Untold: Adventures Await - A Review
Anyone with the proclivity to wander the board game isle at their local Barnes & Noble or FLGS have, at some point, seen “a game” that exists of nine dice in a tiny little colorful package: Rory’s Story Cubes. From themed packages (Actions or Fantasia) to intellectual property (Adventure Time or Batman), the product is cheap, eye-catching, and has massive appeal due to its simplicity. According to The Dice Tower’s Tom Vasel, Rory’s Story Cubes is “one of the most sold games in the world.” Stick with me and we’ll take a look at the evolution of Rory’s Story Cubes into Untold: Adventures Await.
In essence, Rory’s Story Cubes provides ideas for a cooperative storytelling experience. Personally, I have passed on purchasing any of the numerous sets of cubes many times. Honestly, the product lacked a fundamental framework for any type of game, gameplay, or rules. Gamers, such as myself, want a “game” to play—either cooperative or competitive, something with structure. I don’t know the developers over at Hub Games, but I am pretty positive they read the suggestive letters composed in my mind when they brought forth Untold: Adventures Await.
Explaining Untold is quite simple: It’s Rory Story Cubes with gameplay and structure. Done. Where’s my That-Was-Easy Button? I’ll see ya’ll at the next blog post….
You want specifics?
Untold is a cooperative storytelling activity where players develop not only their own TV show, but characters as well. For writers, storytellers, anyone with imagination, this game is your hot ticket! Untold provides just enough structure for a guy like me, while allowing for the possibility to untether my mind for maximum creativity. A zombie apocalypse, mafia family, haunted mansion, space exploration, crime drama, magical world, anything you can picture on the small-screen is narrative fodder for Untold.
Players take turns rolling Story Cube dice and adding elements to the story based on their interpretation of the symbols on the dice. Spots on the board could, depending on setup, call
for a “location” or a “threat” or “dark secret.” As the board is modular, every session will provoke new responses and drive your TV show in different—often unexpected—directions.
Let me take this moment to summarize my first experience with Untold. I played a two-player game (myself and one other) where we decided to do a high-tech gadgets and spies James Bond style show. Taking place during the Cold War, we named our show The Day After Yesterday. In our first episode, entitled “The Opening Act,” we begin in a spy boat off the coast of Russia; our mission is to disrupt Russian satellite communication to circumvent an attack on American soil. Enter our mastermind, Scorpia: An ex-KGB agent and killer out for revenge. She has a personal vendetta against our two characters due to thwarting her plans time-after-time leading to her being let go from the KGB (Yes, we understand that KGB agents probably don’t get “fired” as much as they catch a bullet in the head, but just….okay?). To quote T.S. Elliot, our episode ended “not with a bang, but with a whimper.” We found out Scorpia’s dark agenda to attack an American Academy along the east coast. And….scene. Sounds disappointing, right? Not really. Why? Because it’s all a part of the bigger plan. It leaves enough narrative thread to keep the story from being episodic and allows our narrative to morph into a serialization. Personally, I am excited. I look forward to episode two—who knows where our season will take us?
Before moving to the next scene players have a choice of taking one of two actions:
1. Ask a Question: This is what we storytellers call “adding exposition.” Exposition adds depth to the narrative without moving the plot forward (details, flashbacks, etc.).
2. Take an Action: Players attempt to do something within the narrative. Typically, this pushes the plot forward and adds action to the story. Whether players are successful or not depends on the flip of a card.
Who is this activity for? Akin to every cooperative narrative tabletop game—from Dungeons and Dragons to Alice is Missing to Icarus—Untold hits or misses the mark based on the players. Untold is designed for families. I agree whole-heartedly. If you have kids or teenagers with imagination or a knack for storytelling then purchasing Untold is a no-brainer. If you have kids looking to slowly dip into the roleplaying games Jacuzzi, then, Untold is, without a doubt, your first step. However, conversely, I don’t have any kids but enjoyed multiple play sessions with exclusively adult players. We had a blast! In fact, I can’t wait to get back to the table to see where our spies will go and what Scorpia has in store for us. If you could create your own TV show, what would it be? Untold: Adventures Await….what are you waiting for?