StoryWorld Create-a-Story Kit
Overview: The StoryWorld Create-A-Story Kit is probably the most like Rory’s Story Cubes of these three games, but with cards instead of the dice. The illustrations are fantastically detailed and are reminiscent of old fairy tale books, and the cards can be used in many different ways. As such, you can play with any number of players and pretty much any age, although younger children may need some pointers from their parents at first. Also, the playing time can be pretty much whatever you choose.
Retail: $12.99 for the starter box with 40 cards; $6.99 for the various 28-card flavors
Rating: Enchanting. This game is the most free-flowing storytelling of the three games presented here and it’s a terrific package.
Who Will Like It? Anyone who really loves to tell stories and enjoys old fairy tale illustrations. Fans of Arthur Rackham or Graeme Base will really enjoy finding the little hidden connections between cards.
Components: The StoryWorld Create-a-Story Kit contains 40 cards, approximately 4″ x 6″ each. Some are characters like The Mother or The Prince, and others are items (The Key) or settings (The Labyrinth). The cards in this kit fall into four categories: The World of the Everyday, The World of Magic, The Realm of the Court and The Land of Faery. Many of the cards have hidden clues that link them to other cards. Each one also has a few prompting questions on the back. For instance, the back of The Magic Sleep card asks: “Who will drift off into a magic sleep tonight? Where is the dreamboat flying? What adventure have the toys been on?” The kit also comes with a “Storytelling Book” which provides a few instructions on how to use the cards, a few games, a sample story and a list of the hidden clues. The kit comes in an attractive cardboard box with a magnetic closure that can fit like a hardcover book on your bookshelf.
The simplest way to play, of course, is to simply draw a few cards from the deck and tell a story about the people and things pictured on the cards. There are other suggestions for playing with a group, or using them while traveling (and the cards would be much easier to use in the car or plane than dice) and even making your own cards as you make up stories.
The one true game explained in the booklet is The Tale-That-Never-Ends Game, for two to seven people, though this one is less about storytelling and more about the hidden clues. Everyone gets five cards (ten for only two players), and looks at them carefully. The first player puts down a card and announces the title. The next player tries to find a card that has a link to the one just played. If they can, they show the card and the link, and pick up all the cards in the pile. If not, they add a card to the pile and the game continues to the next player. The game ends when only one player has cards left — though because that can lead to a never-ending game, you can play to a set time limit instead. Once the game is over, the winner tells a story using ten cards from their hand.
The StoryWorld Create-a-Story Kit isn’t really a game in the traditional sense, but it is a great way to spark some stories and to get kids (and adults!) thinking about how to weave characters and settings and items together into a cohesive tale. I really love the illustrations, and the large cards allow you to study all the fine details. My seven-year-old had a lot of fun playing with the royal figures like the Princess and the King and Queen, inventing tales about going fishing and running in the labyrinth with the dog.
I haven’t seen them myself, but there are many other StoryWorld sets available with specific themes, like The Mad Professor’s Workshop or Stories of the Sea, to add a particular flavor to your stories. You can see the entire list of them at the StoryWorld website, where you can also submit a story you’ve created or read stories that others have written.
For anyone wanting to encourage the practice of storytelling, the StoryWorld sets would be a tremendous asset. They’re picture book illustrations without the stories, in the vein of Chris Van Allsburg’s classic, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. I could see teachers using this as a creative writing tool for both young students and high schoolers.
Wired: Old-school fairy tale illustrations are picture perfect; hidden clues and lots of details keep your attention; a kit that promotes true storytelling.
Tired: Not really a game, but I don’t mind much.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of the Create-a-Story Kit.