Untold: The Best Stories are in your Mind
At The Family Gamers, we’re always looking for a game we can tuck into a pocket or a purse, ready to be whipped out at a moment’s notice while waiting for food at a restaurant or stuck waiting for someone unexpectedly. Rory’s Story Cubes is the perfect example of this kind of game.
However, as much as our family enjoys Story Cubes, the stories that come from icons on three dice can be a little contrived sometimes. Without some structure driving the story forward, our free-form tales lack real protagonists, antagonists, or even reasons for existing.
Into this void steps Untold: Adventures Await. A game powered by Rory’s Story Cubes, Untold: Adventures Await adds all of the structural elements the cubes themselves were missing.
Untold is an episodic cooperative storytelling game designed by John Fiore and Rory O’Connor (yes, that Rory) and published by Hub Games. Play time is estimated at 60 minutes, but we have such a blast playing, it often goes far longer. Best for 1-4 players ages 10+.
The premise of Untold is that you and up to three fellow players are characters in an episodic television show. Using Story Cubes, players tell a story buttressed by narrative structures called Scenes:
- A Dangerous Dilemma
- The Plot Thickens
- A Heroic Undertaking
- The Truth Revealed
- The Final Showdown
To set the game up, players shuffle the tiles for each Scene and place one face down on the game board in its respective location. Players then place the designated number of Question and Action tokens in the spaces below the Scene tile.
Shuffle the Outcome and Reaction cards and place them next to the board. Give each player a Dashboard and a set of Edit tokens. Finally, each player takes a Play/Pause card and a character profile sheet.
Once the board is set up, players take an Episode Guide sheet and answer a series of questions together. These answers serve to determine the setting and tone of the episode. This can be literally anything the players want it to be, and can continue a show played before if desired.
Finally, the game is ready to begin.
Players flip over the first Scene (A Dangerous Dilemma) tile and roll all nine of the provided Story Cubes.
Players allocate two cubes to the two spaces on the tile (location and threat) and use those cubes to complete the following sentence with prompts from the Scene:
“The Episode begins at [Location], where [Threat] [is pursuing / attacking / accusing / has captured] someone or something.”
This forms the framework for the entire episode. Once this is complete players fill out their character sheet. Again, this is a completely free form sheet where nearly anything goes. Each player answers the questions on the sheet using up to three of the remaining story cubes. Once the players answer the questions, the scene is set and the characters are built. The game (pun intended) is afoot!
Telling the Story
The narrative unfolds by players asking a number of questions (up to the number of tokens on the Scene) about the story. Players work together, answering their own questions by rolling the non-allocated Story Cubes and using one or more of them to progress the narrative.
Interspersed with this, players can take actions, in the form of “I try to ____ by ____” (again, limited by the number of action tokens). There is no particular player order or action sequence that is forced by the game, but players should come up with a loose game plan before they dive in.
In order to determine the success of an action, the player flips the top card of the Outcome Deck. Green cards indicate success while red cards indicate failure. These cards are either blank, or they may also have the words “AND” or “BUT” on them.
The “AND” cards indicate the extremes (Incredibly Successful / Disastrously Unsuccessful) and the “BUT” cards indicate subdued results (Successful, but at a Price / Unsuccessful, but with an Upside). If the card has a word on it, the player also flips a reaction card to gauge the reaction of the player or someone else in the Scene to the event. Once again, the player decides who has this reaction and how the narrative flows regarding the outcome of the player’s action.
Next SceneOnce the Scene has resolved to the player’s satisfaction, play immediately moves to the next Scene, “The Plot Thickens”, where a plot twist is revealed.
Play continues through four more Scenes as the story of the episode plays out, culminating in “The Final Showdown!”. As with the first Scene, the rule book offers handy mad lib style sentences to help the players frame the Scene. Some Scene cards have colored bands within the Story Cubes slot, which means players can move a cube from an earlier Scene that has a matching colored border into the current Scene. Recurring plot devices make powerful story telling elements, and Untold capitalizes on that.
Whether or not the episode ended on a positive note, there is always potential for the story to grow. Players should complete the “After the Episode” section of the Episode Guide sheet. If they like the world they’ve created, they can play more Episodes in the same series.
Because of its incredible flexibility, the experience of Untold is very much at the mercy of the participants. Creativity abounds in Untold. I’ve seen games set in modern day, games in alternate universes, and games in the future. I’ve seen talking dogs, talking robots, and a professional wrestler dead-set on world domination. The possibilities are, literally endless.
Untold does an excellent job not pigeonholing the player into a certain genre, but offers merely the scaffolding of a story with no flavor whatsoever. The game is fully compatible with any Story Cubes, not just the ones in the box, so players who have branded sets (Dr. Who, Batman, Adventure Time, etc.) can bring them out to add particular themed flavor to the game.
Untold isn’t for everyone. Our middle child loves to tell stories and is boundlessly creative and loved playing the game. Our oldest loves to read, but is reticent to make up narrative on the spot. We’ve never played Untold with her because of our experiences with other roleplaying games. Most likely, you know if you and your game group likes to tell stories. If you do, you’ll greatly appreciate what Hub Games has put together to support your storytelling endeavors.
Find your copy of Untold: Adventures Await on Amazon!
The Family Gamers received a complimentary copy of Untold: Adventures Await from Hub Games for this review.
Untold: Adventures Await
Age Range: 10+ (younger with some help)
Number of Players: 1-4
Time: 60 minutes (or more)