Story games

I like stories. I like games. I’m seeing more and more variety of games that combine the two. These are games that aren’t about winning so much as they are about spinning a great yarn. So for those interested in adding more story-telling to their games, or some random chance to their story-telling, here are a few to try. If you know of others please let me know – I love these sorts of games.

Once Upon A Time – A classic storytelling card game that’s now over twenty years old but still a great way to pass the time. A random hand of cards determines the elements that you’re challenged to fit into your storytelling.

Aye, Dark Overlord! – Another card game. This time the challenge is to come up with excuses for why you, a faithful minion, have failed in your duty to your villainous master. Very silly, lots of late night fun if you have the right mindset.

Microscope – I’ve raved about this one before. It’s a collaborative world-building game in which you tell a grand history with your friends, with always unexpected results. A fabulous creative exercise. Lame Mage also have another storytelling game called Kingdom, which I’m determined to try soon.

Watch The World Die – The other end of things from Microscope, this is about world-destroying, as you generate your own apocalypse. I haven’t tried it yet, but the PDF is free to download, so what’s to lose?

Tales of the Arabian Nights – I didn’t even know there were storytelling boardgames until I saw this review from Shut Up & Sit Down. It’s an entertaining review, and will give you some idea why I’m keen to play this game:

[vimeo 71104587 w=500 h=281] <p><a href=”″>Review: Tales of the Arabian Nights</a> from <a href=””>ShutUpShow</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Farage the storyteller

Last week saw extreme conservatives do well in European elections. Parties such as the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) got the sort of success their leaders could only have dreamed of five years ago, resulting in much wailing and gnashing of teeth across the political spectrum.

As with so much in life, the experience of reading and writing fiction can bring something to the discussion about these results.


Stories and politics

The thing about politicians like Nigel Farage, UKIP’s ubiquitously grinning upper-class leader, is that they tell powerful, simple stories. They present a conflict – immigrants threatening our way of life. They present an antagonist – Europe. They present a hero – themselves. There’s a sense of challenge – things are getting worse! – and of hope – Farage to the rescue!

This story might bear little relationship to reality, but that’s not the point. As the ballot box testifies, it’s a story that people find moving.

Losing the plot

Mainstream politicians are losing ground in large part because they don’t understand this. They talk about GDP growth and reform, but they don’t present a story. In fact it would be harder for them to present a convincing story – after all, they’re far from underdogs in this fight. But if they could find ways to tell better stories – and they have the staff and resources to find a way – then they might do better.

As Hugo Chavez showed, you don’t have to be in opposition to tell a powerful political story.

The power of stories

Humans tell stories to make sense of the world. Part of the power of stories is that they can convince others to see the world the way that you do. And until other parties find ways to tell better stories, to lead and shape public perceptions instead of being led round by their opponents, they will never make back their lost ground.


Picture by FutUndBeidl via Flickr creative commons.