Updated: Oct 3, 2022
Song of Tales from Man O'Kent Games is a new story telling game from the team behind SSO, Turing, and Moonflight, one of the most clever deck-building (or un-building, check the review for more info there) games I have played. I am always keen to see what is coming next from the team at Man O'Kent.
Song of Tales will come to kickstarter soon, you can find out more information from here. This is an early prototype provided for free for a preview, that does not have final artwork and the rules are subject to change.
In Song of Tales, players compete to be the best story-teller. This is done in a very clever and engaging way. As much as the bulk of this game is made up by the players own creative thinking, there is a real game in this box. That is not something that can be said for other story-telling games. Let's get it to the table.
First players need to choose which character they want to play as. This is more than an aesthetical choice. Although the art is stunning! No, this is about how you want to tell the story. Each character rewards you for weaving your tale in a certain way. For example, Shahrazad has to rhyme every fifth thing they say with a word on the current story card. Tanuki must include at least two sound effects, a good one for younger children! And Kitsune has to recite their story in the form of a Haiku, which is a little more tricky!
Once everyone has made their choice, or the cards have been randomly assigned, however you want to do it, each player is given the start and end card relevant to their character, and their oh so cute meeples. Then finally, all players are dealt four random story cards. The first player is randomly determined or you can pick based on whomever has the best seat! And the person to their right is given the last player marker. Flip the box lid to show the score chart on the reverse side, and place one large and one small meeple for each character on the zero space. The game can now begin.
How to Play
Song of Tales begins with the starting player placing their start and finish card in front of them on the table, with a gap big enough to fit their four other story cards in-between. They can then place those other four cards in any order they see fit, creating the best flow for the story they want to tell. This forms the story tellers core story line.
Each other player, starting with the person to the story tellers left, can then add one card from their hand, either above or below one of the four core story lines. When doing so, they may add as many of their meeples, known as envoys. This is to show that this card was laid by them, but also to tempt the story teller into allowing this player to use this card to take over the story, giving them a chance for some points on this round. Each Envoy placed gives the story teller one point that round if they choose it. You are bidding for the chance to join in and score some points yourself, but need to provide a reason for being chosen. Players will add cards above or below the core story cards until there is no more space, or all players pass. Then, the story can begin!
The story teller will then place one of their Envoy meeples down between the first two cards and begin weaving their story. Each player has key words on their character card, that if said, gain them a point if they have a spare envoys left to mark the word. The story teller needs to use specific words, all other players just need to have a synonym from a certain category said. A food for example. As such, all players are involved at all times. Not just the story teller. All players can score at all times. Plus, you would hope, they would be enjoying listening to the story!
The story teller needs to keep their own key words in mind when weaving their story, whilst thinking about what the previous and next cards are, but most importantly at all times keeping in mind their characters story telling style. You must not forget to construct your story in the way your character wants, meeting the requirements of your character for each card. If you think you are done, you rotate the card you were on 90 degrees. If the other players agree and are satisfied that you have met your criteria, they rotate it a further 90 degrees so that is it now upside down, and completed.
When a card is finished, if the next card in line has one either above and/or below, the story teller has a choice to make. To continue their core story, or take the path offered by one of the listeners. If they choose one of the other players cards, they can then take any envoys placed on the card as points for that round, and then the story telling duties pass to the player that played that card.
If a new story teller takes over, they can place as many other cards that match the current card paths colour as they like below/above the card they are on, in the same column, so long as they keep the story moving to the usual rules. When they are done, the envoy meeple moves back to the core path, and the story ends when the meeple hops over the last card in the line. All players will then score one point for each envoy meeple on their character card showing a word was used, or envoys collected from other players played cards. One point is also awarded for each card of each players colour that was used in the story. The main reason you would play more cards when you take over as the active story teller.
Players will then draw back up to four cards, collect back all their envoys, and pass the story teller marker to the next player. The game ends when each player has had one turn starting a story, and the player with the most points wins. But hopefully, everyone wins, with the funny and engaging stories that have been told.
This game won't be for everyone. When you play Song of Tales there is some expectation on the story teller to weave an entertaining and coherent story which not all players will enjoy. But if this is your idea of fun, then this game will create a wonderful experience for you to do this in. Essentially, I think this is a marmite sort of game, in that you will either love it or hate it. (British reference to a food product that polarises the consuming public) Your feeling wont have much if anything to do with the game if you don't like this sort of thing, it's just that making stories up isn't for you. But if you do enjoy telling stories, then the reason you will love Song of Tales will have everything to do with the game.
The characters feel so well crafted from history, folk lore, and stories passed down the generations. The art is thought provoking, full of mystery, and just so beautiful. The flow of the game is brilliantly constructed. All players feel connected at all times. All players can score at all times. And each story woven creates a new memory, unique only to this game, and your friends and family that witnessed it.
I love how the box is used as the scoring board. But the star of the show for me is the unique character meeples. They are all specifically made, linked to the characters, and look stunning. Everything about this production screams of passion, care, and attention to detail.
My family enjoy story based games, and have enjoyed many hours with story cubes and DnD. Song of Tales feels like it sits somewhere in the middle of those two experiences. I have enjoyed trying the game out with different characters, and seeing how different members of my family react to the different challenges each one brings. I like the sense of a game this brings to a story telling experience. But would like more control over my character.
If you are looking for something different to play with your family and friends that involves creative story telling, I cannot think of anything that would deliver a better game experience than Song of Tales, other than DnD. There is a solo and cooperative mode too, and so much replayability on this game, from your imagination alone.
I look forward to seeing how this game does on Kickstarter and would urge anyone who feels inspired after reading this to go check out Man O'Kent on instagram to follow this games development.