Preview – Winter Tales from Albe Pavo- planned for Essen 2012 release!

Preview – Winter Tales from Albe Pavo – planned for Essen 2012 release!

Designers – Jocularis and Matteo Santus

Art – Hide Art and Jocularis

 

Oh yeah baby!

Out of all the new releases planned for Essen 2012, I have been anxiously waiting for details about Winter Tales from Albe Pavo. Every year that I’ve been to Essen, so far anyway, there seems to be a proliferation of the same old Euro blandness and the list of games promised for this year’s new releases is no different. You know what I mean… yet another worker placement game, another economic stock ownership game, another resource collection game… oh yes, let’s not forget yet another City/Town builder. Yawn… Not my idea of fun.

I tend to prefer something a bit different than the same old Euro boringness and the boys at Albe Pavo certainly have caught my attention. 2 years ago it was Munera: Familia Gladiatoria. Last year it was Sake & Samurai, and this year the first of their two offerings is Winter Tales. Ok, let’s give you a taste of what’s involved by going through key parts of the rules. Italics comes from the rulebook…

Looks Amazing!

From the images I am showing here, you may notice that the art is a bit Tim Burton-like… dark and creepy, yet intriguingly cool! I find the art very interesting and designed to create a very specific atmosphere. Assuming I can get my mitts on a copy, I will talk about the components when I review Winter Tales.

Have a look!

   

Winter Tales includes 14 characters, 7 Soldiers of Winter and 7 Fairy Tale characters each represented by a card.

 

Overview From the rules –

Winter Tales is a storytelling game. It is neither a strategy game nor a resource management game. If you like to use your imagination and tell stories to spend a memorable evening with your friends, then this is the game for you. If you really want to appreciate this game, let yourself go and create with your friends a story to remember.

Ok, you had me at “story telling game”. I’m intrigued because I LOVE THEME and a good game narrative.

Winter Tales is a storytelling board game for 3 to 7 players. In each game, the players will recount the subtle but merciless war between Fairy Tale characters, who stand for hope and freedom, and the Soldiers of Winter, who embody wickedness and oppression. Each player will belong to one of the Factions in play and will take control of some of its characters, fighting either for the return of Spring or to snuff out all hope and to further the arrival of an everlasting Winter. Each game of Winter Tales is different, because each time you are telling a new story and creating a shared plot, in the first true social storytelling board game.

This sounds like a bit of a new attempt to create a social Story Telling experience for gamers. In fact, it sounds like there is a lot of effort in the design to give you a creative experience, not just a game experience.

Winter Tales involves the player… making him the author of a shared story. The rules include suggestions that will help make the game smoother and the story more plausible, in the end making the game more fun.

Storytelling in Winter Tales is a shared experience. As such, it is much more fun if players listen to each other, accepting suggestions and ideas from others and trying to merge all their plots into one common story. If each player were to concentrate on his own characters, not taking in suggestions and ideas from others and writing a different story, the game would be no fun at all.

So, social interaction seems to be really key to the game. I assume that you will need the right crowd to get the best out of Winter Tales. It sounds like a collective experience far beyond the typical co-operative game, perhaps more in tune with role-playing games, but it doesn’t sound like its about acting. More likely its about creating a narrative and the experience of the game is in the creation of the story. If you like stretching your creativity, this could be a game for you.

 

Choose the style…

Each game will be different. You can choose to tell a drama, adding touches of anxiety and desperation, or a pulp story, with violence and gore. Do you prefer comedy or horror? You may choose whichever style you prefer, which will give each story its own unique flavour.

The setting…

The game is set in Wintertown, leaning on a hillside facing east, protected from the fierce, cold winds blowing from the mountains, the Town was home to Fairy Tales and Dreams but now its in the grip of the “Regime”. However, Fairy Tales are staging their resistance, working in shadows to allow for the return of Spring.

Key locations where the story will unfold will be – The Fair of Wonders, The Winter Prison, Memory Lane Cemetery, Mad Hatter Asylum, Oaks Park, Dorothy’s Mansion, Nightmare’s Factory and Puppet’s Theater.

Characters come to life for the Fairy Tales of the Spring in The story of Alice after Wonderland, The Story of Pinocchio, the Puppetseer, The Story of the Scarecrow King, The Story of Grandma Dorothy, The Story of the Tin Man and the terrible Chill, The Story of Grumpy and the Ancient People, and The Story of the Return of the Little Match Girl. For the Soldiers of the Winter there are The story of the terrible tyrant Mangiafuoco, The story of Wolf, the veteran, The story of the Fox and the Cat, The story of Snow White, Queen of Winter, The story of the wealthy White Rabbit, The story of Candlewick and his resentment, The story of the Mad Hatter and his Asylum.

The game board contains a map of Wintertown. The Town is divided into several Locations, connected by streets that include Squares. Below the map there is the Memory Track, where cards will be placed to act as Memories. The rightmost space outside the Memory Track is used to place the Epilogue tile in a 7 Memory game.

From the Author: The game board may also give hints for the storytelling: if during a game you look closely at the Location where your character is, or at the illustrations of houses and blocks, you may find it easier to create the story.

Overview of Play

Each Chapter is divided into Turns, during which Players will activate their characters one at a time, trying to complete Quests. While one Player is having their Turn, the others will have the opportunity to step in, initiating Battles and springing Traps to try and hinder the Acting Player. Each successfully completed Quest becomes a Memory, that will have a significant impact on the rest of the game! The creation of the right amount of Memories will trigger the Epilogue, which will include all generated Memories in the story and determine the winning Faction.

