“Tangled Timelines” is the upcoming Kickstarter from designer Daniel Zayas of The Daniel Zayas Company with illustrations by Bryce Cook and Ilustragus. True to its name, “Tangled Timelines” is a game where players attempt to correct the muddled timeline of the universe; saving heroes from the past while risking their lives in the process. The goal is to see who will have the most positive impact on the past, in either competitive multiplayer mode or the solo variant.
“Tangled Timelines” is a deceptively simple game, consisting solely of a deck of 104 illustrated cards and a succinct rulebook. The artwork’s color palette leans towards bright, inviting pastels, which paired with the delightfully drawn characters provides a light and breezy feel to the game. Looking through the card art one notices a diverse collection of characters. There is a clear effort to stylize classes similarly while allowing for distinct poses to differentiate the types of cards. This allows the cards to feel varied without being too busy. The iconography is no more complicated than it needs to be in order to maintain a streamlined appearance.
The Anatomy of a Hero
“Tangled Timelines” is, at its core, a card game. The 104 cards in the deck are divided into 26 classes, with four variations of each hero card comprising a set. The 26 classes align each to one letter of the alphabet, with each hero card variant identified by two main features, class and skill. Each class has a unique skill which influences the game and provides more depth to the gameplay. Every card has a concise description of its ability printed on it. There is a dictionary available in the rules as a quick reference sheet for any unfamiliar terms or phrases. The four variants for each hero correspond to the skill levels for that class. They are, in ascending order: Novice, Apprentice, Master, and Legendary.
How to Untangle a Timeline 101
In order to untangle a timeline, you need to begin with establishing the timeline by arranging a tableau of four cards in a line reachable by all players. Each player is then dealt a random crew of four heroes. Once the hands are established, the game plays out over a series of rounds. Rounds are divided into three phases: Initiative, R
During the Initiative Phase, each player must simultaneously play a hero from their hand face down. Once each player has chosen their hero, the cards are revealed. Initiative order is then determined alphabetically by class, with the more experienced skill breaking any ties.
In the Rescue Phase, players take turns, in initiative order, resolving their hero’s rescues. A rescue generally involves taking all cards that match either the played hero’s class or skill level. The played card must be sacrificed to the timeline where it could be potentially rescued by another player. If playing with special abilities, the first player must use their respective special action. These special actions could modify any stage of a round, e.g. influencing the Rescue or Initiative Phases.
Once all players have fully resolved the first two rounds, the entire timeline descends into the Dimensional Abyss. The timeline progresses and four new heroes are drawn. The rounds continue until there are no cards left to be dealt.
The Value of a Life
Scoring for “Tangled Timelines” happens only once at the end of the game. There are two ways to score points: Unbroken Team Chains and Complete Timeline Sets.
The Unbroken Team Chain category awards
Complete Timeline Sets are the sets of cards with a matching class and unique skill levels. A full set includes all four skill levels of one class hero, but partial sets are scored as well. Players can only assign each card to one set but can choose how to split up their sets to maximize points received. The strongest set, the one closest to the letter A, of a given size is awarded points. Sets are four, three, two or one hero(es), where they are given 20, 15, 10 and five points respectively. At this point, players can decide if they want to play to 50 or 100 points. Players reset the game and play continues until a player surpasses the agreed upon final score and is declared the winner.
“Tangled Timelines” can be played solo. In this variant, the rules are largely the same as multiplayer but with a few exceptions. A solo player plays four cards from their hand and the highest initiative hero special action always triggers. There is no Unbroken Team Chain category, and Complete Time Sets only score for sets of four for 10 points. The goal is to see how many games it takes to get to 100 points to measure your skills as a time traveler.
Final Thoughts, Untangled
“Tangled Timelines” is a short, light game, reminiscent of traditional card games, like Gin and Gin Rummy, if they were made more tactical. Managing your hand of heroes requires constantly adjusting your strategy as the game progresses. The addition of optional powers provides a nice added layer of depth which will help appeal to a wide variety of audiences. The art design is bright and interesting, while not overwhelming the action and purpose of the cards, striking the right balance between pretty and functional. The solo game is a self-challenge on how to maximize your hand given the restrictions of play and scoring so that you improve your strategy each time you play. In short, “Tangled Timelines” is a short, fun game that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Editor’s Note: this game is still in development. Pictures are either of prototype pieces or from assets loaded into Tabletop Simulator. The finished product will look much different.