TableTopTakes: T.I.M.E. Stories Asylum
Do you want to make a different in the multiverse? Are you worried about time incursions changing your life? Don’t worry; Tachyon Insertion in Major Events is here to help. The T.I.M.E. organization is fully approved by world governments to stop events that would mess up our timeline and the multiverse from happening.
Are you ready for your first mission?
That’s the simple pitch of T.I.M.E. Stories, a board game in which you play as agents of this organization who are going back in time or across the multiverse to stop catastrophic events from happening. You start out as rookie agents, and you are given a mission to go back to an insane asylum in 1920s France. There is some event that is going to take place there, and you have to unravel the mystery and figure out how to stop it. Each character’s consciousness is placed into a receptacle — in this case, so as not to raise suspicions, the receptacles are some of the asylum’s patients. Now you are racing against the clock to solve the mystery and stop the time event from happening. The good news is that if your receptacle dies or you run out of time and have to be sent back to your own body, you can always jump back to the same spot in time and try again, but those trips aren’t cheap, and it will affect your overall score.
As you can imagine, there are some crazy things going on and twists and turns that you need to figure out over the course of the game. And if you’re like the team that we took in, there are going to be clues and puzzles that you just get stumped on. T.I.M.E. Stories reminds me some of the Unlock and Exit games, which are essentially escape rooms in a box. While those are focused on escaping most of the time, this game is focused on solving a mystery. And while Unlock and Exit are limited in their scope and storytelling, T.I.M.E. Stories can tell a story through multiple locations and the events that unfold. There are a few other unique things about T.I.M.E. Stories, the first being the game-saving system. We didn’t use this, but it is possible to save the game partway through playing so that you can pick it back up again later — this is made possible with the way the box has been created and laid out. The second thing is the multiple run system that you can employ if you run out of time or if all the characters die. This gives it more of a video game feel than with Unlock or Exit, because with those, you just go until you are done and then you are done with the game for good. With T.I.M.E. Stories, it would be possible to play multiple sessions with no problem.
Finally, one of the cool things I want to talk about is the scenario we played, the Asylum scenario. This is the one that comes in the base game, and it is meant to get you up to speed. It can still be tricky, however, so don’t take it lightly. There are also a lot more scenarios for the game out there to be purchased, and I’m excited to get some of them soon, because I’m ready to play again. These scenarios are all over the map, with some seemingly set in Ancient Egypt, a fantasy world, and the year 1992. This is one of the coolest aspects of the game to me, because the possibilities for scenarios is pretty limitless because of this. And the fact that it’s a board game, with a board, decks of cards, combats, challenges, etc., makes it feel more substantial and meaty than the Unlock and Exit games.
Let’s talk a little bit about your receptacle and the stats that you have to play around with, which are based on the scenario. In the Asylum (and all of this is outside-of-the-box stuff that you will know before you start playing, so these details aren’t spoilers), I was placed first into a cocaine addict and then a cannibal girl. Each character has special abilities, as well as some stats; for example, deftness, glibness, and strength(ness). You use strength to fight and probably break open stuff, glibness for all the talking (and sweet-talking) you do, and deftness for stealing things, rummaging around looking for clues, things of that nature. You roll dice with the hope of rolling as many blue stars, or successes, as possible, and of avoiding the red skulls, or failures/damage. If you are up against a dangerous foe, they can do damage to you — just a point at a time, but you don’t have many life points to start with. If the number of red skulls you roll combined with the number of red skull shields the enemy has is higher than your character’s defense number, your character will take a hit. This gives the game a logical way to have a character die, and there’s a good way for characters to come back, too — the dead character comes back in automatically after 7 more time units have been spent. This makes it so no one is sitting out of the game too long; that person can still take part in the discussion, as well.
Next, let’s talk about time units. I covered most of how the game works in the previous paragraph, but there is another key part to this game, and that is the time units. You spend time moving around the scenario’s map — in this case, you’re exploring the various rooms and grounds of the asylum. The group moves as one unit, which is maybe not an ideal part of the game, but it allows players to take each turn as a group so that everyone is involved, which is an ideal part of the game. These rooms are split into several cards — by spending one time unit, you can explore aroom, placing as many people at a location as you want, but you can only explore one card per pawn, and you determine where your pawn goes in the room. You might want to explore the same room multiple times, and each time you go to another part of the room, you have to spend another time unit. So that’s one way you have the clock counting down on you, but the other way is that when you move locations, you roll a die to see how much time you spend — it’s possible to get only a single time unit knocked off as you change rooms, but it’s also possible you’ll lose up to three. But that’s part of the stress of the game, and one of the strengths is that you have a timer that you can watch count down.
Finally, one thing I wanted to touch on is the multiple runs. I know I mentioned this before, but want to explain it more fully here. When we played, we had to play the scenario three times in a row to be able to beat it (a.k.a., we did poorly at the game). But the game is fast to reset between times playing, and once we failed the mission a second time, even though we’d been playing for a while, we wanted to finish it off. All in all, I think it took us about three hours to play through the scenario three times, which isn’t bad. In the future, I would be very tempted to split it up so that the third play doesn’t just happen immediately, because it did get a little bit long, as we already knew a lot of the story by that point. However, that did allow us to speed through some of the first part and just select a few things to do and a few to skip, until we realized that the things we’d skipped might be important as well. So if you have a gaming group that regularly gets together, with up to four people in said group, T.I.M.E. Stories scenarios could easily be played over multiple sessions.
This is a very good game. The pieces are nice, and the game itself if very aesthetically pleasing. I don’t really have any knock against the mechanics, as they make a lot of sense as to how they work. T.I.M.E. Stories also falls somewhere between roleplaying and a board game. If you wanted to, since you are inhabiting a receptacle in the game, you could pull a Jack Black from Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and really get into character, acting like a person inhabiting the body of another person. I think most people would enjoy this game; however, I can see it having some adult themes at times, and I know with the most recent scenario, they did warn people about that. It is also a pretty intense game in a great way, but it could be too stressful for some people. Overall, though, I would recommend this game, and if you are turned off by the price of it and the expansions, see if you can find two groups who want to use the same copy of the game, and that will make the cost a whole lot more palatable.
Overall Grade: A
Casual Grade: B
Gamer Grade: B+
Have you had a chance to play T.I.M.E. Stories before? If so, how did you like the game? If not, does it seem like something that would interest you?
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