It doesn’t sound like there is much downtime as even if it’s not your turn you will have the opportunity to engage with the active player. This is a GOOD thing.

Factions you say??? Yes. There are 3 Factions in the game.

The players will belong to one of the following factions :

Spring – This includes the Fairy Tales, who represent all that is good and positive in the world.
Winter – The cruel Regime that grips Wintertown in its evil clutches includes evil and ruthless Soldiers, who aim at crushing the Resistance and rule over the Town in an endless winter.
Writer – Used only in games with an odd number of Players, this Faction always includes only one Player, who’s goal is to keep the balance between the other two warring Factions, by controlling characters from both Factions. The Writer wants the story to go on, and thus doesn’t want any of the two Factions to win over the other. Now this sounds really interesting, I have to say!

 

Winning Conditions

The Faction that wins the Epilogue wins the Game. Spring and Winter win if the Epilogue ends in their favour, while the Writer wins if the Epilogue ends with a draw.

Number of players – 3-7

Suggested time – 90 Minutes – allowing for 3 Memories to take place. There are rules for making the game longer but I think that 90 minutes sounds like it is plenty.

Gameplay

I’m not going to walk you through the entire game process as the rules will be posted on Boardgamegeek at some point soon but here are some interesting aspects contained in the game.

1. Help one another – Players are free and encouraged to help each other while telling the story.

2. Set the scene and explain – Each time a Character is activated, the Player must set the scene and explain in the story how the Character intervenes.

3. A nice story comes first – Quality in Winter Tales is what matters most and it is what you should strive for when problems arise. If everybody agrees about some detail that would not be allowed by the rules, these may well be overlooked in the specific case, in order to make the story better.

Other Key Elements

Story Cards
Story Cards are the heart of Winter Tales and are used in all storytelling mechanics. The images were made by children and reflect pure imagination, hopes and dreams, be them good or bad.

From the author: the images depicted on the Story cards were created by two children of 5 and 9. These images give you as much freedom as you may possibly need. We have no desire to constrain your imagination! It is up to the Players (and mostly to the storytelling Arbiter) to stimulate a player to read in the Cards something that may help the story, should they have trouble finding it.

Story Arbiter
All players cooperate to create the best story possible, but it’s up to the Story Arbiter to decide what direction the story should take. The player who is nominated Story Arbiter always has the last word in matters pertaining to the flavour of the plots created by other players, whenever thy cannot agree on one common road

Locations

Wintertown is full of weird Locations. There you may feel strongest either the dark presence of Winter or the soft murmur of Spring. These Locations are where the conflict takes place, and from them Tales and Soldier get the strength they need to fight their war.

Quests

There is a time and a place to tell a story. But there also is a reason. Quests represent the chances that Characters may take to win against the enemy Faction and create favourable Memories. Quests are the most important inspiration for the stories of Winter Tales. Whenever a Quest is completed, it becomes a Quest Memory.

You want conflict??? There are Battles and Traps!

The Soldiers can initiate Battles to stop Fairy Tales from moving and even to incapacitate them.

Traps are sprung by the Fairy Tales to block the movement of Soldiers and to incapacitate them.

At first pass, the rulebook seems daunting but there are a lot of descriptive examples to help you get the nature of the story telling. The rules seem relatively easy to follow and for those of you who want more depth to your story, there are optional modules that you can add.

Don’t let the size of this rulebook scare you off: most of it describes the setting, and there also are many lengthy examples. Read through this booklet once and start playing using the Summary Sheet, and you will see that the game is actually quite easy to learn.

The basic rules are simple, but you may integrate them with the Modules you will find at the end of the rulebook, which add new mechanics, strategies and story ideas. If, at the end of a game, you are satisfied and think you have created a beautiful story, regardless of having won or lost the game itself, then our efforts will have been worth it.

 

Here are some notes from the designers…

WINTER TALES came out after a very long history. It will be too long to explain all the different games that WINTER TALES has been. But I will tell you our guidelines in designing it.

The goal was to design a narrative boardgame, something like a cross between a roleplaying game and board game, a game that helps you to create a brand new story with your friends beside a fireplace with a hot chocolate on a cold winter day, a game in which you are free to use your imagination, but not just by (and for) yourself. The imaginations of all players are the bricks with which the story is built. So the game has to help your imagination, and the other players have to help your imagination, even while fighting against you.

The great difficulty in designing such a game is that you have to give it the right level of mechanics.

With too few mechanics depth, it is difficult to tie the narration to something real and the story is too tied to the good will of players: just one lazy player could ruin the story and thus the game.

With too much mechanics depth, it raises the need for concentration, stealing mental resources from imagination and so from the story.

We passed both phases and in the end we reached what to us seems the middle path.

WINTER TALES is still a game in which you have to want to tell a story to receive all the game can give you, but I think that this is a game that helps to tell the story and will be enjoyed by players who aren’t necessarily lovers of narrative games. I can say this because we discovered this to be true during the long playtesting phase (also blind playtesting).

The game is like a tool that helps you to place the imagination’s bricks one near the other, a cement that ties them one to another and helps you to build up a cool and fun story.

 

So there you go for now…

I can honestly say that Winter Tales sounds different, certainly interesting and I’m looking forward to playing it. I think it will be a rich, fun experience!

 

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