Welcome to the Competition of Story Champions: a battle of wit, dexterity, and intelligence for glory and laurels. Each round you will be presented with a unique set of three challenges; how you overcome them will define you. So, champions grab your quills and prepare yourselves, greatness is within your reach. In the Arena of Stories only the great stories survive, only the great become Champions of story.
Thus reads the opening rules text to the latest, and only, game to come from designer S.C. Shannon and Cat Dragon Press. We played a preview of Champions of Story which is set to hit Kickstarter in the next week and can be played, at least in a small ,part on the Champions of Story Facebook Page
A game of Champions of Story goes something like this: one from your group will be designated the “Card God”; he or she rolls the genre dice, and draws three subject cards (e.g. ‘eggs’, ‘rocking chair’, and ‘duct tape’) from the stack. The other players must, within five minutes, write a story using the genre as a theme (a tale of romance…) and subject cards (…that involves eggs, a rocking chair, and duct tape). At the end of the five minutes, the Card God has each player read their story aloud, and awards points based on his/her personal preferences. The title of Card God then moves to the left and a new round begins until a predetermined number of points are met.
So, jumping right into the review, I have to say that I have very mixed feelings about this game. First and foremost, Champions of Story is a wonderful idea; I was able to play a few games with a couple other people recently and found that the rounds move pretty smoothly because of the five-minute timer and award-giving process. It’s a game which ignites the creativity in all of us, and by the end of each round we all, more or less, had a story that we’d been able to fully flesh out. The random combinations of different subject cards with genres did a wonderful job of pushing our limits of quality story-telling.
But therein lies the problem: if even one of your group is a more adequate story-teller than the rest, very quickly will the game begin to sort of go limp as less-attuned writers begin to hash stories out of desperation or acquiescence to inevitable loss. Perhaps even more harrowing is that Card Gods can turn the game into that whats-his-motive motif so ingrained throughout games like Cards Against Humanity and Apples to Apples. This can ruin the spirit of the game since, because points are award arbitrarily, everyone is left with little choice than to write out filler with seemingly randomly-placed subjects words.
All in all, as I mentioned before, my feelings about this game are very mixed. It can alienate players who aren’t good story-tellers (or as good as one in the group), haven’t picked up a pen in their life (damn laptops), or have trouble with the 5-minute time limit. Its BGG page says it can be played with 3-103 players— It’s highly unlikely you going to get more than five people together who will last longer than four or five rounds before hands begin to cramp and boredom sets in.
However, and this is a big however, Champions of Story is perfect for classrooms, especially elementary schools. The award-system allows for easy dissemination of treats (e.g. if a student gets a total of 20 points after a period of time, (s)he can turn them in for some candy, etc.) and recognition of students’ abilities from the instructor’s POV. If the rules can be smoothed out a bit and classrooms can get their hands on a hard copy of the game, this will definitely be a must-have. Likewise, parents of young children at home may enjoy Champions of Story as well. A member of the group I played with added that it might be fun for people who get together for writing groups and whatnot—I say “maybe.”
At its core, Champions of Story caters to a crowd who enjoy quick mental and physical exhaustion. If you could handle this review, you might be able to handle this game.
Gets your imagination going
Great for writers with equal abilities and serious play
Students and teachers in elementary settings will absolutely love this
Short and Sweet gameplay
Variations, such as rolling 2 genre dice and 5 subject cards, can really mix things up (did not personally attempt)
Not a dexterity game for the weak
Players who aren’t good writers (most of us) will bemoan the game after a few rounds
Although there are innumerable subject and genre combinations, replayability for the more challenge-inclined players is very low
Points dissemination at the whim of a Card God who might inadvertently turn the game into Cards Against Humanity
Finding more than 2 other people to play with will more than likely be very difficult