Adam Porter
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Several players have expressed interest in this game on the BGG forum over recent weeks, but are fearful that they may not be imaginative enough to enjoy the game. I hope this "strategy" guide will help!

For an activity to be labelled a game, it seems there must be winner(s) and loser(s). In team-games, there might be a winning team and a losing team. In co-operative games, the game itself acts as an opponent and may be a winner or loser.

Story-telling games introduce a new problem: the central activity of telling a story does not inherently lend itself to having a winner and a loser. Past games have tried to force this activity into a traditional-game format, asking players to judge their fellow story-tellers' offerings in order to decide a winner or loser. Winter Tales takes one step further away from other games in the genre, in that it proclaims that winning and losing is not the defining feature of success or failure. In Winter Tales, the criterion on which you measure your success, as an individual or as a group, is whether you collectively told a good story.

In Winter Tales, as in all good stories, each character WANTS something. Looking through the widest lens, we can see that each character wants to overcome the opposition: hence Winter characters want to defeat Spring characters. If we focus more closely, we find that each character has a background text which hints at the character's priorities and attitudes. Their motivation is enhanced by the introduction of quests: missions which must be completed within the game. A further module gives characters objectives, which function like alternative quests. Hence, we are given a rich tapestry of wants for each individual character, which will bring them into conflict with their enemies, and create moments of comradery with their friends. By fulfilling their own aims, characters win. By overcoming the enemy characters during the epilogue, a team of characters win. Regardless of which fictional entities win, in Winter Tales, the players only win if they have collectively told a good story. In this regard the game is essentially cooperative.

Hence my strategy guide does not focus on strategies for clever card management, bluffing, and strategic positioning. It does not concern itself with tactics to help the fictional characters fulfill their objectives. This strategy guide is about the basics of strong improvised storytelling.





Yes, and...

"Yes, and..." is the basic mantra of an improviser, and the over-riding attitude of a collaborative storyteller. It is a positive, constructive, and generous approach which takes other individuals' ideas, develops them, and moves forward.

When story-telling as a group, others will constantly give you potential story-elements, which can further the development of the story, can be ignored, or can be outright denied and contradicted. Improvisers call these story-elements "offers".

The key to collaboration in storytelling is accepting offers: saying "Yes, and..." (either literally, or in your head.)

PLAYER ONE: "Dorothy climbed the rickety wooden staircase, and entered a dusty old loft, filled with cobwebs. She tugged at a cracked floorboard, lifting it from the position it had occupied for some fifty years."

PLAYER TWO: "As she had suspected the floorboard had been hiding a dark secret, for beneath it lay a tiny skeleton, no bigger than that of a child but somewhat more stout: a dwarf, long deceased. Grumpy was moved to tears."


The second player here has accepted everything the first player offered (saying "Yes,") and has developed the scenario into something even richer (saying "and..."). Let's look at an alternative response from the second player.

PLAYER ONE: "Dorothy climbed the rickety wooden staircase, and entered a dusty old loft, filled with cobwebs. She tugged at a cracked floorboard, lifting it from the position it had occupied for some fifty years."

PLAYER TWO: "Grumpy dragged Dorothy away from the floorboard, saying "Look, old lady, there's nothing down there." We must get out of this place. The Winter soldiers are hot on our trail."


In this example, the second player has denied the first player the satisfaction of seeing their seed of an idea come to fruition (saying "No,") He has rendered the introduction of the floorboard pointless, and caused the story to stall. Improvisers call this blocking. Furthermore, he has taken the story in his own less interesting direction, dragging the characters out of the room (saying "but...). "No, but..." is the antithesis of good storytelling.





Why do we block?

People rarely block deliberately in order to make their fellow storytellers look bad. They do it because of subconscious fears and anxieties. These anxieties tend to revolve around a fear of revealing themself as: unimaginative, unintelligent, unfunny, dirty-minded, or boring. By blocking the progession of the scene, the story doesn't progress in any meaningful way and the player's imagined inadequacies aren't revealed to his friends.

What anxieties might a player experience when making a response like our first one above?

