Playing TimeWatch again was like reuniting with an old friend… only to realize that they were actually a trio of bear cubs in a trench coat the entire time. You’re first happy and overjoyed to see it again. Then taken aback as you realize something isn’t right. You’re then confused… but it’s a good kind of confused. Because in place of a friend, you now have three adorable bear cubs to play with and a new trench coat to wear.
So, yeah, that’s TimeWatch.
And that isn’t an insult! It’s actually what makes TimeWatch an amazingly well thought out and unique game. You can’t approach TimeWatch like it is a normal linear game. There is no beginning, middle, and end to the adventure because with time travel, it’s all relative!
Fandible played TimeWatch when the Kickstarter came out and we had high praise for it. And now the book is officially out, and our praise can’t go any higher. It’s a well constructed game where time travel is wonderfully thought out along with all its benefits and disadvantages. The one thing that we realized about halfway through our latest game is that when playing TimeWatch, you can’t play it like you are playing checkers. It isn’t always about moving forward! Instead, when you are playing TimeWatch, you need to start viewing the game like three-dimensional chess. The reason for this is a mechanic unique to TimeWatch: Paradox
Imagine you need to go back in time because the timeline is diluted. They don’t know what happened, so you go back to the year 2000 and find a history book to read. You read through the history book until you find what went wrong. So then you go back, change that thing, and everything should be okay, right?
You just committed a Paradox! You just read about 200 years of alternate history by reading that book. The book told you to go back to the 1800s to stop something… but if you stop that 1800s event after reading the book, how did you know to go back to the 1800s? The book in 2000 never would have been written! Confusing, right?
Well, that’s TimeWatch.
And it’s amazing (and frustrating) and unique (and frustrating) and frustrating (and did I say frustrating, yet?) but that’s why it is so unique. And that’s why I’m writing this right now because it’s probably the most important (and frustrat… you get the point) part of TimeWatch. The goal of TimeWatch is to stop the changes to the timeline. Your secondary goal is to minimize the creation of Paradox. No matter what, you’ll always deal with some level of Paradox, since as an Agent you are aware of the dilution of the timeline in the first place. But how you figure out how to correct the timeline is where you need to minimize the level of paradox. Don’t just rush to the nearest time machine and go find a future history book. Take a moment to figure out how to get as close to the inciting incident as you can with as few details as possible. Because in TimeWatch, what your character knows is exactly what will get them in the end.
TimeWatch is an absolute joy to play, but if you’re going to play it, you need to be prepared! You need to know the rules. You need to understand the mechanics of the game. There are some games where you can grab the book, scan it over in five minutes, and start a game – TimeWatch isn’t one of them. The mechanics are easy, but you need to understand the intricacies of the setting and idiosyncrasies of the game before GMing.
And my God… really make sure your players understand the importance of Paradox! That is the true enemy you have to beat!
TimeWatch returns to our actual play schedule next month…which is where we learned some of these hard lessons. I can’t wait to play it again with this in mind.
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