Brian M
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This review is part of my ongoing mission to review as many co-ops as possible. All the reviews are located in A Crazy Couple's Co-op Guide: 2013 and onward Edition

T.I.M.E Stories is a bit difficult to review as so much of the game consists of hidden info which I do not want to spoil. This review will be almost entirely spoiler free. When minor spoilers (relating to the overall game, not to specific details of solving the included scenario) are included, I will use Spoiler blocks. None of the spoilers here should have much, if any, impact on playing the game.

Our rating:


Addictive? thumbsdown thumbsup
This is an odd one to rate; we would have been happy to keep playing more than the limited replay value supported!

Long Term Replayability: thumbsdown thumbsdown thumbsdown
Unless, of course, you forget what happened last play, in which case you can happily play through it again.

Skill Factor: 2
Like many things about this game, this is very hard to judge.

Modes: Co-op.
You could play solo by controlling 3 characters, but I think it would lose a bit.

Players: 2-4

With a couple: You need to play two characters each. Overall works fine, but it may be better with more players.

Play Time: 1 hour

Difficulty:
Again, very hard to define for this game. I think the game is easy in the sense that you will eventually win, but it may feel hard in the intermediate steps of getting there. I've read about some people being stumped on certain puzzle parts; if you are fans of stuff like point and click adventures or the old Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, I think you'll get these a lot quicker.

Individual/Group Play: Mostly group play.

Component Quality: The panorama cards showing scenes are cool; in fact the overall card system is nice and well-implemented. The other components are functional but dull. Characters are represented by white cylinders with colored labels on top. It looks like a lot of effort went into making an insert that has compartments not quite big enough to actually hold the counters for no apparent reason.

Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories


Rules Quality: Confusing. The game play is actually quite simple, but the rules manage to make it sound more complicated than it is. A few specific cards and situations that come up in the game are unclear as well. However, the game will probably work fine no matter how you interpret any given rule.

Mini-Review
"I'm a nutcase in an asylum? Ohhh boy."*
TIME Stories sets you off an a time-looping adventure. Your team jumps into the body of subjects ("receptacles") in the past in order to avoid a temporal fault (whatever that is). If you fail, you are sent back again to the same point, now with new knowledge to try again.

Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories

We had fun selecting the "team" for the trip; there are eight characters and you only use four at a time, and they all have different strengths and weaknesses.

We were really struck by the idea that TIME Stories is an attempt to turn a point-and-click computer game into a multiplayer board game format. I'm not quite sure that's anything that needed to be done, and in some ways think this would have been better AS a computer game, but they did a bang-up job of it!

The game is driven by cards. One deck represents locations, while another is "items" (which can actually be quite a few different things). When the group enters a location, you lay out cards to form a panoramic scene showing you what you see. From there, you move markers around to investigate the scene, find information, and overcome challenges and fight foes. Every action takes Time Units (TUs), and you only have a limited amount of TU to accomplish your goal.

While the rules are a bit confusing, once you have them figured out it plays very smoothly. Challenges are easy to resolve with simple die rolls gradually removing tokens, and usually present you with some small choices for where people should focus their time. Teaming up to defeat a challenge quickly is often desirable.

We found ourselves very absorbed in the exploration and puzzle solving. The well illustrated scenes bring the adventure to life, and the simple rules worked well for keeping the action moving and getting through challenges with minimal distraction from being immersed in the adventure.

Board Game: T.I.M.E Stories


The game is set up to be played over several loops, and is designed to be saved between loops or even within a game mid-loop if need be (we didn't make use of that, so I can't comment on how well it works).

There's a lot of things you can potentially get out of this game. As I mentioned, we were big on the exploration and puzzle elements. Other players have noted that they found it a good role-playing experience. Others have enjoyed a communication element to the game.

I think the people that will most dislike this will be players that want a real "game"; to manipulate mechanics and such. There's not much of that. Aside from the hard-core mechanics/abstract players, I think most people will find a good dose of fun here, and I strongly recommend playing it if you get the chance.

However, I do think it suffers from some big flaws.
First, the replay value is really, really bad. Once you have discovered everything, there's not going to be a lot to be gained by a replay (until you have waited long enough to forget stuff!)

Second, the theme within the game is really inconsistent. I don't know if this will bother most people, but I found it hard to get immersed into the story because of it. This wasn't a big deal to me, as I was more treating it as a puzzle game.

Along with that, several puzzles and clues felt very "video-gamey" to me; like they were very much puzzles to be solved rather than thematically realistic situations.

Third, I had a big problem with the overall theme and flow of the game, specifically how they push you to complete the game quickly. This is going to be hard to discuss, so I'm going to include some spoiler blocks here.

This first one is info that is revealed within the game intro from reading the rules and within the first briefing, so its really not much of a spoiler at all, but I wanted to be overly cautions. The summary version is that I think some of the surrounding theme is weak and unexciting.
Spoiler (click to reveal)

They really push that you want to complete the mission with minimal loops because loops cost money and the taxpayers are footing the bill. Also, your "grade" will depend on your speed. As a theme for creating tension, I think this sucks. All the fun of tax management plus employee reviews - whee! gulp


As far as the flow goes, let's first do an essentially spoiler free version. I think 99% of people should be fine reading this, but if you are the sort of person who would consider a spoiler to, say, learn that Star Wars involves spaceships, you may want to skip it.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
The game pushes and encourages you to win in few loops. But I think that, say, winning in one loop would actually be a lousy experience; you wouldn't have had time to really explore or get any satisfaction out of learning things and approaching the same problem from different angles. In fact, I think its likely that the MORE loops you take, the more fun you will have!


