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Send your time agents into the past to attack and alter history. These changes create time waves that ripple today-ward, increasing in scope and severity, until they erupt into dire problems within your opponent's culture, society and technology.
Time Control has simultaneous play, individual timeline boards, diceless resolution, and mutating rules. Start playing yesterday!
- 4 Timeline Boards (1 per player) 12 Time Agents for each player 22 Time Control Tokens for each player 74 Time Wave tokens 31 Fate cards 64 Problem Cards 22-page rulebook
Average Rating: 1.5 in 2 reviews
When I first heard about the game Time Control, I was excited. The theme of time travel has always excited me, and some of my favorite books and movies have been about time travelers and anomalies in time. When I read an overview of the game, I was even more excited, as it appeared that the time travel was not just a theme pasted on a game mechanic, but rather a theme around which the game revolved.
I then received Time Control. Did the game do the theme justice? Sadly, I must say that Time Control is one of the biggest disappointments of any game Ive ever played (as Tenjo was). I feel as if there is a good game locked up in Time Control, but it just doesnt work when played. There are many reasons I feel this way, so Ill explain.
First, a description of how the game plays
In Time Control (Thompson Industries, 2003 Anthony Thompson), each player receives their own board. The boards are split into seven rows Today, Yesterday, Recent Past, Yesteryear, Distant Past, Ancient Times, and Pre-History). Each player also receives 22 time control tokens, numbered 1-21, and one that says FATE. Finally, a player receives twelve agent tokens: two regular agents, two brawlers, two scientists, and 6 historians. Each agent is double sided, with busy marked on one side, and alert on the other. All agents are placed in the Today zone of a players board on their alert side. A deck of Problem cards is shuffled, and placed next to a shuffled deck of Fate cards. A pile of counters that say Create on one side and Solve on the other are placed to the side. The game is ready to begin.
The game takes place in six phases, all of which take place simultaneously. The first phase is the Launch Phase. Each player may move any agent, which is on the alert side, to any time zone on their board.
The next phase is the Alert Phase. All agents, wherever they might be, are flipped to their alert side.
The Action Phase, the heart of the game, is what occurs next. Players announce actions for each of their agents. Agents may take as many actions as the player pleases, unless an action causes that agent to go to its busy side, in which case the agent can no longer perform any actions. The actions are as follows:
- Move: Each agent may move to an adjacent time zone on the board they are currently in, but only if that time zone is lower than the one they are currently in. Thus, agents in Pre-History cannot move.
- Snap: Each agent may move to their own Today zone. Any agent doing this is immediately turned to the busy side.
- Invade: An agent may move to the same time zone on a different board.
- Attack agent: An agent may attack another agent in the same time zone and same board. An attack is called a duel, and only involves the two agents in the duel, although other agents may aid or sabotage the attack. Each player takes a token from their numbered tokens and places it face down on the table. At the same time, tokens are flipped over. If a player has played the Fate token, they flip the top card of the Fate deck, using the number on the card (the numbers range from 15 to positive 15, with one FATE card.) If an agent in the duel is busy, their positive values are cut in half and their negative values doubled.. Brawlers have their positive values doubled, and their negative values cut in half. If a player draws the FATE card, they automatically win the duel. Agents who are aiding a player also play a token, which is added to the value of the player who they are aiding. Sabotage works the same way, except that the value is subtracted. Whichever player has the higher total number wins the duel. The player with the lower total may initiate a re-duel. A re-duel is done in the exact same way, except that every player participating must use a new token, or draw another card. Each player may only have one re-duel. Once the agent duel is finally over, the attacking agent, and any agents aiding or sabotaging are flipped to their busy side (except Brawlers). Another fate card is drawn by the winner. Consequences for the attacker and defender are listed on each fate card, which can range from flipping the agent to its busy side to snapping the agent to moving the agent to discarding the agent. Each player must then discard the highest value token they used in the duel.
- Create Time Waves: An agent may create a time wave place a create or solve token in the time zone they are in. The agent is then flipped to its busy side.
- Attack Time Wave: An agent may attack a time wave remove a create or solve token in the time zone they are in. The agent is flipped to its busy side.
- Flip Time Waves: A scientist may flip every token of the time wave that is currently in the time zone the scientist occupies. Thus, all Create tokens turn into a Solve token, and vice versa. A historian may flip one of two tokens, as long as they are in a matching time zone. The historian or scientist is then flipped to their busy side.
Since all of this is done simultaneously, often two or more players will disagree what action is to come first. (i.e. Does my brawler attack your agent before or after he creates a time wave?) When a disagreement such as this arises, the players have a time duel. This duel is handled the exact same way as an agent duel, except that more than two players may be involved. The winner of the duel then decides the next action.
After all players agree that no more actions will occur, the next phase occurs.
During the Advance Phase, all time waves (all create and solve tokens join together to make a single time wave) move up one time zone.
