Once Upon a Time by Atlas Games is a card game. Each player is dealt an Ending Card and some Story Cards.
A player is selected to start as the first Storyteller. The Storyteller begins to tell a story. When the Storyteller says something in the story that matches up with a card in her hand, she plays that card. The goal is for the Storyteller to tell a story that allows her to play all of her Story Cards. When she is out of Story Cards, she can play her Ending Card, bringing the story to a satisfying conclusion. The other players try to interrupt the story and take it over using their cards to become the Storyteller. If a player does successfully interrupt the story, he picks up the story thread and continues it, using his Story Cards in order to get to his Ending Card. The first player to play their Ending Card wins the game.
How long does it take to set up? 5 minutes. You just have to open three packages of cards, sort them into Story Cards and Ending Cards, and shuffle those two decks.
How long does it take to learn the rules? About 5 minutes. The game mechanics themselves are simple.
What’s the “vibe” of the game? The rules are loose enough to satisfy various playing styles. You could probably play it very competitively, but I think it’s more fun if it’s semi-cooperative and supportive. Some people (like me) have a hard time thinking stuff up off the top of their head and others are natural improvisors. Playing it in a relaxed way ensures that everyone can have a good time, regardless of their strengths and weaknesses as storytellers. At the end of the day, people are sitting around a table telling a fairy tale together.
Is it fun? Yes, but the looseness of the rules could annoy more strategic or tactical-style players. The emphasis is on telling a story, not really dominating the opposition with your brilliance and/or luck.
Is it a good party game? Yes, the game works very well for small get-togethers.
Is it a good family game? Yes. You are the ones telling the story, so how age-appropriate that story becomes depends upon the people playing it. Children of all ages could enjoy the game (although it would probably help if they can read). The instructions contain a link to a website that includes ways to incorporate the game into the classroom.
I’m not a very experienced gamer. Will I still enjoy it? Do you like fairy tales? Do you like storytelling? If so, you will enjoy this, regardless of your gaming experience.
Is it fun to play multiple times? Yes. The cards change with each play-through, so the structure of the story changes each time.
Should I have this game in my collection? Yep.