"Is a dead body too obvious? Will my friends think I'm unimaginative?"
"Did my friend intend something else to be under that floorboard? Have I missed something? Will my friends think I'm stupid?"
"A dead body is pretty morbid. I want people to laugh, like they did on Helen's turn. Why can't I be witty like her?"
"A child-sized skeleton? They'll think I'm sick in the head. Will they think I want to harm children?"
"I can't imagine where the scenario could develop from here. A dwarf skeleton is far too boring. I'm not helping the story!"

All of these are reasons why a player may block an offer. Yet, we can see quite clearly that the first response is far more constructive than the second. Player One feels affirmed and supported; her idea has been taken on board. The story has progessed; we are now dealing with a murder mystery. The next player to contribute has lots of good starting points for his own offering: the stairway, the cob-webs, under the floor, the dead dwarf, Grumpy's grief.

The anxieties listed above aren't rational. The dead body is fascinating, appropriate, and no more morbid than any murder-mystery story. The responsibility for developing the story from here does not rest with that individual story-teller; it rests with the whole group. Like so many anxieties in the modern world, the concerns just don't stand up to scrutiny. They are not realistic and they only serve to hold us back. The first technique a player must learn to succeed in a storytelling game is to notice these thoughts when they pop into our heads, recognise them as the "blocks" that they are, and put them to one side. Take a risk and say "Yes, and..." The story will be stronger for it.

As a side-note, I mentioned in my review of the game a time when I blocked a fellow player's offer in my first game of Winter Tales. Here's the quote:

Adam78 wrote:
In my first game, a player introduced a magical amulet, only for me to wade in with my own character and toss it into a furnace, destroying it. This is a classic example of how competitive players shoot down other peoples ideas, trampling all over them, and preventing the story moving forward. I should never have done that, but should have found another way to counter, moving the story forward, and maintaining the possibility of that amulet playing a significant role in the narrative. The game demands that the players keep this sort of generosity in mind, and leave their competitive board-gaming nature at the door.


I also mentioned the anxieties that people experience when interpreting the pictures on the cards.

Adam78 wrote:
Once the game is up and running, it isn't complex, but for many players is it daunting. The struggle is not the complexity of the rules, but the fear of making yourself look stupid, or unimaginative, or revealing something embarrassing about yourself with your chosen story ("Why did you interpret that card as a tutu? Are you some sort of cissy?"). Expert strategic board-gamers may not have the qualities and traits to put their egos aside, and prevent these sort of obstructions. "It looks like a tutu. Deal with it."


Full review at: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/953805/europhile-reviews-wit...

I hope I will have time to revisit this "strategy" guide with further improvised story-telling techniques such as re-incorporation, circles of expectation, tilts, and learning to enjoy losing as a character in the interests of telling a great story.

Everything I have discussed in this article (and much more) is covered in Keith Johnstone's magnificent books: Impro and Impro for Storytellers.

------------- UPDATE (24.7.13) ---------------

Continuing from my previous article on "Yes, and..." I wanted to talk a little about the common misunderstanding about originality in story-telling.


Originality and the Circle of Expectation

A frequent trap that story-tellers fall into is the misguided idea that they are expected to be original and witty. This is a stressful expectation to live up to and creates an anxious atmosphere from the very start. The truth is that neither expectation is necessary or even desirable. Strong stories progress logically without hugely original leaps. Memorable comic moments arise from character interactions and amusing events, rather than witty one-liners or puns. If you aim for logical - even predictable - and realistic stories, you will most likely create something satisfying and humorous.

This concept of realism is, of course, in relation to the context. Winter Tales has two significant influences, which determine what is realistic for this story: fairy tales AND war/oppression. During a game of Winter Tales, your fellow story-tellers will have possible futures flashing into their heads as you speak. They will be creating a shadow story in their mind which will constantly adapt and evolve as their friends add to the story. This shadow story will involve things like gingerbread houses, wicked witches, ghostly beings, poisoned apples, and pumpkin coaches. It might also feature torture-chambers, media propaganda, gas masks, sirens, and undercover agents. The great improvisation and story-telling teacher Keith Johnstone calls these things the "Circle of Expectation". He asserts that the story becomes disappointing when players step outside of this circle, by trying to be original or witty.

