Before There Were Stars Review

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BEFORE THERE WERE STARS (Smirk and Laughter)

For centuries man has been gathering around the fire to tell their stories. Stories of heroic ancestors. Stories that give meaning to traditions. Stories that look to the heaven and stars for inspiration. Stories that stretch back even to a time Before There Were Stars. Blending truth and fantasy with greater meaning, storytelling is one of the things that makes us most human.

In the game Before There Were Stars players take turns crafting the stories of their people. To set up a game, each player takes a Story Card – set to either the Myth or Legend side – and a colored Offering Bag. The Constellations deck is shuffled, five cards are flipped face up and one of the players downloads the Before There Were Stars timer app or has another way to time out 60 seconds.

Each round of Before There Were Stars is played in three phases for a number of rounds dictated by the Story Card for that game. The first phase is the Stargazing Phase. Players roll the 12 star-pipped dice to represent the night sky they stare up to see. Then players use those dice to claim Constellations from the five face up cards or if they cannot (or do not want to), they can draw a card face down from the deck. When a Constellation is drawn, it is immediately replaced (if drawn face up) and the next player starts their turn by rolling the 12 dice for their night sky. Players do this for as many times in a round as outlined by the Story Card for that game.

Next players then use their Constellation cards for the Storytelling Phase. Guided by the Story Card that indicates the Constellation cards to use along with a general story arch for that chapter, players collect their thoughts and then tell the part of their story, set to the crackling campfire sounds of the 60 second timer app.  

Your guide for the game, the Story Card is one of Before There Were Stars best mechanics. While similar games might always favor certain players, the Story Card provides a basic structure for the story that helps the most timid of storytellers. Stories can also take whatever form the teller has in mind. Your myth can be a scientific explanation of the Big Bang Theory or a ridiculous comedic tale. Through the Story Card, Before There Were Stars adapts to a players strengths while providing the basic blueprint for storytelling.

The last phase in a round is the Appreciation Phase. Here players collect colored plastic Star Points based off of the number of players, each representing different points to secretly award by placing in players passed around Offering Bags. The rules encourage players to reward points based on a particular aspect of the story that appealed to them, not necessarily rewarding the best performance or even best stories. Players should also make note of these moments, because at the end of the final round players will award their “Over the Moon” token by telling their favorite memory from that game’s stories.

After the “Over the Moon” tokens have been awarded at the end of the final round, players empty their Offering Bags and count up their Star Points with the highest scoring player being awarded the title of Master Lore Giver.

As a game, Before There Were Stars is a simple but beautiful. The illustrations, Star Points and cloth Offering Bags all perfectly fit the theme and rolling a fistful of star pipped dice to scatter out as your night sky is a lot fun in itself. Focused on creating stories, you may think that Before There Were Stars is not a game for every gaming group. However players who doubt their storytelling creativity should be encouraged the helpful guidelines outlined in the Story Cards. You may be surprised what stories are within you. (Smirk and Laughter) by David C. Obenour