In today’s age of being plugged in to some kind of electronic much of the time, it is good to unplug on a regular basis and just have some quality fun with others. And if you are learning at the same time, all the better. There are quite a lot of great tabletop games out there, but some take a while to learn, or have a lot of pieces, or are good for only kids or only adults.
Enter Rory’s Story Cubes, a set of nine six-sided dice, each with a different image on them. They are meant to inspire storytelling and creative play. I first played this game at Mind Games and knew it was a keeper. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one of the winners, but I think that was only because participants of Mind Games have to play games in a hurry, and they didn’t take the time to see the potential in this one. Thus I was thrilled to receive my own copy of this game to review.From the time it arrived in the mail, both of my kids were begging me to play it. Even before opening the box, they knew how fun it would be. Kids just seem to intuitively know what to do with the cubes, and find new ways to use them.
My son, the boy who thinks everything is either boring or not fun because it is not an electronic, keeps picking up the cubes, making story after story while sitting alone at the kitchen table. If we aren’t available to play with him, he will play with the cubes by himself, passing up computer games and television shows. My daughter, too, keeps asking people to play. She loves the look and feel of the cubes, and is always coming up with new ideas for how to use them.
Soon after they arrived, I sat down with my kids and we spent some quality time storytelling with the Story Cubes. We first took turns rolling all nine cubes, including them all in a story. Then we passed them to the next person. For our second effort, we tried a new tactic. I rolled the nine cubes and used all of them to start a story. Then the next person rolled all nine and continued the story. We went around a couple of times, continuing the story each time. The last person had to wrap up the storyline. My husband even joined in, adding his unique creativity to the mix. We did find, though, that the kids would often go off on really odd tangents when we did this cooperative storytelling, but that is half the fun. For a shorter story, we also tried rolling only two or three dice, still adding on to the story in a circle.
My son had no trouble coming up with ideas. There seem to be no limits to his creativity. My daughter came up with very little to start, her stories being incredibly short. But very quickly she became comfortable enough to elaborate and make longer, interesting stories. Being creative on the spot, telling the story out loud, frees kids up to be as creative as possible without having to write stories down or worry about spelling, punctuation and grammar.
The concepts on the cubes are so universal, kids of all ages have no trouble interpreting the images. The only possible exception is the cube with a square with an L inside. At first we treated it like just an L, like you would find the letter L in the story, or a character or item would start with an L. But I later found out that the symbol is a sign that goes inside the car window of people who are just learning to drive, at least in some countries.
The quality of the cubes is very good. They are 19mm thick, have a good weight to them, rounded corners, and the image on each side isn’t just a surface treatment. The picture is cut into the face and then painted. These are dice that will last.
Rory’s Story Cubes just recently was awarded the Parents’ Choice Gold Medal, on June 10th of this year. It previously was declared to be one of Doctor Toy’s Ten Best Games and was awarded a Major Fun Award.
As an expansion or a stand-alone product, there is now also Rory’s Story Cubes: Actions. Each of the 54 images in this set shows a different action. Most of the images have a little figure doing the action, but some don’t include a figure, such as an arrow, or wash hanging out on a line in the sun. Unlike the regular Story Cubes, many images in the Actions set are more open to interpretation. Some are clear in their meaning, such as an image of a person crying, but others are more complicated, such as a person looking behind them and seeing a ball drop, someone standing at an intersection or a blindfolded figure who is feeling someone else’s face. So some of the cubes can easily be given a one or two word action or verb, while others are stories in and of themselves. Either way, you can use the Actions cubes on their own, or pair them with images from the main set. The Actions cubes add many more options to telling stories, but their complexity makes it harder to tell stories quickly. It is easier to start with just two or three of the Actions cubes at a time.
This expansion pack makes me think of other ideas for expansion packs, including Rory’s Story Cubes: Places, Rory’s Story Cubes: Feelings and Rory’s Story Cubes: Animals. The possibilities seem endless, and I hope that in another decade I have a collection of a hundred or more Story Cubes to mix and match.
