Base price: $50.
Play time: Depends on you, really. After thirty minutes or so, you should probably just stalemate.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy on Amazon (via What’s Eric Playing?)
Logged plays: 5
Full disclosure: A review copy of That Time You Killed Me was provided by Pandasaurus Games.
Ended up with a bit of free time tonight, strangely, so I’ve been trying to power through a few reviews that I’ve been working on for a bit. One of them is That Time You Killed Me, so, get excited for that. If you’re reading this, then that means that I finished it! How’s that for time travel? Unfortunately, it’s only one way, so I’d better get to the rest of this if I actually want to deliver this message to my future self (and yours).
In That Time You Killed Me, players take on the role of the inventor of time travel and the person who murdered the person who invented time travel. Which is which? Well, that’s a complicated question that’s difficult to answer. It changes sometimes? Observer’s paradox, maybe? Whatever gets you to politely nod along. To settle it once and for all, players will take to the past, the present, and the future simultaneously, with a multitude of tools at their disposal to secure their invention, like shrubs and fancy statues and hats for elephants. You know, standard time travel stuff. This abstract strategy game pits players against each other in these three time periods as they seek to eliminate a player’s time duplicates until a player is stuck in only one time period. You can do that any number of ways! You can push a player into their own time duplicate, causing a paradox; you can smash them into a wall (which just kills them); or you can even just chop down a tree and hope it falls on them. All valid methods of temporal homicide. All in a day’s work. As players complete games, they’ll work their way deeper into a narrative that provides exciting new unlocks, strange challenges, and occasionally some alternate timelines to mess around with. If you think you’re up to it, the past, the present, and the future await. But which person will be the inventor of time travel? And which will just be dead?
Player Count Differences
None! It’s exclusively a two-player game.
- Time is a weapon, and you can use it to kill that guy. So do that. Feel free to do unexpected stuff, like hopping forward into a new time period just to push your opponent into a wall and squish them. Or block their pathway by dropping something in the past that becomes something unmovable by the future. Feel free to mess with them, leveraging time as you do.
- Try to keep your time duplicates away from each other. If your time duplicates ever touch each other, it causes a huge paradox and eliminates them both. I assume it’s painful, but more importantly, you have a finite number of time duplicates, so it’s wasteful. Don’t let your opponent push them together; try to use them to get the drop on your opponent.
- Pretty much the most important move you make on a turn (other than killing your opponent) is choosing where you set your Focus for the next round. Setting your Focus is specifically telegraphing to your opponent where you plan to move next round. You don’t necessarily always want to be following them and just cleaning up their actions, so try to move to a time period where you can be the most impactful. That said, one fun thing to do is to move to a time period, go forward or back in time, and then set your Focus at the end of your turn to the time period you just moved to, so that you can effectively double-dip. This can usually throw off your opponent enough that you might be able to take out one of their instances.
- Killing your opponent’s last remaining instance in a time period they moved their Focus to causes them to lose their turn. It’s a flex, but it can really turn the momentum of a game in your favor. Keep in mind that this is very hard to pull off, since it requires your opponent not recognizing that you’re about to kill them in the time period that they just moved their Focus to. If you can do it, that usually throws them off enough that you might be able to win the whole game, though. It’s worth taking a risky gamble on it from time to time, just for the promise of that momentum shift.
- Be mindful of where you left stuff in the past; it can cause future problems. Some things in the past can really impact the future, so don’t just litter in the past. It’s not always wise to drop an item just because you can. You end up limiting your own movement, which can make you easier for an opponent to trap (and kill). Instead, focus on using items and abilities in spots where they’ll be the most impactful, even if that’s in the present or the future.
- Similarly, be mindful that when you end your turn in one time period, you can’t immediately focus on the same time period again. Don’t leave yourself in a jam. You’ll occasionally hear the “aw crap” of a player realizing that they made a mistake on their turn and now can’t undo it until the turn after their next one. Since you can’t focus on the same time period twice, there’s consequences to your moves; keep track of your plans and your strategy so you don’t accidentally set yourself up to be killed. That said, you cannot lose on your turn (players only check for victory at the end of their individual turns), so sometimes it’s worth putting yourself in a jam since that jam will let you win the game.
- Resist the temptation to always make temporal duplicates of yourself. There’s such a thing as too many yous to keep track of. Going back to an earlier time period leaves a duplicate of yourself in the current time, which is fine, but you can only activate one you in any given time period on your turn. If you have a bunch of yous hanging around, you’re going to struggle to get them into any useful position and instead risk your opponent smashing them together to cause a paradox. It’s good to have presence in every time period, but you also have a finite number of yous that you can create; don’t waste them.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I really like the pawns. They’re a cool shape and they have a nice texture to them. The game has this fractured aesthetic, like time is starting to unravel, and the pawns reflect that so nicely! They look like a standard pawn that someone’s just taken a bite out of. It’s very striking.
- The scenarios increase in complexity, but only suggest that you advance once you’ve played three or more times. I appreciate that the game wants to give players time to get a sense of the mechanics and play things out with their game group or gaming partner, rather than just launching into “alright, here’s the next scenario”. There’s an art to guiding players through a complicated narrative game, and I think That Time You Killed Me does well, here.
- There really is a lot to do, in this game, and players will likely find a scenario that really jives with their group and style. I think that’s nice. I was writing about Décorum the other day, and I think that I have a similar thought here. The scenarios in That Time You Killed Me gradually get more complicated and intense, and I think that it’s totally fine if you hit a point and are like “this is more complicated than I want” and just stop on that scenario. You don’t necessarily have to play with the most complex rules set available, and I think the game does a great job being functionally non-judgmental about it. You can just stop at the second chapter, if you so wish.
