Seconds Out, Round Two! - Time Stories: The Marcy Case Review

Time Stories was one of the first games I had come across where the hype train was justified for me. It provided me with some of the best personal enjoyment in games to date and gave me that feeling of nostalgic love for the "choose your own adventure" books of old. That being said it couldn't be argued that the short time span (no pun intended) and price point was going to put a few people off unless you clubbed together to buy the game, which I still say is the recommended way to do it, that way it's no more expensive than a cinema ticket.

Space Cowboys will now release multiple scenarios throughout the years to come to provide the game with some longevity and certainly they are doing so pretty quickly. We already have 2 expansions to date and BoardGameGeek already has details of the next one. The Marcy Case is the first expansion and just like before I will keep this review 100% spoiler free. Well 99.9% anyway, there's always one that considers a minuscule comment as a spoiler these days. Now I went into The Marcy Case only knowing the "setting" that it was based on, which to be honest is pretty common information and that did give me some reservations as it's not a genre I'm particularly keen on. The Asylum's story was engaging and mysterious, but can they repeat it in this one?



Designer: Nicolas Normandon
Publisher: Space Cowboys
Age: 12+
Players: 2-4
Time: 60-90 minutes per "run"
RRP: £19.99



A Change Of Style


As we now have a new scenario, we also have a new style of artwork for the cards themselves looking more like a hand-drawn style compared to the computer generated style of the first set (correct me if I'm wrong on that because if that's not computer generated, that's mighty fine skills there!). It looks fine and fits the theme, but I'm definitely a bigger fan of the original style. However this is just personal preference and no doubt the artwork style will probably change in every scenario as different designers put their mark on the game. As before there is a large amount of graphic imagery present with gore and implied injuries so bare this in mind if playing with younger gamers.

The rules within the deck (because you don't get a book, literally you get the deck of cards in the box and that's it!) aren't too tricky to follow if you're familiar with Time Stories by now, although there are some minor odd points that don't get explained like for example, why is one location on the map written in red when all the others aren't? Is it a warning, is it a difficulty rating or do you need a specific item before you can go there? I never saw an explanation. Other than that though the deck mechanics work in exactly the same way as before.

It's All About.... SEEN IT!


If you asked me to compare the two scenarios as to which is better, it would be Asylum in a heart beat. That's not to say The Marcy Case is bad at all, far from it, but it's got one feature that lacks in comparison and that is the storyline itself. Even though the main plot arc is resolved in a clever way, the story is very basic and predictable. In the Asylum you were unsure exactly what was going on and there was a good amount of mystery and puzzle solving. But in The Marcy Case you're literally chucked into the action with the game going "Here's the setting, ready steady go!"

It's still good fun to investigate what's going on and see all the locations and plot arcs unfold, but it never feels as engaging and the emphasis on combat seems a bit too heavy for my liking. I was also a little disappointed that only four receptacles were available to choose that didn't appear very different from each other other than a tweak in stats. I believe the Asylum had a lot more to choose from, but here if you die or repeat a run, you're unlikely to care too much about trying out a different character.

Now I mentioned the plot arc resolution is very clever in the way the deck showcases it, but there are some minor issues with it. Firstly there is a hidden twist which when you come across it, you will be wondering what was the point of your whole excursion? It's not quite as ridiculous as the infamous "Eagle" problem with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it still made me raise my hand to ponder the question.

The second issue may not affect everyone, but in our play through we failed the first run (by plot, not by time units running out) and by doing so it meant that it was almost impossible to fail the second one because your memory will inherently retain something that means you know exactly what you need the next time. I can't spoil it any more than that, but that felt a bit anti-climatic. In fact when browsing through the deck afterwards, we noticed there was a fair amount of clue taking/solving present in areas we'd not been too that we never even needed to do! You know the cassette tape on the front cover? Yeah they are relevant to the story, but we didn't use them nor did we need to it seemed. It felt like a good chunk of the scenario was wasted or too easily bypassed.


Verdict


The Marcy Case is still a great deal of fun, aptly piloted along by the innovative Time Stories card system. The over-arching resolution of this story is very clever though it's spoilt by how it's very difficult to lose the second run once you've failed it once. The same fun factor of revealing new locations, interacting with the environment and characters and working together as a team that you got from the original is still here in spades so it's certainly worth playing through.

However the Asylum is clearly the better of the two in terms of story and mystery. Whereas the Asylum borrowed  (albeit heavily) from various licenses, this one is just blatantly ripping them off to the point where you'll be making direct quote references. It also seems a little too heavily focused on combat and rather than build up an engaging mystery to solve, it just chucks you in the thick of it and you know exactly what the theme and story is from the word "go".

It is still fun to play, but won't leave you with the same impact that the Asylum scenario did. Here's hoping that the Prophecy of Dragons with it's alternate timeline setting will deliver something new and fresh as I would hate for the designers to run out of ideas.

If you are interested in this game you can find a copy at your friendly local gaming store - http://www.findyourgamestore.co.uk/


YOU WILL LIKE THIS GAME IF:


You enjoyed the original Time Stories - bit of a given really!


You welcome the gore factor that has been prevalent so far in this game.


You enjoy the theme it's based on.



YOU WILL NOT LIKE THIS GAME IF:


Combat wasn't a favourite part of the experience - it seems quite abundant here.


You think it's ripping off a few too many obvious licenses here.


You want it to take longer than the previous scenario and have a deep storyline.


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