Brotherhood of the Coast is the latest expansion in the T.I.M.E Stories saga. It is a pirate-themed expansion that takes place in the Caribbean in the 17th century. You have been sent back in time by the ever-cranky Bob to find four well-known buccaneer brothers. I must admit it was the theme that drew me to this one. My husband and I were very close to giving up on T.I.M.E Stories when Lumen Fidei came out. We decided that Lumen Fidei would be the deciding factor as to whether or not we continued with T.I.M.E Stories. We enjoyed Lumen Fidei and heard that the next expansion had an 80’s theme so we decided to keep going. Estrella Drive was okay. It wasn’t at all what we expected. Not even a little bit. (Maybe we will write a review on that another time.) I convinced my husband to keep going because I really, really wanted to give the pirate one a try! After this expansion, we are officially done with T.I.M.E Stories.
This expansion of T.I.M.E Stories starts in the usual fashion. You are at headquarters getting a briefing from Bob and Laura. You get the background on the mission and off you go.
This expansion does come with a lot in the box. There are many places to explore. Plenty of card packs. The manufacturers are definitely trying to give you your money’s worth with this one.
The theme comes through for the most part. There are definitely things in the game that you would expect to see with a pirate-themed game: rum, gold, ships, sailing and sea battles.
The Time Unit Issue
I think the main reason why I am done with T.I.M.E Stories is that I am tired of being set up for failure. In this mission, we are once again starting out with 20 TU. There are multiple decks of cards that you need to explore to complete the game. It is not actually possible to go to every main deck, let alone location within every deck in 20 TU. So yet again, we fail the first time through. We fail, we get screamed at by Bob. Great. How is this our fault? The game set us up to fail. How is this supposed to be enjoyable? I understand that there are things in this game that are red herrings. We aren’t supposed to check out every single door or talk to every single person at each location because that wastes time. But in the first run through we aren’t doing that. We literally cannot succeed in the time provided. We are automatically going to fail. That’s crap. I don’t want to play a game that is unwinnable. I want a chance to succeed.
It felt like the game designers are giving us 20 TU instead of 50 or 60 TU because they want to make sure the game takes longer. As if that will make everyone feel like they got their money’s worth. Because if we were able to play the game and succeed in an hour or 90 minutes, we wouldn’t feel like the expansion box was worth the $30 we spent on it. So, they drag the game out for three or four hours (or more) because they think that will make you feel like it was more worth it? That’s just my guess.
The game board has space for 60 TU; have we ever been given that much time? Why not?
It’s Like Banging Your Head Against A Wall
Without spoiling too much, there are places during this mission that, without having saved ‘helpers’ from previous games, you can’t win in one run. It could potentially take you more than one run to get past one part of this scenario. It’s unlikely once you reach these points, that you will want to recreate your entire run. You will likely just give yourself a ‘mulligan’ and start from exactly where you left off.
I know this is part of the game design: the resets, but if it is your fourth, or fifth, or eighth time through and you know you only need to do one or two specific things to complete your mission– are you really going to reset the whole game? Probably not. Especially because by this point, you have been playing for a few hours and you just want to finish.
I wanted to like this expansion more than I did. I really liked the idea of a pirate theme. There was just a point where the game’s mechanics just wore me out. The set and re-set and re-set again just got to me. I realized we spent half of our Sunday (at least) playing this one game and there was so much else we could have been doing; so many other games we could have played. And the reason why is because this game makes it impossible for you to win the first playthrough. I loved T.I.M.E Stories when it first came out. I am just done with it now. It became too much of a grind.
A Husband’s Perspective
Brotherhood of the Coast is the latest T.I.M.E Stories module. After playing this module, I too am done with T.I.M.E Stories as a whole. I am not as interested in Pirate-themed games as my wife is, but I was interested in the overarching story that this series was telling. After the disappointing Estrella Drive, I was willing to give this one a chance since my wife wanted to see how Brotherhood of the Coast turned out, as well as hoping we would get more information about the main story.
While we do get a little bit, there is not enough to entice anyone to keep going to see what happens next. The problem is that this overarching story doesn’t appear to have any clear direction, let alone an ending in site. On top of that, you only get more of this main story every two-three modules. This means that if you only care about this main story, you can probably skip their next one.
The High Points
As for Brotherhood of the Coast itself, this expansion has a couple high points marred by more low points. First the high points. The way the mission starts (I won’t spoil it here) was different than what had been done in previous expansions. Having a ship to sail around was neat, and you could even get a better ship. The end of the game definitely brought what I felt was a great pirate experience.
The Low Points
Time is a Factor
Now for the low points. First, you will fail on your first run because you don’t get enough time units to have a chance. This was the same problem in Estrella Drive. Earlier modules gave you the impression that you could possibly complete the game in one run through because you were given more time units. I felt when playing those earlier missions that my wife and I failed because we made the wrong choices, not because the game forced you to fail.
My wife talked about how maybe this is being done to essentially pad the game length. Yet, this actually does not increase the game length by that much to change the amount of time spent with the game. I may have to reset parts of the game, which can take a few minutes. However, we already know where certain stuff is because of the notes we take, so I’m not going to pull out and set up the entire location again. We just say “OK, we need to get this item at this location, but we start at that location. So, let’s roll the time die, subtract our time units, grab the item card, and be done instead of setting up and removing each location.” The game is not going to magically become a five- or six-hour game instead of a two- or three-hour game because you don’t give me enough time units. It’s only going to become a two-and-half-to-three-and-half-hour game at most instead and frustrates the players in the process. Let me fail because of poor decisions, not because you made the game that way.
A Roll (or 12) of the Dice
What will pad the game’s length is the ending. While I enjoyed the ending, it will involve a lot of luck, especially if you don’t have certain items from this expansion along with rewards from previous expansions. Your odds of failure due to the difficulty spike at the end increase dramatically. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it comes down to how lucky you are rolling the dice. If you’re having a bad day, you will be going through run after run after run, all because of the end sequence. Basically, you fail at the beginning because you don’t have enough time units, and you fail at the end if your rolls aren’t god-like.
Pirates! (Or the Lack Thereof)
So, what’s the middle of the game like you ask? Sadly, not a lot of pirating is going on. You’ll get in some fights and might even find a bit of treasure, but not because that was your goal. This stuff just feels like the developers made sure that they checked certain boxes in order to pass the game off as being set in the time of pirates in the Caribbean. Except for the ending, they failed.
Overall, this is another disappointing expansion in a series that just can’t seem to reach the high point of its earlier modules. T.I.M.E Stories is to board games what Lost was to TV shows; a great premise that got you hooked but is being dragged out and therefore dragged down.