Tall Tales: Story Weaving
Is it the tall tale of an ocean baby, being doted upon by her aquatic mother?
Maybe it’s the terrifying tale of a monster who has kidnapped a child from the local fisherman.
Perhaps this is the legend of how babies are brought to couples in a faraway land.
Whatever the strange image means to you becomes your story in Tall Tales, a competitive story writing game from En Passant Studios. 3-12 players take their turn spinning their own particular yarn about the topic at hand, following the rules set forth by the Storyteller. Let’s look deeper at this wordsmithing competition.
Setup is simple in Tall Tales, as the game makes use of minimal pieces. The entire setup is captured in six steps on one page in the manual:
Tall Tales is a cooperative story building game while also being a competitive scene building game simultaneously.
The Quest Round
To begin play, randomly choose a Storyteller to flip a random Quest card face up below the large Prompt card. Set a timer for three minutes and flip the Prompt card face-up. Each player writes their interpretation of the Prompt, using the quest as a guide. As with the Scene rounds to follow, players should keep their Quest to one side of one sheet of paper.
Once the round completes, the Storyteller gathers the stories, shuffles them, and redistributes them. Beginning with the Storyteller, each player reads the Quest story in front of them, numbering them One, Two, and so on.
After reading all of the stories, players secretly vote on their favorite using their personal voting card. When everyone is finished, players reveal their selections. The Quest with the most votes wins and that writer becomes the next Story Teller.
The Scene Rounds
There are three Scene rounds before the game ends. For each of these rounds, the new Storyteller draws three Phrase cards and three Superlative cards and selects one of each. The Superlative card sets the condition that players should judge the Scenes on. The Phrase card contains a phrase that must be included exactly in the Scene.
Once the Storyteller has selected these cards, they read the story as it currently stands, including the most recent winning Scene. Start a five minute timer, and everyone writes a new Scene.
After the timer goes off, the Storyteller gathers, shuffles, and distributes the Scenes like before, players read Scenes like before. and players vote for a Scene, like before. During the Scene Rounds, players should consider the active Superlative card when voting.
Players score points during the Scene round:
- One point for every vote for their Scene
- One point if their Scene won the round (no ties)
- One point if they voted for the winning Scene
Once the vote concludes, the writer of the winning Scene becomes the new Storyteller, and begins a new round. After the third Scene Round, the game is over. Whoever has the most points wins, but everyone has collaborated to write a truly unique story!
Variant – Big Game
Tall Tales includes a “Big Game” variant for games of seven or more players. In this variant, the scoring is simplified: players score a point for every vote for their scene, and that’s it.
Variant – Team Play
For larger groups, or for including younger children, writers can play in teams instead. You may want to extend the timer and have separate rooms available for teams to be able to discuss their stories.
The Joy of Storytelling
As you can imagine, we’re no stranger writing and stories here at The Family Gamers. Tall Tales lets us do exactly that. Each time we played, we enjoyed the result of the process – A cool, interesting story that is probably more a series of loosely tied together vignettes than a truly cohesive, start-to-finish adventure.
This is a game that shouldn’t need to exist, in the sense that almost all of the material for the game comes out of the heads of the players.
Nonetheless, the Prompt and Superlative cards offer a valuable framework for the players to hang their Scenes on, propelling the narrative forward in ways that might not happen otherwise. We’ve spent plenty of times playing Story Cubes and other open-ended story games with our kids, so we recognize these anchor points are critical to making an interesting story.
The Prompt cards can offer continued inspiration; even after the Quest round sets the story on its way, additional features on these pictures can inspire new elements in the story.
Tall Tales also offers a wealth of replayability. The stories are never the same, even with the same cards serving as muse. But it’s also trivial to replace the Prompt cards with cards from Dixit or Detective Club.
But, it’s also true in this game that the destination is usually better than the ride. Tall Tales makes use of community scoring, which means everyone needs to listen to every Scene as it’s read. This might not be a hassle in some games, but it still takes time. Some of our players had a hard time staying focused long enough to pick a Scene to vote for.
In fact, I can’t imagine playing this game with more than six players, it would take far too long.
Our children (11 and 14) enjoyed playing, and came up with some truly inventive stories that pushed the narrative envelope. Unfortunately, writing under time pressure made their handwriting even worse than normal. Reading it can be a problem.
Oh, and did I mention the hand cramps? I haven’t had hand cramps like this since the SATs.
Tall Tales is a great way to get a story out of the collective brains at the table, and a really cool way to collaborate to make something special. It adds a lot to the Story Cubes formula in a way that helps to craft a far more compelling narrative for those of us who lack tons of creative energies.
If you’d like to try your own hand at storytelling, pick up a copy from En Passant Studios today!
En Passant provided a promotional copy of Tall Tales to The Family Gamers for this review
Tall Tales: Story Weaving
Age Range: 8+
Number of Players: 3-12
Playtime: 45 minutes