T.I.M.E Stories: Madame
- Designers: Fabien Riffaud, Juan Rodriguez
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 12+
- Time: suggested 90 minutes
- Times played: 1, with review copy provided by Asmodee NA
T.I.M.E Stories: Madame is the ninth expansion to the T.I.M.E Stories franchise. Though some of the more recent expansions have had a lukewarm response in these parts; I was quite excited to play this particular scenario after reading this in an interview written by fellow OG’er, W Eric Martin: “ T.I.M.E Stories: Madame, due out in Q1 2019, is the final title in the “white cycle” of T.I.M.E Stories, and it brings the current overarching storyline to a resolution of sorts.” https://boardgamegeek.com/blogpost/86202/space-cowboys-resets-time-stories-revives-jaipur-r
My group has faithfully played through the entire series thus far, and frankly, after devoting nine long evenings to the game, a large part of me just wants to see how the story unfolds… It’s kinda like that feeling I had while watching LOST, near the end of season 5, when the story seems to be simply preposterous with all the time shifting, and I just wanted to quit… yet, I hung on through the sixth and final season just to see how it ended. Well, frankly, I’m at that point with this newly dubbed “white cycle”. I’m not sure how I feel about the way the story is going, but dang it, I just have to know how the story ends. So much so that this title made it to the table on the same day the mailman dropped it off…
As you probably know from previous reviews, T.I.M.E Stories is a novel cooperative game where players take on the identities of people in different time streams – trying to rectify problems in the space-time continuum. Note that this game is an expansion ONLY and you will need to have the base T.I.M.E Stories box to play the game. As with previous reviews – I will not include any spoilers here on the gameplay. Any elements that I will talk about will be stuff that has already been publicly revealed by Space Cowboys or Asmodee.
I’ll recap the general idea of T.I.M.E Stories quickly:
The overarching story of T.I.M.E Stories is that you and your teammates are members of an intervention team set some point in the future. You step into a “shell” that then projects your mind into a receptacle in a previous era. Thus, you can take on the identity of someone different each time you travel back in time. Your team works together to try to solve the problem of the scenario.
Each scenario is contained within a deck of cards. It is important to remember that you should never shuffle the deck nor should you ever look at the cards prior to playing the game. As I mentioned at the top, most of the scenarios are linear and possibly only played once. Thus, you don’t want to accidentally learn something which will spoil your experience.
Each mission starts with an information session at the T.I.M.E Stories Base Location. While there are some basic rules that are in effect for every game of T.I.M.E Stories, there are some individual tweaks that are outlined in this opening debriefing. The starting location will also instruct you on how to set up the deck of cards. In general, there will be a section of cards that are Items – these cards remain face down in a deck, and as you play the scenario, you will reveal Item cards to help further the story. There are some map cards that are placed in the map area found in the upper left hand corner of the board. There are also a number of character cards which provide the statistics for the different identities that you might be able to take in that scenario. The rest (and bulk) of the deck are reserved for locations. The first card of each location has the location name printed on it. At the bottom of the card, it tells you how many other cards are used in this location.
As you get started with a scenario, each player learns the story of the scenario, and then players choose the character they will portray in the adventure. Each character has specific abilities (such as health, defensive strength, fighting, magic, agility, etc.) – the types of abilities will differ based on the particular scenario. Sometimes the different characters will also have special abilities, and the group should take some time to discuss how the characters might work together based on their different strengths and weaknesses.
In this scenario, the new characteristic concerns your temporal memory. As you might imagine, this leads to a new ability that we haven’t seen much in the previous scenarios.
For further details on the base mechanics: please re-read my initial review
My thoughts on the game
Again, to regurgitate the interview: “T.I.M.E Stories: Madame, due out in Q1 2019, is the final title in the “white cycle” of T.I.M.E Stories, and it brings the current overarching storyline to a resolution of sorts. This will be succeeded by the “blue cycle”, which (like the “white cycle”) will consist of nine scenarios. Aside from that, however, the “blue cycle” will differ vastly from the game’s initial incarnation…. Doucet says that in response to feedback from players and market surveys, the “blue cycle” scenarios will do away with the time track and have playing times under three hours, making them single evening events rather than something that might last multiple playing sessions as you start over and over again. ”
After reading this just prior to playing, our group decided we would try to figure out how the new system would work, and we implemented our own streamlining of the rules. As we had had issues with the slog in a couple of the previous scenarios, we decided to play this last white cycle scenario without a time track. We would simply start at the beginning and just explore the game without stopping for time. There would be no resetting each time the clock hit zero; there would be no struggling with remembering what was at a particular location, etc. In fact, I ended up deciding that we should play without a board – each time we opened up a new location, we simply left it on the table so we could quickly go back to it without having to shuffle through the card deck.
For us, this increased the enjoyment of the game immensely. Our group loves the discovery of the story, and we find it very frustrating to have to repeat large portions of the game just hoping to do it in a certain time limit – much of which comes down to rolling the time die well when switching between locations. Our layout system also helps us “remember” things. Rather than take notes as we play, we’re generally OK just looking something up that we’d already seen. It’s more enjoyable for us and lets us concentrate on learning the story as opposed to having to memorize minutiae. It also keeps the game length down to 2 or 3 hours which is the right amount of time for our group to play one of these scenarios. We can easily finish it in a single session.
Despite our unhappiness with the way the timing works, we have liked the story telling and puzzle solving enough to keep wanting to play the series to experience the game. I have generally been impressed with the way that each scenario brings something different or new to the game, and Madame is no exception. The twist here was nice and definitely made us think about how we were going to approach the game (even with our modified setup).
We also wanted to keep playing through the game to learn more about the backstory which have been woven (albeit irregularly) throughout the scenarios thus far. While I definitely won’t spoil anything – I will say that I was truly surprised, or maybe even shocked, at the information added at the end of Madame.
In the end, this is a nice story to end this first series. We enjoyed playing through the entire series, and I’ll admit that I’m definitely anticipating the changes announced for the blue series. If you’re reading this review, you’ve likely played a good number, if not all, of the previous scenarios. You’ll like the mix of familiar with the addition of the new twists. It was a good feeling to get to the end of this first cycle, and Madame has me looking forward to the next set of nine games.
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor
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I’m really surprised you weren’t totally disappointed by this scenario, especially the lack of ending. There are several bitter reviews on BGG. We felt that Brotherhood of the Coast set up a cliffhanger of sorts regarding the factions which was completely ignored. It’s interesting you mention Lost as people have said it’s similar except Lost’s disappointing ending was even done better!
I felt the mechanics and story in this one were sub-par. There was no thematic indication as to what you are trying to accomplish, so you just wander around. And while it started out interesting, the mechanics quickly grew tedious. They seemed to double-down on some of the not-so-fun mechanics, while completely leaving out others (state tokens) which resulted in a samey experience of wandering around delivering items with the right receptacles.
The ending was just super bitter and doesn’t leave me confident at all for the Blue Cycle. I was looking forward to it, but I’m definitely in a “read reviews first” mind set now.
It’s interesting people experience scenarios in such different ways. There are some positive ratings on BGG but some of them even mention the lack of closure.
I think leaving all the locations out for easy return would suit our group. We take notes, but it’d be easier just to look at past cards as needed. I wouldn’t want to play without TU though, as that would take too much of the pressure off, imo.
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