There is a rider-less steed roaming through the woods that leads you to a watchful warrior standing nearby. Is he your friend, or is he protecting what might reside within the walls of the castle, perhaps a magical unicorn or a fire-breathing dragon? You could take the path less traveled, or encounter a ghost in the graveyard while attempting to steer clear of the ogre hunting you and the hooded girl.
At the end of your journey, when you reach the castle gates, you dare go inside to find….well, I won’t ruin the ending for you. In fact, the ending is up to you.
The Hollow Woods, from Laurence King, is a storytelling card game illustrated by Rohan Daniel Eason that encourages players to use their imagination to develop a spooky fairytale together. It is the first title of a new series of magical myrioramas—or “many pictures”—that allows storytellers to tap into their knowledge of literary motifs and symbolism to create a gothic narrative. Shuffle the cards and start dealing, or draw them to spark a story thread.
There are 20 cards, and when you do the math, that adds up to more than 2.4 quintillion storyscaping possibilities (I’ll admit, I didn’t trust my own math skills on this but I do trust the instructions when it tells me there’s this many possibilities…). So, as long as you go in willing to let the story flow through you, chances are you won’t ever tell the same story twice. As the story builds, so does the scene of cards, which can stretch to almost 6 feet from start to finish.
Depending on how many story tellers are joining, there are several different ways to go about playing. To all tell the same story, you can do either a relay, where the next person draws a random card and adds the tale using the elements on the card, or deal out cards to each player and use their roles to knock out their fellow characters. There is also the option of each player telling their own story. You can either play with a hand of four or five cards dealt to you, or use two cards as bookends of the beginning and ending, and fill in the gaps as you please.
Each illustration is drawn in a way that they all seamlessly transition into one another, regardless of the order in which they are placed. The terrain, trees, sky, everything lines up even though the images are so different, which truly helps keep the story going while playing. Players may look at Eason’s illustrations and be reminded of Edgar Allen Poe stories, or even the illustrated scenes while Hermione tells the tale of the Deathly Hallows, encountering the supernatural and mythical creatures.
I suggest going into this game with confidence. If there’s any time to be dramatic, it’s while trying to spook your friends with an outrageous story. Although younger kids have incredible imaginations, some of the cards may be a tad on the spooky side. Pulling certain cards that may lead to scary dreams could be a solution to allowing younger players in on the fun. The Hollow Woods will be available on Sept. 5.