T.I.M.E. Stories

In Boardgame, Review by The Headmaster

Harness the power of a sleek minimalist design to invade the minds of people long dead

T.I.M.E. Stories from Space Cowboys and Asmodee Editions is a story based “Decksporation” game designed by Manuel Rozoy. The players take the role of Time Agents who project their minds throughout history and alternate timelines to stop disruptive temporal anomalies and time rifts. Taking a cue from films like Source code, 12 monkeys, The Edge of Tomorrow, Butterfly Effect etc., the agents occupy the bodies of people who were present in the time and place the disturbance in time occurred. Through these receptacles they interact with the world but they have only a short amount of time to find out what is causing the rift. If they take too long they will be returned to the lab and are forced to start again from the beginning armed with the knowledge of everything they have seen and each time move further along in the story.

Overview

The core concept is a race against time. At the beginning of a story the base will tell you how many time units the group gets based on number of players. Each run should last roughly 90 min before using up all of their Time Units. After 3-5 sessions you will find everything you need to reach the end of the story. It is important to pay attention to the artwork and how your teammates recap their experiences. The more you discuss the situation the easier it will be to find solutions to the problems being presented. The game does a fantastic job of throwing you right into the setting giving you interesting characters to interact with and to play as. The race against the clock can be intense with every decision potentially leading to a costly dead end. Some of the time traps can be infuriatingly silly, not only is it a waste of time, but it openly mocks you for making a bad choice.

There are times where an action you take has the possibility of affecting the other players by spending additional time units. Now sometimes this is worth it, you may gain an important item or find out a crucial piece of information, on the other hand you may receive a worthless item or be sent on a wild goose chase designed to waste resources. The key is to stay on task and try to not be distracted. One downside of the system is that all contests are based on rolling dice making it entirely possible to be trapped on a relatively simple task.

Visual Style

The look of the game is split into to two parts the “System” and the “Stories” and both are absolutely wonderful. The System is modern and clean, a minimalist design that is so intuitive you almost don’t need the rulebook. The artwork for the components and board as well as any of the scenario cards that take place at the time agency base are created by Pascal Quidault. The board creates a HUD of sorts allowing you to experience the story. With so much of the game relying on the panorama view of the locations you would think it would be centrally located in the board, instead it is on the bottom of the board as close to the player as possible making the interaction feel more intimate. The time track however runs the full width of the board in the center showing that even though the events are crucial you can never forget the ticking clock. Every action and choice is dominated by the thought that you are running out of time

Generic components that can be used in any setting

In addition to the board the system is made up of painted wooden components consisting of dice, player markers in two different sizes a team marker for use on the plan and a time unit tracker. Tokens and chits make up the remainder of the components generically designed so they can be used in any setting all keeping in tone with the modern minimalist design of the board. The insert for the box is designed to be able to organize all components to essentially pause the game if you are unable to finish a run allowing you to finish the run the next time you play.

The Stories aspect of the game is equally beautiful. Each story has a different artist Which gives it a look and feel that is entirely unique to that story helping sell the idea of being dropped into a completely new place. The difference in artistic styles is almost disorienting when you lay out the first location giving a feeling of awe, inspiring you to jump right into action. It is rare in a game to have the artwork be a driving force in gameplay.

Expandability

T.I.M.E. Stories launched with Its first expansion The Marcy Case in November of 2015 giving new players the option to head right into their second story and see just how versatile the system is. After many delays the second expansion, Prophecy of Dragons, was released in the U.S. on March 10th 2016 once again this new expansion was able to show off new and interesting ways to play the game this time with 50% more cards making it a longer, if somewhat aimless Story. The newest Expansion Under the Mask was released on May 13th in the U.S. venturing into a more family friendly territory. The Ancient Egyptian set Story is so far my favorite and I am eagerly awaiting Expedition Endurance set to come out Q3 of this year as well as the yet unnamed Expansion set for Q4

The three expansions released as of May 2016

The most exciting addition to the game is the scenario creators kit that the developers have released which breaks down the underlying mechanics of the first two stories and guidelines for not only creating your own stories but how to submit them to space cowboys to potentially have your story published with your name credited as the designer.

The big question about T.I.M.E. Stories has to do with replay value. The best comparison I have is that Time Stories is like a television series and each Story is a multi-episode story arc. Maybe you have a group that gets together weekly to do a single run, or maybe you do a marathon and burn through the whole story in a single session.

Player Scalability

Although the game bills itself as being a 2-4 player game, T.I.M.E. Stories is designed from the very beginning to be a four player game. So far each scenario that has been released has optional rules available to bring the game down to three players by increasing the starting time units, starting the game with an additional item or a combination of the two. The rulebook states that you can make it a two player game by having each player control two characters effectively simulating a 4-player game. The reason this doesn’t work is because the game is built around getting in the headspace of your receptacle, and communicating to the other agents what you have encountered. By playing more than one character you are giving yourself a layer of separation which prevents full immersion. Why stop at 2-players when using the same method, you could easily make it a solo game by using the 3-player rules and control all of them yourself.

Conclusion

T.I.M.E. Stories is best for a gamer who loves roleplaying, table talk, solving a mystery and who appreciates artwork and theme. If your idea of a perfect game is abstract strategy and logic this may not be the game for you. Personally, I highly recommend it and if you are not sure if it is for you at least give it a try; it may surprise you.

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