The regular Story Cubes have black paint, and the Actions cubes have a dark blue paint. This allows for easy sorting. The quality in dice printing for the Actions cubes is not quite as high as in the regular set, with the line thickness a bit inconsistent. But this isn’t a problem, since the quality of the main set is so high to start with.
The box that comes with the North American version gives you room to roll dice inside the box, which is nice for playing in small spaces or while on a trip. The European version has a smaller box which takes up less room in your bag. The game is recommended for 8+, but this doesn’t allow for the awesome imagination of younger kids. I’m sure kids as young as 3 could participate, especially if they’re quite verbal, since no reading is required to play with the cubes.
My son, who hates to lose, had this to say about the Story Cubes: “You don’t have to win, you just make stories.” That is a good point. It is mostly a cooperative activity, and participants aren’t competing against each other. The cubes can be used to create whatever game or activity you like. There are some ideas on the packaging, and the website has many more. Here are some others.
- Storytelling as a family, a group of kids, at a family reunion, on a break at work.
- Great for writing stories. They recommend that you begin with, “Once upon a time…”, but you could just as easily start with, “It was a dark and stormy night,” or, “In a land far, far away…” or any other you invent. As their website says, the cubes are “an infinite story generator.”
- Story starters when writing for school, or when stuck on a fiction story.
- Roll the dice, have one person arrange the cubes, and the other person has to tell the story. Then switch.
- Line up all nine dice in a random order and tell a story in that order, perhaps in a limited amount of time.
- Roll the cubes and write down as many synonyms or other words for the image on the cube as possible.
- Before rolling the dice, pick a topic for the group. Then each person rolls the dice and tells a story about that topic, working the images into the story.
- Use each image on the dice and create a drawing or wordless book that includes them all.
- Include Story Cubes in your weekly D&D game by using a die or several dice to determine the outcome of a situation.
- Use in improv acting, having each of the players take a cube or two to work into the scene.
- If you want a competitive game, have each person roll all nine dice, and time their story to see how has the shortest story that still makes sense.
- Use either set when trying to learn a foreign language, to help learn new vocabulary words. The Actions cubes really help with practicing verb tenses.
The more ideas we all collectively come up with, the more useful the Cubes are. Because of this, you can contribute your own ideas on the website, and read what others have contributed.
Tips: Be careful not to censor yourself when you tell your story. Just let the ideas flow, even if they don’t make any sense at first. The point is to keep the ideas flowing out of you, and when you do this with a group, being free with your ideas encourages others in their storytelling. Playing with multiple ages sure adds silliness, chaos and fun to the story. But grownups sometimes have to salvage the story if you’re going for something not completely random.
The Creativity Hub, who makes the game, is a small, family run business with Rory O’Connor, the game’s namesake, and his wife and partner, Anita Murphy. They were interviewed by the Belfast Telegraph, and Rory sums up the intent of the game perfectly: “Our hope is to continue to design beautiful, easy to learn, creative game tools that blur the lines between play and serious learning.”
They also appeared on a segment for RTE Nationwide, demonstrating the potential and use of the Story Cubes.
We have a lot of games at our house. Some we play a few times but they mostly sit on the shelf. Some we take out frequently, as dependable games that everyone enjoys. Rory’s Story Cubes and Rory’s Story Cubes: Actions will be the type that we will take out, time and time again, for a long time. They are well made, fun and educational.
You can buy Rory’s Story Cubes on Amazon for $9.99 with the North American packaging, put out by GameWright. You can get both Rory’s Story Cubes and Rory’s Story Cubes: Actions with the European packaging directly from The Creativity Hub Shop for £9.99 each ($14.81 at press time).
Wired: A fun game and activity that also has a real educational benefit. The price is very good, especially given the quality of the product and the re-playability of it. Not just for kids, it’s great for any group or individual.
Tired: None that I can think of!
Note: I received a copy of both versions of this game for review purposes.