Who Said Dead Men Tell No Tales?
...And Then We Died
Author: Emma Larkins
Developer: Killjoy
Format: Card Game
Number of Players: As many as you like! (The rules suggest 10 or less)
MSRP: $20
Review Copy Provided By Publisher

...And Then We Died is the second entry on my improv-exercises-disguised-as-games list, and that's not a bad thing. Like The Mind, it’s a fully cooperative experience. Where this game deviates is that it's also a storytelling experience; you and your fellow lost souls have to piece together the story of how you died so that you can pass on peacefully to the next world. Does it sound pretty grim? Maybe, but that's what can make the game so compelling.

If you’ve ever played One Sentence Story, you’ll understand how ...And Then We Died works. If you haven’t, you’ll still catch on pretty quickly.

A Different Kind Of Divination

....And Then We Died is played with a custom deck of tarot cards, where the pretty pictures have been stamped over with lots of ink. As you'll find out, this ink is actually the fragments of words printed on the front and back; the tarot itself is just for flavor, the words are the important part. The game begins with one card already on the table and each player holding one, as well as a draw deck.The rulebook (it’s really more of a suggestion book) says to put seven cards in the draw deck, but it also says that you can use as many or as few cards as you want. Play with the entire 25-card deck, if you’re feeling up to it! You place your card down to form a word with the card that’s already on the table, which becomes the next prompt.

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Our story begins with... oh. That's not good.

You then point to another player, who has to tell part of the story based on the word you made. The rulebook recommends speaking 3-10 sentences at a time, but again the rules are pretty loose, so it’s really just a matter of speaking until you feel that you’re done. Then the player speaking gets to play a card on top of whatever’s already on the table to form a new word, and play continues. When the last card is played, whoever is chosen to speak must bring the story to a satisfying conclusion, ending with how you all died.

What Exactly Is It, And Who Is It For?

...And Then We Died doesn’t look like much. The entire game is just a deck of tarot cards inside a cloth pouch, so it’s not going to catch many eyes sitting on your shelf. The good news is that you can carry it with you just about anywhere, and play it anyplace where you’ve got a square foot of table space.

Much like The Mind, this game seems to defy categorization. There’s no strategy, no recognizable game mechanics, no scoring system; there’s not even a way to lose, unless you’re somehow completely unable to continue the story. What do you even call this strange little thing? Saying it’s a card game, while technically true, gives the wrong impression - it makes me think more along the lines of either Poker or Magic. Among my theatre friends I’d just call it an improv game, but that may not mean much to a lot of our audience. If I had to put a label on ...And Then We Died, I’d classify it as a rules-light cooperative storytelling game. If you’re familiar with Once Upon A Time (the game, not the show), it’s like a much more relaxed version of that.

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Cards can be placed over anything else on the table, in any orientation. The focus is the story, not the rules.

So who exactly is this game for? Well, just about anyone. It’s so easy to teach and play that even children could have a good time with it. It’s also a great way to practice thinking on your feet, speaking in public, and the golden rule of improvisation: Saying “yes” to what other people contribute. This is a game that is fun because of the tall tales you will tell surrounded by friends, not because you want victory points.

This is a game that is definitely not for people who are looking for a traditional card game experience. If you come to this looking for deck-building or trick-taking, you’re going to be disappointed and confused. It’s a lot of fun to play and see what crazy scenarios you and your friends come up with, but be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. If you are a fan of both heavy and light board games, then this is a great addition to through into your game bag, thanks to how light it is - it would make a great closer to a long night of games, or a fun ice breaker.

Bring Something New To The Table

We’ve talked before about the sheer number of board games coming out these days, and how it can be hard to stand out from the crowd. While Renegade stands out by releasing a lot of high-profile games in quick succession, Killjoy does so with quirky games that are a bit off the beaten path. ...And Then We Died is a perfect example of a game that’s not quite like anything else out there, and with a price tag of just $20 it’s well worth trying out.