30 April 2016

Reviews of some shite I've enjoyed/hated over the last few months #5 T.I.M.E Stories The Marcy Case and Prophecy of Dragons

The Marcy Case

I had the opportunity to play this a few months ago at my brother's house. The other two guys plus my brother played the Asylum one first then when I was over at some point they offered to bring me in as the new green agent for The Marcy Case!

I had no idea what I was getting into when the board was being set up and the lovely colourful pieces were brought out and the base cards were laid down in panorama.

The Marcy Case started out with zombies! This was a major surprise to the others who had played Asylum first and myself too I guess - it was not foreshadowed at all - save the girl save the world.

The artwork is gorgeous. From the base cards to 1992 in Wisconsin the game was beautifully presented. It had a very The Walking Dead Vol 1 feel to it.

Mechanics were lovely and simple, 1 Time Unit to move, take a test to potentially do nothing but as the timer is going down every turn planning is vital.

Tests were really cool, combat skills were there but I enjoyed the use of the investigation skill, which is present in other games (Elder Signs comes to mind) but is perfect here as every card has flavour text.

One of my favourite aspects of the game was that everything mattered, every location we entered with three or four cards laid out in panorama meant one or two agents to a card to check out what it was. Clues, info, potential encounters with some form of reward for our time. This being a zombie apocalypse there were some areas where splitting up was not ideal - the chaotic hotel, police station and of course the forest - where various different things happened where being alone was not the best choice. We walked away from every encounter wondering what was next and more importantly wanting to find out what happened next.

We went in quite trope-savvy but the game threw enough curve balls at us to forget what kind of game we were playing. Every little clue mattered in the end and ultimately we failed one run by a particularly brutal noise encounter (I think we lost our last 10 TU in one go) and another run we had the wrong conclusion. I think we finished it on our third run, which was fairly hit the ground running and go again yet we still had to take our time doing certain parts. Note-taking became essential toward the end.

Prophecy of Dragons

I entered this one a bit more of a veteran. I had read a spoiler-free review which slated it but he liked T.I.M.E Stories generally so I tried to go in with no expectations. The base cards seemed to be a bit fudgier this time, it was a bit harder to take in that the King of Algueria needed to be reached, something about guilds and temporal faults as opposed to Marcy is important to history/the future, go get her.

We blazed past that into Algueria, a fantasy town layout greeted us on the locations map. We started in the bar and immediately tropes or trope aversion seemed to come into play - if something seemed scary, they're actually friendly and so on. This would come up again throughout. Almost straightaway we were being handed potential red herrings and threads of things we may never be able to fulfill, all with a paltry 25 TU to play with.

The Market seemed like a good second location to go to for the latest news and gossip and to relieve ourselves of the gold weighing us down. This came to pass but it felt too RPG/gamey - equip up now for the dungeon you know is coming. We were also told early on that three sigils would be needed to get into the castle so us being thorough we aimed to get them all (this was wise in the end).

Various people and cards (we were thorough so I think we 3 or 4 of a potential 6+) informed us they could get us to the castle. That was what we wanted to do ultimately but it felt too video gamey - the final boss/dungeon will wait there forever (OK, maybe not with TU involved) and here are several different ways of getting there, all into the inevitable funnel. It reminded me of Fallout: New Vegas where they provided 3-4 different ways to solve various quests (Ultra Luxe rescue quest: put Med-X in Wine, cook imitation human flesh, trap the chef in pantry, cause chef to have breakdown, cook human flesh yourself with high enough skills etc).

The result was only one choice mattered, making the other five kind of redundant. Different yes, but ultimately redundant.

We had the brother/sister thief/assassin combo, the dwarf (and later the paladin instead) and I was the cleric. This informed our choice of 'funnel' as we went for the thieves guild route, which we ran out of time doing. We also lacked the lockpicking kit and vowed to pick up that and every random tool and utility we could from the various merchants (looking at you cat man).

So we grabbed all the tools, the three sigils, breezed through thief route to castle and came up to the three portals. We lost time doing one and were left with less than 10 TU so we were glad the second one was right but almost drowned getting there. Luckily one of us had bought the water-breathing potion and found a no-kidding convector which brought out TU right back to 30+. We had to spend our blue token of +3 TU to make all that happen. The second half of the game commenced and we broke up for a few days, arranging to meet again 4 days later to finish the game.

On reuniting we immediately tore into the castle and were still left wanting for challenge. We eased through the library and the archives and then the banquet hall without spending too many TU - I encountered a particularly annoying time sink in the banquet hall, it was cute and different little trap but it felt more like a nuisance than a proper terrifying. Some more red herrings were collected on the way. W proceeded to the guard room and sure enough that was the path to the final encounter.

The final encounter was different for us and challenging but not crippling. We decided to start around the edges and took out some of the other henchmen before tackling the main boss. This turned out to be a mistake but we didn't cop that until the final challenge. It was mentioned in the archive and perhaps at the very start if the mission to watch out for temporal faults and what not but we thought little of it until that real pain of a final challenge. We only had myself as the cleric and our paladin equipped with a magic-enabling item to roll on the final test which just felt needlessly brutal. Sure enough we failed after some tremendous Murphy's Law lessons learned. We all felt out of steam and pissed afterward, unlike Marcy Case where it was like 'let's look at all the clues this time and get it right' we just felt dejected. It was all down to chance and the dice, which sucked.

We BLAZED through the last run we did in about 30 minutes or less, getting right back up to the final boss who we killed outright and then completed the final challenge with some careful magic rolls from our paladin. We had burned up every single reward token in the prior run and were legitimately pissed and just burnt out at the end - glad to be finished but it had none of the satisfaction of the Marcy Case.

There was no riddle as in Asylum (I look forward to playing that with my group) or investigation and sense of danger in the Marcy Case. The first half in the town just felt light on plot and flavour. There were people telling us about the dragons coming to destroy us all and whatnot and the artwork is GORGEOUS, my gods it's such a pretty game but damn it had none of the punch of TMC or even the Asylum. I haven't played the latter one yet but I will in about two weeks and I'll make my mind up but I can foretell it'll probably be Marcy>Asylum>Prophecy.

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