Game Review: T.I.M.E. Stories
Something awful is happening at the asylum. Patients disappear and frightening creatures appear on the grounds. You and your team are time travelers sent to investigate the cause of the strange events.
T.I.M.E. Stories sits at the intersection of science fiction and fantasy, but it’s no kids’ game. Violence and horror lurk behind every decision. At the core of the game is a mystery that must be solved in order to win and save yourselves.
T.I.M.E. Stories is a cooperative narrative board game for 2-4 players and takes between two and four hours to play.
T.I.M.E. Stories works much like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book (or, more appropriately, for Horror Addicts, the “Give Yourself Goosebumps” books by R.L. Stine).
Players begin by choosing their characters. Each has strengths and weaknesses which will affect how you play the game. Some scenarios call for brute strength while others would benefit from a silver tongue. Be careful, though; you’re inhabiting the body of a lunatic, so there are some quirks and traps in each character’s behavior (some can’t be left alone, some can’t deliver a killing blow in combat).
To play, the team explores rooms, discovers items, and talks to characters. What you do affects what happens immediately in the game—offering more rooms to explore and more information about what is going on—but some effects will last much longer. This all happens on a time crunch and the longer you take, the more likely your team will have to start all over again (you are a time traveler after all).
The team wins when they solve the mystery and successfully
T.I.M.E. Stories is definitely a story game. There are elements of game play (combat and challenges), but for the most part, the team doesn’t “win” or “lose”. Players don’t defeat each other and the game never really beats the players. The fun is in making decisions and discovering the story along the way.
Since the majority of the base game is themed around a 1920’s asylum, the atmosphere is heavily horror related (with monsters, lunatics, and mad doctors). The art reinforces this. It is stunning and gruesome in equal measure, perfect for the story. The mystery itself is soaked in blood.
The game is nominally themed as science fiction, which allows you to expand the game (with other stories in new locations) and to keep playing a game that might otherwise be too hard (by restarting when all players die). However, while playing, you are immersed in the world of the story (the asylum), so, the science fiction elements become jarring when they are reintroduced.
This adds to T.I.M.E. Stories‘ complexity. This game isn’t for people new to board games or the faint of heart. There are a lot of pieces and parts to game play. The board, while beautiful, is not immediately easy to understand. If you wish to play, either find a veteran to explain or take the time to familiarize yourself with the manual.
While T.I.M.E. Stories was a fun and interesting game, the truth is, it isn’t a game you can play over and over. Unlike a “Give Yourself Goosebumps”, the story here has a definite path to follow and does not diverge greatly. There is only one major story included and once you’ve figured that out, the game loses its appeal. You already know the twists and ending. Given that most of the fun of the game is in exploring and discovering what is going on, that’s a big disadvantage.
There are seven expansion packs for T.I.M.E. Stories, so you can play some different stories, but from an investment point of view, it isn’t cost effective to buy. If you really want to experience this game (and I do recommend playing), visit a board game café that has T.I.M.E. Stories and its expansions.