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Who can come up with the best story the fastest?

Card Game Review: ‘Nanofictionary’ from Looney Labs

Nanofictionary from Looney Labs challenges players to stretch their creative muscles in a bid to see who can come up with the best story the fastest. Players must assemble cards from different decks into a coherent storyline, pitch that story to their peers, and then vote to see whose stories are the best.

Nanofictionary comes with five decks, the first four components of a story: Characters, Settings, Problems, and Resolutions. These decks are packed with diverse topics, with Characters ranging from “the assistant manager” to “the world’s cutest dog” to “the time traveler,” Settings like “the diner, shortly after 4:00 am” and “a lunar colony,” and plentiful Problems: “the power has gone out,” “a fight has broken out,” and “trapped!” The Resolutions are just as varied with endings like “they went back to their hum-drum lives,” “Earth was welcomed into the Galactic Federation,” and the classic “it was all a dream!” Players draw additional cards in turns and begin the Brainstorming phase to draw out a story.

The core of Nanofictionary is the ability to draw connections from wildly diverse sets of circumstances. A springy mind is a helpful thing, trying to figure out what a superhero with unhelpful powers might be doing in a department store right before closing during a vehicle collision. Flexibility in the rules is very helpful, suggesting players skip over a card if it gets in the way of good storytelling, embellishing to fill in any gaps, and altering details rather than being a slave to the details of the sample illustration. Anything goes as long as it make the best story.

When a player has the story in mind, he or she grabs the lowest Number card available. Other player draws another card of their choosing, which gives new options if they had been stuck before. There is even the opportunity for a Fresh Start by discarding a player’s entire hand, giving a completely different set of circumstances for their story. When all players declare their story ready, the voting begins.

The voting system in Nanofictionary ensures that the winning does not rest on any one judge’s opinion, as many other creative party games do. Instead, each player is able to vote and may vote for anyone other than him or herself. The most votes win, and the Number cards serve as a tie-breaker, meaning that speed is certainly of the essence when creating a story, but not as important as quality. Savvy players will key into what kinds of stories their opponents want to hear, such as making one scary for a horror buff or heartwarming for a romantic, and earning such votes is especially important with fewer players in the game.

Nanofictionary is a card game for three to six players aged eight and up. Games are quick, lasting only fifteen minutes or so, much of which is spent brainstorming. The racing competition aspect of the game may be a bit much for younger players, although they certainly have the upper hand on creating the most outlandish, amazing stories. With its creative components forming a solid foundation for evocative stories, Nanofictionary is a great addition to family game night, small gatherings of friends, or as a warm-up for creative classes or club meetings.

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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