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Once Upon a Time
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Store:  Card Games, Party Games, Family Games
Edition:  Once Upon A Time
Series:  Once Upon a Time
Genre:  Storytelling
Format:  Card Games

Once Upon a Time

third edition

List Price: $24.95
Your Price: $19.99
(20% savings!)
(Worth 1,999 Funagain Points!)

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Product Description

This 3rd edition of Once Upon A Time features entirely new artwork by fantasy artist Omar Rayyan, as well as a revised card list, a simplified rules sheet, and a completely redesigned box.

Product Information

Once Upon a Time has the following expansions available:
Once Upon a Time: Animal Tales
(15% savings!)
Once Upon a Time: Create-Your-Own Storytelling Cards
third edition
(20% savings!)

Once Upon a Time: Enchanting Tales
third edition
(15% savings!)
Once Upon a Time: Seafaring Tales
third edition
(15% savings!)

Once Upon a Time: Knightly Tales
3rd edition
(15% savings!)
You might be interested in these related products as well:
Once Upon a Time: Writer's Handbook
third edition
(15% savings!)

Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4 in 28 reviews

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And I thought Scheherazade had a lot of tales!
January 18, 2010

Okay look... This game is not going to be for everyone, and the people you play with are going to drastically change the level of enjoyment you get out of it. If you go in with a closed mind and tight lip, you're going to pull down everyone else playing. If you play with a creative and extroverted person, they're going to make it much more fun. An open mind is going to make this game an instant favorite that can be played over and over again, always different, always fun!

I can equate this game to a theatre exercise. There's an improve game where all the actors are lined up and tell a story, one person starts and someone else jumps in and continues from that point. I myself have played this game on stage in front of countless people dozens of times for recreation and competition long before I knew what Once Upon A Time (OUAT) was. It's designed to get you to think on your feet and continue what you've been given with a positive attitude for the good of the story (play, show, whatever). This game is the same thing with enough structure to make it a solid game design.

I first learned about OUAT at the Art Institute in a game design class. The teacher, who's been designing games since B.C. (Before Computers), had the class play this game as an example of a unique and good game design. A game that relies more on the ingenuity of the player than the cards you're given (although there is still a bit of luck involved). It was probably one of the most memorable games we played. You're much more likely to remember the experience of playing with your friends and family when there's a specific and often humerus story involved. It also is a good example of how some rules are meant to be taken for their spirit and not necessarily the letter of the law.

Some reviewers have said that you just sit down and people barrel through their cards as fast as they can while you listen with no time to react. To them I say 'nay!' If you're just barreling through the cards you haven't read the instructions well enough. Like all good stories you should take your time with the flow and let elements sink in for other players. If someone is going to fast, (Playing two or more cards in the same sentence or when the card played isn't an important element in the story) call them on it and end their turn.

So yes, buy the game. Play it with fun, exciting, energetic, "theatre" type people. Don't let not being so good or quick at the start slow you down, you'll get better with practice, and it's good practice to have. Everyone should involve themselves in more "improv"-like activities. You'll think quicker and be more creative for it, many people have said that they've improved their lives greatly, from their general outlooks on life to job interviews, just by taking improv classes.

One word of advise though, get the expansion pack as well, it adds many more fun and often macabre elements for stories.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Kyle A
I love this game
February 18, 2008

I love this game! I went to a party the other night and played this for the first time. There was another player who was playing it for the first time also, even though her english wasn't that good, she won. We were all loud and cracking up laughing that the 4 board looking scrabble players next to us kept turing around to listen to our story! (I love Scrabble too). I asked our host where I could get this game and am ordering one today... Thanks

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Storytelling Becomes Rampantly Widespread!
October 15, 2004

This is a Great game! Not only giving those who love to craft tales an outlet to their creativity, (without everyone in the room looking at them curiously) but people who never told a story in their life can be gently pulled into it. This game takes storytelling to it's basic roots, people, places, things, events, and builds so quickly into truly tall tales that players will amaze themselves.

The best part of the game is it's flexibility. With expert talecrafters we play close to the rules and allow competition, but with those more new to the idea we set a "card limit" for each turn and lose the competition factor entirely. This keeps the game moving around more, and thrusts everyone into the limelight. It then focuses on the Storytelling aspect(Never fear, interuptions are still Very Frequent:) and longer, wilder, and more creative stories result. Speed versions of one card each turn are also challenging and require quick shifts to keep your ending in sight. These can get pretty funny!

