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Subject: Is the "Time Travel" theme simply pasted on? rss

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Barry Miller
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Hi all,

I just finished reading the rules and am in the process of organizing all the components. I really look forward to playing my first game, soon!

Anyway, while reading the rules, I couldn't help but notice how the Time Travel mechanic in this game comes across as nothing more than how other games handle taking a loan then repaying it later.

It seems like placing a Warp Tile is nothing more than taking a loan, as you would find in a 1000 other games, and that taking the Power Plant action is simply paying the loan back at a later point in time - again, as you would find in many other games. And I could also add that Anomalies represent the interest you would have to incur by taking too long to pay the loan back. Perhaps I'll have to actually play the game in order to get a better feeling of what the Time Travel mechanic is trying to achieve.

I love a strong, integrated theme in my games, so I really hope that I'm missing something as the Time Travel aspect of this game really intrigued me when I backed it. But if it's nothing more than a loan/repayment mechanic with a Time Travel theme pasted on then I can't help but think it's left wanting. Perhaps the Alternate Timeline (reverse side of the Timeline tiles), or the Doomsday module helps to add greater depth to the Time Travel theme?

Thx!

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Joe Van
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Although it is similar to paying back loans, you definitely feel the theme as your are firing up your power Plant, going back in time and delivering resources to your past self! I definitely don't feel as though it were lasted on. The time travel mechanic is an essential piece of this game
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Taking loans and paying them back later is simply a pasted on theme for time travel ! whistle

Just try to be immersed in the theme/game and everything makes sense. We found that every aspect of the game fits the theme very well.
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R. Eric Reuss
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As you note, the core concept of "get something out of nowhere, later relinquish that same something" matches both the thematic ideas of "time-travel" and of "loans".

What details would *not* match both?

a) Loans can't provide you with something that genuinely doesn't exist yet - a technology yet to be invented or an employee not yet born.

b) Time travel may create paradox, while loans may incur interest; these are somewhat different in thematic tenor. Loan interest tends to be either "money" or "more of the stuff that was loaned", and to increase steadily - probably predictably - over time. Paradox tends to be a universal Bad Thing of some sort, and is at least a bit unpredictable. Paradox might be a constant amount of bad, or might escalate steadily, or might escalate non-steadily.

c) Sending something through time should take more effort than handing someone a stack of bills. It might take more effort to go further in time or to be more precise, or it might not, but it definitely requires time-travel technology!

Anachrony's time-travel mechanics:
* Don't portray difference (a) - there's no real concept of a resource-type that doesn't exist yet.
* Do portray difference (b) - paradox is utterly divorced from the 'currency' being acquired, it can't normally be paid off with any form of resource/currency, and it is not a steady charge (it varies based both on 'what other players have done' and 'the roll of the die'). Also, small amounts of Paradox aren't bad at all (unlike debts), but when you hit a threshold it becomes (mostly) bad, but you also no longer need to make payback. (One could make a parallel to credit scores and defaulting, but IMO it's a weak analogy.)
* Do portray difference (c): you need to build a time machine in order to complete a full transaction. (And reaching back further in time is harder.)

Time travel in Anachrony absolutely fills a design purpose that loans do in other games: permitting players to bootstrap more effectively at the expense of constraining their future activity. And it feels similar as a result - but IMO, it doesn't feel identical, in part because of the theme and in part because of differences (b) and (c) above.
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Emanuela
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I personally love the time travel concept here. Sure, it is a loan system, but it's so thematic (and a theme that really appeals to me, as I'm a huge sci-fi and theoretical physics geek) that I don't care that it's not a totally "novel" mechanism--though I'm not aware of any other games that have themed this mechanism around time travel, either, so it's new to me in that sense. It's not a true loan system, though, because you can avoid the interest and penalties just by playing more conservatively, while a true loan would have everyone who took a loan building up debt consistently the whole way until paying it back (which is not how the paradox rolls work), you'd get rid of that accrued debt once the loan is repaid (which you can't do with the paradox tokens--they stay with you), and there is no real "pay by" time to avoid a penalty/anomaly--it all depends on how heavily you get into the time travel concept.