- The art style for the game is dynamite. Just absolutely brilliant. It really does a great job conveying that time is broken and coming unraveled, and at the end of all things are just these two people who are committed to murdering each other. It’s got a very “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” vibe to it, but more personal and less “overarching societal issues”. It’s a bold art direction, but it really makes the game pop at every level, from the chapter boxes to the boards to the box to the rulebook. Looks like Jor Ros did this one? What incredible work.
- The game also has a sense of humor that I appreciate that’s echoed throughout, to my great delight. It’s a very feral joking sense, but it does make the rulebook a lot more fun to read. I think there’s always a tension around how much flavor text folks put in a rulebook. Too much, and you get lost in the details and can’t play the game. Too little, and you’re just reading documentation with no interest in its own subject matter. This does a nice job of packaging its humor in little barbs and asides for the player, especially if you start getting into things you shouldn’t. I’d highly recommend you explore the game to its fullest; it’s all very funny.
- The copying mechanic of going back in time and creating a double is really cool. It adds a nice bit of complexity to the strategy that you can suddenly duplicate yourself for either a surprise movement in another temporal zone or the ultimate sacrifice play. I think the game’s fundamental mechanisms are really cool, on top of the theme and the art.
- Seems like it could be extended with additional scenarios, if that was a thing people were into. It would probably melt my brain, but I appreciate the modularity of everything included in the box, and I imagine additional chapters could possibly be integrated under the guise of some new timelines that caused things to get even weirder than they already are. It would be fun to see how a game like That Time You Killed Me could get extended.
- There’s an extremely satisfying circumstance where you can have a player pinned because they didn’t focus on the right time period, and it’s a very fun part of the game to play through. Winning the game feels great. You fundamentally start in the same place as your opponent, and you have the same abilities. In order to win, you fundamentally have to outmaneuver them. There are no “bad matchups”, no tier list, nothing but you and the abstract board. So winning feels like a demonstration of skill, which is nice. It’s also why I don’t usually win, I think.
- The narrative unlocks keep going and going, and there’s a lot to find. This is a pretty dense game, which explains the size of the box. There’s a lot to do, and you’ll probably keep yourself pretty busy, even if you stick to just the minimum three plays per chapter recommendation. Things are only going to get weirder as you get deeper into the game, so plumb those depths!
- It’s kind of funny that given how large the box is, the actual game isn’t all that big. It’s not a Splendor situation; the box is actually full of stuff. The box is just full of other, smaller boxes, that contain additional narrative chapters for the game, so they have to be packaged so that they don’t spoil the contents (as I, similarly, am trying to not spoil the contents beyond the first chapter). This gives off the impression that the game is much larger than it actually is, since the core components are relatively small.
- There’s really no playtime estimate that can be given that will be consistently accurate or helpful, I think. The game says 15 – 30 minutes, and that feels right, but functionally it’s a two-player abstract game where you can stalemate each other. I tried to play myself, for photography reasons, and stalemated because yeah, turns out I’m just as smart as I am. It might have been longer than thirty minutes, but it can be challenging to measure “how far along” you are in That Time You Killed Me, since the game can end suddenly with the wrong move or it can last until both players are just pushing each other back and forth. That possibility of a stalemate also adds on to the time estimate.
- This isn’t going to apply for all players, but this is definitely a more cerebral, chess-like strategy game than my current threshold. I think a lot of folks who are very into chess are really going to like this one. I’m not a big chess guy. I can be tricked into a few abstract strategy games because there’s physical buildings involved, but otherwise I tend to struggle if I’m asked to play anything particularly cerebral for upwards of thirty minutes. Progression helps, granted, which is how I can play some two-hour games, but for some reason these tough abstract strategy games just wear me out, sometimes.
- I think, ironically like War Chest, I’m a bit frustrated when I play, because I’d like to be doing more than I feel like I can. I always wish I had more than two actions! Nothing doing, since this is just not that kind of game, but it always is a bit dissatisfying for me when my entire turn is just moving two spaces to another spot on the board. I think it makes me feel like, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not really making meaningful progress (another issue that I kind of had with War Chest), so I feel a bit stymied as I play.
Overall: 7.75 / 10
Overall, I think That Time You Killed Me is a very unique and clever abstract strategy game! It sits nicely between Santorini and War Chest, for me, where it manages to preserve a lot of the theme and entertainment value that I got out of Santorini while aiming for the more cerebral and skill-challenging nature of War Chest (though some of those Santorini games could get pretty intense). Ultimately, when it comes to abstract strategy games, I think one thing that I admire is the simplicity of them, so this is where That Time You Killed Me, while great, wavers a bit on my personal list. It can get complicated, y’all. And that’s all well and good! It just means that the target audience for this game is folks who are looking for a game that’s a bit beyond the point that I usually look for with this kind of thing. That said, the one advantage TTYKM does offer is that with its multitude of scenarios, if the game is getting more complicated than you’d like, you can always walk it back to a previous chapter and just hang out there for as long as you’d like. Ostensibly, this is a game meant to grow with a pair of rivals as they get better and better at it (especially because time travel is a hell of a thing to wrap your mind around). The game plays well into that idea, as well, with even more stuff to unlock and open and find underneath of things and specifically ignore the instructions about. It’s an adventure. That Time You Killed Me is also a particularly striking game, with a visual style that I haven’t seen before. It’s bold and aggressive, and I kind of love it? Even the pawns are pretty awesome. I love the way that it plays with time, even if every game makes my head hurt a bit. For folks that are looking for a challenge, I think this will be right up their alley. If that’s you, or you’ve already read this review from some point in the future, or you just enjoy the intensity of an abstract strategy game, you should try out That Time You Killed Me! It’s a very neat game.
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