Today’s board game list is all about time: two games that take about 20 minutes each and another that takes four to five hours involving time travel. Ready, set, review!
Council of Verona
The fighting between the Montagues and the Capulets has come to a head in Council of Verona, a quick card game for two to five players. Players draft a small hand of characters that either have agendas or abilities and must be placed into one of two piles: on the council or into exile. Agenda cards have conditions on them that allow you to score if they are met. For example, Lord Montague’s agenda is to have more Montagues on the council at the end of the game than Capulets. Cards are either affiliated with a family or are marked as neutral. Other cards have abilities that move cards and influence tokens around between the two piles.
Influence tokens are how you score points. Each agenda card has three slots where you can place one of your scoring tokens. You have tokens worth zero, three, and five points that are left face down in front of you so only you will know which token you’ve played on which agenda cards. The three slots modify tokens placed in them by adding a point, remaining the same, or dropping a point. If an agenda’s condition is met at the end of the game, each token on it scores. The player with the most points wins.
Council of Verona is fairly simple but has good replay value. The combination of a small set of cards, around 20, and the secret score token values leads to some mind games between players. The box that everything comes in is quite nice as well, something I don’t think I’ve ever called out. I also played a round with a small expansion that adds poison and antidote tokens. An agenda card with a poison token and no corresponding antidote is removed from the game prior to scoring. Council of Verona is a decent game.
Melee comes from the designer of one of my all-time favorite tabletop games, Coup: Rebellion G54. The king of the land has died which sparks a battle over the throne. Victory is simple — take an opponent’s castle before they take yours or control the most territories at the end of the game. The game plays out over the course of a year with each season representing one of the game’s four rounds. Each player’s land consists of a castle and two neighboring territories along with an army of foot soldiers, knights, catapults, and camps.
After an initial placement of unit tiles, players put a secret amount of their known total money into their hand and reveal at the same time. The player who bid the most goes first for that round. Everyone picks one of three actions each round: take money from the bank, reinforce your lands by paying for more soldiers, or launch an attack into enemy territory. Gold is a huge focus in Melee and that is never more clear than in combat. If you decide to attack, you again pick a secret amount of gold and hold out a closed fist. If the defender correctly guesses the amount the defense is successful, otherwise the attack is successful. In either case, the gold bid by the attacker is paid to the bank. There are no stats for the different units, but they do all adhere to different rules. Normal footmen are cheap but can attack only once before stopping, knights are more expensive and can continue on after a successful attack, camps are cheap but cannot attack, and catapults clear out all enemy tiles in a space but cannot move.
At first, Melee seemed a bit bland but things really kick up in the fourth and final round when players get to pick two actions instead of one. I only played once, but I feel like most games will boil down to three rounds of slight jockeying followed by a final round of fireworks. There is a bit of resource management and strategy to the game, but it mainly comes down to guessing how much gold your opponents are willing to put up for an attack. It may not be deep, but I had a good time playing Melee and would like to play again.
I was excited to get to play through T.I.M.E. Stories as it is ranked #25 overall on BGG. In T.I.M.E. Stories, an organization of time travelling agents is tasked with keeping the fabric of time safe. The game plays out in single play scenarios that can be enjoyed once and only once since you’ll know the outcome after playing. The first scenario, a trip to an insane asylum in 1921, is included with the base game.
Players essentially possess a character from the scenario as everyone travels back in time. Role playing as a group of insane people makes for some good conversation. Once you travel back in time, you’ll have a certain allotment of time units (TU) to spend before being pulled back to the present day. Everything you do costs TU: exploring a room, entering combat, opening a lock, travelling to a new room, etc. The hook with T.I.M.E. Stories is that you will inevitably fail to reach the end of the game before running out of TU. This doesn’t mean that you lose, though. Being pulled back to the present completely resets the game, meaning you lose any items gathered and other progression, but you do retain the knowledge of what paths are dead ends and who is worth talking to. It’s this mechanic that allows you to come back to the starting point and push further into the scenario with the knowledge you’ve gained from previous runs before being pulled back, resetting, and trying again. I don’t want to give away any specifics to the scenario since learning as the game unfolds is most of the fun, so I’ll just say that it took my group of four players about four to five hours to finish it.
The main mechanic behind T.I.M.E. Stories is very, very interesting. There’s a bit of choose your own adventure to it since you’ll be presented with branching paths that may lead to keys, combat, or nothing at all. The box also comes with a way to save your progress and set the game aside for future play sessions. I think I would have enjoyed my T.I.M.E. Stories experience more if my group had done that. Playing through 75% of the story repeatedly over four to five hours got pretty cumbersome by the end. Other than that, T.I.M.E. Stories is a very cool game. I’d be down to try another scenario.