The Rory’s Story Cubes franchise has been around for a while. In addition to the basic set, it has grown to add actions, voyages, fairy tale elements, prehistory, intergalactic themes, and mystery clues to make your stories ever more epic. (And weird.) Missing from the Story Cubes line up has been some sort of superhero element. Well, it’s not missing anymore because Batman has arrived on the scene. You can either play with this set on its own or add it to your other Story Cube sets. The question is: Is this a good addition to the Story Cubes franchise, or a case of more is just more? Read on.
How It Plays
Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman is a cooperative storytelling game. All nine dice are rolled and players take turns narrating the unique story that the group creates. The only rule is that all nine images shown on the dice must appear as elements in your story. The box includes some suggested ideas on how to accomplish this, but these are only suggestions, not rules. You are free to play however you want.
When playing with a smaller group, it is suggested that you roll all nine dice at the beginning of the game and then have players take turns narrating the story. Each player must tell a piece of the story that corresponds to one of the images on the dice. When that die’s piece of the story has been told, push it off to the side so that subsequent players are forced to use the remaining images.
You can also divide the dice among the players. (It’s okay if one player ends up with an extra.) On their turn, each player rolls their dice and then contributes pieces of the story, corresponding to how many dice they have. After they’ve added their pieces, the next player rolls and so on. Or, you can alternate storytellers, with each player rolling one die and telling one element of the story and then passing play to the next person. Turns keep alternating around the table until everyone is out of dice. If you have a big group and can’t give cubes to everyone, players can simply pass their cubes to another player once their turn is done.
Rory’s Story Cubes can also be played solitaire. Simply roll the dice and tell yourself a story. You can roll them one at a time and come up with each piece of your story individually, or you can roll them all at once and play around with all the elements until you have a full story.
If you need a little more structure, your group can come up with a title or theme for the story before you roll the dice and then try to craft a story that matches that title/theme from the images you get. Creativity is encouraged and you don’t have to take the images on the dice literally. The newspaper icon could refer to an actual newspaper, or it could refer to a single story in the paper, a newspaper used to wrap dead fish, or a newspaper carrier, for example. It’s up to your group to decide whether or not your use of the icon is too far fetched.
The Story Cubes in the Batman set are fully compatible with all of the other Story Cube sets. The more sets you have, the more epic (and strange) your stories become. There is no “winner” in a Story Cubes game. The goal is simply to create a story using the rolled images.
A Fun Roll Through Gotham or as Annoying as Robin?
All of the Story Cube games are more “activity” than “game.” Since the only rule is that all nine dice be used to tell a story, there are no tactics or strategies to employ, and there isn’t a victory condition, it’s hard to consider this a game in the traditional sense. This isn’t even about being the player who tells the best story; it’s about telling any story, no matter how nonsensical. If you’re looking for something that has you competing against someone else, whether it’s other players or an AI, this isn’t for you.
So if it’s not a game, what is it? It’s a creativity exercise that happens to have the fun and tactile nature of a dice rolling game. In addition to telling stories, you can use the cubes for many different things. The possibilities are endless and you’re completely free to use the cubes however you like. Here are a few more ideas:
- Writing prompts. (This is how I use most of my sets.) Roll the dice and just free-write whatever story comes to mind.
- Idea generators. Practice your ability to see connections and generate ideas by taking all nine cubes and turning them one by one until all nine images have something in common.
- Improv. If you don’t want to simply tell stories, have people act out their parts of the story.
- Mental exercise. Any use of the cubes engages your brain and can help keep you sharp as you age.
- Team building exercises. Silly storytelling can be a great way to help a team bond and learn how to work together.
- Ice breaker. In social and business settings, playing with the cubes can help get past some of that early awkwardness.
Rory’s Story Cubes are also useful for kids. They make great aids for teaching vocabulary, creative writing, speech, or abstract thinking. It’s stealth learning because kids are learning, but they think they’re playing a game. The Batman theme may make this set more accessible and fun for kids than some of the more abstract sets like “Actions” or “Voyages.”
If you want to use Rory’s Story Cubes in a gaming environment, I suggest using it as a party game. It has the advantage of being one of the few party games that doesn’t require some trivia knowledge, making it perfect for groups that don’t care for trivia, or groups of diverse ages who aren’t likely to share the same pop culture references. You can also roll the dice and pit two teams or individuals against each other to create the “best” story. Use other group members as judges. This adds a bit of competition for those who require a winner.
You can also use it as a warm up for game night. It’s particularly fun if you theme the game night toward storytelling. Play this to warm up and then move on to something like Tales of the Arabian Nights, Agents of Smersh, or a game with lots of flavor text like Fortune and Glory, Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, or Eldritch Horror. You can also use it to warm into other superhero games like D.C. Comics Deck Building Game, Marvel/D.C. Dice Masters, or Marvel Legendary.
So what about the theme of this set? This one is sort of an oddball in the Story Cubes franchise. It’s one of only two sets (the other is Moomin) that features licensed content that feels, in some ways, like it limits the stories you can tell. All of the other sets are much more freeform and open. You can tell stories about anything you want. This one feels much more like you should stick to Batman stories.
Since you’re free to make up your own rules and get creative, not everything has to be literally about Batman, of course. You can use the Penguin as a penguin (the bird). You can call the Joker a Joker from a playing card set. Robin could be a robin (another bird). So there are ways to reduce the Batman-ness of this set if you want to, or if you end up playing with people who don’t live and dream Batman. It just may require more of a mental leap to think outside the Batman box, whereas other sets don’t put you in a box at all.
For that reason, I would recommend picking up at least one other Story Cube set to use with this set. I just felt a little too hemmed in by the Batman theme to want to play with this by itself for a long period of time. (Someone who is a huge Batman fan would probably feel differently.) However, if you throw in another set, you can get a lot more creative because you have more options. You can relegate the Batman theme/characters to a supporting role. Even if you want to keep Batman front and center, a set like “Actions” will give your characters a lot more to do and “Clues” will add more elements to your villainous plots.
As for the components, there were positives and negatives. The dice are big and chunky and match the other sets perfectly. I really like the travel case that came with this set. (My other sets are in small boxes.) The manufacturers were also kind enough to include an icon guide so that those who aren’t familiar with Batman have a reference sheet. The negative is that this icon sheet is big and does not fit into the travel case. If you fold it so that it’s small enough to fit in the case, the case’s lid won’t shut and you have to use a rubber band to keep the lid on. Otherwise, you have to store the sheet separately and hope you don’t lose it.
Rory Story Cubes Batman would be a great gift for a superhero fan, or for someone who already has some of the other sets and is looking to add variety to their Story Cubes experience. I wouldn’t recommend it for someone who has no interest in comic book heroes, or for a hardcore gamer who requires strategy, tactics, and victory conditions in order to be happy. It’s great for kids and people who frequently play with groups of diverse ages. If you’re a creative person (or want to be), I can recommend this or any other Story Cubes set as a great way to fire up your brain and get you thinking in new ways.
iSlaytheDragon.com would like to thank Gamewright for providing us with a copy of Rory’s Story Cubes: Batman for review.