A journey quite unlike any other.
reading for gist and detail
reporting and summarising
collaborative decision making
WHO IS IT FOR?
- Level (CEFR C1-C2)
- 15 years and older.
T.I.M.E. Stories has a time-travelling science fiction premise, which, to be honest, when I explain it to people seems to put them off for some reason. If there was one game which demonstrated EVERYTHING that was great about the newer generation of board games, then this is it. All you really need to know is that this game has a system in which you can take part in scenarios and adventures that can take place anywhere and anytime. Players work together as a team to solve a mystery and if they aren’t able to do it in the time provided, then Groundhog Day style, they get to do it again from scratch. The stories are extremely compelling and it will have ESL / EFL learners reporting information, speculating about evidence and planning the best possible course of action.
There are a number of different scenarios available for T.I.M.E. Stories. I don’t want to spoil the journey for you, so I’ll do my best to outline how the game works and what the players have to do without giving away any of the plot(s).
The gameplay revolves around one large deck of cards which the players must explore (that’s why they call it a decksploration game). The game uses these cards to make many beautiful tableaux (see picture below) which represent the scenario’s various locations. Upon arriving at a new scene, one player reads out the description of what the characters can see, and then the players can decide on which part (card) of the scene they individually want to investigate. This is where the real magic happens in T.I.M.E. Stories. If a player decides to investigate one particular part of a scene, then only that player takes that card and reads the reverse. They are forbidden from reading it aloud. From an EFL / ESL perspective, this is a fantastically natural way of getting learners to report speech (often there are important dialogues to relate) and to summarise facts and details. This mechanism plays a major part in the gameplay. The information that the players get from these separate encounters influences the decisions the group makes and their overall path through the story.
photo: Vladimir Shlepakov (https://boardgamegeek.com/image/2711458/time-stories?size=large)
Working as a team, the players investigate the various locations, discover clues and interact with many other characters. This is all managed using the numerous decks of cards that are particular to each scenario. The team has a limited amount of time to solve the case (a pre-determined number of turns) and their decisions may cause them to lose what valuable time they have. There will be enemies to fight and challenges to meet, for which players roll dice and use the abilities of their characters (or as they are rather grimly referred to here, receptacles).
Perhaps the greatest downside to this game is that it is only one story. When it’s done, it’s done. That’s it. Once players have solved the mystery in one deck, then it’s finished and there’s not much incentive to do it again. But in his excellent Rahdo Runs Through video reviews, Richard Hamm uses a great analogy to describe T.I.M.E. Stories: when you buy it, it’s like buying a DVD player with one DVD. You’ll buy other scenarios and maybe come back to an earlier one at a later date with a different group of friends. You probably won’t remember all parts of the story and the overall puzzle will still present a challenge.
BEAR IN MIND:
- It’s LONG. One playthrough (and you’re going to do a bunch) is probably going to take about an hour.
- The game involves a significant element of reading aloud. For players with special educational needs, this may present difficulty. Fortunately though this can be avoided and other players can take this role if needed.
- If I were to make one criticism of the game (and it’s important to declare that I’ve only done 2 scenarios at this point), it’s that often the puzzle comes down to finding one clue. One. If you miss it (as we did), then you are going to go round and round in circles and it can get a bit frustrating.
- If you are going to use the glossary provided (in downloads below) then only issue the glossary once the game has been started. Some of the vocabulary might give them clues or spoil some surprises if addressed in advance. (Besides there’s LOADS of it, so pre-teaching that lot would be a total snorefest).
This game is a brilliantly unique experience. The kinds of interactions and situations that players go through is like nothing else I have ever played. In truth though, this is one game which I think has far more application as the kind of game that EFL/ ESL learners can do as a fun self-study activity. Unless they will have the option (and the time!) to play the scenarios a few times in class, then it’s going to be a little frustrating for them, because each scenario probably represents a good 2-4hrs of game play. Definitely one for Friday Games Club, this one.
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