A good thematic board game lets players get caught up in the world that it has created. Sometimes this world is historical in nature, be it trading in the Mediterranean or refighting past battles. For a medium that “takes you back in time” there are very few games out there that utilises time travel as a mechanic.
There are some, but most aren’t very good. Who knew that time travel was difficult? Here is one that I quite enjoy.
In a world where time travel is possible, you have been recruited by the T.I.M.E (Tachyon Insertion in Major Events) Agency to protect the main timeline by stopping catastrophic changes from happening.
The least disruptive method of travel throughout time, is by the separation of body and mind. Your mind is projected into a receptacle, a person living in that time period. Think Quantum Leap but with a broader range. However, your mission is time limited. Measured in Time Units, once spent you are forced back to the base and your mission has failed.
Missions can be attempted multiple times, with each one considered a run. However, each run restarts the mission. Once the mission is completed, your team is then graded on the number of runs attempted and the number of Time Units used.
There are two main decks of cards, for locations and items. Each location has a number of cards for different interactions within that place. These could be gaining items, talking with characters or the occasional fight. Resolving these use up Time Units, as does moving between locations. Eventually, you’ll use the collected items and clues to complete your mission and save the time stream.
Let me get the negative bits out of the way first. If you can’t bear puzzles, then this isn’t the game for you. Each mission has certain key items that you will have to find so that you complete it. If you are easily frustrated, then you may want to try something else. That’s without mentioning some of the puzzles with missions.
My other issue is that once a mission is solved, there is no need to replay it. So paying £20 for one play through may be expensive for some people. On average, each mission takes about four hours, but this lack of playability could be a concern for some. I have thought about playing through again with a second group, but I’m not sure I could stop myself from giving spoilers.
Otherwise I really love T.I.M.E Stories. Each mission builds on the one before, and there is an underlying back story which has becoming more interesting. I feel that I am episodes into a television series, rather than having played a board game and it’s expansions.
I also get the same feeling I got when I played Pandemic Legacy, without the time commitment. So far, I’ve played each game with the same three friends and that consistency has been great with each of us finding our place within the team. At the end of a session, I don’t feel that I’ve finished playing the game, but I am putting it aside until the next chapter. I’ve found that life is less likely to get in the way when organising a couple of playing sessions every six to eight months, rather than monthly with Pandemic.
Aesthetically, the board and pieces are very clean and simple. They have to be neutral as they function differently between scenarios. The art on the card decks is excellent, and makes things more immersive. Each set of location cards make panoramas and I’ve been caught a few times just looking at the details on the cards and losing myself a little bit.
The time travel aspect of the game comes across strongly, especially when I’ve done back to back runs. In later missions, the option appears to change receptacles mid run which made me feel just a little detached from the character I was playing. I felt a little bit more like Sam Beckett.
All in all, if you are looking for a time travelling board game, let me recommend T.I.M.E Stories.