Publisher: Atlas Games
Year Made: 1993 (2012 for newest edition)
Platforms: Tabletop - Card Game
Content Areas: English
Suggested Age Level: Elementary School, Middle School, High School
Play Length: 15-30 minutes
Number of Players: 2-6
Difficulty Rating: Easy
Everyone knows the fairy tale classics, but in Atlas Games’ Once Upon a Time, players work together to tell a new fairy tale with cards featuring the well-known elements in a different twist. Players use storytelling cards to build a fairy tale as a group and can interrupt one another and continue the story until they reach a satisfying ending for all.
While there is a competitive side to the game, the general expectation is that players work together to tell a story that makes sense and has a great ending. If there is a player only focused on the competition side, it can make it tough for the rest of the group to have a chance at telling a story. When I played with my students, we created a house rule that they could only play three cards at a time and then it would have to move on to the next player. Just make sure to remind all players that they want to tell the best story they can. Similar to Gloom, the game can also lose a bit of its luster if a player does not play into the premise and tell the story. The fun is in the storytelling, not in just putting down cards.
Once Upon a Time is a great addition to any English classroom and encourages players to create their own fairy tales. Instead of being passive readers, players are active storytellers and creators, which is the ultimate goal that educators have for students. Their learning could even further extend by using the blank cards expansion to ask students to create their own cards in the game or imagine how the story would have changed if even one of those cards was missing.
Once Upon a Time has lasted for the last twenty-two years, because of the opportunity to tell beautiful (and usually hilarious) stories and reimagine some of the classic fairy tale characters we know. As long as it continues to encourage players to reimagine the familiar characters and spin them in a new light, Once Upon a Time will continue to last as a great game for all storytellers, whether they know they are one or not.
Educational Rating: 6/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 8/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)