If there is one concept that I have always loved in science fiction it’s time travel. How seriously cool would it be if we would have the ability to travel through time. Were would you go? Or even better, to which time would you go? It’s a feature that we have seen in a huge amount of movies. I like the fact that every time (here we go with the puns) while some basic principles remain the same, they usually are always able to give a cool twist to the existing formula. In The Terminator we have someone who travels backwards in time in order to protect the future, or as Kyle Reese puts it: one possible future. In the anime film The girl who leapt through time we have a girl who is able to alter time itself. In the truly wonderful Interstellar there is a wormhole that creates a time effect that causes all sorts of problems for a group of astronauts that are trying to save their dying planet. These are just a few examples of movies that each have their own ways to play around with time. It’s something that I think has fascinated people for years. Whether or not it will ever become a reality is something that we will probably never find out. One thing is for sure, it will most assuredly be the end of us, as the human race is a master in breaking things! So if you have ever had plans to become a timetraveller it’s probably best to put those plans on hold. In the meantime though, you can always play this cool boardgame, which allows you to play the role of a Time agent!
Before we dive into the story of the game and some of the rules, let’s first see what is waiting for you inside when you open the (very cool looking) box. The main components of the game are cards. There are over 200 cards that are included, consisting of 110 oversized story cards that players will be using to explore their surroundings, 60 normal cards that are used for various other purposes, and 59 smaller sized personal cards that for instance depict equipment that players can utilize. As you might have noticed from some of the pictures the artwork is truly stunning, and a big reason that I eventually wanted to check this game out. The cards are printed on very sturdy cardboard and have a very high quality. Also included is a sheet that contains a number of tokens. Unique is the fact that you don’t punch these out right away, but actually do that during the game itself (more on that below). Next to a rulebook, the final components are a bunch of blue crystals that are used as, one could say, a kind currency in the game called Azrak. The rulebook is put together quite well, and contains a number of examples in order to learn the game
In this game players take on the role of a temporal agent that is part of an organisation called TIME (I know right?). Their task is to preserve the continuity of the timeline, or humanity could face extinction. The way timetravel is depicted in this game is very unique. You see, the agents are sent through time by using so called receptacles. Separated from their physical bodies, an agent takes over the body, mind and knowledge of an individual that lives in the time period that they are sent to. I thought that was a really cool idea! In the story of The Hadal Project, the agents are sent into the 21st century to an underwater base in order to find a cure to a terrible disease that might be the end of humanity. Each player controls one of these receptacles, kind of like a roleplaying game. All the characters have their own special abilities and strengths and weaknesses. After the game is setup the gameplay takes place in a series of 3 phases. In the first phase of the game you first decide where you want to go. The locations of the game are displayed by the oversized story cards. A bunch of these are laid out together and form a panorama, and players will explore these areas in order to find out clues in order to solve their mission.
Once the location has been decided upon players take turns in the second phase of the game to explore that location. Each player takes out one of the cards that form the panaroma and looks at the back of it in order to read it’s instructions. Some cards might contain an important clue, others all sorts of dangers, and some contain equipment that the players will need in order to make progress. Sometimes players also need to take tests. That’s where they will have to use the currency of the game, the blue Azrak crystals. Players have a limited supply of these, and they also represent the links to their current receptacle. If a player runs out, they lose control of the individual they inhabit, and are effectively ejected from their current location. If that happens to all the players, the game ends, and the mission has failed. The token sheet also comes into play when exploring, as players can sometimes be asked to punch out one of the tokens from that board which represent various items that can help the players on their mission. In the final phase, players can swap any items they might have found, and then prepare for the next round. This process continues until the players have solved the mission, or as mentioned they all lose control of their receptacles at the same time.
The game itself is not very hard to learn. The fact of the matter is that it’s kind of like playing in an interactive movie. It’s a very story driven game, and most of the action takes place by exploring locations, that contains a piece of the story as well as (hopefully) some clues to solve the mystery. Most of the instructions are printed on the cards themselves, and except for learning how to do a test that is covered in the rulebook this game has very few rules that you need to figure out. Which is nice as solving the mission itself is not a very easy task! Players will need to work together and need to discuss frequently what they have learned from a certain location and figure out where to go next. As each character is unique, sometimes only certain characters are able to solve a particular puzzle. Part of the fun is the fact that the receptacles whose roles the players take on all have lives and as such the players can encounter other people in the gameworld that are either friends or foes. It will most certainly take a few attempts to solve the mission, but eventually you will be able to figure it out. This being a cooperative game it can also be played solo where a single player just takes on two roles at the same time.
The games biggest draw is at the same time also one of it’s biggest flaws. Although flaw might be too harsh a word. As this is a game that tells a story, eventually you will have explored all the locations, and the story elements that those locations contain. While it’s a very entertaining and high octane tale, the replay value for this game is quite low. Compare it a bit to a book or a movie you have just finished. While you might in the future give it a second go, it probably won’t happen very often that you start it again just after having finished it. That said Time Stories Revolution has many more stories to tell, and there are already several expansions in the works. Even better with the so called Experience expansion you will get the chance to actually link all of these things together, and also improve the character that you play. That gives players some very interesting options and also explores the times between missions and events that happen during those times. For instance players might get a new skill or a weakness, that will make it more or easy or more difficult to complete a new mission. It’s a very cool concept and something that is sure to attract players that are familiar with roleplaying games. All in all Timestories The Hadal Project is a very nifty little game, that I recommend for people that love science fiction and books. Just make sure you won’t get stuck in time…..
I give Time Stories Revolution: The Hadal Project a 8 out of 10 score.