So what sort of things don't fall into the circle of expectation for Winter Tales?

An alien from another planet.
A rocket to outer space.
George Clooney
Barrack Obama
The football World Cup


When these things appear in the story from nowhere, due to a storyteller being "original", the other players become disappointed. Their shadow story is disrupted and they are distanced from the reality they are collaboratively creating. You may find that you want to introduce one of the elements above into the story, but you will have a hard job to justify it fully.

Furthermore, each situation that is created within this fairy-tale world carries it's own circle of expectation. In one of my games, two characters from opposing teams came together to battle: the Tin Man and the Wolf.





PLAYER ONE: "The Tin Man leapt from the platform landing before the Wolf with a gigantic bang, the impact of his enormous bulk cracking the concrete under his feet. He straightened to a colossal ten feet and flexed his metal muscles in anticipation of the battle of his life with his wily old foe, the big bad Wolf".

PLAYER TWO: "The Wolf challenged the Tin Man to a bean-bag fight."


Player Two's response is not intended to block anyone, interrupt the story, or make anyone feel bad, but it is misguided. It is an attempt at originality; perhaps an attempt to make the other players laugh. But all it really invokes is a groan of disappointment. The Winter Tales rulebook wisely suggests one player acts as Story Arbiter and helps other players find an appropriate way forward if they were struggling. In this game I was Arbiter and suggested to Player Two that maybe she could find a more fitting way forward. She changed her response to:

PLAYER TWO: "The Wolf pulled from his back-pack a vial of lemon juice and squirted it into the Tin Man's cogs."

It's not a strong offer and doesn't make much sense on deeper examination, but it is considerably more useful than the first and the scene continued with the Tin Man's cogs rusting and seizing up, sealing the Wolf's ultimate victory.

So let's look at the Circle of Expectation here. We have a climactic battle between a Tin Man and a sadistic Wolf in a world of war and oppression. The circle of expectation includes among other things:

Tasers
Gas cannisters
Grenades
Knives
Blades and motors
Disguises
Lies and manipulation
Agility versus Strength
ACME Inventions
"What big teeth you have."


"The Wolf bore his fangs at his foe and snarled. The Tin Man said, "What big teeth you have. Are they strong enough to bite through metal?" The Wolf pulled out an ACME taser from his inside pocket. "What a big taser gun I have", he remarked as he sent 50,000 volts through the Tin Man's chest, shutting down his circuits long enough for the Wolf to get past, sneaking into Dorothy's mansion."

There is nothing original or witty about my proposed offer above. It is as obvious as they come. But it is satisfying, and it does fit the context and expectations (On reading it back, part of me prefers the lemon juice.... but it's all subjective!).

No-one likes a know-it-all, and a game like Winter Tales needs enough generosity amongst the players to let someone run with an idea even if you don't personally feel it's the strongest. Nobody wants anyone to feel bad about the offers they have made. Sometimes you have to let someone elses original idea pass by without criticism, but the arbiter should determine if it is really too much of a leap outside of the circle of expectation and likely to be of detriment to the overall story.

Ultimately the attempt to be original, and the attempt to be funny, both stem from a desire to impress your fellow story-tellers. Trust that if you stick to the obvious, the story will take care of itself; your fellow players will think you are a great story-teller; and humour will naturally arise from the situations the characters find themselves in. As Johnstone often says, "Be more boring."

------------- UPDATE (25.7.13) ---------------

Moving the story forward with "tilts".

A common problem story-teller's encounter is that they have a great time building characters and settings but then have no place to go. There is a barrier of your own creation, which prevents you from moving things forwards. You've created a fantastic foundation for a story, but what happens next?

Storytellers start by creating a "platform": a stable series of ideas and characters that sit well together. The platform could be two characters sitting side by side drinking tea. It could be a character sweeping the floor of an abandoned puppet theatre. It could be two characters locked in a prison cell. The trick is finding a way to progress from here.

The story will only progress when such a platform is "tilted", i.e. the normality we have created is knocked off balance by an event. Remember from the previous section that such an event doesn't have to be original or unexpected. It can be as obvious as you like.

