Winter Tales, the novel board game that focuses on storytelling, was announced by Fantasy Flight back in July. Some gamers had the chance to check the game out at Gen Con this year, but since then we’ve not heard much about it. Fantasy Flight has finally shaken off the frost on the game and released a small preview focusing on how a turn plays out in the game. While playing Winter Tales you’ll be embarking on quests, and today’s preview gives us all the details on how to get the job done.
Each player will be given control of one or more characters when the game begins. Each character belongs to a faction, whether it be the oppressive winter regime or the ambitious spring rebels. When a player’s turn starts, they will choose one of their characters to activate by flipping their corresponding card over from the ready side to the activated side. Next you’ll take three story cards before getting to move your character through locations on the board. Story cards are extremely important in Winter Tales, as they act as the single resource for movement and actions while you play. Each story card has a piece of artwork that can be interpreted in many different ways, and the way you choose to interpret it must relate to the story you’re trying to tell.
Moving your characters requires you to discard a story card to move your character up to two spaces on the board. The story must go on, however, and the artwork on the story card you discard must be included in the game’s overall narrative. Here’s an example from the preview:
On his turn, the spring player controlling Alice wishes to move from the Puppets’ Theatre to Oaks Park to attempt the Safe House quest located there. In order to move Alice, he activates her and draws three cards, then discards a card to move and begins his story, saying, “Alice is still shaken from the electroshock therapy practiced by the Mad Hatter, but even in her fragile state of mind, she realizes the necessity of finding somewhere safe for the rebels to use as a headquarters. Alice walks out into the maze of city streets, disguising her trail as she moves through the central plaza and into Oaks Park.” After the Spring player has finished his part of the story, he would move Alice the two spaces from the Puppets’ Theatre into Oaks Park, where the Safe House quest is located.
Now we move on to quests. Quests in the game are split between winter and spring. Both factions can interact with a quest, however, and claim it as their own, though you can only start the quest if your faction matches that of the quest’s. From the example above, the player uses Alice’s action to begin the Safe House quest. Before the quest gets off, however, other players have the opportunity to move their own characters into Oaks Park to either help or complicate the success of the quest.
Another example given in the preview is that a player moves the Wolf into Oaks Park. The winter player activates Wolf, draws three cards, and discards one to move Wolf to Oaks Park. He discards the card above to move, explaining, “Wolf is watching the streets from the rooftop of the asylum and notices Alice moving throughout the city. He climbs down from the rooftop and mounts his horse, jumping over the fence around Oaks Park, ready to confront the girl.” Wolf then moves from Mad Hatter’s Asylum to Oaks Park.
When all players have had the chance to interfere, the real quest starts. The spring player controlling Alice starts by playing out any number of story cards from his hand, telling the story of Alice’s trials to construct a safe house within Oaks Park. The player states, “Alice knows that the safe house has to be secure and stay out of the eyes of winter soldiers. She stumbles upon a secret cavern hidden under the roots of a giant oak, kept warm by hot springs. With the aid of her fellow rebels, she finds a way to erect a spiral staircase, keeping the cavern’s location secret. Alice then finally starts to stock supplies so the other rebels can remain in the safe house as long as they need be, carefully hidden right out of sight.”
Once the spring players has finished, play passes to the winter player has a chance to act. Wolf then activates, his player playing her series of story cards and explaining the story of the safe house by conveying Wolf’s plans to thwart Alice. The player says, “Wolf knows that he must get to the safe house, or the rebels will begin to mass and eventually launch an attack. While Wolf is sniffing around in the park, his suspicions are raised by a flower blooming out from beneath a giant tree. Wolf immediately searches the area, and uncovers a secret door leading to a tunnel. He draws his blade and stealthily creeps down the staircase, ready to break up the rebel safe house for good.”
Being the player who started the quest, the spring player can play one final story card to serve as Alice’s final resolve to keep her safe house established. The spring player plays a card and says, “Alice senses that somehow danger is coming. As Wolf slinks down the staircase, Alice maneuvers behind him, using the safe house’s secret passage. She catches Wolf off-guard and knocks him unconscious with a vicious blow. After Wolf comes to his senses, hours later, the rebels have moved any evidence that would allow him to recognize the location of the safe house.”
The outcome of the quest is determined by the number of story cards played. If the spring faction has more cards, they successfully establish the safe house, taking control of the quest for their own. If the winter faction comes out on top, however, Alice is beaten by the Wolf. Whoever claims the quest takes it as a memory and places it on the memory track. These memories count toward the finale in the game’s epilogue, where the winners are determined.
Winter Tales looks to be a game along the veins of Once Upon A Time, and Tales of the Arabian Nights. It’s up to players to choose how their game plays out, and they’ll need their imaginations to make things happen. Will the spring rebels overthrow the winter oppressors to change the tide of the seasons? Or will the winter soldiers crush the rebellion and live as they always have? More will be coming soon, and Winter Tales is available for pre-order right now.