It’s all one big story. From the beginning, when the first star appeared in the sky, until the moment, when we stand and observe it from the surface of our little planet. How did that happen? Everyone sees it differently and has its own idea of the big creation, What was true will be finally decided, perhaps only by secretly comparing your myths. Only the best one survives and it is time to vote for them with honesty.
And it’s just like fairy tale, when it comes to name of a board game, where you can dream. It’s called Before There Were Stars and was created by Alex Cutler, Alex Graffeo-Cohen and Matt Fantastic. They created it under auspices of Smirk & Dagger (for this purpose renamed to Smirk & Laughter) in 2018 with supervision of Curt Covert. The game for the European market is brought by Esdevium Games.
On a smaller sized box, we see a constellation of fox, that drift across the sky, and humans sitting near fire, telling a story about fate of this reddish space traveller. As soon as players open the box, each selects their color, gets a blank cloth bag and a game board split into four chapters. In preparation, players collect two dozens of dice, six tokens of the moon, a stack of colored star stones, and a shuffled stack of eighth constellation cards.
Starting player gets set of dozen dice with white dots and next opponent in clockwise order takes remaining twelve dice with golden stars. Both players then roll a full set of dice in the star watching phase and these results determine their vision of the night sky. This constellation is the inspiration for the upcoming narrative.
Dice, however, must first be spend for cards from a selection of five constellations, that were revealed at the beginning of the game. But this concerns only the starting player, while the next one still has time to think about his roll outcome and choose. Gradually, one after the other, players roll dice and selects two constellation cards, that are allowed by dice.
Gradually, one after another, they get chance to use their cards as an inspiration and make up a story of creation. Everyone has a set time limit for their efforts, but it serves only as a guide (even an app can be used). It is not binding, it provides a slightly better pace. The only important task for a player is to use either keyword from card or words with same meaning, when creating his story.
The others have to listen, because when they all have their say, it’s time to score the sentences. One player after the other sends his cloth bag round the table and his opponents will score his story (they will get one stone less, than there is participants in the game for every storytelling round) with two, three or four points. They do it secretly and even the owners of the points cannot see for themselves, what did they get for now. This has to be left as a surprise for the end of the game.
Then everything continues with the next phase, in which players are required to use one card from the previous rounds to link them together. In the basic variant, players invent four separate short stories, that should support each other and have task of creating a complete picture of creation. After playing the prescribed rounds and telling some amount of stories, each participant will pick out his favorite story and give its author an open appreciation in form of a moon token. At that point, players can start to simultaneously examine their rewards hidden in their bags and the one, who has the most points in total is the winner and is voted the best narrator.
Before There Were Stars is another narrative game, in which its virtually not so much about winning, but about the course itself. It brings experiences and stories to be remembered for a long time. The basis of everything is the myth of creation, as it could have been told by some civilization. So players try to make up original stories about the creation of the world, the universe and everything around.
This may seem quite restrictive, but human fantasy is lush and even after ten games you are still able to come up with new ideas. That’s because eighty constellation cards give a little different help each and every time. And the players themselves are trying to come up with new ideas, because their victory depends on it.
A truly unique experience is scoring. Players have freedom, because they vote in secret. So they can be really honest. They have stones of different values, so they give points to everyone. They only decide, which rival gets which score. Player finds out only after four rounds, what he has been given.
Of course, the game is strongly dependent on the number of players because the narrative is the salt of the progress. The more teammates you will have, the more you experience and that means a better impression. In addition, this also means a higher point gain for each participant, but also a longer total time. Especially with six maximum participants. On the other hand, if you want a faster match, you do not even have to worry about gaming in three.
In addition, this novelty is also surprising game. It’s not just a set of components to help you tell stories, that usually do not provide any realistic ability to compete. Here it is different. The players are really trying to make an impression on others, who score their efforts. Honestly and regularly. In addition, this game can also be liked by players, who are otherwise not very narrative. It is very clever and simply leads them towards a story.
The myths themselves are not the only story you can experience. On the other side of the game boards, there are Legends, that allow players to tell stories about origin of anything. Maybe light, white tigers or grass. Fantasy is unlimited.
Before There Were Stars, by its very nature, can not be a game, that will attract everyone. Players need to have a relationship to talking and enjoy a relaxed fantasy. If they get enough of these features, they can enjoy great rewards. Beautifully processed and very abstract, but with minor improvements against others. Before There Were Stars is a game you’ll simply enjoy.
+ scoring systém
+ narrative has a structure
+ beautiful theme
+ it's still a game
+ produces interesting stories
+ accessible to otherwise less-talkative players
- not for everyone