In 2012, Love Letter rocketed into the gaming scene and introduced gamers to the micro game; a low-cost, quick playing game with minimal components. Once the industry saw the success of this juggernaut, there were no shortage of micro games to hit our tables.
To be honest, I got burned out on the micro game genre fairly quickly and said I was done with it. That was before I found out about Tides of Time. As any regular reader of this site knows, I’m a bit of a card drafting addict. Easily one of my favorite mechanics in gaming, Tides of Time brought us a two player only card drafting game that plays in about 10 minutes. Was Tides of Time enough to bring my out of my micro game stupor? Let’s find out.
Tides of Time is a card drafting and set collection game for two players that takes about 10 minutes to play.
In Tides of Time, players take on the role of an ancient civilization as it prospers and collapses throughout time. In reality, players are drafting cards over three rounds trying to acquire the most points via the game’s set collection mechanic. Each round ends with a scoring phase, along with some card selection. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins.
Tides of Time has a very small footprint which makes it an idea travel game. Included in the box are 18 cards, a score pad, and a pencil (which reminds me of the kind that used to be found at bowling alleys).
In reality, the only component you are going to care about in Tides of Time are the cards. They are larger than your standard playing cards (Tarot size maybe?) and contain a card name, illustration, possibly some icons and how the cards scores or affects the game. The cards are made of a high quality stock that should hold up well over time (see what I did there)?
To get a bit more in-depth on the cards, there are two things to note. One, the artwork is AMAZING. Love it, love it, love it. The artwork dominates the real estate on the cards and I’m 100% OK with that. It’s incredibly well done and I find myself constantly staring at the gorgeous variety of images.
However, with that large area of artwork comes a bit of a sacrifice. Notably, the text on the card is somewhat small. I never had too many issues with it, but from across the table it can be a bit hard to read the card’s power. This becomes less of an issue as you become more accustomed to the game.
How to Play:
A game of Tides of Time consists of 3 rounds. To start the first round, each player draws five cards from the shared deck.
Each player then selects one card to play, places it face down in front of them, and simultaneously reveals it. After that, hands are passed across to your opponent and the process is repeated. The round ends after each player has 5 cards face-up in front of them. At this point, each player scores their cards.
Then, each player gathers up the cards in front of them, chooses one to remove from the game and one to keep permanently for the rest of the game (marked with a token). Each player draws two more cards and the processes from round one is repeated until each player now has 6 cards in front of them. Once again, points are scored and a player’s total is added to their total from the previous round.
Round three is played the same as round two, but players will have 7 cards at the end. Once the final round of scoring is finished, the game is over and the player with the most points is the winner.
I saw that Portal Games was making a micro game and I immediately lost interest. I don’t know what happened to me with this genre, but it hasn’t held up for me very well. Since Love Letter, there have only been a handful of micro games that have kept my interest. But then I heard “card drafting”… then I saw some sample art. OK, ban lifted. Let’s try this one out.
Tides of Time ended up being quite enjoyable. It is probably one of the deeper micro games out there and I’d say easily my favorite since Love Letter. I’m not usually prone to hyperbole in my reviews, but I really feel like this is the case.
That’s the short of it but we need to talk about why it’s so good. Tides of Time takes the set collection and card drafting mechanics and boils them down to their essence. It’s a game that plays quickly, yet still offers deep and strategic decisions.
Tides of Time has a nice variety in the cards and there doesn’t seem to be one optimal path to victory. Many of the cards are “3 points for each X symbol” or “7 points if you have the majority in X symbol.” But then there are the others where some give you points for pairs, points for having one of each icon, or even points for having none.
This not only requires players to be flexible with their strategies as they need to react to what’s passed to them, but there is a LOT of opportunity for hate drafting in Tides of Time. You absolutely have to pay attention to what your opponent is doing and some times denying the card you know they need is more important than taking a card to help yourself. This is most obvious in the case of the Maze of the Damned card where a player gains 13 points if they get one of each of the icons.
Another thing that sets Tides of Time apart from other micro games is the very low amount of luck. Since all 18 cards will be showing up in the game, you don’t have to worry about being screwed by the luck of the draw. Chances are, every card you need will be in your hand at some point during the game.
As much as I’m enjoying Tides of Time, there are a few areas where it can fall a bit flat. Once is with the theme. To be honest, this theme is about as pasted on as it gets. I don’t really feel like I’m running a civilization, I could just have easily been collecting cars for my garage. While I doubt anyone is expecting a deep, thematic experience from a 10 minute game, it’s still worth noting. However the amazing artwork does make up for the pasted on theme in my book.
Second, with only 18 cards, the game will probably hit its replay value limit sooner rather than later. I’ve played about a dozen games and am still highly enjoying Tides of Time, but I also feel like I’ve seen a lot of what the game has to offer. At some point, I can see players moving on. The good news is that the game is both easily expandable and also only costs about $12. At that price, it’s hard to complain about how many times you are playing it.
Finally, I think Tides of Time makes a great gateway game. The mechanics are really easy to pick up and the set collection concept will be familiar to just about anyone. Since every card says what it does, there is no need to explain rules during the game. And its short play time makes it easy for even the newest of players to keep their attention span. If I am looking to introduce a non-gamer to card drafting, this has become my new go to game (sorry Sushi Go!, you’re out).
The card drafting mechanic has never really worked out well in the 2 player arena. 7 Wonders, which I love, has a 2 player variant which always felt a bit lack luster to me (note: I have not gotten to try 7 Wonders: Duel yet). But it works in Tides of Time.
While the player count may turn off some people with larger groups, I always like having some two player games to grab when it’s just me and the wife. I do think Tides of Time will need an expansion in the future to keep it fresh, but for now it’s a really enjoyable game with a small footprint. This makes it easy to throw in a bag when we are traveling.
For it’s $12 price point, you really can’t go wrong with this two player card drafting game. You are getting a solid set collection game with some truly outstanding artwork. Tide of Time should easily be in everyone’s gaming collection.
If you’d like to pick up a copy of Tides of Time, you can get it for about $12.
Final Score: 4 Stars – A quick playing and highly portable card game with some amazing artwork. It’s solid mechanics and low price point make it an easy addition to your game library.
• Theme is very light
• Only 18 cards, would love expansions