Given the story and exploration based nature of the game let me state up front that this review will be spoiler free (which in this case also means no during game photos).
Between having some extremely intriguing design elements and a lot of great word of mouth, I’ve been dying to try out T.I.M.E Stories. I’m pleased to report that it’s a fantastic gaming experience.
Parts of this review will be vague, as it’s extremely difficult to describe T.I.M.E Stories in any detail without spoiling pieces of the first mission. I’ll try to provide useful information about the structure and premise though.
The players work for a time travel agency and are sent back to investigate a potential temporal incident. Each player will be “sent back” into a receptacle (character), Quantum Leap style. From there it’s the team’s job to work together to explore, figure out what’s happening, and complete the mission. That’s the basic background of the game, and everything else is intertwined with the particular mission being played. The base game comes with a deck for the first mission, and further mission decks are available as expansions.
One mission may not sound like much, but there is a lot of depth achieved due to clever mechanics, careful writing with several surprises, and a real sense of exploration and atmosphere. There are a limited amount of “Time Units” to use during a “run” (game), and if you run out or encounter some other game ending condition you have to reset and try the mission again. It’s normal to need more than one run to finish a mission, so even with only one included in the base game there’s a lot to encounter and enjoy here.
The care with which the game was designed to allow numerous missions is obvious. General game tokens, dice, and the board all use various symbols, which are given mission specific meanings by rule cards in the mission deck. So for example a symbol that indicates a character’s agility might mean something completely different in an expansion mission. This is an elegant way to allow the framework to adapt to each mission and keep everything tight and appropriate from a narrative standpoint without overly complicating the common components. Cards from the mission deck will also represent the area to be explored, specific locations within that area, items, etc.
The best part of T.I.M.E Stories is how engaging it is. The sense of foreboding and immersion, as well as the depth of gameplay, achieved with just a deck of various cards is INCREDIBLE. The artwork and graphic design are both exquisite and work in tandem to fulfill both functional and thematic demands perfectly. We were completely invested on surviving the game and completing our mission, and extremely intrigued with the mysterious happenings we were thrown into. It really felt like we were exploring and investigating, which again is amazing given everything is represented by and explained on cards. The puzzles and situations are appropriately challenging without being impossible, and it all further enhances a strong core story that has some great twists.
I can’t say enough about how well everything comes together in this game, and the included mission is excellent. T.I.M.E Stories won’t be for everyone given the storytelling aspects and lack of replayability, but I adored it and can’t wait to play the expansions.