If someone were to say they had a new game with worker placement and a loan system, I'd immediately pass and not even give this game another thought, but the theme here is so strong (and the loan system so well thought out, IMHO) that I can completely overlook this and feel confident about my giving this game a 10 rating on BGG. That's just my 2 cents.
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Joel Oakley
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The theme definitely feels natural to me. One aspect that helps with this is the significance of an anomaly (it takes up one of your valuable building spaces, and removing it causes a worker to die in order to seal the anomaly),

Another factor that makes the time travel more than a simple loan system to me is the fact that the ability to send back the required resources is limited by the range of the power plants. If you let the warp tile sit unresolved for too long, then it becomes impossible to use standard time travel to deal with it (I think the most powerful power plant has a range of four eras).

Edit: As pointed out below, there are a couple of power plants with unlimited range determined by an amount of resources being given up to obtain this range (then of course, you would still need to give up the resource to deal with the warp tile in that era).

Also, I just thought about how the workers require water when you receive them from the future. This is yet another example of the theme coming through (inorganic matter does not require any additional resources to receive from the future).
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Joakley815 wrote:
(I think the most powerful power plant has a range of four eras).


Well, there are a couple Power Plants that let you put in water or non-neutronium resources to set the range to whatever number you need, though that's just two Power Plants out of 15, so it's possible players might not see those Power Plants at all in a whole game. But yes, the Power Plant availability could really put the pressure on everyone to start paying back their Warp Tiles.
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I feel the theme is actually quite strong in the game. While maybe not a match for say Robinson Crusoe: Adventures on the Cursed Island, it is far better than Lords of Waterdeep. (both great games imo)

The time-travel element seemed to work thematically for me. If I had to "wince" at any part of the game's theme: For me it would be the Research tiles...it's a tile set collection or spend them for Superprojests. I understand how they are supposed to play thematically, but I had a hard time seeing them for anything other than square/triangle/circle tiles.

Of all the games I own, I would rank it in the top 3rd for theme. The game mechanics leave you with a constant sense of anxiety...it's tight and you feel there are so many things you could/should do, but your plans often feel just out of reach to complete. This matches well with the theme of a post-apocalyptic world facing imminent danger.

Get as much as you can...save as many as you can...before there is nothing left to get or save.
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Barry Miller
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darker wrote:
As you note, the core concept of "get something out of nowhere, later relinquish that same something" matches both the thematic ideas of "time-travel" and of "loans".

What details would *not* match both?

a) Loans can't provide you with something that genuinely doesn't exist yet - a technology yet to be invented or an employee not yet born.

b) Time travel may create paradox, while loans may incur interest; these are somewhat different in thematic tenor. Loan interest tends to be either "money" or "more of the stuff that was loaned", and to increase steadily - probably predictably - over time. Paradox tends to be a universal Bad Thing of some sort, and is at least a bit unpredictable. Paradox might be a constant amount of bad, or might escalate steadily, or might escalate non-steadily.

c) Sending something through time should take more effort than handing someone a stack of bills. It might take more effort to go further in time or to be more precise, or it might not, but it definitely requires time-travel technology!

Anachrony's time-travel mechanics:
* Don't portray difference (a) - there's no real concept of a resource-type that doesn't exist yet.
* Do portray difference (b) - paradox is utterly divorced from the 'currency' being acquired, it can't normally be paid off with any form of resource/currency, and it is not a steady charge (it varies based both on 'what other players have done' and 'the roll of the die'). Also, small amounts of Paradox aren't bad at all (unlike debts), but when you hit a threshold it becomes (mostly) bad, but you also no longer need to make payback. (One could make a parallel to credit scores and defaulting, but IMO it's a weak analogy.)
* Do portray difference (c): you need to build a time machine in order to complete a full transaction. (And reaching back further in time is harder.)

