Imagine a choose-your-own adventure that you experience with other people. Each of you take a page of the story, and tell each other what you experience. Work together as a team or go off on your own to find your own path. With each decision, you work through the book a page at a time. And once you run out of pages, you need to start the story again, reading faster and picking the right decisions from the very beginning. This is the idea behind T.I.M.E Stories, a cooperative story telling game you play with one card at a time.
You and up to three of your friends, and really, you’ll want to play with a full team, will go back in time to solve a mystery. You don’t play as odd spacemen, but you’ll inhabit people already in the past known as vessels. Since the first story takes you to an Asylum, you get to pick from one of several American Gothic rejects each with their own power and personality.
The game unfolds as you lay out cards for each of the locations you are investigating. Each set fans out to display a particular area. You choose one card or place to investigate, but more than one person can be at the same place. You will then pick up the card and look at the back. There’s going to be something there – a bit of story, a clue, maybe there’s something you need to do at this spot. But here’s the kicker – you have to tell people what you see on the back of the card. There’s no reading what’s on the back or showing it to other people unless they’re in the same spot.
And here’s where the strength of the game comes into play. You have to talk to everyone at the table. You are telling them a part of the story and they are sharing their part of the story with you. And it’s this back and forth exchange of who saw what or who needs help with this thing that makes the game amazing.
And you will be playing through this game again because you’ll be bleeding time every time you move or perform a task. Moving from room to room makes you roll a die where you can lose time and there are tasks where failing them causes you to lose even more time.
It’s a bit like a puzzle room where you need to find the right combination of moves and times to perform the right tasks to get through the right areas to eventually win the game. But you’ll also be going through the same first steps time after time to figure out what you need to be doing.
The only problem is once you put the last puzzle piece into place, there’s little left to bring you back to the table. But this is a platform – while the first story isn’t the strongest, there are more stories coming out, better stories, and different stories than before. T.I.M.E. Stories might be one of the most innovative games of last year and this year as well.