Tall Tales: A Game of Competitive Storytelling

DESIGNER:Oliver Sabot and Adam Plunkett 



AGES: 8 and up

TIME: 30 to 60 minutes

I like to write. You may have assumed that, since I write for a boardgaming blog, of course, and I do write a lot in my actual job. What I don’t get to do a lot of is creative writing, and while I certainly could do that any time I want, sometimes I feel like I need a prompt or suggestion to get started.  Well, along comes Tall Tales: A Game of Competitive Storytelling to provide assistance with that.

This is a game about writing a fairy tale with your fellow players. The competition comes in because, while you will all write a paragraph for each stage of the game, only one will carry forth as part of your tale.

To start, every player gets a writing utensil, four half-sheets of paper, a voting card and a voting marker.

Prompt Cards
Quest Cards

A start player, heretofore referred to as the Storyteller, is selected at random and begins the Quest Round, which is the first round of the game.  That player shuffles the Prompt cards and selects one. The Prompt Cards are large pictures that contain many different elements.   They also shuffle and select a Quest Card at random; flip it face up, and then set a timer for three minutes. All players, including the Storyteller, then write a paragraph based on the prompt. At the end of the three minutes the Storyteller shuffles the entries and gives one to each player to read aloud. After the initial reading players give a summary of the paragraph they read and players simultaneously and secretly vote on which one (other than their own) will move forward as the base for the story. Players reveal their votes at the same time by placing their token on the central voting board.

The paragraph with the most votes becomes the story, with ties broken by the shorter paragraph, and the author becomes the next Storyteller.

Superlative Cards

The game continues with three Scene rounds. The Storyteller now draws three Phrase and three Superlative cards and chooses one of each. The Phrase card is a phrase that all players must incorporate exactly as written into their next paragraph; not doing so would deem your paragraph ineligible for consideration. The Superlative card describes the sort of mood or location players need to to try to evoke. The Storyteller sets a timer for five minutes, after which they shuffle the paragraphs, deal one to each player and they read them aloud and then summarize them, and then vote. If you have fewer than seven players you score one point for every vote you receive, one point if your paragraph won without a tie, and one point if you voted for the winning paragraph.  If you have seven or more players you just get a point for every vote you received. The player who received the most votes becomes the Storyteller for the next round.

Sample writings

At the end of the third Scene round the game ends. The player with the most points wins, unless there’s a tie, in which case the player who wrote the winning Quest wins. The winner reads the entire story aloud, and, as the rules tell you, everyone lives happily ever after.

The games include some rules for team play that could be useful if you are playing with young children or anyone who might be unable or uncomfortable writing a paragraph on their own.


The quality of the game box and components is good. The art on the box, in the rules and on the components is beautiful, and the other components function well and seem like they will hold up well to repeated plays. You would at some point need more paper, of course.   The rules are clear and make it easy to both understand and teach the game.

The game play itself is really  fun. You are guided by the cards, so you have somewhere to start from and can easily come up with something to write, but nothing is too restrictive, so you can take the story in whatever direction you want. For example, in one play  we started with the greatest invention of the 20th century  and ended up with murderous robotic sharks  Hearing what everyone else wrote is also fun, and deciding which paragraph will move on is also fun. Hearing the full story at the end was also really enjoyable. The only negative was that it was hard for people to read other people’s handwriting in some cases, which made the reading a little less enjoyable some of the time,if the reader stumbled over a word or misread a word it affected the story and how it was received. We decided this could be fixed by just having everyone read their own story out loud. I assume the designers thought that having everyone read other pieces would add to the collaborative feel of the game and would eliminate bias from scoring, but we didn’t find that to be important to us.

In fact, we pretty much gave up on the scoring all together in our plays. We still voted, but didn’t really see the point in keeping score, since we were all having a good time and didn’t really care who was “winning”. I can see situations in which the score might be more important, perhaps with people who regularly write and want to use this as more of a contest, or perhaps in an educational setting. My plays were also with big groups, which may also have affected our opinion of the scoring.

This game is not going to be for everyone; you do need to be willing to take a chance, be creative and share your writing with the other players. I don’t mean that you have to be a great writer; you just have to be willing to put what you’ve written out there for public consumption by the other players, and I know there are people who won’t be able to be comfortable or have fun doing that. However, I would suggest that anyone who is skeptical give it a try, because we had a blast, and there are jokes from one of our plays of this still circulating on a text chain; thanks, Harvard ™. . . .

I really enjoyed the game, and I recommend it. It can be a party game, or it could be used as a more serious writing exercise; either way, you should expect to have fun.

About Tery Noseworthy

Boardgamer. Baker. Writer. Disc Golfer. Celtics Fan.
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