Thursday, February 2, 2017

Game Review: T.I.M.E Stories

T.I.M.E Stories designed by Manuel Rozoy, art by Pascal Quidault, and published by Space Cowboys

T.I.M.E Stories is a narrative-driven cooperative game with a role-playing element. The system is designed to be reused with multiple scenarios, or missions, that are sold separately and have been published every four to six months since the game's 2015 publication. The setting is a fun bit of science fiction:

People from the future have discovered not only time travel, but inter-dimensional travel as well. They've also detected various times and places where temporal disturbances threaten to cause irreparable damage to reality. The T.I.M.E. Agency (Tachyon Insertion in Major Events) is funded by the world's governments to prevent those disasters. Players are sent into others' bodies (called "receptacles" by the agency) in the past or in other dimensions. The players are agents who investigate and (hopefully) stop the disturbances. Players only have a certain amount of time, called a run, in which to complete the mission before they are pulled back to Agency Headquarters. Often, multiple runs are required in order to solve the problem. Everything resets at the start of a new run (or most everything--players still remember what happened and certain items with a special icon will remain in place). The more times players run, the lower their rank will be at the end of the game.

The game board (click to enlarge)

The game system is well-crafted. Each mission is driven by a deck of cards. The cards represent the various locations to be explored, a map of the area, a set of items, and the "receptacles" available to each player. When the players make a second run (which I think is probably inevitable) they can switch receptacles. The art is beautiful and the iconography is easy to understand.

Players have to discuss what they want to do at a location (the backs of the location cards tell what happens as the players interact with the environment or the characters there). They also have to agree on when to leave a location and where they will go. Playing in character is more fun but not necessary.

The first mission (which comes with the base game) takes the players to Paris in AD 1921. Unfortunately, they are not sipping coffee on the banks of the Seine, they are in an insane asylum. The receptacles are the inmates, meaning each player has some special power but also some problem that could impede progress. For example, one character is a drug addict and can use cocaine (represented in the game by blue disks) to improve chances at a skill check. But if he runs out of cocaine, he'll permanently lose a life point. Lose too many life points, and a character will die.

Some of the possible inmates to choose from

This particular mission has three skills--agility (used to pick locks, etc.), glibness (used to persuade other people), and fighting (used to attack other people). The number next to the skill represents how many dice to roll. Each die has a blank face, some faces with stars, and one with a skull. The stars help to overcome the checks; the skull means the character might take damage during the check.  So there's definitely some "roll" in the role playing.

Dice and card abilities

The story is intriguing, with plenty of help and red herrings from the staff and the other inmates at the asylum. The art is very evocative and fits the psychological horror theme well. The story is a bit dark and some of the puzzles are hard to solve, so I'd recommend it for teenagers and up.

The game plays two to four players. We played with three though four is probably a better number (at least for this mission). The game also has a way to "save" the game in the middle if players need a break. We completed the entire game in just under three hours. Usually we don't have that big a block of time for playing but we planned ahead.
The big draw back is that once you've played a mission, you can't replay it a second time. You already know the secrets and solutions. Maybe in a couple of years we will have forgotten and be able to enjoy it again. And we can certainly loan it to friends so they can have the experience.

We enjoyed the game very much and will be getting the next mission, The Marcy Case, which is  a modern day thriller. There's also an Ancient Egypt mission and another with dragons, so the system has good thematic variety.

Highly recommended!

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