GAME REVIEW: T.I.M.E. Stories

This game is probably one of the most talked about games of the year so far.  Partly because of the buzz of how good the game is, but there’s also discussion about if the game is worth buying since the game supposedly doesn’t have any replay value after you finish the story in the base game.  Well, I’ll get into all of that here.

Unlike any other game out in the market right now, this game is about gathering clues, solving puzzles and figuring out just what is happening around you.  I have no plans on spoiling anything for you.  The big enjoyment from this game is not knowing anything about it, so I will do my best not to give away any of the plot points.  I will just explain basically what you will be doing in this game as vaguely as possible.

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T.I.M.E. Stories says it plays 2-4 players, but you don’t really want to play it with 2.  It’s not in the spirit of the game.  3 and 4 will is the way to go here.  The box says ages 12 and up.  While I had no problem letting my 12-year-old daughter play with us, some parents who are more strict may be disturbed  by some of the creepy and suggestive content.  It should probably say 14 and up on the box.  The game is played in a number of sessions (depending on how good you are), and takes between 60-90 minutes per session, though your first session will most likely take around 90 minutes.

The concept of the core game is that the players are new recruits at the T.I.M.E. ( Tachyon Insertion in Major Events) Agency.  Since time travel has been invented, the entire world has changed, alternate realities are appearing, and untold dangers are being discovered every day.  It is the agency’s job to go back in time to stop some of these dangers from happening.

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The game begins at headquarters as you all prepare for our first run.  This is where you will be briefed on what you are trying to accomplish on this mission.  Cards of the headquarters will be laid out in a panorama, then each player will take turns reading the rules of the specific mission you will be playing.

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The base set comes with one mission, called Asylum, which will take you back to the year 1921.

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Each player will then choose a receptacle/character (I don’t even want to spoil those cards for you), collect life points shown on their card and your 2 character pawns.

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Also place the various tokens, action dice and the 1 time captain die in reach of all players.

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Place the time token on the time unit track whichever number was stated in the mission briefing.  Every time you do an action or move to different locations, you will use time units.

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You will place a map of the main location you’re at in this spot, which will show you all the places within that location you can travel to (again, I’m not showing the actual map.  I’ll let you discover that on your own).

I will show you the first place you will start in the game , just so you can see what it looks like.  I don’t consider this a spoiler, since they do show this in the rulebook:

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The players will then work cooperatively to complete their mission objective.  At first, you won’t know how.  You know almost next to nothing other than you have to prevent something bad from happening.  The briefing is very vague.

This is a puzzle-like mystery game.  The players will visit locations, place out the panorama of that location, then they will place their player pawn on a specific panorama card within that location.  Only the player (or players) on that card can look at it.  Since everyone is connected telepathically, the player or players looking at the card can tell the other players what they are experiencing (what they saw, what they have to do, etc.)

There may also be tasks to perform by rolling dice.  I won’t get anymore into that.  You can discover that on your own.  Everything is explained quite well in the rulebook.

Since everything you do costs time units, the players will continue to search for clues until their time units run out.  Once time units run out, their current run is over.  There may be items they get to keep for their next run, but mostly everything will be reset for their next run.

A run is like a game session.  You can take notes and save your game for another day, or play through again (believe me, you’re going to want to).  Now, when you start your next run, you’re going to know more things than you did before.  You’re going to know where to go and where not to go.  Who to talk to and who not to talk to.

The players will continue to make runs until they either succeed the mission before their time units run out, or there is a way for you to even lose the entire game.

There are many things I didn’t go over and that’s because I want people to discover the stuff I didn’t mention on their own.  The rulebook is pretty well written, so you should be able to figure everything out fairly easily.

I played the base game story Asylum with my brother and my daughter on two separate days.  It took us 4 runs to finish the game.  We were successful.  I would say it took about 5, 5 and half hours total for us to complete it.  That’s it.  That story is finished.  Thankfully I bought the Marcy Case expansion, which is another full mission.

So, what do I think of the game?  Does it live up to the hype?

The game is nothing short of phenomenal!  And yes!  It absolutely lives up to its hype.

Let me get this out of the way right now:  People are complaining (and mostly people who HAVEN’T played the game) about the replayability of this.  Well, for a particular scenario, there is NO replayabillity.  So a lot of gamers are thinking this to be a ripoff, and not worth their time.  No, this isn’t one of those games like Ticket to Ride that you can play countless times for the rest of your life.  I would compare this with going mini golfing, or going out to a movie or to an expensive dinner.  Or even a murder mystery party.  This is an experience that you share with 2 or 3 other gamers.  It offers a few hours of entertainment, and then it’s done.  BUT,  you have the experience.  And let me tell you, THE EXPERIENCE IS ABSOLUTELY WORTH IT.

There will be many things that happen in this game that you and your friends will be talking about for the rest of your lives.  You can’t really say that with many other games.  This game is a completely immersive experience.  You will really feel like that you’re really at this place trying to solve a mystery.

If you’re worried about spending money, since it’s a shared experience, find 2 or 3 other friends who would love to try this with you and split the costs.  There’s no reason you should miss out on this experience.  If you appreciate board game experiences at all, then you have absolutely no excuse to not play this game.  It’s worth it!  The only people who won’t play this game are stubborn internet trolls and haters.  Get over yourselves and pick this game up.  It’s amazing!

Our experience was incredible.  I really felt like all 3 of us were working together equally in order to figure things out.  Disturbing things happened, but there were also hilarious moments.  One moment in particular had us laughing for several minutes afterwards.

It really does have this feeling of a “choose your own adventure” book.  I’ve never seen that captured in a board game before.  I’ve also heard people compare this to the video game Mist, but I’ve never really played that.

I will say that if you have a difficult time with puzzles, or don’t like them, you might be frustrated during certain moments in this game.  I must say that on our third run, we got stuck.  We literally had nothing to do and nowhere to go.  We thought we had everything we needed, but we were seriously stuck.  So we spent the rest of our run retracking our steps…… only to discover that the answer was right in front of us the whole time.

Now, I will admit that I was getting very frustrated, almost to the point that I was not enjoying the game…… but, I was the one who figured things out and I was soooooo satisfied with what happened, that it was worth it.  I mean, what board game puts you through the wringer like that?  Very cool!  It was a great moment in the game!  And I think it’s designed that way.

All three of us loved the game.  My daughter told me after our second run that this is the best game that I own.  I don’t know about that, but it is easily in my top 20 games I’ve ever played.  There were so many surprises in this.  In fact, one thing in particular blew me away.  I couldn’t believe the designers pulled it off!

I can’t wait to play the other scenario, The Marcy Case!  And then there will be one story released every quarter.  That’s the plan anyway.  They’ve already announced 2 more.  One is a fantasy adventure with dragons, and the other takes place in ancient Egypt, both of which I’m dying to try!

Again, if you’re worried about the replayability, think of it this way.  When you are buying the base game, think of it as buying a video game system that comes with a game.  Each scenario that comes out next is another game you can purchase for this system.  That’s nifty!

Also, I think I’m going to have some of my other friends play it, and I will help run them through it (like placing cards out and stuff), just so I can experience the game again through them, and see what choices they make.  It’s that cool!

I can’t recommend this enough.  If you like puzzles, co-operative games, storytelling, action, mystery, or just captivating games…. you NEED to try this. It’s innovative, the artwork is incredible and completely immerses you into the story.

T.I.M.E. Stories is more than just a game, it’s an experience.

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