Storytelling is a truly time-honored human activity, a source of shared history and culture from ancient times, more recently found in games such as Dungeons and Dragons and Near and Far (arcade mode). I'm a big fan of improvisational storytelling (for example, going around a circle each saying a word, to make a story together) so I was pleased to see Nanofictionary is back.

Looney Labs first published Nanofictionary way back in 2002, and it was out of print forever, then briefly back in a print on demand format. Now it's back for real in a new improved second edition. The premise of the game is simple - using a hand of five cards (or more), tell a super short story that ties all the elements together:

- Two Characters (WHO is in your story?)
- One Setting (WHERE is the action taking place?)
- One Problem (WHY is this narrative happening?)
- One Resolution (HOW does it all end?)

The elements on the cards are creative and fun:

CHARACTER: A super-evolved sentient broccoli.
PROBLEM: The interdimensional doorway is closing.
SETTING: The bus depot, near locker #17.
RESOLUTION: The villain was finally defeated (...or WAS he..?).

You see how it works - the game gives you flashes of inspiration that you fit into your own creation. Is the broccoli the hero, the antagonist, or simply a bystander? Is the interdimensional portal inside the bus station locker? How do these pieces fit together?

The game plays in three phases: Brainstorming, Storytelling and Voting. Brainstorming means looking at your cards (and possibly exchanging for new cards) as you ponder how to make a story out of the elements in your hand. Storytelling is just that, you tell everyone the story you came up with. It's fine to embellish a little or diverge a bit from what's illustrated on the cards. Voting is when everyone points, on the count of three, at the person whose story they enjoyed the most. Whoever gets the most votes, wins!

Nanofictionary is a good blend of game-provided content and creativity. The cards are good prompts but how you put them all together is up to you. My players and I enjoyed making up and sharing crazy, super-short stories. Some people take a while to warm up to games like this because of the creativity and performance element - they feel "put on the spot." But if you stick with it you will find Nanofictionary is a fun diversion and a quick, light break from other thinkier games. I think it's great that you can draw and discard cards during the Brainstorming phase (even resetting your whole hand if you wish). That way you never feel stuck, yet you always have at least one of each type of story element available. This gives you structure and a goal and at the same time, great flexibility.

Nanofictionary was created by Looney Labs right here in my home state of Maryland and it's printed in the USA. For more information, you can see the Looney Labs folks playing the game in this video.