To explain a bit more, I need to be more spoilery. This does NOT contain information about what happens IN the adventure, but does contain some info about the overall setup of the game and may actually veer into spoiler territory. I'm not sure how to explain it without spoilers; the best I can say is that I think some mechanics work against both fun and challenge.
Spoiler (click to reveal)
What we really didn't like was that at some point the game switches to giving you unlimited TUs. This was a big letdown. For us, the fun part was exploring, and the challenging part was figuring out a path to complete the adventure in the allowed time. This setup ruined both parts; the push to go faster discouraged exploring and playing, and giving unlimited time really ruined the challenge part of figuring out that optimal path. It felt like we never were allowed to actually solve the puzzle.
Further, it felt very much like so many bad RPGs, where the GM just can't let the PCs win on their own and has to have a super-powered NPC step in to really solve the problem.
YMMV.


Negatives
* Terrible replay value.
* Inconsistent theme.
* Overall flow fights against fun and challenge.
* Some poorly explained elements.
* At least one stupidly sleazy bit.

Positives
* Immersive and involving.
* Overall very easy and smooth to play.
* Strong puzzle solving feel.
* Great exploration elements.
* Can be approached and enjoyed with several different mindsets.

Images thanks to the BGG gallery and oeildanslabouche, repairmanjack and henk.rolleman

* A to the first person to get the reference who didn't just already see this in the geeklist. No cheating.
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Brad Johnson
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Spoiler (click to reveal)
StormKnight wrote:

* A to the first person to get the reference who didn't just already see this in the geeklist. No cheating.
The "Oooh boy" sounds a lot like Quantum Leap to me. One of my all time favorite shows.
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Joseph Crane
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Seems like the same opinion keeps poping up: great idea and system but the writing for the scenarios falls flat.

Its a shame. A game like this will live a die on the quality of the mysteries and the writing.

Hopefully in the future they try and get some good writers involved.
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Spoiler (click to reveal)
Exploration and speed both have their own rewards.
 
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Rich P
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I'm not bothered by the replay value, or lack of it, what spoilt it for me was the imprecision of the rules and the fact that some situations weren't catered for within the scenario, leaving us asking "what are we supposed to do now?". I enjoyed the story, the puzzles and the shared experience, but the whole package needs tightening up with clearer rules, no logical flaws and no need for players to fudge things to keep playing.

StormKnight wrote:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
What we really didn't like was that at some point the game switches to giving you unlimited TUs. This was a big letdown.
Yes, my group found that strange, like there wasn't as much freedom as we'd been led to expect.

Quote:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
In fact, I think its likely that the MORE loops you take, the more fun you will have!
Within reason...
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I think there's likely to be a sweet spot for the number of loops you'd want to do, which will vary by scenario and group preference. But that should be for the players to decide, not forced upon them by the scenario.


Thanks for the review.
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Brian M
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Spadoinkle wrote:
...great idea and system but the writing for the scenarios falls flat.
Just to note, while I noted the theme as a negative, it wasn't a big deal for us; the big problems for us were the lack of replay value and the pacing/flow problem (in spoilers above).

I think the theme and logical problems tend to bother me more than is typical. I have a real problem with it in situations where the game wants me to investigate or solve things; that causes me to put a lot of thought into what is going on, so I really notice things that don't make logical sense.
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Brian M
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woodnoggin wrote:
Quote:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
In fact, I think its likely that the MORE loops you take, the more fun you will have!
Within reason...
Spoiler (click to reveal)
I think there's likely to be a sweet spot for the number of loops you'd want to do, which will vary by scenario and group preference. But that should be for the players to decide, not forced upon them by the scenario.
Yeah, I think its a tricky issue since different groups will have very different preferences. I think we would have liked:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
To take about 5 loops. I feel like we still had two more major "branches" to explore. But I definitely did want to actually have to come up with a solution that fit within a fixed amount of TUs.
I also think if would have been kind of cool if doing certain things within the game would increase the number of TUs you had on future loops a bit.



Quote:
Thanks for the review.
You are welcome. Hopefully it is helpful to some people.
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D. Patton
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Played this for the first time today. Agree with many of the reviewers' points. The game's enthusiastic owner really wanted us to play (he'd played through another weekend). He's a good guy and he tries our games when we have new stuff so we all dove in.

What the game felt like to me was an RPG without a GM present. But the GM left instructions with "clever" puzzles and a mechanic that makes you return later to re-do all the stuff you just did. Hope you take thorough notes and that at least somebody is a puzzle fan in the group.

By the third loop the reward of having to revisit everything to regather all the stuff, clues, etc. just wasn't there for me. It reminded me of Ghosts n' Goblins as a board game in that it made you find your way around by bumping into things and then seemed to punish you by making you do it all again if you failed to get everything done in time.

I know puzzle and RPG fans who would definitely love this. However, it just wasn't for me.
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