Time travel in Anachrony absolutely fills a design purpose that loans do in other games: permitting players to bootstrap more effectively at the expense of constraining their future activity. And it feels similar as a result - but IMO, it doesn't feel identical, in part because of the theme and in part because of differences (b) and (c) above.

R. Eric,

That's a great answer... I appreciate it! I hadn't thought about the concept that what you're receiving in the present from the future doesn't exist yet. That notion really helps a lot!

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Barry Miller
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EPratt wrote:
If someone were to say they had a new game with worker placement and a loan system, I'd immediately pass and not even give this game another thought, but the theme here is so strong (and the loan system so well thought out, IMHO) that I can completely overlook this and feel confident about my giving this game a 10 rating on BGG. That's just my 2 cents.

Yeah, that first part of your quoted above is what I was afraid of, after reading the rules. But the rest of your reply, and the other replies on this page as well, has me seeing the entire Time Travel mechanic from a different perspective. I'm glad I asked!

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Barry Miller
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Slyzx1 wrote:
I feel the theme is actually quite strong in the game.

This is great to hear. As an Ameritrasher, I've found almost all Euros wanting for theme, very badly. There are only a very few Euros that do a good job with theme, IMHO (perhaps 2 or 3). One of those is Trickerion: Legends of Illusion, which due to the way it incorporates theme into its design is my absolutely favorite Euro, and one of my top five games.

So I was looking forward to the same sense of theme to come out in this second game produced in part by the same team. And judging by everyone's comments here, it sounds like it's succeeded on that front! I hope to get my first game of it in this Tuesday. Can't wait!


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Oh, yeah. As someone who just yesterday stumbled through his first game, reading the mechanics don't do the actual game justice. The time travel is most definitely a type of loan, but it so thoroughly and cleverly integrated that the comparison stops there. As others have pointed out, there is a strategy to taking fewer "loans" than other players and thereby avoiding "interest" (paradoxes/anomolies) in certain eras altogether. But there is also a strategy for selectively removing certain warp tiles specifically to alter who gets penalized in which eras. Then there is the sometimes-missed factoid that avoiding time travel will almost certainly guarantee a loss since, unlike loans, "repaying" your time travel debts earns you VPs. And then, when you do get hit with a major "interest penalty" (anomalies), you don't just hurt economically, your infrastructure itself is impacted and you have to decide what part of your engine you will cripple (assuming you have a choice of placement). And it goes on and on.

There are so many ways the game lets you manipulate the time travel risk, I daresay there are dozens, if not hundreds, of permutations. If it is to be viewed as a simple loan mechanic, then it is the most complex loan mechanic ever devised, IMHO.
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darker wrote:
As you note, the core concept of "get something out of nowhere, later relinquish that same something" matches both the thematic ideas of "time-travel" and of "loans".

What details would *not* match both?

a) Loans can't provide you with something that genuinely doesn't exist yet - a technology yet to be invented or an employee not yet born.

b) Time travel may create paradox, while loans may incur interest; these are somewhat different in thematic tenor. Loan interest tends to be either "money" or "more of the stuff that was loaned", and to increase steadily - probably predictably - over time. Paradox tends to be a universal Bad Thing of some sort, and is at least a bit unpredictable. Paradox might be a constant amount of bad, or might escalate steadily, or might escalate non-steadily.

c) Sending something through time should take more effort than handing someone a stack of bills. It might take more effort to go further in time or to be more precise, or it might not, but it definitely requires time-travel technology!

Anachrony's time-travel mechanics:
* Don't portray difference (a) - there's no real concept of a resource-type that doesn't exist yet.
* Do portray difference (b) - paradox is utterly divorced from the 'currency' being acquired, it can't normally be paid off with any form of resource/currency, and it is not a steady charge (it varies based both on 'what other players have done' and 'the roll of the die'). Also, small amounts of Paradox aren't bad at all (unlike debts), but when you hit a threshold it becomes (mostly) bad, but you also no longer need to make payback. (One could make a parallel to credit scores and defaulting, but IMO it's a weak analogy.)
* Do portray difference (c): you need to build a time machine in order to complete a full transaction. (And reaching back further in time is harder.)

