Have you ever heard the old adage “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend?” Well, T.I.M.E Stories is counting on it. Whether it be Dickens, H.G. Wells or The Planet of the Apes and Doctor Who—time travel has always been a science fiction trope we’ve held on to.
I wouldn’t normally do this, but I feel the need to start out this review with a disclaimer—this will be spoiler free. I even go so far as to only use stock photography for this review so I don’t spoil any aspect of the game.
The publisher likes to call T.I.M.E Stories “a narrative decksploration” game/system. You don’t know what that is? Of course not, to my knowledge this is the first of its kind. I call it a system because the base box includes everything you need to utilize any new scenario deck that might get published in the upcoming year. Remember those Choose Your Own Adventure books you read as a kid? T.I.M.E Stories is those books in game form—sort of.
T.I.M.E is an agency of time travelers tasked with protecting humanity from temporal faults and paradoxes that might threaten our very existence. To start the game players receive a mission and briefing. No matter the object of the mission, the gameplay goal is to complete it in as few attempts as possible. The game revolves around Temporal Units (TU), basically time is your only resource. When the TU runs out, the agents are recalled and must restart the scenario from the beginning. The only good thing about restarting is now your team has experience on their side. TU is spent to dig deeper into the storyline; whether it be opening doors, talking with characters you meet along the way, solving puzzles, etc… Each player chooses a character in the designated time-period known as receptacles, in other words you are possessing someone from the time and place the mission takes place in. The base box comes with one scenario called “Asylum” that takes place in Paris, 1921.
T.I.M.E Stories is an amazingly unique gaming experience. The story is very interesting, the art style of the scenario deck is top-notch and immersive, and the mechanics of the game fit the mood of the theme. Once you’ve run through the game and failed the first time (you will fail, trust me) the game will evolve and continue to grow with your subsequent plays. The story will twist and turn in new and interesting ways. The game is meant to be played multiple times, something I didn’t quite grasp until my third play through.
Speaking of not quite grasping, lets focus on the rulebook for a moment. Lets just say that if the designers of T.I.M.E Stories could go back in time (see what I did there?) I bet they’d take a second and third look at the rulebook. In their defence, this is a very unique gameplay experience, unlike any you’ve played before. With most games you have the advantage of using other games to jump off of, or the luxury of established mechanics that can be referenced to aid you in learning a game—not with T.I.M.E Stories. To further muddy the situation, this game is heavily rooted in its story; googling for a FAQ, youtubing a gameplay video or asking other people how to play is not really an option for fear of spoiling the game for yourself.
Another first for me with T.I.M.E Stories is wrestling with its age appropriateness. The game says 12+ but I’d suggest going with 15+, or at the very least a mature teen. There are elements of drugs, sex, and suggestive nudity that might surprise you coming from a tabletop game.
One of the new challenges that a game like T.I.M.E Stories creates is that once you’ve experienced the game in its entirety—you’re done with it. There is no replay value because the gameplay itself is discovering the game. The game MSRPs for $49.99—are you ok with buying a game and only being able to play three times? If you frame it the right way, I’m fine with it. I liken the T.I.M.E Stories experience to going to a movie or enjoying a night out of bowling or gaming at an arcade—It’s all about the experience. Replayability could be found in leading another group through the game (which would be a public service because, as I said, that rulebook is challenging). You could even make T.I.M.E Stories a traveling game amongst your friends or game group—giving it new life with each group.
T.I.M.E Stories is a whole new world of gaming. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with the base box, and am eagerly waiting for new scenarios. Now if only one of the new scenarios would take place in the future with self-lacing shoes and REAL hoverboards…not those 2-wheeled deathtraps the kids call hoverboards nowadays.