T.I.M.E. Stories

T.I.M.E Stories presents an unique twist to the cooperative game genre.  Instead of a game you expand and play over and over, T.I.M.E Stories is a legacy game, where you play, win/lose, and then you’re done.  Space Cowboys has been releasing expansions every six months, so players can dip back into the game mechanic, however they will be playing different characters, have different powers, and the scenarios give different twists to past eras to make them not 100% straightforward.

The main story thread is the same:  In the far future, you and your group are time cops, recently graduated from the academy, and ready to start your first mission.  The goal of the Time Agency is to send agents back into time to fix temporal faults before a ripple effect disastrously ruins the future.  You are greeted by Bob, your boss, who will give you the bare bones explanation of what is going one, you then get a briefing from an android, before your characters are placed into pods and your consciousness is beamed into a person living in the era you're headed to.

In the first case you go to a creepy asylum, to prevent a temporal fault from happening.  You have little information to go on, and so must investigate your surroundings, staff, and patients.  Its creepy, and becomes creepier as you move along.  And that’s where I have to stop because anything more would probably be spoilers.

Overall we like the T.I.M.E Stories mechanic.  It's a one shot cooperative game, so if you like roleplaying and working with a group, but don’t have the ability to set up a long running RPG game, this is a good alternative.  You will get one use out of it, unlike other games like Imperial Assault or Descent, but after each story players accrue points and boons to help out when playing future expansions.  

That said, Asylum was poor choice to set up the game.  We were frustrated playing it the first time, twice as frustrated when we were playing it a second time, and I know of other groups who became so frustrated they never finished the first game and the experience soured them for playing future expansions.  There is one puzzle where, in other games, you could probably brute force your way to a solution.  That wasn’t the case, and when we finally figured out what the solution was, it used up a lot of time and frustrated the group more than the other red herring plot bits we came across.  So be aware that you can’t half ass note taking in this game, otherwise you might end up stuck and backtracking through areas you’ve been before.  

The first expansion, The Marcy Case, runs much smoother and the story is really enjoyable.  It's worth playing through Asylum, just to get to play the Marcy game.  We highly recommend T.I.ME. Stories for a great night of sleuthing, investigating, and time travel.

Mystic Vale

Deck building games have become quite common since the first version of Dominion came out in 2008. Many different designers have made their own changes to those base rules to create new and exciting deck builders. Mystic Vale is changing those rules in a large way by moving away from building your deck to building your cards that are in the deck. People who enjoy deck builders will likely enjoy card building as it obviously has its roots in the deck building system.

In Mystic Vale instead of adding or removing cards from your deck you buy transparent cards that slide inside of the sleeves to increase the strength of those cards. One of the few rules about the ways you can build those cards is that you can’t cover anything up so preprinted information and prior upgrades are stuck in your cards once you get them.

The beginning cards and even some of the improvements have red tree symbols on the cards and those can cause you to lose all of your resources and your turn. So the game has a bit of a push your luck mechanic. When you get yourself ready for your next turn you flip over cards until you can see three of those symbols. If you ever can see four that is when you lose everything for the turn. Sometimes you really want just one more buying power or one of your powerful cards so want to flip over one more card. Will you get the resource you wanted or wind up wiping out for the round?

There are lots of different improvements you can get for your cards. Some let you get more buying power, others cancel out the red trees, and others get you points every time you play them. The game runs until the victory point pool based on the numbers of players is exhausted. After that you total up the points you have between tokens and the points on the cards that you bought over the course of the game.

Mystic Vale keeps the spirit of deck building while never increasing the size of your deck to dilute the powerful improvements that you buy. It is always lots of fun and we are looking forward to where this designer and others take this type of game play in the future. Especially after seeing all of the inventiveness people have had with the deck building system.

13 Clues

Deductive games are one of our favorite styles. Something about the puzzle of trying to find hidden information is very enjoyable. 13 Clues is a newer deduction game where you are trying to solve a murder assigned by Scotland Yard.  The name of the game comes from the number of cards with possible clues players use to solve their mystery.  

Each player has 3 cards that are in front of them facing away so that they can’t see what they are. Among those three cards is a weapon, a place, and a person. Each of the types of cards has attributes you can use to determine which of the cards are part of your case. Locations can be inside or outside, weapons can be ranged or melee, individuals can be male or female, and all of the cards have a color as well.

