- Designer: Pierluca Zizzi
- Publisher: dV giochi
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 14+
- Time: 30 minutes
- Times played: 4, with review copy provided by dV
Dark Tales is a card game that is inspired by classic fairy tales, retold in a dark style. This game was originally available at Essen 2014, but I only heard about it late on Saturday afternoon, and by that time, I was frankly out of both space and time for any more games! However, a few gamers I know took home copies of this delightful game, and they had given me positive reviews of it over the past few months. As it turns out, the game is now getting wider release in the United States, and dV was nice enough to send me a copy in advance of GenCon.
The land of Dark Tales is populated by disturbing creatures and sinister characters, and the interaction between cards and magic items is the key to success: A character, event, or sword used at the right time can determine the fate of the game! Thanks to the many setting cards, the items you collect change their power from game to game.
The game itself is played out through a deck of 48 cards. Players start the game with 3 cards in their hand, and a Night card is played out on the table. Additionally, the actual “story” of the hand is set out through two Setting cards – these cards give 3 different choices for in-game actions as well as 3 different choices for end-game scoring.
On your turn, you draw a card and add it to your hand. Then you have the option of playing an Item token – the action of which is decided by the Setting card that had been chosed at the beginning of the game. Finally, you must play a card.
Each card is worth some number of VPs when played – you can usually find this in the upper left corner of the card, though some cards have variable amounts of points depending on the game condition. You need to remember to take the VPs given to you for playing the card as you play it – else you’ll forget and it can get hard to go back and remember what you’ve collected and not.
There is a text box at the bottom of the card which tells you the special ability of the card. Like most games which involve text heavy cards, if the rules of the card ever conflict with the game rules, the card text always wins. When you play the card, you read the text and follow the directions on it.
Each card also has a type – this is easily seen in the iconography found just above the text box – cards can be men, women, villains, places or events. The type of card is important because many cards interact with each other based on the type. Cards may direct you to collect items – there are four types in the game: coins, magic wands, swords and suits of armor.
There is an icon in the bottom right of the card which tells you where the card goes when played. The majority of cards will go to a discard pile. Others are played to an area directly in front of the players – these cards are considered “in play” and are owned by the player they are in front of. Finally, the rest of the cards end up in a row of cards in the center of the table – also “in play” but not owned by anyone.
The game moves into the final phase when the draw deck is exhausted. At this point, players no longer draw cards. The game continues until a player has no cards in his hand at the beginning of his turn. At that point, players then score any bonus points that they may have gained from the second Setting card – i.e. get 12VPs for each combination of 3 coins and 1 magic wand.
The VPs are totaled up, and the player with the most VPs wins!
My thoughts on the game
Dark Tales is a very interesting card game – the artwork and titles of the cards do seem to bring out the familiar tropes of fairy tales. The game plays quickly, and it is super easy to pick up. We learned the rules to the game in about ten minutes from reading the rules together, and we did not have any issues in the playing of the game other than an occasional player who forgot to pick up their VPs when they played their card.
The cards have varied actions, but they are easy to follow. On any given turn, you’ll generally not have more than 4 or 5 cards in your hand to consider, so you’ll have some choice about what to play, but no so much that it will overwhelm you.
The artwork is really well done, and in my opinion, it’s among the best I’ve seen in awhile. Each card has excellent graphics, and the majority of the card is devoted to the art. The cards are tall and skinny (tarot style) which makes them a little bit easier to hold in smaller hands. The layout of the cards is well done, and it is easy to access all the information that is found on them.
Due to the text on the cards, the game is probably a bit more complex than what non-gamers might expect, but it should be accessible to them after a single run-through. The card actions are pretty straightforward and easy to understand. That being said, the gamers in my regular group felt the game was a great filler, and there were no complaints that it was too simple. In fact, we played it a few times in succession on the first night that it hit the table – so that must say something good about it.
After four games, it still feels like there is space to explore the game and the card interactions, but it is fairly clear that the 48 cards might be a limit at some point. However, this will likely not be a problem long term as the rules already refer to a Snow White expansion, and I believe that there will also be a Red Riding Hood themed expansion as well. Each of these sets promises to add new cards to the game which will help you get varied experiences with the game.
Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it!
- I like it. Dale Y
- Not for me…