This commentary originally aired May 9, 2013.
Fairy tales are a part of our shared cultural knowledge – if you refer to Jack and the Beanstalk, the Three Little Pigs, or Goldilocks, almost everyone knows what you are talking about.
These stories can share many features: the damsel in distress, magic, fantastic creatures, royalty... In the card game Once Upon A Time, you and a group of up-to-six other players set out to craft your own fairy tale.
Each player gets a hand of cards, and each card represents something you might find in one of these stories – characters, scenes, events or ideas. One player starts off as the narrator. The narrator plays cards to tell the story, so you might start off by playing a Goblin card and a Wishing Well card, and say that this is the "Tale of the Goblin’s Well."
You play until you start rambling or until you mention something that another player has a card for. For example, if you mention a village, and someone else has the Village card, they can play it and continue as the narrator from there.
You get one more card that is the ending to your fairy tale, and to win, you must guide the story toward your ending. These cards are either clichéd fairy tale endings such as, “And they all lived happily ever after,” or else a moral to the story, like, “A Heart that is brave and true will always triumph in the end.”
Although the game technically has a winner, the real point is to work together to tell a story. Players can be very creative and imaginative with how they build their fairy tale world. Once Upon A Time isn’t adversarial, and can move at any pace, so it’s good to play on a game night with the kids, or around a fire on a camping trip.