Full disclosure: A preview copy of The Perfect Moment was provided by Button Shy. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
Another Button Shy Kickstarter! It’s nice to see these happening with frequency, especially after all the success of Sprawlopolis (and I’m assuming the imminent fulfillment of Supertall). That said, I’m a sucker for time travel games (just as a genre), so I’m definitely enthused about checking this one out.
You, of course, never expected to see you emerge from the time machine. Future You, that is, you think, unless it’s a multiple-universes thing, but who’s to say? Either way, you are inclined to trust them when they tell you that this will let you go back and fix it. You get in and the coordinates are already set; time to change history. Will you be able to complete your task and resolve the paradoxes? Or will you end up lost in time and space forever?
So one thing I enjoy about the setup of the game is that the setup of The Perfect Moment is part of the game, as well. It’s a real-time game to determine turn order (which definitely matters).
You have 18 cards; they’re all the same:
Each has some text on it that highlights the two halves of the card. Place one card in front of you and one card in front of your opponent; you may choose which side faces you in both circumstances. Either return (place on top of the deck) or discard (place on the bottom of the deck) the third card and keep the fourth card in your hand; it will serve as your Revision. More on that later.
The first player to do that is ready to play the game! Flip a card from the top of the deck; this will serve as the Paradox. Have one side facing the board and you’re ready to roll:
The Perfect Moment is all about asking that one question — if you could go back in time to fix one thing, what would it be? How would you do it? Well, you’re competing against your opponent to do just that. Go back, fix history as best you can, and make progress on building a better life.
On your turn, you can activate two effects. Generally, these effects will be on your equipment, the two cards in front of you. You may activate the effects that are facing you. You may also activate the effects on your opponent’s equipment, but on the sides facing you, as well. Finally, you may activate the Paradox effect that’s facing the deck. Basically, five different options. These may let you do various things, like draw, discard, or return cards. Unless otherwise stated, you may discard or return your Equipment, your Revision, or the cards you’ve drawn. The Paradox and your opponents’ cards are generally off-limits. That said, you must always have one Revision and two Equipment; if you don’t, fix that; either pull Equipment into your hand to become your Revision or equip extra cards from your hand until you’re down to one card.
Once you’ve done that, you may attempt to score a card. This is going to be hard to do without a diagram, but here goes. The only cards you may attempt to score are your Revision, the Paradox, and any face-up scored card.You may score them in 3 ways:
- 1 point: One of the four parts of your two Equipment Cards matches one of the items on the scorable card. If this happens, you take the card and play it off to the side, face-up. This means it can be stolen by your opponent. Or you can score it on a subsequent turn.
- 2 points: One part of each of your two Equipment Cards matches the required items on the scorable card, but they’re on opposite sides of the cards. If this happens, you take the card and play it off to the side, face-down, with the 2 points icon facing up. This cannot be stolen.
- 3 points: One part of each of your two Equipment Cards matches the required items on the scorable card, but they’re on the same side of the cards. If this happens, you take the card and play it off to the side, face-down, with the 3 points icon facing up. This cannot be stolen, either.
The game can end in one of two ways: either one player gets 16 points (they win), or the deck runs out, in which case the player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
The major difference is that, as you might guess, the solo game has you playing against an AI instead of another player. Similar rules apply, though; you basically want to be manipulating the deck constantly such that your AI opponent can’t run out the deck quite as quickly and you can set them up to set you up to make big runs every turn. It’s a challenging little puzzle, though having another player there is maybe a smidge more exciting, for me?
My personal preference is two for this game; it’s not a bad solo game, though, by any means; I just enjoy the competition.
- Use your abilities. You’re gonna need to use those cards if you want to score points, since, well, that’s the entire point of the game. So I guess my advice here is to actively participate in the game you’re playing, which is … very useful advice, indeed. Thank God y’all come here for my thorough strategy reviews, because that’s what this is.
- Don’t forget that you must replace lost equipment. That’s a handy way to cycle cards around when you don’t want them anymore or when you want to replace them with something else.
- Don’t have two cards of different types equipped. You’re never gonna score more than one point, that way, though you’ll have a lot more options. If you could score more than one card per turn I’d say this might be viable, but you cannot. Make the cards match.
