Tides Of Time is a small box, affordable, 2 player only card game published by Portal Games. The basic premise of the game is that it uses a slight tweak of the typical drafting mechanic to allow the system to work better for 2 players whereas usual drafting games are 3+ players.
If you read the BGG description or the back of the box there will be some mumbo jumbo about great civilizations or ancient monuments or something but do no kid yourself, this is essentially a abstract game. Does this quick, 2 player only abstract drafting game deserve a spot in your collection? Lets take a look!
Gameplay and Rules
Normally I wouldn’t go over every single tiny rule that a game has as that is not really a review and generally not something I would think people would want to read. If you decide to game you will have to read the rule book again anyway so why waste your time?
But Tides of Time is small and elegant enough that there are barely any rules and I can easily mentioning them all without causing people to fall asleep at the keys(or phone).
Essentially the main crux of the game is players will draw a set of 5 cards and then choose one to play. Then each player passes the remaining cards in their hand to the other player. This goes on until all the cards are played. After three rounds of this same playing + passing back and forth the game ends. Players with the most point wins.
Each card features two things on it in the two top corners. On the left is the suite the card belongs too. There are 5 suites in the game.
Top right features how the card scores. Examples might be:
- For Majority in Red gain 7 VPs(victory points)
- For each gold gain 3 VPs
- For a set of all 5 suites gain 13VPs
As you can see each card has a corresponding set of Victory Points based on how hard its condition is to fulfill.
This seemingly simple interaction between the suites on the cards and their scoring method is the core of the game. The result is that the game has a nice flow to it.
When you each play the first card of a round you start to wonder, “hmm, what are you going for”. And you can either play a card they need or play one that helps your strategy.
Were they bluffing you though, and weren’t actually going for that suite and you screwed yourself? These sorts of back and forth questions persist through every round of the game.
Another small but important wrinkle is the relic tokens in the game. Essentially these “lock in” a card that was previously played in a round for the rest of the game.
Lets say that you played the Ancient Divide card, which is a gold suite that says “for a majority in red gain 7”. If after the first or second round you play your relic token on this card, it remains face-up in your tableau and will be considered played for the rest of the rounds just like cards played from your hand.
This mechanic, though it seems so simple, so benign, really takes the game from being just OK to a clever box of fun.
It allows you to dictate and focus your strategy or suites that you prioritize as the game goes on which helps the game evolve from a sort of blind guessing and out guessing game in the first wrong to an interesting puzzle.
Whereas before denying cards might not seem like a good play now if you see they want x suite, then you can math out how many cards of x suite are in your hand and then their entire round after the first exchange of hands.
Sometimes this can lead to both players taking the cards they obviously want or denying these from each other and then the focus shifts to the rest of the suites and jockeying to score those.
The box is slightly larger then a love letter style box but definitely can be considered a small box or micro game. The sparse components are just some sturdy, high quality cards with amazing artwork, a few relic tokens, a creepy albino pencil, rules, and score-pad. They give you like 200 score pad sheets, the game only takes 15-20 minutes so I can see how you could play it a lot but that might have been overkill haha!
Final Thoughts on Tides of Time
Tides of Time will never be a game you schedule months in advance and your mouth is watering at work the day of your scheduled play.
It will never be a grail game for anyone but the most specific collector in 20+ years nor dominate the BGG top games list. What Tides of Time sets out to do however, that is, be a fast, fun, highly replayable drafting game that actually WORKS for 2 players, it largely succeeds at.
While I don’t think the replaybility is infinite, especially with the same partner, I think 5-10 plays a year with the same person will keep the game fresh but not too fresh. While the first one or two rounds might be a bit lopsided while you feel out the rules and strategies, from then on it is guns a blazing as you battle more inside the minds of players then on the table.
My final thought is that this will be a great game to introduce a significant other into gaming with or just another game you can play together on a tired weeknight or for a quick game after the kids go to bed. My fiance personally liked it because the artwork drew her in, much like the tile artwork in Forbidden Island did, and the gameplay turned out to be easy to understand and engaging. A win in her book is a win in mine!
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You can purchase Tides of Time from Amazon for a measly $11.50 and help support Cardboard Crusader in the process. See you at the table!
If you liked this review you can check out all the reviews I have ever done here.