During the Resolve Phase, time waves that have reached the today zone are handled. For every two create tokens that are included in the wave, the affected player draws a problem card and places it in front of them. Problem cards consist of two things: Text, which is a negative problem that affects the game play of the affected the player (i.e. You cannot use Time Control tokens in Duels or Re-duels, or Your brawlers are treated as if they are generic agents), and letters (C, which stands for cultural, T, standing for technologica., and S, standing for societal) Some cards have no letters, and some have no text. Two solve tokens will get rid of one problem. If a single solve and/or a single create token is left, they will also cause that player to draw a Problem card.
The next phase is the Time Wave attack phase. Each time wave attacks every agent in the same time zone. Each agent duels the time wave, very similar to an agent duel, except that the Time Wave always draws a card, rather than playing a token. The Time Wave wins ties, and no re-duels are allowed.
The final phase of the round is the Grow phase, in which each Time Wave accumulates another create token. After this phase, another round is begun.
At any time in the game, except during duels, a player may cash out. They may discard 20 or more points of tokens to solve a problem or retrieve an agent, or discard an agent to retrieve 20 or less points of tokens, or create a problem for themselves to retrieve an agent or 20 or less points of tokens.
Whenever a player gets more than three problems of the same kind (i.e. 4 problems that have a T on them), they lose and are out of the game. When only one player is left in the game, that player is the winner!
Some comments on the game:
1). Components: The boards for each player are striking-looking, with nice graphics and bright colors. They are a bit thin, however. The tokens are also rather thin, although they are rather large and easy to read. The cards are of decent quality, but are only in black and white and have little to no graphics. There are quotes on the card that have to do with them, but other than that the cards look strikingly generic. The box is very nice looking, and holds the pieces but youll definitely need some plastic bags for the components. The components for Time Control are okay, but nothing to write home about.
2). Rules: When I first read the rules, I was flabbergasted. Never had I read such confusing, horribly written rules. It took me quite a few times of reading before I got a basic concept into my head about what was going on in the game. There were no illustrations or examples. Fortunately, on the companys website, there was an updated .pdf file of better-written rules that included examples and pictures. But even then, I was a little confused. I read and re-read the rules, and then taught the game to my group, but it wasnt very easy to teach. Hopefully the company takes a note from this and makes rules to their future games much easier to understand.
3). Bleaah: When I heard about the theme, I thought that the game would be great. Even after reading over the rules, I still thought that the game would run smoothly. Having simultaneous actions, while dueling to control time, sounded like a very unique idea (which it was) that was also quite fun (which it wasnt.) Unfortunately, when we played the game, we were very disappointed. The first problem that presented itself was that nobody wanted to move out of their own time zones. Nobody was willing to take that first step, because they werent sure what they should do, and didnt want to leave their own time zones undefended. Finally, eveverbody got moving, and we discovered the second, much bigger problem. There are too many stinkin time duels. Almost always, players clash over what action happens first and that produces a time duel, with the obligatory re-duels. We felt like we dueled, and dueled, and dueled, and dueled. And that was only the first round! It was very hard to get ANYTHING accomplished, and the game went very slowly. It was also very easy for players to stop the time waves that were advancing up their own time zones, so the game really stretched out. Once a player gets a problem, all they have to do is discard an agent. Yes, thats bad in the long run, but in the short run, it makes the game last for a very long, boring time. This game is a classic example of an idea that sounds better on paper than it did in practice.
4). Fun Factor: None. Well, maybe Im being too harsh. The first couple of duels were fun. The 247th duel wasnt quite as fun. The game seemed to be an endless cycle of more of the same. I will grant the game that it did meet its theme but in a very boring way.
5). Strategy: There is a lot of strategy in the game, but because of some severe problems like whoever moves out of their own time zones last has a great advantage, the strategy is somewhat diminished. The fate cards are also wildly random, and cannot be counted on for any strategy.
I guess you can tell that I dont like the game. And I tried so hard to like it, because the theme is so great. I loved Time Pirates, but that game didnt really feel like I was time traveling. This game did, but wasnt fun at all. A game with lackluster components is forgivable if the rules are easy and the game is fun,, and Anthony Thompson has put a lot of effort into making and promoting this game, for which I commend him. Im sure that maybe theres a game locked inside Time Control that a different rule system might unleash. However, a game with lackluster components, extremely poorly written rules, and boring game play is not one that I can recommend for you to put on your game shelf.
I certainly feel taken for my $$. As a game collector, I was fascinated by the shiny colors. As a game designer, I was taken in by the time travel theme.
As both a game collector and game designer, I am appalled by the game.
While reading the rules and desperately trying to muddle through the mechanics, I reached a point where I simply gave up. Heck, I even stuck it out for Tenjo, Eagle Kingdoms, Blackbeard and BTRC's Timelord RPG. This I could not stomach.
I kept thinking to myself -- Cheapass Games and James Earnest have created the best real-time games out there in Falling, Brawl and Fightball (my favorite). A Fightball or Falling mechanic with this theme would have worked better.
Just imagine -- players have decks of time streams, problems, agents and solutions. You try to manage a past/present/future stack in front of you by assigning agents and solutions, while trying to fuddle your opponents with problems and counter-agents.
A game with this theme *could* work. A game with this theme and a real-time play mechanic *could* work.
Time Control is not the game, though.
IT'S ONLY VALUE to a game enthusiast is to see an example of horribly written rules and virtually unplayable mechanics.