Keep in mind that the game is geared for Enjoyment! For some that is speedy tales, and for others it is story craftmanship. Try both, you may be suprised at the result!

Go on... enjoy this game!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Amazingly fun! Requires Creativity!
October 09, 2004
I couldn't disagree more with the 1-point review given. The game is sheer simplicity to play (allowing gamers and non-gamers, old and young alike to join in the fun). The games goal is create fairy tales using archtypes present in almost of of these stories. You receive cards with simple story elements such as sword, princess, or door. By weaving these words into your personal tale, you place the used terms face-up in front of you, but beware if you should mention a key element present in another player's collection of cards...they can then steal the story from you. Each player at the beginning draws a random Ending card that they are trying to develop their story to, but it is no clear course as the story will be stolen again and again sending it off in unexpected directions. However the rules dictate that internal logic and continuity must be maintained. Of all the games I have on my shelf (and that is a lot) this one is most consistently enjoyed and most repeatedly asked for. Amazing idea, simple execution, and endlessly replayable all for a bargain price. A real must have! Here's to you having a happy ever after with this game!
Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Simple & elegant, a superlative storytelling game
April 21, 2003

Let me also add my wholehearted endorsement of this game. The one very low rating below perfectly illustrates the success of the design: this is a *storytelling* game, and it facilitates that beautifully. If you have no desire to tell stories, of course you won't enjoy it.

The reviews below have sufficiently explained the mechanics, with one exception, and that is 'passing.' On your turn, if you happen to be in a situation where the cards you have are not in line with the story being told, you can simply 'pass' and draw a card from the deck (whereupon you may discard one card). I have never been in a game where this wasn't sufficient to deal with a strange assortment of cards in your hand.

There is, to my mind, just one area of improvement, should the game have future editions (beyond the second edition). In a game born (almost) purely of the imagination, the illustrations, in the future, should receive the lion's share of resources. Here (in the second edition) they are sufficient but no more.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Not for the self-conscious or the lame-witted...
January 28, 2002

Far better than 'Dark Cults' - a game in a similar vein (although it does make me long for a horror-version of OUAT) - it is essentially a framework in which to tell a semi-cooperative, slightly competitive fantasy story and is a poop-load of fun.

This one consistently has us cracking up with each bizarre story.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
A game created for people who enjoy nonsense
January 03, 2002

ONe of my best friends introduced me to this game 2 years ago. The first time I really played it as it's meant to be played, it was five of us who have been friends for years. The game went on for an hour and a half, covered almost every private joke we've ever had and spawned about six more. That said, I also played this recently with fifteen people in a writing workshop I run, only a few of whom I've known for more than a few weeks, and we had a WONDERFUL time. I'm not going to bother discussing how the game works, since other reviewers have done that; but if you approach it with teh right attitude, I have never known anything to be more fun. After finally finding it here and buying it, I hooked my family, half my class and the aforementioned writing workshop within the week. The fairy tale elements sometimes do nothing more than add an element of the bizarre to it; they don't have to limit you unless you want them to. (Last time my brother and I played, the Prince was searchng for a Wife who was Ugly, because his mother the Queen was worried that the Kingdom filled with Beautiful people suffered from a lack of genetic diversity). This game is fun any time, anywhere...for the full effect, however, play it at 3 A.M, with a group of your best friends, and beware. :4)

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
And never, as long as she lived, could it ever be removed.
November 29, 2001

This is the best game. It takes a few rounds to really get into it, but it is so worth it. With a little creativity, the stories can go on forever. And when you get used to the concept of the interruptions, it really becomes interesting. It is so much fun, I would recommend this game to anyone.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Joel
Great ... with the right group.
October 24, 2001

If your gaming group is full of really fun people, this game is a must-have. What most people don't realize is that while the cards are fairy tale style, your story doesn't have to be. Last time my group played it, the story was about an inflatable s*x sheep that was trying to steal the original manuscripts for Lord of the Rings (or something like that, it's hard to remember for all the laughing), but somehow a mysterious old woman managed to take the sheep's place as the main character. Simply put, if your group has a sense of humor, this is a great filler between the heavy strategy games.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
A truly GREAT family game
June 28, 2001

Once Upon a Time is a game that both defies and requires description. It defies it, because this is an ostensibly competitive game that has almost nothing to do with winning. It requires descrption because it is a game that requires storytelling, and the more descriptive, the better.

