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How to Play the Fortunately/Unfortunately Game for Hilarious Fun Anytime, Anywhere

When the car ride gets too long, the dinner conversation gets dull, or your family video chat loses steam, this simple, all-ages collaborative storytelling game comes to the rescue!

Cathleen Drake Nelson



Consider my last seven days: Fortunately, we got a puppy.


This is our puppy. Fortunately, he is adorable. Unfortunately, he pees. A lot. Everywhere.

Unfortunately, as we all know, even when your lifelong dream of puppy-parenthood finally comes true, real life doesn’t always resemble what you imagine. 

It turns out — unfortunately — that around-the-clock potty breaks, 5 am wake up calls, constant monitoring, and the steep learning curve of puppy training are not always a total and complete joy. 

Fortunately, even though I’m sleep-deprived and kind of failing at puppy training, I still have more reasons to celebrate than despair. Training a puppy means we’re spending a lot more time outside in the backyard, for example. My children are actually quiet sometimes — when Scout’s sleeping. And there’s really nothing like a cuddly puppy for a good endorphin rush. 

You can create your own improvised tale that swings from tragedy to comedy and back again — no puppy required. The “Fortunately/Unfortunately” game hilariously puts both fortune and misfortune into perspective. The rules are simple.

How to Play "Fortunately/Unfortunately"

  1. 1.

    Start off with a statement beginning with the word, “Fortunately.” For example: “Fortunately, the pirates left their treasure map right on the floor, where anyone could just find it.”

  2. 2.

    Explain the order for the remaining storytellers: birth order, left to right, clockwise, shortest to tallest.

  3. 3.

    Ask storytellers to alternate between beginning their sentence with “Fortunately” and “Unfortunately.”

  4. 4.

    Encourage creativity with a healthy respect for brevity: Keep it short with just one statement per turn.

  5. 5.

    If it comes up, announce to storytellers that it’s against the rules to automatically undo the previous statement without a detailed explanation. You can’t say, for example, “Fred actually didn’t explode the teapot.” Instead, you might say, “Fred, it turns out, had the ability to reconstruct broken objects with his mind, and in just moments, the shards of the teapot had reassembled into an even more beautiful version of the original teapot.”

  6. 6.

    Respond to each storyteller appropriately: laugh heartily, or fake-cry dramatically, as the case may be.

  7. 7.

    Ending the story is sometimes a little tricky, as the extremes of catastrophe and prosperity can be quite addictive, but I recommend ending either after the first round or after ten statements or so, whichever comes first. Leave them wanting more! Then start over and try again for another round or two. Build up to three.

I played this today with my family of five and what follows is an exact transcript of one of the stories we composed:

The Tragically Awesome Tale of the Opera Singer With Laser Eyes

  • Fortunately, the opera singer was singing everyone’s favorite song, “The Wheels on the Bus,” very loudly and beautifully at the opera that evening.

  • Unfortunately, her eyes were also shooting laser beams at everyone in the audience.

  • Fortunately, her laser beams were as magical as her singing, and everyone in the audience began to sing along, in perfect pitch. 

  • Unfortunately, the song was an incantation that made the audience all start growing horns.

  • Fortunately, horns became the new trendy style, and the audience members got their pictures on the covers of all the fashion magazines.

Need more story starters? Here are some that we’ve tried in the past:

  • Fortunately, the astronauts navigated successfully to the newly discovered planet.

  • Fortunately, the youngest child was the first to jump from the plane, pull the parachute cord, and fall gracefully toward Earth on gentle currents of wind.

  • Fortunately, there was an unopened container of mint chip ice cream in the freezer.

  • Fortunately, the key to the seemingly abandoned house at the end of the block was right under the mat.

  • Fortunately, we got a new puppy.

For more inspiration, check out the book that inspired our first foray into this game: Fortunately, by Remy Charlip. First published in 1964, this whimsical tale from a time before murder hornets takes its young protagonist on an adventure that follows the straightforward calamity/remedy formula of every good hero’s journey ... And every good puppy-training journey, too.