One of the characters drinking the tea collapses. He has been poisoned.
The character sweeping the floor unveils an arcane symbol painted on the floorboards - a sign of black magic.
The characters locked in the cell mount a great escape.


I want to look at the third example in a little more detail.



PLAYER ONE: "Candlewick flings open the door of the cell containing Pinocchio and Alice. He throws down a bowl of slop. "Enjoy your gruel. You won't be getting any more for a week." he laughs as he turns to leave."

PLAYER TWO: "When Candlewick has left, Pinocchio lets Alice in on a secret: he has a hacksaw in his bag. He cuts through the bars on the window, and the plucky pair escape into the surrounding countryside."


This response is well within the circle of expectation for a prison cell. It does move things forward, but at quite a cost. The whole idea of a prison cell has been negated. The two characters may as well have never been locked up in the first place. The platform has not so much been tilted, as flipped over and chucked out. This response is essentially an elaborate block of player one's prison offer.

As I mentioned earlier, a "great escape" is a suitable tilt for a pair locked in a prison cell. It falls well within the circle of expectation. However, it should be handled in such a way to build on the prison scenario, not to negate it altogether. We should be able to look back at the story and justify why it was important for the story that the pair were trapped in the prison cell in the first place.

PLAYER TWO: "Sat on the stone floor, Pinocchio insincerely says, "I certainly will enjoy my gruel" and his nose grows to the length of a broomstick, tripping Candlewick as he leaves. Alice takes the opportunity and leaps on Candlewick. She produces a bottle marked "Drink me" and as Candlewick screams for the guards, Alice pours it down his throat. Candlewick shrinks to the size of a beetle, and the plucky pair make their way into the labyrinth corridors of the Winter prison. "We must be careful, Pinocchio. The guards won't be far behind." Alice remarks."

We now have two characters with a series of exciting obstacles ahead of them. Their brief incarceration was necessary because it set up the escape scenario. The growing-nose and the shrinking-potion, both ridiculous in any other setting, are well within the circle of expectation here because they are such familiar elements of Alice and Pinocchio's back-stories. As such, we have a satisfying (and obvious) tilt which moves the story forward.

Everyone is most likely aware of the concept of a three-act structure within literature. Essentially, this concept suggests that every story is made up of exposition, action, and resolution. The first act (exposition) ends with an inciting incident (also known as a catalyst), which sparks off the action of the second act as characters struggle to achieve their goals. The platform discussed above is the equivalent of the first act - establishing characters and setting. The tilt is the equivalent of the inciting incident.

The beauty of Winter Tales is that it provides a structure for the overall story, because players are forced to play in turn, and only add to the story when they have cards available to do so. The card-play pushes the story into a natural rhythm of back-and-forth: as the Spring characters find themselves ahead they find their resources (cards) are low, and the Winter soldiers bounce back. Hence, a game of Winter Tales allows multiple tilts - multiple inciting incidents - to keep the story moving along. The game's mechanics will tie up the loose ends for you. Essentially, every character in a game of Winter Tales is allowed their own mini-three-act-structure, with the resolution being the completion of a quest.

So for the sake of clarity, here's the process:

When you find that you don't know how to move the story forward, try and recognise what the platform is that you've created.

What is the situation before you, in a nutshell?

Once you have determined this, think about how you can tilt this platform (without negating it!).

What is a logical (obvious) event which would unbalance the situation?

Check that you are within the circle of expectation, and off you go. Don't worry about where your new direction is taking you. Your fellow story-tellers (and the game mechanics) will take care of that.

------------- UPDATE (27.7.13) ---------------

Re-incorporation

Storytellers sometimes play a game where one person begins a short story, a second person begins a second short story, and a third person finds a way to connect the two stories together. They do this through re-incorporation of ideas from each story, weaving them into one, and creating a satisfying whole. The structure of a game of Winter Tales is built around this basic concept.

