It’s 1921 and something happened in the Beauregard Asylum. What exactly? You’re not sure, but you work for a time-travel agency and your job is to figure it all out. Well, what are you waiting for?
T.I.M.E. Stories is a storytelling game. T.I.M.E. Stories is a puzzle, a cooperative puzzle. T.I.M.E. Stories is a cooperative puzzle that tells a story. A point and click game without the clicking.
It’s an adventure. You are time travellers and your job is to solve a mystery, in case of the Asylum story you have to prevent something from happening. What it exactly is, or how you have to prevent it, you don’t know. You have to find out by walking around the asylum, by talking to people or by opening every cupboard you see.
At the beginning of the game you decide which character you want to be. Every character has different stats. Some will be smooth talkers, others characters more likely will talk with their fists. You, as a time traveller, will basically take over the body of a character and in this module that means that you are all inhabitants of the Asylum, and one will be crazier than the other.
You start the game in a central room, but later you decide, as a team, where you want to go and every time you go to another location you lay a new set of cards on the board. The cards form a panorama. On the left you see a nurse, one the right a painting and there also is a man playing chess. You then decide who goes where in the room. One player wants to talk to the nurse, another wants to look at the painting. You then place your pawn above the cards that you want to take a look at. Only the players who are at a card can look at the back of it and see, or read, what’s going on. You can tell the others what you’ve seen, but can’t show it to them.
Sometimes you find a clue, sometimes an item and at other times you’ll find someone who wants to fight you. When you find yourself in a situation where you have to fight, plus during some other situations, you’ll have to roll some dice and see if you succeed or not.
Everything you do, however, costs time and time is money when you work for a time travel company. Whenever you, as group, run out of time, or time units as they call it, before you completed the task that was assigned to you, you have to reset the board and start all over again. However, you now know where you can find certain items, who to talk to, who to avoid.
That’s the basic idea of the game. Go from one room to another, talk to people, look around and try to figure out what is going on in this dreadful place before time runs out.
Let’s start with the obvious here. You can play the Asylum module that comes with the base game only once. Once means six hours in our case, but it can, however I think it’s highly unlikely, also mean that you are done within one and a half hour.
One game, three or four hours of gameplay, costs €40 or more. Is it worth it? In terms of time for money, compared to other boardgames. No, most definitely not. In terms of fun? That depends on what you like or what you are wiling to pay. I found it a bid expensive, so we, as a gaming group, decided to split the cost. If we did not like it, we would sell it. If we did like it, we all paid less and we could split the cost for the upcoming expansions too.
I recommend you do something similar. €40 For a one time experience, where I have no idea if I like it, was a bit much for me. So I would split the cost, or borrow someone else’s copy.
Now on to the game itself.
I find the overall gaming experience very fun. The idea of the game where you walk from location to location, look at the backs of the panorama cards, discuss the content with the others works very well. Every time you look at a new panorama, every time you read a new card, there’s excitement. Every time you wonder if this piece of information is part of the puzzle or not. Is it worth taking this new and exciting path or will it lead to a dead-end? You will find some challenging puzzles in the game, so you have to like your puzzles. Remember that before you buy this game.
I told you that I found the overall experience very fun, but there were times that I was not so fond of the game. That’s mainly because of the battle system, which is not very good. When you need to interact with a person or an object you sometimes have to roll some dice to see if you succeed or not. Maybe you want to fight someone. That person has a certain amount and type of shields you have to get rid of. You roll dice and if you’re lucky you can remove some and if you’re not so lucky you can’t, or worse you lose life points yourself. Rolling a die is not a new or strange combat system, but I think it doesn’t fit the game. I mean, you figured it all out, you know where to find the right stuff, where to go, managed to solve every puzzle and can still fail because you got stuck in a location, time ticking away, because you where just unlucky with your die rolls. That totally goes into the spirit of the game, I feel.
Another thing you have to be aware of when you buy this game is that the first two runs, a run ends when you run out of time, are very fun. During your first run you find all these new things, room after room you meet new people. Then time runs out. You know where to find the items you need, so you move around much more efficiently. You go to a lot of known places during the first half of the new run, but you will explore more new and exciting places during the second half too. What if you, for some reason, have to do it al over again during a third run. You might all have died? That can happen. Is it still fun to go to same places, talk to the same people for a third time? I can tell you, no it’s not. It’s boring and it’s frustrating having to go through the same motions all over again.
The T.I.M.E. Stories game system works is such way that new and exciting moments are followed by boring and obligatory viewings of scenes that you’ve already seen. And while the fun parts dominate the first half of the game, slowly repetition will take over.
This, however, is my experience. We had to go through multiple runs. If you finish the game in fewer runs, you might have a totally different experience.
I do have to say that I probably only remember the fun parts, the part where we solved that puzzle, the parts where we found that all important clue or remember the story overall. That’s also where T.I.M.E. Stories shines, where it stand out. It’s probably the only game I’ve ever played that tells a story that well and makes you and your team-mates really feel part of it. The system has its flaws, but it’s the same system that make this game a unique and, overall, fun gaming experience.
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