As mentioned elsewhere, players have cards representing various fairy-tale archetypes, and the object is to weave these elements into a story and reach a satisfactory conclusion to the story.

What the game is REALLY about is imagination. Players will often refrain from 'taking' the story from another player if that player is telling a good enough story. The stories, like the movie 'Shrek', can take some very unexpected turns, and stereotypical situations are often turned on their collective ear.

This is almost the antithesis of a gamer's game. This is one for the family or a gathering of friends, a pleasant and unique way to while away an hour or so. Highly recommended.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Great DIFFERENT game
June 20, 2001

This is very different from most games that I play. (I play a lot of the 'lighter' German games like Torres and Carcassone.)

I hesitated getting this game for a while because I was concerned that it would be 'just a party game'. While it would probably work well at a party, it is different from most 'party games' (which I try to avoid like the plague) as it actually encourages thinking ahead and rewards planning.

My wife and I have played this and enjoyed thinking of other people who would enjoy this.

My only complaint is with the cards. The graphics are great, but it is difficult to tell what type of card has just been played. I wish that the different types of cards had different borders.

All in all, a great game and one that I would HIGHLY recommend.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
It Doesn't Matter Whether You Win or Lose
April 23, 2001

This game is simply fun to play! Who happens to win a round is secondary to the enjoyment of actually playing the game. A number of times I've been in a position where I could have won a hand, but decided not to because I was having too much fun and wanted to continue playing. Most of the time we don't even bother to keep score.

The game also has a nice universal quality because of its fairy tale theme. I've played with everyone from children to the elderly, to people from as far away as Asia and South America, and everyone has enjoyed it.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Great little story telling gem!
April 22, 2000

New for our family this weekend is Atlas Games' Once Upon A Time. We LOVED it!

If you haven't played, the game is centered on story telling. Each player gets a hand of cards with characters, events, places, etc. on them. The first player starts the story with 'Once upon a time...' and tries to include in their story as many of the things depicted on their cards as possible.

Other players can interrupt the storyteller when she mentions something that another player has on a card in his hand. There are also 'interrupt' cards that allow players to jump in when a category of card is played by the storyteller. The play moves quickly around the table, and the story takes on its own life.

Each player has a card that will conclude their story, and each player tries to finish up the story by last playing their 'ending' card. First player to empty her hand wins.

Our kids found the game hilarious. The cook fell into his cook pot, the witch forgot how to cast her evil spell, and a cursed crown turned the princess into an ugly old man.

One game takes about 10 minutes to play. We played for an hour and a half this afternoon. While our kids like games, this one is getting repeat requests even as I type.

The artwork on the cards is excellent, and the rules are clear and take all of 5 minutes to absorb.

If you want to take a break from 'competitive' gaming and exercise your imagination, grab a copy of this little gem.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
July 22, 1999

The essence of this game is telling a story using the objects/events/happy endings that are printed on a deck of cards dealt to each player. Each player has a happy ending card. In telling the story, you win by having the story end using the story-line on your happy ending card. A happy ending might be 'and he learned to always listen to his mother's advice.' In telling the story, if a player says 'they found a treasure', you can take over the story if you have a card that says 'treasure' on it.

I played this game with great reluctance. What we found is that there are two ways to play this game. My kids play it to win. My wife and I play it for fun. You can do both at the same time. As each player tries to bring the ending to his car, stories take hilarious twists and turns. I was convinced I would dislike this game before I played it. Boy was I wrong.

It's one of those rare games that can be played with any age groups, whether they like games or not. A true gem that must be tried to be appreciated.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Great on-the-go game
June 30, 2002

I really liked this game because it made you use your imagination. In a society where computers are king, and Sony playstations are gods--it is really nice to know that good old fashion brain activity is still useful. I have played this game in the car on road trips as well as in my living room and have had hours of fun making up stories and listening to others make up silly stories. It is fun for all ages.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Brian
Great with the right group.
January 29, 2002

My family loves this game, but it can fall completely flat with the wrong group.

Here's why. To win, you need to get rid of all of your story element cards. The quickest way to do that is to use the least number of words and concepts possible to tell your story. E.g.: Once there was a talking dog. [play talking animal card]. He lived in a castle. [play castle card]. There he met a stranger. [play meets a stranger card]. They got into a fight. etc. Not much fun to tell or listen to.