In Winter Tales, on completion of a quest, players place an image on the Quest Memory track. A bookmark is placed on the most recent Quest Memory and the rules demand that the bookmarked memory is re-incorporated into the next quest to occur. This prevents the players from creating a story which meanders aimlessly from one meaningless event to another, instead driving them to create a satisfying series of events linked by a logical through-line. The epilogue is an opportunity for all loose ends to be tied up, re-incorporating many of the story-strands which linger in the back of the story-teller's minds from earlier in the session.





When we receive a story, either by reading a book, watching a film, or playing a game, we expect re-incorporation. It is deeply frustrating when characters drop out of a story half-way through, and we never find out what happened to them. It would be odd for a movie to introduce a strange item, apparently of great significance, only to never refer to it again. Stories are cyclical. Information should be introduced for a reason and an audience craves justification for the inclusion of a character or an item. Even if a story element is abandoned for a period of the plot, the audience trusts that the story-teller will re-incorporate it later. The satisfaction when that aspect of a story re-emerges often invokes a gasp, or a squeal of laughter. Re-incorporation is the most useful source of comedy in a story, creating a more satisfying humour than any number of cheap gags or puns.

I have given several examples earlier in this article. Each of these would make up only one small portion of the overall story, and despite their brevity, each offers up opportunities for re-incorporation later in the tale.

It would be easy for players to forget beetle-sized Candlewick, as Pinocchio and Alice escape into the labyrinth corridors of the Winter prison; how satisfying it would be to see a tiny beetle play a significant role in the epilogue of the story.

Perhaps Dorothy and Grumpy are forced from the Winter soldiers. It would be great to see them slide under the floorboards with the dwarf skeleton.

Perhaps the Wolf nears the conclusion of the story, delighted with his great success at overcoming the good-guys only to sit on his taser-gun sending 50,000 volts through his rear-end.


There are also lots of opportunities in Winter Tales for re-incorporating story-elements from the fairy tales which the characters originate from. In an earlier example, I re-incorporated Pinocchio's extendable nose and Alice's shrinking-potion. In another example, I re-incorporated the phrase "What big teeth you have?" from Little Red Riding Hood. There are great opportunities for humour here. Keep in mind the back-story for each of your characters - it will help you when you find yourself running short on ideas.

Remember how stupid the Scarecrow is (he doesn't have a brain). Make a feature of how dour and miserable Grumpy the dwarf is. Remember the White Rabbit is always late. Re-incorporate Dorothy's ruby slippers, or Snow White's poisoned apple, or the Wolf dressing up as Grandma. The game designers have given us some really rich material to draw from, with their selection of characters.

As I bring this article to a close, I should stress that story-telling is a skill, like any other, which you can develop through practice. I would hate for this article to make anyone feel pressurised to behave in a certain way, or stick strictly to the "rules" I have dictated on this page. Have a go - try and spot where things go badly and where things go well - and hopefully you'll be able to relate some of your experiences to the concepts discussed in this article. One way in which Winter Tales is just like any other board-game is: the more you play it, the better you'll get at it!

I wanted to end this article by mentioning a Keith Johnstone anecdote about a group of children who were asked by their teacher to mime a tug of war. The teacher sat back and watched for an age, as the children fought to win the imagined contest. Neither side would give in, and it was boring to watch, and boring to be a part of. The teacher pointed out that there was no shame in losing a fictional contest and that maybe it would be more fun (and realistic) if one side actually lost the tug of war. The children played again. This time, no sooner had they all begun than one team "lost" the contest rather theatrically. The whole group fell on the floor in fits of hysterical laughter. I think it's a pertinent tale for players of Winter Tales, because this is the attitude needed for this game. Individual characters have opportunities to win at battles, traps, and quests; one team is likely to win over another, at game end; but the ultimate satisfaction in the game is not in winning or losing, but in playing your part in the creation of a really memorable story.

See my other reviews at http://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/146115/europhile-reviews-a...
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"GAME OVER, MAN. GAME OVER!"
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Thanks for a great article, keep 'em coming!

I'm very interested in Winter Tales, but worried that it will crash and burn rather horribly with my regular gaming group...

