Board Game Gumbo: Zack M reviews Untold: Adventures Await
Board Game Gumbo contributor, Zack Moneaux, is back with another review, this time of a new dice rolling, role playing game from Hub Games. Zack has the luxury of playing solo games, two player games, thinky euros with his own game group, plus the omni style of games that comprises our Gumbo Game Nights. Note: Hub Games provided Board Game Gumbo with a review copy of this game.
I have a shelf of games my friends call the “Bullshit Shelf”. On this shelf are some of our favorites. Games like Cosmic Encounter, Power Play, VivaJava, Bemused, Mystic Empyrean, Chaosmos, etc. It's a small assortment of low complexity tabletop RPGs and board games that are more social interaction frameworks than actual games. They get out of the way and let you tell stories or interact with your buddies. Games where you could argue that there isn't even a game to be played.
These games are more about playing -- and playing off of -- your friends. Untold: Adventures Await is an awesome new addition to the B.S. shelf. Untold: Adventures Await is game for one to four players, takes about an hour, and was designed by John Fiore and Rory O'Connor, with art from Rob Dalton and Winnie Shek.
Untold is a framework. It's more light tabletop RPG than board game, a toy box with which you and your friends create a tv series and play out episodes session by session, each episode playing out over the course of five scenes.
Every scene, you flip the tile, roll some story dice, plug them in then start asking questions and taking actions to resolve the scene. After five scenes, you wrap up your episode and jot down any story/character advancements to play off of in the next episode.
I was apprehensive about playing Untold. It seemed like a box meant to sell you on more packs of Rory's Story Cubes. If that's what they were going for, it worked even on my cold, cynical heart.
Hub Games has provided an excellent production. The board has slots to plug in thick story tiles which in turn have slots to plug in thick story dice. The artwork is whimsical, the player mats are perfect, the rulebook is clear and the included notepads for characters and episodes are well laid out.
Most importantly, the game is just fun. We judge games on the Bullshit Shelf by how well they make us think on our toes, react, and roleplay. We praise the ones that give a strong impetus for interactive storytelling that keeps everyone engaged and an important part of the game’s narrative. In those regards, Untold is nearly perfect.
It has a great system where the limited questions and actions in each scene force everyone to think about what they really want to accomplish. There are tokens that allow players to create flashbacks or chime in off turn to add info to other player's ideas. It has a really cool and clean little mechanic that allows you to pull a die off of a previous tile and have it show up again in a later tile.
If I have a negative, it's that the system is maybe a little too streamlined. There are no hard rules for taking turns, asking questions, or taking actions so it's possible for quieter members to get glossed over. Your stories may also be a bit disjointed, making it hard to roleplay that grim dark detective murder mystery series you've been thinking about. The system lends itself more to whimsical, cartoony series but could maybe be beat into a more gritty theme if all your players are on board.
In short, if you have the group for it I highly, highly recommend Untold: Adventures Await. The bite sized nature of the episodes makes it an easy game to pick up and play weekly and the system could even be used as a sort of robo-gm for other RPGs with some tinkering.
I think you do need more outgoing people though to maximize your enjoyment of Untold: Adventures Await. Friends who are quick to improv and can handle the curveballs the scene tiles throw at them will make this game a blast.
If you're looking for a similar story telling game with more structure, I recommend Power Pay: Schemes and Skullduggery by John Parmalee. For a more fully featured storytelling RPG I suggest Mystic Empyrean by Brad Talton Jr.