The words "once upon a time" call up images of fairy tales, magic, and romance. So it's appropriate that they are used for the name of Once Upon A Time, the card game where players cooperate and compete in creating their own stories.

Each player starts the game with a "Happy Ever After" card (with a final line for the story) and several "Once Upon A Time" cards, also known as "storyteller cards." The latter cards either have a specific card name and one of five categories (Character, Place, Event, Item, Aspect), or an Interrupt (which has one of the Categories, plus its own card name).

During each game a player begins as the storyteller. This player tries to play all their cards by telling a story that uses the cards from their hand. A player can use one card for each sentence of the story (so they can't get rid of multiple cards with one run-on sentence) and the story has to make sense to all the players. If a player can use up all their storyteller cards and guide the story so their "Happily Ever After" card makes sense, they win.
So can do the other players do? Take over the story! If the storyteller mentions something another player has a card for (for example, if the storyteller says a Prince encounters a merchant another player could play "Two People Meet") the player who played the card becomes the new storyteller and the former storyteller has to draw a storyteller card. A player with an Interrupt can also play it to become the storyteller, and force the former storyteller to draw another card, if their Interrupt matches a category that was just played. If a storyteller takes too long to continue the story (usually a pause of five seconds or more) they draw a card and the next person clockwise becomes the new storyteller. Finally, players can rule that the storyteller's card play or story doesn't make sense, forcing them to draw a turn and letting the next person clockwise take over as storyteller.
Once Upon A Time is a simple, fun, impressively silly game. As people make up stories on the fly, there's a lot of humor -- especially when someone decides to take the story in a completely different direction. Since there's no strategy beyond knowing your cards and being ready to pounce when one of your cards can be used, the focus is more on fun than victory. And the game gets amazingly tough if someone steals the story and leaves you with one non-Interrupt card; if that happens, you'd best hope people flub their stories or mention the only thing you can play -- or defeat is assured. If you like funny stories (especially telling them), Once Upon A Time is a nice way to spin some tales with other players.
Overall grade: B
Reviewed by James Lynch

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