Time travel in Anachrony absolutely fills a design purpose that loans do in other games: permitting players to bootstrap more effectively at the expense of constraining their future activity. And it feels similar as a result - but IMO, it doesn't feel identical, in part because of the theme and in part because of differences (b) and (c) above.


Wow you took some time to seriously consider closing a debate I also sort of had within myself about a this (not that it made me love the game any less mind you!). Nice job!
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Adrian Schmidt
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bgm1961 wrote:
Slyzx1 wrote:
I feel the theme is actually quite strong in the game.

This is great to hear. As an Ameritrasher, I've found almost all Euros wanting for theme, very badly. There are only a very few Euros that do a good job with theme, IMHO (perhaps 2 or 3). One of those is Trickerion: Legends of Illusion, which due to the way it incorporates theme into its design is my absolutely favorite Euro, and one of my top five games.

So I was looking forward to the same sense of theme to come out in this second game produced in part by the same team. And judging by everyone's comments here, it sounds like it's succeeded on that front! I hope to get my first game of it in this Tuesday. Can't wait!


I understand the complaint of "pasted on theme" when there is no connection between the mechanism and the thematic result of the mechanism. But the loan mechanism works just as well whether you are loaning from the bank, loaning from a seedy loan shark, or loaning from your future self. Albeit with some different results if you don't pay the loan back (which has been covered already).

What I don't understand is what makes one theme more "pasted on" than the other? The mechanism and thematic result are still just as well connected, aren't they?

As an aside: I've yet to encounter any mechanism in any game that could not be re-themed. Sure, some are more obvious than others, but still. If anyone has any examples they think showcase more or less inseparable theme+mechanism combos, I'd love to hear about them!
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A couple of other people have touched on this a bit, but one of the things that makes it feel more thematic for me is that you can "discover" a variety of ways out of the problems of paradoxes -- Anomalies erase that time debt, but there are also other buildings you can build that allow you to erase paradoxes in different ways.

I'd agree with most people here that the future-helping-the-past elements are mechanically similar to loans, but they feel thematically integrated too.

Also, at some point, you have to let the theme be what it is, and ignore the fact that the physical act of putting your piece on the board is the same as it would be in another game.
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SpecularRain wrote:
As an aside: I've yet to encounter any mechanism in any game that could not be re-themed. Sure, some are more obvious than others, but still. If anyone has any examples they think showcase more or less inseparable theme+mechanism combos, I'd love to hear about them!

Adrian,

Really sorry for the late reply! I'm finally getting around to the old posts in my subscription list. I'm simply clicking through most of them, but wanted to stop and respond upon reading your question. It's a great question so I owe some sort of an answer!

Unfortunately, with the way I'm compelled to be long-winded and to detail everything, the answer I want to give you (and have written in BGG forums before), would take me about an hour to write!

So please excuse the brevity here. If you want more examples, I can look for one of my other posts where I've written on the subject extensively.

Anyhow, in a nutshell...

1) A thematic game incorporates mechanics which are designed from the ground up only to serve the theme. I.e., the mechanic didn't exist prior to the design of the game. In many cases though, a mechanic is borrowed, yet changed significantly to fit the game's theme.

2) One of my go-to examples of a thematic game is: Star Trek: Fleet Captains
ST:FC has several mechanics which were designed specifically to meet the Star Trek theme, such as the ships' cloaking mechanic, or the setting/redistributing of a ship's systems ratings, are mechanics that I haven't seen used - even remotely - in any other game.

Another example is the gear changing mechanic used for Formula D. Or most any of the newer race games, such as Championship Formula Racing, or Race! Formula 90, each have very unique mechanics due to their niche theme. Or the dueling mechanic found in Spurs: A Tale in the Old West (and BTW, if you want a great western-themed game, I highly recommend this one), or the cliffhanger mechanic found in Fortune and Glory: The Cliffhanger Game. Or the pushing of the ships with dice on them, in Panamax. I have many more examples for which I would describe each one, but as I said, I'd be here for a while!