To make a good story, you need to have more than a minimal succession of elements. Embellish a little. Fill in the gaps to make the progression between elements plausible. Justify major breaks from the previous player's storyline. This is fun to do and fun to listen to.

The problem is that making a good story involves *strategic* risks. Deviation from the minimum required to play your cards increases the chances that another player will be able to interrupt you by playing one of their cards. If your highest goal is to win the game, you won't see why you should take such risks and the story will be DULL. The fun in the game comes from walking the line between furthering your chances of winning without BREAKING the story.

If your gaming group can accept that they have to abide by the 'spirit' of the game, even if it harms their chances of winning, this game can be uproarious fun. If you've got players who won't stay within the spirit of the game, it fails.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Ron
Looks good so far. One flaw...
December 09, 2001

I've only played this once, so far (although we played several hands, of course), and it may not be a problem with more people in the game (we had 3), but I see a flaw. Namely, when you're down to one (or 0) cards and about to go out, but get interrupted, there's often very little chance of getting back into the game. My friend once got stuck with just the shepherdess card. Good luck on getting someone ELSE to mention a shepherdess.

Our idea to fix it was to allow anyone to draw extra cards if they want at any time. I don't know if this will work, yet, but it would seem to allow someone to get back into the game from that position.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
...And they all gamed happily ever after
May 27, 2001

Great game. Can play with all my kids (ages 11-21). Easily transportable. High-quality components. Short games. Replayability seems very promising. Though it is a competitive game (one player does 'win'), it really plays more like a cooperative game (everyone working together to make an amusing story). Would make a great party game.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Pazzy
Fun Game with One Reservation
December 27, 2000

Bought this one for my girlfriend and I to play together, as she loves stuff like this. It's a really fun game, plays well for two, and is excellent for groups. The only reservation I have is with the cards themselves. For two, you are dealt 10 cards, and it's impossible to tell them apart while in your hand. You often have to be fairly quick to interrupt, and it's tough to do if you can't see in time which card is an interrupt card and which is a story card. Perhaps putting the card description on the side may be an improvement. Otherwise, highly recommended.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
"Unfortunately the witch didn't see the stampeding giant..."
October 31, 1999

There's nothing like interrupting someone else's story and eliminating their lead character, I tell ya....

Lots of laughs, quick thinking and excellent illustrations make this a classic game for parties or an apperetif before a bigger game. It's quick--about 5-8 minutes per person playing, and simple enough to engage younger gamers. Possibilities for variants abound, and with over a hundred cards, the combinations of story elements are endless. Character, item, location, event and aspect cards control the flow of the story, and interrupt cards give you the right to take over! Several blank cards are included to design your own story elements. The only drawback is that all elements are in a fairytale/fantasy vein. Make mystery, spy, western and sci-fi editions too!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Fun for kids of all ages
February 03, 1999

Once Upon A Time is terrific, and you don't have to be a kid to play. Suitable for all ages, it's creative and can be really funny! Even though there is a 'winner' at the end, all of the players have a good time trying to weave a home-made fairy tale to use up the cards that they hold in their hands. It can get nerve-wracking near the end when you're trying to get rid of your final 'Happily Ever After' card! Even people who aren't playing the game enjoy listening (or eavesdropping!) to the tales that the competitors make up!

This game would be great for car trips, or anytime you have time to kill but not a lot of space to play a board game.

If you enjoy improvisation, or long to make up your own Fairy Tale, this one is sure to be a hit!

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Fun Game, Poor Design
July 29, 2006

This game is different from any other that I have seen. My children love playing it, and a few of my friends also enjoy it. An equal number of people that I have tried introducing it to, hated it. No one was undecided. A few of the folks disliked the game because they don't like the storytelling, but most were frustrated managing the cards and identifying them quickly enough to interrupt the story teller.

I think that if you enjoy story telling on its own, you will enjoy this game. If you like being spontaneously creative, you will enjoy this game. If you like strategy and clear cut rules, this game is not for you.

My only real disappointment with the game is the card layout. When you have a handful of 10 or more cards at any given time, you want to be able to quickly assess what you have in your hand. The cards, however beautiful the artwork, are not clearly discernable when held as normal "fan" of cards. The design would be improved dramatically if the descriptive element were printed along the left edge, near the top. The card "type" icon should be in the extreme, upper-left corner, and a little larger.

