stories have a character that uses cheese to tell future in some way there was a distinct commonality in the title of the second story – Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys which refers to a polish saying with general meaning Not my problem, I don’t care. In each story there was a moment of betrayal and the motive of the betrayer had certain carefree elements – nothing personal, I was just worrying about my own stuff. This three story collection was entertaining to read and I found it to be informative for future reading.

The beautiful illustrations were made by Galen Dara and are part of the book. Aside the cover illustration each story has one and I like them as much I like the stories.

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TBR Jar Draw January 2018

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After finishing my December TBR Jar Draw I decided to keep up with challenging myself with reading more books I already own. I kept both the jar with the titles that were not read adding a few new ones and the plastic cube I put all the titles I read. It filled out nicely and I hope to continue with the more pleasant reading this year. For more info on my TBR Jar Draw 2017 you can check HERE.

Having finished with The Scoundrel Takes a Bride (Regency Rogues #5) by Stepfanie Sloane I posted the short review and my thoughts on it which you can find HERE.

The two draws I have not read are going back in the jar:

# Angel Souls and Devil Hearts (Shadow Saga #2) by Christopher Golden

# Carniepunk by Rachel Caine and various authors

My three new TBR Jar draws are as follows:

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1# The Ship of the Dead (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #3) by Rick Riordan

This is one of the books I bought in November last year. While it is one of the most anticipated books from last year for me I still did not read it. With it being the book I bought late in the 2017. I have just added it to the TBR Jar this year. I hope to get to it soon and will have to check the reading order with The Trials of Apollo series. I am not sure do I need to read one more book before it :/

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2# The Shab-al-Hiri Roach by Jason Morningstar

This book is one of those odities I stumbled on while I was browsing one of my favorite online boardgame stores. It is actualy a role playing game book for a dark comedy setting. I found it on sale and just had to get it. I look forward to reading trough it. I have never read or played anything by this author so it all adds to the mystery. With the book comes a set of playing cards as well. I am definitely leaning toward this choice!

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3# Dhampir (The Saga of the Noble Dead series #1) by Barb and J.C. Hendee

This is one of the books I bought quite a while ago but never really gotten to reading it. I have first three books from this book series. While I generaly like the theme of vampires, the catchphrase “A mix of The Lord of the Rings and Buffy the Vampire Slayer” brings out some mixed feelings on this book. I reamin intrigued and a little bit apprehensive.

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My book choices for January are quite interesting. I keep being surprised by the books I pull out of the TBR Jar AND that alone is a clear proof I need to keep up with this challenge. Who knows what I might find sitting on my bookshelves?