3) Now of course, any of the theme-driven mechanics I'm thinking of, and shared above, can be re-themed for other games. But to do so would require that the mechanic be drastically altered to meet the needs of the other theme. So that's part of how I test whether or not a mechanic is a "thematic" mechanic. ... if a mechanic can be used by multiple games without any changing (i.e., "pick up cube and put it in this box to score points", is a mechanic used in hundreds of games), then it's NOT a thematic mechanic.

4) So if a game is designed with such themeless mechanics, then the game isn't a thematic game.

Several mechanics are designed from scratch to specifically meet the need of the theme? = Thematic game
All mechanics are generic? = Non-thematic game.

5) Finally, don't conflate "Setting" with "Theme". Many Non-thematic games (most Euros) do a GREAT job with establishing a setting for their game, but use generic mechanics. Thusly while the game may have a strong, thematic setting, I wouldn't necessarily consider it a thematic game. And that last notion is where I deviate from most people!
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bgm1961 wrote:
SpecularRain wrote:
As an aside: I've yet to encounter any mechanism in any game that could not be re-themed. Sure, some are more obvious than others, but still. If anyone has any examples they think showcase more or less inseparable theme+mechanism combos, I'd love to hear about them!

Adrian,

Really sorry for the late reply! I'm finally getting around to the old posts in my subscription list. I'm simply clicking through most of them, but wanted to stop and respond upon reading your question. It's a great question so I owe some sort of an answer!

Unfortunately, with the way I'm compelled to be long-winded and to detail everything, the answer I want to give you (and have written in BGG forums before), would take me about an hour to write!

So please excuse the brevity here. If you want more examples, I can look for one of my other posts where I've written on the subject extensively.

Anyhow, in a nutshell...

[cut for brevity]


Thanks! I highly appreciate the answer! I haven't played any of the games mentioned, but I will certainly take a look at them (watch a review or playthrough) and keep your points in mind.
 
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darker wrote:
As you note, the core concept of "get something out of nowhere, later relinquish that same something" matches both the thematic ideas of "time-travel" and of "loans".

What details would *not* match both?

a) Loans can't provide you with something that genuinely doesn't exist yet - a technology yet to be invented or an employee not yet born.

b) Time travel may create paradox, while loans may incur interest; these are somewhat different in thematic tenor. Loan interest tends to be either "money" or "more of the stuff that was loaned", and to increase steadily - probably predictably - over time. Paradox tends to be a universal Bad Thing of some sort, and is at least a bit unpredictable. Paradox might be a constant amount of bad, or might escalate steadily, or might escalate non-steadily.

c) Sending something through time should take more effort than handing someone a stack of bills. It might take more effort to go further in time or to be more precise, or it might not, but it definitely requires time-travel technology!

Anachrony's time-travel mechanics:
* Don't portray difference (a) - there's no real concept of a resource-type that doesn't exist yet.
* Do portray difference (b) - paradox is utterly divorced from the 'currency' being acquired, it can't normally be paid off with any form of resource/currency, and it is not a steady charge (it varies based both on 'what other players have done' and 'the roll of the die'). Also, small amounts of Paradox aren't bad at all (unlike debts), but when you hit a threshold it becomes (mostly) bad, but you also no longer need to make payback. (One could make a parallel to credit scores and defaulting, but IMO it's a weak analogy.)
* Do portray difference (c): you need to build a time machine in order to complete a full transaction. (And reaching back further in time is harder.)

Time travel in Anachrony absolutely fills a design purpose that loans do in other games: permitting players to bootstrap more effectively at the expense of constraining their future activity. And it feels similar as a result - but IMO, it doesn't feel identical, in part because of the theme and in part because of differences (b) and (c) above.


This to me is the perfect analysis, and much better put than I could have. This was roughly my internal thinking when I figured out "loans" model time travel loops better than "betting" (which was my first attempt at a time travel economy).

