Being a Theatre Major and having lived for a few years in the Film Industry in LA, I am really attracted games with a rich theme and a story telling aspect. Every single thing I read on T.I.M.E. Stories appealed to that aspect of my nature. So when I got my hands on this game I immediately called a buddy up and did a two player run through of the Asylum scenario (we alternated shared custody of third player piece between rounds). I have since then hosted another play through where I contributed very little but mostly just sat there for rules assistance and fielding general questions.
Brief Game Synopsis
T.I.M.E. Stories is a scenario based story telling game in which you and the other players on your team, in a queer blend of Sliders and Quantum Leap, travel in time and assume the role of an avatar of person who had been living during the situation you are investigating.
The currency of the game is time units and you sacrifice time units to travel as a team to new rooms, revealing beautiful tableaus which you activate and read by placing your marker on the card spot. Some cards trigger challenges, some puzzles, some just have story text. You communicate the information on the card in your own words (unless another player is on the space with you, in which case they can read the card as well).
End game arrives via the card text or when your team runs out of time causing you to reset the scenario, this time better equipped with the memory of the revealed text from the failed run-through.
Toys With Rules
The rulebook is nicely laid out but I found the rules spotty at best during some parts so I downloaded the updated rulebook and read through the FAQ which cleared up my issues. What is odd about this is the rules themselves aren’t overly complicated or confusing, yet tiny mistakes can really hurt the experience as a whole. Since this is pretty much a one-shot play through per scenario, you have to be extremely cautious before leaping into the game. I would recommend watching a few of the rules videos after reading the revised playbook to ensure you fully understand the game.
Boards ‘N Bits
The artwork with this game is simply breath taking. Yes it can be graphic at times, but I am fairly conservative in my taste and found nothing to salacious or uncomfortable. Then again, my mom had me graduating from Goosebumps to Stephen King in third grade, so my wife tells me I am not the best at determining appropriate playing age.
Regardless, the stark, minimalist approach to the board and bits makes you feel as if you really are in a sanitized version of the future. Also, it created something eerie in the setup that was reminiscent of the scenes in that old Bruce Willis / Brad Pitt (his best role ever) movie 12 Monkeys.
The artwork on the cards are exquisite and there were more than one moment where the unexpected visual or creepiness of the art caused myself or one of the other players to jump, or laugh nervously, or throw hands up in the air and proclaim, “well that just sucks a big bag of poo“….so yeah, needless to say, the art evokes some strong emotion, but in a glorious and disturbing way.
The insert that came with the box allows for “saving” so you can track your progress between games and scenarios, which was a wonderful concept that was poorly executed. My insert was crushed before I opened the box (which had not signs of wear and tear itself). I taped it up, used it once, said “forget about it” in my best wheezy, New York tough guy voice and tossed the insert. I then just organized the bits in a plano box that fits into the original box nicely along with some Ziploc bags to “save” the game if I need to. There is also room for the additional scenarios which I would love to get some day, when my wife will allow me to break $20 on a game she thinks I will only play through once.
I have a lot to say on the Asylum scenario itself but I won’t because spoilers and all that. Suffice it to say, I was unsure as to what I should expect expect, but was more than pleasantly surprised. I very much like the system, I think it inventive and something I look forward to seeing change and grow as more scenarios come out.
Having played Mansions of Madness 2nd Edition, I can’t help but to wonder if Space Cowboys will ever put any thought into developing an app for the content to cut down on the cost of buying new decks (I know I know, that is a blasphemous thought as bringing technology into the sacred art of boardgaming is a damnable offense. Sorry already, jeepers).
I will say I like how this games scales for a few reasons. In a two/three player game (which I understand that the way I played was a little different) it is almost easier to exchange the information as it is a back and forth, but also heartbreaking as you have to willingly sacrifice more time to cover the ground you lose by having the additional player(s). It creates a fun balance. The four player game saw some funny moments for me as I witnessed a game of telephone gone wrong, and people not catching the import of what one person said; the tradeoff was more cards were revealed opening up more of the story quicker.
Obviously, my usual gaming partner, my six year old son, is a little too young for this game so here is what the guy from my four player session who had guessed the puzzle correctly had to say:
Man, the mechanics behind the game are so streamlined and unique. I have never really seen anything like it. The game itself was extremely challenging and looking back over the cards post game was kidney-punching infuriating as you notice some of the stuff missed by some of the people who overlooked or shrugged off the valuable information they were being given. I really cannot wait for you to pony up the cash and buy us another adventure.
(Yes, my friends can suck sometimes).
+ Super rewarding endgame
+ Unique and beautiful components and execution
+ Easy to teach
- Legitimate limited replayability
- Mature themes could be a turnoff for some
- That rewarding endgame experience can be tarnished by the time die (the moral is, never let me roll for anything…ever)
Purchase, Play, or Pass
This is a gamble. I would say if you can find a friend who bought it throw him $6 bucks and give it a whirl (helping pay for the cost of the expansion is the right thing to do man…). So I guess I am saying Play if you can find someone who owns it. Purchase as long as you are okay with justifying to yourself it may be a one shot experience. I think it was Zee on Dice Tower who pointed out the game costs less than you would spend on an evening out and you get a longer time to enjoy it (it may have not been Zee, he is just the one that usually has the most of an influence on me).