Reviewed by Herb Levy
TIME BREAKER (Looney Labs, 2 to 5 players, ages 8 and up. 10-40 minutes; $25)
Something we seem to never have enough of is time, so when someone is messing around with it, you can easily understand the need to set things right. In this new design from Andrew Looney, time travel is possible and we are operating as workers in the security section of the Time Repair Agency. Our assignment: apprehend the criminal who is changing history by disrupting time and bring that villain, that Time Breaker, to justice!
Time Breaker is played on a “board” which is actually a 5 x 5 array of square tiles randomly arranged around the Time Repair Agency tile at its center. Except for the TRA tile, all tiles carry a date, a green arrow at the bottom leading to another date and a red arrow on top showing the date that led to THAT tile. A clear cube (representing the Time Breaker) is placed on the board’s upper left tile while all players (represented by a colored, translucent pawn) begin on the TRA tile. Three cards are dealt to players as their starting hands.
The goal is to land on the tile where the Time Breaker is located, arrest the perpetrator (and say “You’re Under Arrest!”) and then bring him back with you to the central Time Repair Agency tile. But this means moving WITH the Time Breaker. If circumstances arise so that the Time Breaker moves while in your custody, he has escaped and must be captured again (either by that player or an opponent). The player successfully bringing the Time Breaker to justice by arriving at the TRA tile with the Time Breaker in tow is the winner. Of course, getting there is what the game is all about!
On a turn, a player first draws a card from the deck and may then do one of three possible actions: play a card, follow an arrow or wormhole.
There are five basic types of cards in the game. Green Move cards allow you to move your token to the next tile over (sometimes a horizontal move, sometimes a vertical move, sometimes your choice of either). Jump tiles transport you from the tile you are on to the tile displaying the year on that card. (If you are already on that destination, you can transport ANYWHERE!) Action cards allow for special movement such as following the red arrow on the tile, discarding your hand and moving to the tile occupied by the Time Breaker, playing additional cards, move another player back to the TRA tile and more. Breaker cards represent actions taken by the Time Breaker (easily recognized due to their black backgrounds) to cause more chaos and include removing tiles from the array or simply moving the Time Breaker, presumably away from the agents looking to arrest him. And there are Stop Time cards which can be played out of turn to cancel another player’s action (although Following an Arrow is always allowed).
Rather than playing a card, a player may simply follow the green arrow on a tile and transport to the tile that displays the date of that green arrow. If no cards in your hand appeal, wormhole is an option. This means blindly drawing the top card from the draw deck and doing what it says. You’are taking a chance but the game encourages the wild and wacky. As you might imagine, movement is very fluid and the array is a “wraparound” so that if you find yourself exiting the 5 x 5 grid, you will “reappear” on the tile on the other side.
The game doesn’t take up much space (which is a positive) but the random layout can sometimes make you pause to identify where specific tiles are located. Jumping to specific tiles to put you within striking distance of the Time Breaker is important so the choice of using translucent pieces is a good one so that pawns on a tile do not block or obscure dates.
Time Breaker is essentially an amalgam of Fluxx (featured in the Summer 1998 Gamers Alliance Report) and Chrononauts (Fall 2001 GA Report) which means don’t expect to implement a grand strategy or execute subtle plans. This is a game filled with unexpected and unforeseen movement and consequences, a trademark of Andrew Looney designs. Keep that in mind and you will find Time Breaker to be a fun and fast filler of a game and a pleasant option to choose when you have some time to spend. – – – – – Herb Levy
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