Stuff Story: Circumventing Poor Thematic Design


(This post is geared towards those who are familiar with the original Fairy Tale game. If you are not one of those select few, you may want to watch this super short video first.)

A few months ago, the lady and I became enamored with drafting games. We were told that one of the finest examples of the genre was a filler from over a decade ago entitled Fairy Tale. The game had it all: set collection, fantastic player interaction, simple game-play. It was hate-drafting perfected. But while the mechanics were smooth, the visual and thematic efforts were anything but. Cards jam-packed with needless symbols and text, cliched anime style fantasy artwork, and most taxing of all, card interactions with little to no thematic relevance (Vampires kill faeries?).


Our challenge was simple: design a version of Fairy Tale that was clean, compelling, and logical.

DSC_0070.jpgThe first step was to define our own factions. The original game chose the fantasy staples Faeries, Dragons, and Knights, opposed by Shadowy Evil Dudes. We decided on something more mundane: common household objects opposed by mischievous toys. Our final factions were the three C’s: Candles, Condiments, and Cleaning Supplies.

Next we went about establishing an internal logic among the three factions. Candles wanted to shed light, Condiments wanted food to taste good, and Cleaning Supplies wanted to, well, clean. These definitions allowed us to quickly flesh out our preliminary card list.

DSC_0069The multipliers were simple. In the original game, these were things like baby dragons and traveling Homesteaders. We wanted these to be items that logically increased in value the more that you had, and so, in line with the goals of each faction, we landed on tasty Ketchup Packets, meek but mighty Tiny Candles, and soapy Suds.

DSC_0057Our greatest challenge was with the “friends” cards. This was the area the original game struggled with the most as well. The relationships between the cards were nearly meaningless and thus, instantly forgettable. We realized that these cards could be divided into two types: collectors and collected. We needed to have logical relationships between what collected what. Our first breakthrough was the image of a Duster collecting Dusty Candles. When you own a duster, what makes it more valuable? A whole bunch of dust! From there we found that a delicious jar of Messy Mayo was only valuable if you had the Mops to sop it up, and finally, a luminescent Oil Lamp was only worth its salt if you had the Oil to fill it.

The rest of the cards quickly fell into place, and it was time to begin the visual design.

Besides the wonderful artwork (courtesy of Shea) our main enhancements were 1), to make each faction cohesive visually and by color, and 2), to allow the scoring icon to double as an indicator of type. The original game cluttered its cards with separate entries for points, type, and faction, while we did our best to combine all three. We let the color and illustration of the cards serve as indication of faction, while points and type were combined in the upper left-hand bubble.

Playing with our finished prototype has been a blast. New players are drawn in by the cute, simple artwork, and veteran players are able to make quicker decisions based on the streamlined design. A final problem with the original game was revealed by a critique from one of our play-testers: “I actually care about the cards I’m picking!”


You can print your own copy of Stuff Story here. We used Nick Hayes’ method.

We’d love to hear your feedback!




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