And as an fyi, there was at least one ruleset which modeled (a) above as well, but had to cut it to avoid either having
- all buildings available to buy at any point
- duplicating a lot of components

But that said, there could be one day be another time traveling game (don't get your hopes up, I haven't designed it yet), which focuses on that while using Anachrony's general time travel concept
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Sebastian Zarzycki
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The theme is definitely there, but (I think) *the way the game plays* might be a little bit perpendicular to the theme.

Time travel is a very broad theme. When we think time travel, we think of aliens, magical technology, spaceship battles, dating your own mother, wild west, airboards and never ever being called a "chicken".

Because the game is fairly standard resource management/worker placement, the actual gameplay, while supported by the theme to a certain extent, just doesn't "explore" that theme very deeply, if you will. That doesn't mean the theme is pasted on, but it can leave that lingering feeling of wanting something more.

But then again, not every game has to be an adventure game and I think the world has enough of cattle/kingdom worker placement games, so Anachrony fills certain niche. The only question remains is that whether fans of worker placement games long for that kind of theme. I would say - sure, why not.
 
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rattkin wrote:
When we I think time travel, we I think of aliens, magical technology, spaceship battles, dating your own mother, wild west, airboards and never ever being called a "chicken".


FTFY
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Sebastian Zarzycki
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Umm, ok. What do *you* think about, then?
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rattkin wrote:
Umm, ok. What do *you* think about, then?


Well, my familiarity with Back to the Future is just enough to realise that was what you were referencing. Pop culture-wise, my thoughts go to Doctor Who. But honestly, that's not even my initial association when I hear "time travel". I tend to think a lot more about how it could potentially actually work? What might keep it from working? If it doesn't work, and it really does seem like it doesn't, that's got to mean that time is truly directional, right? But why would time be directional? Is there really any reason for that? Other than entropy increasing in one direction and decreasing in the other of course… But let's say the universe would actually start to contract again some time in the future, wouldn't that mean that entropy starts to decrease again? And I read something sometime about entropy increasing being the reason for us remembering the "past" rather than the "future", I don't remember enough to explain the reasoning behind it, but definitely enough to be intrigued. But that also means that if the universe was really contracting, we would probably remember the "future" instead of the "past". But we wouldn't have any idea anyway, because the only way we have of discerning "future" from "past", is that we remember one and not the other. Which basically means that, at least on a philosophical level, there really is no way to know whether what you remember happening yesterday really did happen yesterday, or is what's going to happen tomorrow. And that's really quite fascinating I think…

Also, I wonder, when I sit on a train and look out the window, can I really see which way we are going, or can I only discern that from comparing the current picture my eyes are seeing with the memory of what they where seeing a fraction of a second ago?

Did I mention I've got adhd?
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R. Eric Reuss
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Massachusetts
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rattkin wrote:
Umm, ok. What do *you* think about, then?

Not the OC, but personally:

Closed time loops, The Anubis Gates, accidentally destroying things with the butterfly effect, bouncing around history (Bill + Ted), The Domesday Book, the grandfather paradox, "low-tech != stupid" (courtesy of a particular Harry Turtledove short story), jumping forward in time to get better tech, jumping backward in time to (uncover truth / acquire artifacts), Groundhog Day, assassination attempts on Hitler, changing photographs (Back to the Future), someone sitting outside of time (Voyager: Year of Hell), and a lot of musing on different models of the underlying metaphysics.

Some overlap with your associations! But also some not.
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Sebastian Zarzycki
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SpecularRain wrote:

Did I mention I've got adhd? :D


No :) But it was a great answer nonetheless! Obviously, my example was meant as a lighthearted joke. You've added a lot of meat to it! I should probably at another chunk of time-continuum issues, as pictured in Primer movie.

It showcases that time travel is a very broad concept and that packing it into a boardgame is very challenging - different people will expect different things from "board game with time travel mechanic".
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Christopher Melenberg
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Prince Rupert
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I cringe but can't help myself from reading a post with this title.

However unlike many threads with this type of title, it became increasingly interesting and fun.

Thanks for the good read all!
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