If the card were redesigned for practical playing I would have given this game 5 stars. Until then, it remains problematic to keep track of all your cards while simultaneously:
1. Listening to a story to hear if something in your hand is mentioned
2. Watching the type of cards played in case you have a matching interrupt card
3.Paying attention enough that you can continue the story somewhat logically without getting too silly and
4. Thinking of a way to twist the story toward your goal!

We like the game enough to have purchased the add-ons.

Hopefully the cards will be redesigned on the next release.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Chris G
fun, but not really a game
August 20, 2002

This is one of thos games that's really fun to play with people who are creative, but if you get someone who's boring, they just don't know what to do with themselves. the rules are very loose, and not all that useful, in my opinion. but it's still pretty enjoyable with the right group of people. I once played it with a group from NYU's sci-fi club, and that was one of the most fun games ever.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Only limited by your imagination
July 28, 1999

I have to admit it; I'm not very good at playing Once Upon a Time. But when I do play it, even though I always lose miserably, I still have a good time. Once Upon a Time is a game where the rules are only as rigid as the players want them to be. It's very fun to see how someone manages to interpret a particularly difficult card into their story.

One variant of the game that is absolutely hilarious is to make the stories of a certain genre, such as Western, or Science Fiction, or Enid Blyton's children's books. Even crazier, try giving each player a different genre in the same game. ("Mad Dick Parker strides into the saloon - " [someone interrupts with the 'Tavern' card] "'Gosh!', said Dick, 'look at all these scrumptious cakes!'")

This is definitely a game for a crowd, and the more relaxed the crowd, the better the game will be.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Nice idea, nice concept, bad execution.
February 13, 2006
Once upon a time has a fun concept behind it, but not it’s not for competitive people. The slim rulebook was only a few pages in length, and it doesn't explain anything in much great depth. After giving the game a few rough run through we've found that the rules explained in the book concerning the use of the interrupt cards and storytelling cards aren't very useful.

It ended up with one person making up some random story in about ten sentences to simply use up all their cards in three minutes. While I understand it’s supposed to be a game that used to tell a fun and interesting story, this usually isn't the case in my gaming group. We've managed to have some house-rules where you can't put down another story card for 10 seconds, so it prevents the game from ending so soon and allows others to interrupt the current storyteller. Even with those rules, the game wasn't our cup of tea, and I doubt it will ever be pulled out again in the near future.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Clever concept... but replayability?
October 08, 2001

I love the concept of this game, and when I first heard about it, moved as fast as I could to grab it. To me, it sounded like unbridled creativity. Upon receiving the game, I quickly read through the rules, grabbed a few people, and tried it out.

I was disappointed. Maybe it was because the players were not great storytellers, but I think it has more to do with the narrow focus of the cards. While there are plenty of surprises that can come out of the cards, the stories always seems to have the same feel. Since the cards are all focused on fairy-tale words and plot points, every single story turns out close to the same. In addition, it is really difficult to have a story which makes a lot of sense. Usually, characters at the start of the story aren't all at the end of the story.

Great concept, but I thought the gameplay was too weak for adults to play multiple times.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
Sorry, here's a big ding
June 13, 2004

I am a fan of storytelling. I love stories because of the story, the quiet listening, the narrative, the thought, the suspense, the insights ... all sorts of reasons.

I am also a gamer, running a weekly gaming group with about 10 regulars, and I've been playing for 30 some odd years.

This one of the few designer games I give a huge 0 to. It is not fun AT ALL as a game. It might be nice to buy it and bring it to a fifth grade classroom, hand out cards and start doing creative excersizes.

As a game however, the object is to race through the quickes,t most cliche elements in your cards and play your last card. Other people have to listen only enough to yell out there own cards. That is neither storytelling nor gaming; even the items on the cards are boring (prince, queen, castle, etc...).

So sorry, but here's another negative vote. If you want fun, there are many other games available, and if you want stories, there are endless stories and storytelling excersizes you could use. Avoid.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.
by Terry
I would rather watch grass grow.
January 28, 2002

Absolute and complete lack of fun. Watching two snails race would provide more entertainment. Not just bad but horrible. The mechanics are lacking. Great Dalmuti has much more strategy. If you have an evening that you want to completly waste buy this. We played this on a trip. It was so bad I feared for my life. I thought the other players would kill me for ever introducing this game to our group. I wish there was a ranking below one.

Note: this review refers to a different release of this product.

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