- I generally score the Paradox before my Revision, if I have a choice. Generally your opponent can’t super affect your equipment / hand (in that they can’t force you to discard or return), so even if they flip it around you can still score your Revision next turn. If you don’t score the Paradox, you run the risk of them scoring it out from under you. I think scoring the Paradox first is a stronger guarantee of more points.
- You should always be able to score something. Generally speaking, you almost always have to have a card with at least one item that can be used to score the Revision or the Paradox after you use the card abilities. If you don’t, well, use the card abilities better? You should try for the more firm scoring methods, if you can, though.
- Stealing is always a good idea. Not only do you get points, your opponent loses them! It’s perfect.
- Use Tickets. Being able to reorder the top four cards of the deck is wonderful, especially if you can then draw them with another card’s ability. You can use that to set yourself up for several turns, if you know what you’re doing.
- Try to gather up cards of a specific type so that you can remove them from play by scoring them. I played one game where I basically spent the first half of the game using Tickets to manipulate the deck ordering so that I could always have the cards that I want cycling between my hand and my Equipment and scored 3 points every turn for about 3 turns. That’s pretty good! In doing so, I also removed all the other Tickets cards from play (and ultimately that card, as well. It meant my opponent couldn’t emulate or try and jack my strategy because the strategy itself was self-destructing. It also makes it impossible for your opponent to steal your cards if there are no pairs of those items available in the game, which is a bonus.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- Fun theme. We really don’t get enough games about time travel, in my opinion. It’s a real shame.
- I like the challenge of gamifying setup. Is it worth giving your opponent whatever so you can be first player? Should you try to be more strategic? Do you want to wait for your opponent to finish placing their stuff so you know what they have and can counter it? These are all fairly legitimate questions. Plus, it helps the game get set up faster and it’s novel; I really like it! More games should try to do something like this to determine turn order.
- I find the stories implied from the cards compelling. I’d love more backstory for the game / maybe a choose-your-own-adventure-esque ending where you get certain endings for certain cards that were scored in certain ways. There are three little stories here and each invites more questions about what was going on and what you went back to change. Hopefully we’ll see more of them in future iterations.
- Seems expandable. I think the easy way to do this is with modules. We’ve already got yellow / red / blue, and if you can make it work for people with altered color perception you could pretty easily make modular expansions that are standalone or mixable into The Perfect The Perfect Moment or something. I think that would be really exciting.
- As always, very portable. Button Shy really gets its niche, and I respect that. 18 card games are always great because you can just take them anywhere and play them just about anywhere.
- The game’s a bit tight, in my plays of it. When I say tight I mean that there’s not much room for error, since the game ends pretty quickly and it’s possible to get both behind and stuck behind if your opponent can essentially control the deck (which is possible). That’d normally be more of a con, but I imagine it’s not as big of a deal with experienced players and it’s a very short game so I’m also not terribly bothered by it.
- A lot of extra terms to learn for such a short game. Most of your first game is players being a bit confused about when / how you can score, since you can use your equipped cards or your opponent’s equipped cards for activation, but not for scoring (you can only use yours). They’ll also mix up the Paradox and the Revision, and return / discard. There are a fair number of new terms to learn, which can occasionally throw off new players pretty hard. Usually after a game or two they get it.
Overall: 8 / 10
Overall, The Perfect Moment is really solid! I think that part of it is that I’m really bought into the theme (I love time travel as a narrative / thematic mechanic), and I think that the game does a good job executing on it (mostly by being just a smidge confusing and thinky, as all time travel games should be. I appreciate the thoughtfulness of managing your equipment while also utilizing your opponent’s to execute combos and pull off big moves to score big points (and normally I’m not as big of a fan of a stealing mechanic, but this one’s pretty solid, too). My main issue is that it takes a bit of time to learn, so the first game or two is going to be a teaching game, but thankfully it plays quickly enough that that isn’t a terrible problem. I think Button Shy is consistently putting out solid, varied games, and if you’re looking for a fun two- (or one-) player dueling game of time manipulation, The Perfect Moment is definitely worth checking out!