 On your turn you can spend clues to ask people questions, look at face down cards in the center, or attempt to solve your case. When you ask questions you can ask a broad question like how many people do they see or something more specific like how many ranged weapons do you see. One of the tricks of this game is that all of the players have two pieces of evidence that only they can see hidden behind their player screens. So if they say they can see a ranged weapon it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is part of your case - it could be hidden behind their screen!

 Like most games you have to get all three aspects right to win the game and you don’t get to find out what you got wrong if you failed to guess correctly. You do get to continue playing however which is a nice difference from other deduction games! Also every question asked tends to help you in your search as there are no secret answers.

 13 Clues removes many of the problems that some other deduction games have. It lets everyone play until someone is the victor and it lets everyone get information from all of the questions asked. If you want to try to solve a puzzle before your friends can solve theirs then give this game a try.

Hive Mind

Do you think in ways similar to your friends? You can find out in a the fun party game, Hive Mind.

In Hive Mind every player but one wins the game - the loser is the one whose answers are the least similar to the hive. Each round players answer a question choosing what they think the other players answers will be.  The importance is more on getting the same answer as others and less on being inventive or correct with your answer.

Some of questions are a list of your favorite things, like favorite ice cream or cake. Others want the player to fill in the blank in a sentence similar to mad libs. And lastly some want you to answer based on the players, like which person at the table would be most likely to do karaoke. You get a point for every person who wrote down the answers you selected (including yourself) and then the group moves on to scoring.

 Every round the person(s) with the lowest score will fall further out of the hive making it more and more likely that they will lose. Although sometimes the person who gets the most points will actually move back into the hive giving players an opportunity to gain back some lost ground!

 Hive Mind is great fun and it is always fun to see what answers people come up with. Most rounds people will give an answer that in retrospect was a terrific answer and the response will be “Oh, good answer - but I didn’t write it down” which makes everyone laugh at their inability to think of such a great answer.

 There are hundreds of questions and it plays a huge amount of people. If you are looking for a game that is easy to get into, causes lots of laughs, and will let everyone at your party play then maybe give Hive Mind a try!

Ghost Blitz!

There are lots of speed games out on the market. One problem many of them share is that it can favor those who are faster thinkers or just physically faster. This makes playing with a diverse age group difficult to impossible. Ghost Blitz is different than other dexterity games since the answer is not always immediately visible, leveling the playing field.

With similar dexterity games you flip over a card and if something matches you grab an item or slap the pile. In this game however it is not always that simple. There are nine different items in the center of the table and only one of them will be the answer for each card (sometimes none are the right answer!). The simplest cards will be when one of the items on the card is the same color as the object on the table. The next step is if nothing completely matches the card then you need to find the color and shape that is not present. The last rule that is part of the base game is if a ghost is holding a clock. Then the correct answer is actually to call out the time shown on the clock!

 If you get the answer correct then you take the card that was flipped over. If you grab the wrong item (you can’t grab a second one) then you give one of your cards to the person who got it right which helps make it so up until the end of the game you aren’t sure who is going to win. Even if speed games aren’t really your thing, we would encourage you to give this one a try as we have found it to be more universally enjoyed than other speed games.

 If you wind up becoming an expert, there are far more variants to add some challenge to finding the correct object on the table. So once you get too good for the game, you can also make it harder!

Burgle Bros

There is nothing like a good heist movie. Now you can experience a good heist board game! You will work together with other players to rob three safes on three different levels before escaping to a helicopter on the roof. Players will face lots of different security challenges in their effort to pull off the heist.

The main foil for the burglars is the security guards on each of floor. At the end of a player's turn the guards move to a predetermined destination. Each time a guard passes through a space with a player’s standee, they lose one of their stealth tokens. If one of the players has to lose a token and doesn’t have anymore, they get caught and turn in all of their friends ending the game with failure.

Not only do the players have to avoid the guards but there are lots of security measures in the building as well. Various different types of alarms (motion, thermal, visual, keypads) will cause the guards to increase speed and change destination. However, confusing the guards can work in your favor and there are also lots of bonuses in the building as well.  Some rooms have tools for players to use and other rooms have computers to hack alarms.  

The players might think once they managed to crack the safe (which isn’t easy) that they would be set for success. But the various pieces of loot have negatives that make them difficult to carry with you. Some are heavy and make you move slower and some are ostentatious and make you more visible to the guards!

 

While this makes the game seem absurdly difficult,  Burgle Bros is quite approachable and winnable. It combines randomness in ways that don’t overcome the game with swinginess. The programmed movement for the guards is clever and predictable in a way that allows for the players to plan. Each player also has a special ability that makes it so each player has a role to fill while trying to rob the building!

