- Designer: Holger Boesch
- Publisher: Z-Man Games
- Players: 2 or more
- Ages: 13+
- Time: >5 minutes per story
- Times played: 5 stories so far…
Dark Stories is a different sort of game – it’s one that I’ve seen just about every year that I’ve been at Essen for SPIEL, yet not one that I had ever looked into much. Per the rules, this game was first designed in 2004 – though IIRC, it was sold under the name Black Stories. As the text on the original version was in German, that was a pretty good reason to avoid them from my perspective… Z-Man has found this game and has licensed the EN-version of it, and now we get a chance to give it a try on this side of the Atlantic!
Dark Stories is more of a story-telling game than anything else. This small box contains a foldout set of rules and then 50 Dark Stories. Each story is contained on a single card. The front of each card has a one or two sentence “story”. Most of the stories are macabre – from the back of the box, you will learn that the cases include 31 crimes, 49 corpses, 11 murderers, 12 suicides and 1 deadly meal.
One player is the “Master” for the case. The Master reads the short story to the other players and then asks the other players to figure out what happened. The answer to the story is found on the back of the card, and only the Master can see this. The other players must ask questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” response from the Master. If the questions seem to be leading down the wrong path, the Master may simply tell the players that he is not going to answer that particular question because it won’t help them discover the truth. The players continue to ask questions until they uncover the truth. The Master will let them know when they have arrived at the right answer. Then, someone else becomes the Master, and the group moves on to solve another puzzle!
My thoughts on the game
This is something that has been an interesting pastime with the kids, though the morbid theme makes it more appropriate for teenagers than younger kids. It’s provided an interesting diversion as we have been driving through the flatlands of Ohio going to soccer matches near and far. I also think it would be a fun sort of activity at a sleepover or campfire. These stories, which might be better described as brain teasers or puzzles, give the players a nice chance to use their imagination to come to the solution. However, as I have described it above, it is really more of an activity in my mind than a game.
Of the cards that I’ve played so far, most of them have plausible but definitely not obvious solutions to the basic statement. Without giving anything away – here is the story from one of the cards…
That’s all that you get.
The rest of the story has to be generated by the players.
There will be a lot of trial and error and guessing – but that’s the whole point of the game!
Let me try to make up a story on the fly here to show you how tangential the stories can be…
STORY: A man picked up his phone and then fell backwards from his chair and died.
ANSWER: His phone screen was on, and it flashed the score of the soccer match. Germany had just defeated Brazil by a score of 7:1, and the man was so surprised by this that choked on the hot dog he was eating at the time.
As you can see – this isn’t something that you’re just going to immediately get from the one sentence story, but you might be able to tease out parts by asking simple questions. “Did someone call him?” “Did he read a website?” “Did he live in the US?” “Did he live in Rio de Janeiro?” “Was he hit by a taser?” “Did the phone electrocute him?”
This is something that I’m going to keep in my car as I think it’s a decent way to help pass the time on a trip. It’s not really the sort of thing that I’m going to break out at our weekly gamenight, but then again, I’m also not really going to try to set up Fields of Arle on the armrest between the front seats while I’m driving to Cleveland either.
If there is a downside to the game, it’s that you can’t really play a card over – once you know the story and the solution, you’re not likely going to forget it!
There are at least 12 different versions in German (and multiple other languages), and I’m guessing that if this one is successful, there will be more boxes of Dark Stories to come in English as well.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor