When it comes to two player games, I’ve found that it’s tough to find consistency. There are great games for two which won’t make it to the table often because of play time, and absolute snoozefests that can be played in 30 minutes…but leave you feeling like you’ve wasted a half hour of your life. And sometimes you’ll find that middle ground, but it’s not a game that will stand up to repeated plays. So when I saw Tides of Time get released, I was a bit skeptical. Which side would this one fall on??
Tides of Time is played over three rounds, with scoring taking place at the end of each round. Each player is dealt five cards to start and they select one to play in front of them, keeping it facedown for now. Once both players have selected a card, they are revealed at the same time. Then the remaining cards are passed to the other player. This is repeated until the cards are gone. Oh, and those cards? Gorgeous.
Once scoring is completed at the end of the first round, the players have some choices to make. Of the five cards now in front of them they get to keep one for the rest of the game, placing a relic token on top of it, and then get to remove a card completely from the game. Then they draw two more cards, bringing their hands back up to five, and start over by playing and passing again. Lather, rinse, and repeat for the third round.
So, by the time the game ends, you’ll have seven cards in front of you, two of which are relics from previous rounds. Which is all well and good, but I should talk about the cards themselves so you’ll know how to decide what to keep and what to pass.
The 18 cards in Tides of Time consist of 15 suited cards (three each of five different suits) and three cards with no suit. Each card will have a scoring condition or an action on the top. So, for instance, you may have a card which says “Score three points for each Garden suit” and you would count your Gardens and multiply by three during scoring.
During the drafting portion of the round you will watch the suits and conditions, trying to maximize your points. Of course, as it IS a drafting game, you’ll also know exactly what you’re getting from the other player each turn after the first…so you can start to plan ahead.
The premise and gameplay are quite simple, but don’t be fooled into thinking that there isn’t a lot of game here.
After my first few plays, I started thinking about other two player games that I’ve played and how this compares to them. Oddly, the first one to come to mind was cribbage. No one is ever going to accuse cribbage of being a complex game, but learning how to play the game well can take a while. You’re playing the other player more than you’re playing the game.
The same is true here. While you’re looking at the tableau in front of you and trying to work out what cards will allow you to score a ton of points, you need to keep your eye on the other person. If you aren’t careful you’ll wind up tossing them cards they need to absolutely bury you once scoring rolls around. There was one game where I wound up with 57 points because my opponent handed me the worst possible card that she could have.
Once the round ends, evaluating what to keep and what to toss are just as important. You’ve now seen all the cards. What path do you want to take? Looking for a majority? Trying for 13 points with one of each suit? Hoping for certain combos of suits? It’s a balancing act to keep what you’re needing and tossing the thing that could hurt you the most. And sometimes it’s hard to tell those apart.
Tides of Time, as it turns out, is a game that hits the sweet spot. With a play time of 20 minutes and only 18 cards to think about, you’re able to play this game multiple times in one evening. And each one of those plays will shake out a little differently. You’ll find yourself playing cards just to keep them from your opponent, pondering which card to slap a relic token on, and sometimes completely missing the calculation on majority and winding up with six points for the round.
So if you’re looking for a two player game which will stand the test of time (har har), look no further!