Monthly Archives: April 2014

Once Upon a Time

Once Upon A Time is a storytelling card game for 2 to 6 players of pretty much any age. If you can read and communicate, you can play this game. Ever fancied taking control of your own fairy tale? Ever postulated at a pathetic Prince in the pages of a parable, or dreamed of determining that the Dragon didn’t defeat the Duke? Then this game is most certainly for you.

Once Upon a Time Cards

There are those who would question whether this was really a “game” – is it not more of a shared narrative experience? While there are competitive elements, seeing players try to railroad the story away from the others’ ideas and towards their own randomly selected ending, there is much, much more fun to be had in sitting comfortably, joining in with the tale telling and seeing where it takes you. It’s a joyous, rewarding (and often humourous) way to spend 20 or 30 minutes which genuinely spans generations. It’s simple to learn, easy to engage non-gamers with and completely memorable: the first time your son decides that the best way to free the princess from the tower is with a magic, flaming wolf, will stay with you, trust me!

My beating heart belongs to you …

On my last night on earth, I won’t look to the sky
Just breathe in the air and blink in the light
On my last night on earth, I’ll pay a high price
To have no regrets and be done with my life

–“L.I.F.E.G.O.E.S.O.N.” by Noah and the Whale (2011)

Last Night on Earth is a game which pits a rag-tag team of human survivors against the zombie hordes of classic horror movies.  Ordinarily, it plays from 2 to 6 players, but on gathering we had seven players.  What to do?  Play two zombie scenarios in tandem, of course!  In our case, the dual objectives were to blow up the town, then escape by plane.  Simple.  What could possibly go wrong?

First things first, to pick two survivors.  I chose Sister Ophelia and Agent Carter.  A partnership which would be known in team as Team Awesome.  A team that was a very close partnership indeed.  Sister Ophelia was nominated as one of our pilots.  I decided that this skill would have likely been picked up from her time working with Mission Aviation Fellowship or similar.  Some of the other skills she displayed later in the game were harder to explain, however …

The objective for our half of the board was to find the flight plans, get some gasoline to fuel the plane and get the frak out of there.  My own thoughts were that – in the circumstances of a zombie apocalypse – I would be quite happy to escape in the plane without a valid flight plan and simply take our chances with the FAA!

Agent Carter came armed with a pistol and some bonus skills in finding things (something all FBI agents have, no doubt).  Fairly quickly he had taken out enough zombies with his pistol to acquire some additional sharp-shooting skills and had managed to locate some gasoline for the airplane.  He had also managed to ascertain that the flight plans were not filed in the airfield office, as they ought to be.  Things were going well.

Sister Ophelia meantime emerged from her forest cell, having recently begun a spiritual retreat at the Blessed Convent of Aviation only to find that the dead were walking the Earth – and not in a good way.  Undeterred, she managed to evade the first few zombies and locate the flight plans in a forest cabin.  From there she made her way to the office, where Agent Carter pressed a pistol into her hand.

It appeared fairly quickly that this was not the first time she had handled a firearm.  In the game, you roll a 3 or higher on six sided die to hit with a pistol.  Sister Ophelia must have rolled something like eight 5’s or 6’s in a row, dispatching zombie after zombie until the airfield was clear of the undead.  At that point, the zombies were actually hiding in the trees to avoid her.  In what was, I felt, a defining moment for her character, Sister Ophelia raced from the office to pursue a zombie into the woods before calming offing it with her sidearm, rolling another natural six.  It was about this point where the reformed nun remembered she had once been a keen amateur boxer!

At this point, by rights, Sister Ophelia and Agent Carter should have sauntered casually to the plane, fired it up and waved casually at the rest of the survivors and zombies as they flew off into the sunset.  They could have done this approximately 1/3 of the game in – and it would have been a victory in terms of the scenario conditions.

But the game and the characters get under your skin, and they both wanted to stay around to give the others a chance to blow up the town and get back to the plane.  That ultimately proved to be their undoing!  Well, that and the three turns they spent first bickering and then … um … getting to know each other better.

My beating heart belongs to you
I walked for miles til I found you
I’m here to honor you
If I lose everything in the fire
I’m sending all my love to you

— “Last Night on Earth” by Green Day (2009)

What a great game this is!  I have played three times now and lost each and every time.  The last two times, only by a gnat’s wing.  It is a credit to the cinematic quality of the game that all the players spent as much time creating and telling stories about their characters (like the above) as we did rolling dice and moving plastic pieces.  I haven’t laughed so much in ages, and I’m itching to play again soon – just so I can see Sister Ophelia in action once more!