I got a review copy of Time Control and I was really looking forward to play it. The concept sounds great: time travel is an exciting theme and I like real time games. Sunda to Sahul, for example, is a daft game in the turns mode but one of my favourites when played real time.
Unfortunately Time Control didn’t deliver what it promised. There are lots of problems. First, let’s start with what can be seen. The components. While they look pretty good, they are very flimsy and of poor quality. I don’t believe they last repeated playings well. However, they are functional enough and that’s good enough for me. I won’t whine about poor components, if they get the job done and the game is good.
The rule book is totally useless. Not only it is poorly organized, it has lots of errors. There’s a revised rule book available from the company website and it’s much better. However, it’s also rather confusing. If an organized rule book can’t make the game easy to understand, the problem must be in the game, not the rule book.
So, what’s it all about? Players control a bunch of time agents, who run around in the past trying to create timewaves that cause problems for other players and remove timewaves that cause problems for their owners. All action happens in real time and any action can be interrupt. The interrupt can be interrupted with the original action, which means a time control duel is needed.
Both players choose a token (each player has a set of 1-21 and a special token) and higher number wins. Both players have the opportunity to demand a re-duel once, so it’s really the highest token on the third round that wins. Winner gets to perform their action. This is also the way how fights between agents are resolved.
It’s a bit confusing, really. Each player has 12 agents, all of which can perform multiple actions, so there’s lots of stuff going on. It takes a long time, too. But that’s not the biggest problem. You see, when your agent leaves home to wreak havoc somewhere else, you leave a gap in your defenses. The agent can’t come back to defend the home base. So the player who takes the initiative in attacking is in the worst position, as other players can now attack him or her.
The best tactic for each player is to defend their own time zone. Stay home and wait for the other players to fight it out, then attack the weakened opponents. The problem with this approach is obvious. If all players follow it, nothing happens. I find this to be a huge problem. I don’t mind avoiding certain way to play if it breaks the game, but surely it can’t be the best way to play the game?
So, to tell you the truth: I’m writing this review after one turn of one game. That’s all I’ve played. Surely, that isn’t much. However, what can I do — my friends didn’t want to play another round and neither did I. I think that tells us something about the quality of the game. I do believe my opinion is quite valid even though I haven’t played the game many times, as I never want to play the game again. Thus, it can’t be a good game. Thus, my rating of 2.
It’s a pity, because the theme of the game is neat and I like real time games. This one just doesn’t do it for me without lots of fixes to the game. It doesn’t really inspire me to try and fix it, either.