But the more info, from the more angles, I have, the greater the chance I'll see an opening for it...
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Clayton Helme
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Thanks for this "strategy guide" !! Winter Tales looks very interesting and I want to get it, but I am one of those who also finds it very daunting. Your guide gives me hope that I can make this game be fun for me and my gaming groups. Please keep updating this thread, I promise I'll keep reading it! If you post a reply every time you update the OP I would appreciate it!!

Thanks again!!!
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Adam Porter
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Crimson_Phoenix wrote:
Thanks for this "strategy guide" !! Winter Tales looks very interesting and I want to get it, but I am one of those who also finds it very daunting. Your guide gives me hope that I can make this game be fun for me and my gaming groups. Please keep updating this thread, I promise I'll keep reading it! If you post a reply every time you update the OP I would appreciate it!!

Thanks again!!!


Thanks! I have added a new section to the original post regarding "Originality". I hope it's helpful.
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Albe Pavo
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Wise and wonderful post!!!

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Adam Porter
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Added another section today on "Moving the Story Forward". I'm enjoying writing this article.
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Hi Adam,

let me say that this is the most elegant and precise post about WT that I had ever read. It is brilliant and full of significant examples about a quasi-professional approach to the Storytelling technique.


Cheers!
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Kris Rhodes
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Was reading the article, was like "Yeah I can do this, yeah I can do this, yeah I can do this," then came to:

Quote:
PLAYER TWO: "Sat on the stone floor, Pinocchio insincerely says, "I certainly will enjoy my gruel" and his nose grows to the length of a broomstick, tripping Candlewick as he leaves. Alice takes the opportunity and leaps on Candlewick. She produces a bottle marked "Drink me" and as Candlewick screams for the guards, Alice pours it down his throat. Candlewick shrinks to the size of a beetle, and the plucky pair make their way into the labyrinth corridors of the Winter prison. "We must be careful, Pinocchio. The guards won't be far behind." Alice remarks."


....and..... nope. I will never be able to do something like that. Never not in a million years. It looks like my issue is tilts. At least now I have a name for my pain.

I'd totally be having Pinocchio pull out the hacksaw.
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Adam Porter
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Speusippus wrote:
Was reading the article, was like "Yeah I can do this, yeah I can do this, yeah I can do this," then came to:

Quote:
PLAYER TWO: "Sat on the stone floor, Pinocchio insincerely says, "I certainly will enjoy my gruel" and his nose grows to the length of a broomstick, tripping Candlewick as he leaves. Alice takes the opportunity and leaps on Candlewick. She produces a bottle marked "Drink me" and as Candlewick screams for the guards, Alice pours it down his throat. Candlewick shrinks to the size of a beetle, and the plucky pair make their way into the labyrinth corridors of the Winter prison. "We must be careful, Pinocchio. The guards won't be far behind." Alice remarks."


....and..... nope. I will never be able to do something like that. Never not in a million years. It looks like my issue is tilts. At least now I have a name for my pain.

I'd totally be having Pinocchio pull out the hacksaw.


Maybe I over-elaborated in this example!

Pinocchio could just as well have chucked a blanket over Candlewick's head, thrown gruel in his face, or hit him with a brick. Perhaps Alice makes friends with a bird perched on the window ledge, who takes a message back to Dorothy. Perhaps Pinocchio and Alice feign death, or make love, or cut a deal with Candlewick betraying their friends in return for their freedom. The tilt could be one of a million different things. My point is that it doesn't have to be original; it has to be obvious. And you need to fight the temptation to undo the story which has already been told; build on it instead.

My "obvious" is different to your "obvious": I think of Pinocchio and I immediately think of his extendable nose. That won't necessarily be the case for you! In that passage I was using a form of re-incorporation (bringing back elements we all recognise from the characters' back-stories) which always seems far more impressive than it really is. And that's the beauty of it - re-incorporation is the source of far more laughs, gasps of satisfaction and joy, than a hundred puns or cheap gags.

