Every now and then a game comes along that kind of blows you away, for us here at Geek.Sleep.Rinse.Repeat it’s usually video games. I don’t think I’ve had a board game truly blow me away yet, that’s not to say that I haven’t had immense amounts of fun playing them, it’s just that mostly they offer a different kind of experience – none of them have stuck with me quite like T.I.M.E Stories has!
If you’re a regular reader you might know that I recently started playing Dungeons & Dragons with a group of friends. The idea of it has always appealed to me; I’ve just never got around to playing it – now that I have I love the Role Playing, the stories, the immersion and the unknown elements of it!
I then heard about T.I.M.E Stories – part board game, part role playing game, where you travel back in time and work together to explore, solve puzzles, fight people or convince them to give up information and prevent certain events from happening.
Sold! That sounds awesome.
We played Asylum which is the version that comes with the base game, there are now multiple other official stories you can experience and some player created ones you can find on Board Game Geek – definitely going to try some of these!
The thing is with T.I.M.E Stories is that you don’t know anything about the scenario you’re going to play until you play it. You’re not allowed to read the cards as it will spoil it. So trying to learn spoiler free can be a little confusing in the absence of real examples.
When you start out you’ll be in your Base – shown by cards placed in the spaces across the bottom of the board. You turn over each card and read them in turn, this is where you will get your mission and get details on how many Time Units (TU) you have to complete your objective, what tokens will be used and what they mean. You’ll also take this time to set up the rest of the board – layout the location cards, the mission fail, mission success cards and the items cards along the top of the board. Then you pick your characters or receptacles – Who you’ll be playing as in the scenario. We randomly selected ours, even though I think you’re just allowed to pick whoever you like. It seems like randomly selecting is better though as obviously some characters seem better than others so not being able to pick the ‘best’ makes it more interesting.
Once you’re ready to go you will put away your base cards and get ready the first room cards of your location.
Each location card is grouped in your deck and marked marked from A-H although not always using all the slots on the board, and you will place them in order on the board which will then create a panoramic view of the location.
You’re now free to move around the room with each section being one of the cards. If you choose to visit a part of a room you’ll pick up the card and read what it has on the other side – but don’t read it out loud to other players not in that part of the room, instead you just paraphrase or summarise what the card details.
Some cards will simply provide you with information; others will have a challenge of some kind – either a test or fight, and some locations will be locked entirely until you either have collected the corresponding token or another card instructs you to open it.
There are multiple types of challenge which will be indicated by an icon on the card – green for Deftness which is for dexterity bases tests, yellow for Glibness for social or persuasive tests or red for combat. Each character has different stats in each area shown on the player card; this indicates how many dice you roll for that test.
Each test will also have a difficulty indicated by the number of shields shown – this is how many ‘hit points’ you’ll need to roll in order to win. In combat there can also shields with a skull on them which acts as a riposte and if you’re characters resistance (the skull icon and number over it) isn’t’ equal to or more than the number of skulls shown after your roll you’re liable to take damage. Some tests can also have automatic penalties such as a depletion of TU or loss of health and if these aren’t removed by your roll they will be taken off no matter what.
That is basically it, the actual gameplay mechanics are fairly simple and once you’ve gone through a couple of turns you’ll easily know what you’re doing. Things might just seem a little vague at the beginning because of the secret nature of the scenarios.
Now you work your way around rooms discussing what you find and once you’re satisfied or can go no further you can move on to another room. You deduct one TU for every turn you take in a room; and 1-3 TU when you move to a different room, dependent on what you roll with the die. All players must be in the same room, but you can freely move between each section unless you encounter a red padlock on a card which means you’ll have to complete the challenge before you can move.
I’d recommend taking some notes whilst you play as you’re fairly likely to fail at least once meaning you’ll have to reset certain elements and kind of start again. So having notes on what to do or where to avoid will be very helpful!
If at any time a player dies during the game, they can come back but only after 7 TU have passed.
In terms of presentation I personally think everything looks brilliant, the artwork for rooms and characters is fantastic and the overall design of the game is to a very high standard and is very appealing. The design of the box also allows you to save a play through which I think is a great idea if you end up taking a few too many hours to play and get a bit drained. The option to stop and pick it up at another time is great.
The story telling throughout the game was good with a lot of interesting characters to meet and great encounters in general. I guess if you wanted to, you could roll play even more. I was essentially the Dungeon Master, called the Time Captain – the person who does most of the reading, but I didn’t really roll play on it much, but if someone were more comfortable with the game then you could certainly embellish a lot more.
I honestly can’t stress how much I loved our play through of the game, my only negative is that I can’t really play through it again as I know the final puzzle now – which was really good can I just add, and once we solved it the sense of satisfaction was amazing. Overall I felt like the experience was very rewarding and something that I wasn’t really expecting.
Even after we’d finished the game I found myself thinking about it for a long time. Even when talking to about it to my girlfriend she commented about how excited I seemed by it. It was truly a memorable game. For me, this is the worst thing about T.I.M.E Stories, I just really want to talk about what happened in our play through, I want to discuss our outcome, I want to talk about the random characters we met, but I can’t as it will ruin it completely for anyone wanting to play.
One thing to be aware of though – you can only really play through the game once so there is pretty much no replayability. There will be some people out there who will not like this approach and might feel like the game is light on actual gameplay. I am going to play through with another group and act more as more of a guide just to see how that works as I think it could, plus I’d just really love to see how others react to it. If that does work, then maybe that’s a way to get a bit more from the game.
The game recommends 90 minutes per session, so thcat’s not the total play time. Ours took between 3 and 4 hours for the whole thing, but that could vary on each group playing.
For me T.I.M.E Stories is the best board game I’ve this year and possibly ever.
If you want to start you’re own adventure through time, then track down a copy of the game here.