TIME of CRISIS is a $50-$65, two to four player game set in the turmoil of the Roman Empire 235-284 AD. This is a time period when Rome beginning to fall apart and is under regular stress from encroaching nations and tribes, Franks, Huns, Sassanids always being major thorns in each other's and Rome's slowly crumbling sides. Unruly Mobs can upset even the best thought through plans.
The GMT chart on the back of the box indicates that TIME of CRISIS has a MEDIUM difficulty of '5' possibility for the solo player. This tends, to the logical eye, to supply the idea that the game is undoubtedly playable by a single player. However, within the rules booklet there is not a mention of solo play and no indication of how a solitaire game could work.
- One very large mounted game board
- Four 8½ x 11 Player Aid Mats
- Two 4 x 5 Crisis tables
- Three counter sheets (these are deluxe "1989"-style counters)
- Two decks of cards (102 influence cards/18 event cards)
- Six six-sided dice
- Sample Cards
- Time of Crisis Map
- Time of Crisis Discussion Topic on Consimworld
- Time of Crisis BGG Page
- Playthrough and Teaching Video from Heavy Cardboard
Players should exercise reasonable precautions when laying out the huge map/game-board. It is a multi-fold affair that is a printed poster on good card stock. The small problem is that because of the card quality the board requires, on first use, a fair amount of gentle (emphasise gentle) back-bending (the board's not yours) is required; firm but friendly will ensure the board lays necessarily flat. I apologise to players already familiar with GMT boards needing a little loving care, but an occasional reminder doesn't hurt. GMT component quality is legendary amongst gamers.
Continuing with my notes on the components (if you hadn't already realised my mentioning of the map board above was my opening note on the game's components) there are two tightly wrapped packs of cards. Neither of these has a pull-strip to allow easy removal of the plastic wrap, thus the careful use of a sharp, thin blade is required.
Once opened, there are a 15 card deck of Events and three coloured Influence decks, Red, Yellow and Blue, each containing the same set of cards, number and value 12 x 1 - 9 x 2 - 8 x 3 and 4 x 4 the ID colour for them being in the top left corner. The colours represent Military (Red) Senate (Blue) and Populace (Yellow). The three cards of die-cut counters effortlessly pop out with not an inkling of tearing and there are ample zip-loc bags to ensure you are not going to open the box for your next game and find a jumble of loose small counters.
Non-wargamers may be put off by the small unit counters which they will see as being regular wargame counters with so much information on them that they either have to have great eyesight or/and memory. The counters here are quite unlike general wargame counters as they have little or no text on them. Mostly the tiles have a number and a plus sign, such as 3+ which means the unit with this particular number hits in combat on a die roll of 3 or greater. Very simple but so very effective.
The illustrations are simply there to prevent players looking at almost blank tiles - Legion names for historical flavour only.
In true deck-building style players begin with a preset card hand, in this case 3 of each card type valued 1 (3 Red x1 3 Blue x1 and 3 Yellow x1) removed from the respective decks (any value one cards of each colour are returned to the box - there are enough value 1 cards for each of 4 players to have 9 start cards). The remaining 2s, 3s and 4s can either be stacked in three separate piles by colour or nine separate piles by colour and number.
In a 2-4 player base game the players each select a hand of five cards from their starting nine. There is another deck-building aspect to the game because you can slowly add and remove cards to your personal deck to strengthen it, but only use the hand selected or drawn each time. As cards are used to be able to activate specific actions it is strongly advisable to decide on your actions before selecting these cards. That may seem obvious but you have to remember that your next turn will include the four cards you left behind.
Alternative methods of play include shuffling cards and drawing rather than player selection. As reviewers are prone to (and like to) say, the dynamics of the game change depending on the predetermined system/mechanics.
Having read the solitaire complexity and being in a period of lockdown I was left with the only solution open to me - I had to play solo. Of course with no discernible rules for single players I figured this would mean playing two-player rules, and so I set up the game map-board, having chosen Red and Green, with me playing Green, choosing to start with Asia (Green) and Pannonia (Red) so that I could understand the all-important combat fairly soon into play. I couldn't play against myself without knowing what I was thinking and no matter how honest I was with myself I always knew what Red was going to do.
At first I tried shuffling the nine cards for each starting hand and drawing five, but in fairness that didn't give me the control I wanted, even though it is one of the suggested alternatives - it may work with 2, 3 or 4 players but not with just one.
Your hand of Influence cards represent your buying power. For Military actions you have to spend Red cards, to influence Senate (political) situations use Blue, and to move along the Support track of a Province then Yellow cards. The cost of these actions can (often does) depend on certain variables that are in place.
Card collecting, deck building, dice rolling, hand management, area control, 'world' domination, all of these and more make TIME of CRISIS quite different, and somewhat less complex, than the majority of historical games that war-gamers will find acceptable. It is not a faux-wargame, it has definite value for the historical player. It is as close to being what is now accepted as a 'Euro-game' having a multi-layered but moderate system of mechanics without having an often irrelevant theme.
I dislike taking this route as it has been traveled many times, but TIME of CRISIS is a creative means of bringing wargames to regular boardgamers, and Euro-style boardgames to often unrelenting historical wargames players, many of which who do not like history being tampered with in any way. In my opinion though, I don't think this game will have any affect on miniatures' gamers, not that it's meant to.
Combat takes place when a player 'invades' either a neutral or owned province from an adjacent province. Combat is dice based, using the positive value number on each die with sixes allowing an extra die roll. Different units roll a different number of dice and as already mentioned one of the results has to equal or be higher than the number on the card. Battle results are determined by the number of hits from each side, the side with the higher number winning. Legacy points are VPs per se; 60 required for normal game, 40 for short game - I played to 20 in my semi-solo game. They can be gained in Combat and other actions, such as creating a Pretender (current fake ruler of a player Empire).
Combat will give you a presence in an area but you still need the will of the people (populace influence) to be able to actually Govern it. In most cases use of Force (Military). Senatorial compliance and Population support are required.
There is a four-player walkthrough in the rules booklet but it only covers Turn One and Turn Six, the rules reader has to play the Turns in-between in his head. If you can do this you are well on the way to understanding and being able to play the game, but it doesn't help towards playing solo.
One thing that can cause players to rethink their potential plans is that at the beginning of each Turn dice are rolled and the result is found on the Crisis Table chart that reflects the number of players. The 4-player chart is on the board, the otherv two are found as separate component cards. The events that unfold in a Crisis can be devastating or (sometimes) not so bad, but as the word is Crisis even the not-so-bad's are generally dreadfull.
As I play a lot of games from Europe I particularly liked the Euro style being applied to an historical game. However because of those friendly mechanics I felt that the atmosphere often generated by GMT historical games had been evaporated for the sake of playability.
Whether you enjoy TIME of CRISIS or not can heavily depend on your receptivity of change and your loyalty to Historical Wargames, and, of course, if you are a regular player of Euro-games. I am filling this review with clichés so I may as well add another - TIME of CRISIS is probably best described as a 'Gateway' game. This is your chance to enjoy a facsimile of both genres, probably though, not the best of them both.