I am planning to add a section to the article about re-incorporation when I get the chance. It tends to play a big role in any good story.
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Kris Rhodes
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Makes sense. I do still think that reincorporation would be a huge problem for me. But thus is life, I'm not complaining. I appreciate your posts and will continue to read them eagerly.
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Kris Rhodes
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It occurs to me, on reflection, that the story cards may help alleviate the problem... for example, if I get a story card that looks like a hacksaw to me, and so get the idea for a hacksaw in my mind even though it has nothing to do with the characters, I could feel safe in using that hacksaw as a plot device, and while this wouldn't be optimal storytelling, it'd be "justified" so to speak by the story card.
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Adam Porter
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Final (I think) section added regarding re-incorporation. Thanks for reading, and the kind comments.
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You can do a lot of bad things with a hacksaw! Ask Candlewick... arrrh
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Kelly Lees
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Thank you very much for this guide. I love story telling games but am usually at a loss as to how to play them.
A great read!
Kelly
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Great article. It reminds me of one of my favorite RPG-related books: Play Unsafe, have you seen it?
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Terrific article. I'm desperate to get this played, and your thoughts have resolved 90% of the worries I've had about it.

I think I will print the above and read out some of the quotable material to my group. We are all old (in various senses!) RPGers so I am hoping it will gel.

Thanks for some really insightful (and wonderfully well written) stuff here.
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I very much enjoyed reading your article. I think it's wonderfully written, very insightful, and thorough as well!

The only unfortunate part is the way that Winter Tales executes this storytelling. In strict accordance with the rules, the winner of any battle is the one who plays the most cards. This was the problem I had with the game: No matter how clever your story was, victory came down to hand management.

On one hand, this made it awkward for players who were really into the whole storytelling. They didn't like having to halt their advancement just because it was a 'bad move' to play another card. And the way we were playing, so many cards were being played for ambushes and quests, that the cards became more and more restrictive.

However, I realize that the game would be also bad if reimagined to have a single arbiter to determine which story wins each encounter based on merit. In this case, weaker players would lose all the time and be alienated. It's a tough place to be.

I've heard the argument, "It's the journey, no the destination!" But if that were the case, why is there a 'winner' to the game? Why bother playing the game at all if you're not trying to overcome the opposition and win for your faction? This 'playing to play' CAN work and HAS worked in some games (like Aye Dark Overlord).

It will take a special group to truly enjoy this game in the way it's put together. That's where I think your article helps most as well: I hope it helps weaker players build confidence and become better at the storytelling so that they can enjoy it with their friends.

But for me, the game either needs to be More or Less tactical than the current design.
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Jeppe Nybo
Netherlands
Haarlem
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Absolutely brilliant! Amazing article!
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Ted Kostek
United States
Camano Island
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Speusippus wrote:
Was reading the article, was like "Yeah I can do this, yeah I can do this, yeah I can do this," then came to:

Quote:
PLAYER TWO: "Sat on the stone floor, Pinocchio insincerely says, "I certainly will enjoy my gruel" and his nose grows to the length of a broomstick, tripping Candlewick as he leaves. Alice takes the opportunity and leaps on Candlewick. She produces a bottle marked "Drink me" and as Candlewick screams for the guards, Alice pours it down his throat. Candlewick shrinks to the size of a beetle, and the plucky pair make their way into the labyrinth corridors of the Winter prison. "We must be careful, Pinocchio. The guards won't be far behind." Alice remarks."


....and..... nope. I will never be able to do something like that. Never not in a million years. It looks like my issue is tilts. At least now I have a name for my pain.

I'd totally be having Pinocchio pull out the hacksaw.


As I understand it, the problem is not the hacksaw per se. Rather the problem is that the prison was dealt with too quickly.

Quote:
PLAYER TWO: "When Candlewick has left, Pinocchio lets Alice in on a secret: he has a hacksaw in his bag. He cuts through the bars on the window, and the plucky pair escape into the surrounding countryside."


It's the "...and they immediately escape" that's the problem.

The prison is an actual place on the board, and having them locked there is dramatically rich. All that richness was ignored. The prison should mean something. Maybe they broke a leg in the escape? Maybe they had to burn Pinoochio's arm as part of the escape? What if they used the hacksaw to escape their cell into the hallway? Escape their cell into the courtyard? One character escapes, but not the other?
 
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