Lifeboats

Everyone simultaneously voting for what the outcome of a game is peak game mechanic.  Lifeboats is a great game of trying to get your survivors to shore, while making sure the other players survivors don’t.  Over the course of the game you will vote on which boats will leak, which people will get thrown off if there isn’t room, and which boats will move towards the shore.

Cutthroat games are definitely not for everyone, but Lifeboats is cutthroat without being mean.. Having taught this game to a large number of groups, it is always fun to see the people who would never screw over their friends, gleefully throwing their survivors off the boat.

While the game is essentially vote after vote (you do shift boats as well) there winds up being quite a bit of negotiation and tactics.  Where in some games you would just want to fill a single boat with your own survivors and push it quickly to the shore, that doesn’t work in Lifeboats. You need a boat with lots of different players in order to get support to move your boat over the others. But then you run the risk of those other players turning against you and throwing you overboard at the earliest convenience!


Lifeboats is one of the most player interactive games that we play. It is always great fun to see people really get into the spirit of the game desperately trying to get their survivors to shore.

Adrenaline

On the surface, first person shooter video games would not be the logical choice for a board game setup.  However, Adrenaline does a good job of making you feel like you are sitting on your couch shooting your friends with special weapons and powerups.    

Each of the weapons deals damage in different ways. Some can shoot through walls while some you need to be in the same square as your opponent. In lots of board games if you die you are eliminated from the game which can be pretty unfun for that player. This game there is almost no penalty for dying - you just draw a card to find out where you respawn and the game continues!

Scoring for the game is similar to how some area control games are scored. If you have done the most damage to a target when they die then you get the most points with each other player damaging them taking a little bit less. Although you also get bonus points if you are the first one to shoot someone. Once someone is damaged you want to kill them quick; they get more powerful as they take damage!

Another problem the genre could suffer from is everyone just shooting the same person over and over again. The designers of Adrenaline have taken that into account with a great design choice. The more times a player dies, the less points they are worth, thus making the player who has never died a high point target.

If you enjoy running around a arena shooting your friends with fun weapons you should give Adrenaline a try!

Appetizers of the Gods

Have you ever had an ebay auction go horribly wrong?  Once in a spree of bidding and in the hopes of getting some cool Sobe swag, I accidently bid on and won one of those large beverage coolers that you see in convenience stores.  Not only was there no where to put it in my dorm room, but shipping it to Alaska would have been more than it was worth.  Luckily, one quick email later everything was worked out--I told the seller I didn’t really want it and he had already promised it to a friend.  

Author, Basil Sands

Author, Basil Sands

Colin Farnsworth also finds himself at the bad end of an ebay auction.  What seems like a coup, winning rare playing cards for the game Fantasy Underworld, turns into a surreal adventure when four leprechaun brothers show up on Colin’s door with a troll in hot pursuit, claiming the auction was actually a contract for room and board in Colin’s house.  Then shenanigans ensue!  There is accidental streaking, large carnivorous puppy snatching birds, talking dogs, unpermitted housing upgrades, and more ale than you can shake a tankard at.     


Appetizers of the Gods would be perfect to kill time on a plane trip (say you are headed to Gen Con, or Dragon Con, or Comic Con, or whatever con) and needed something fun to read.  The book is fairly clean if you want to share with your kids, and would be perfect for a road trip.  Definitely, check it out if you want something fun to read this Summer.  

The Arrival

Based on Irish mythology, The Arrival is a unique area control game where the players claim territories and can also cause more and more enemies to spawn on the board taking corruption in the process. The game has two different ways to score at the end depending on who is most numerous at the end of the game - the players or the evil Fomori.

The most unique aspect of The Arrival, is the way players get resources over the course of the game. Each player will select four cards that only have vague hints on what is on the other side to decide what resource they will receive. Each card has three rows on it and players will have to select which of those rows they want to collect from before they have seen the flip side on all four cards.

Once everyone has gotten all of their resources, players go around the board taking actions. They can build up strongholds, place defense in their regions, fight off the Fomori, and finally place more Fomori on the board. When doing that you are able to have them attack other players destroying some of their strongholds. Although that is also giving them monsters that they are able to attack for points later!


The game ends when one player has become too corrupt from helping the Fomori, or after a certain number of rounds have passed. If the evil outnumber the strongholds on the board then they have overrun the players and the person with the least corruption wins the game. If there are more strongholds than evil, then players calculate who has the most valuable areas under their control making your path to victory an interesting balancing act.