GAME STORIES (PART 8)
In this continuing series, I am detailing and reviewing the various stories presented in many of the board games on the market. Turns out, most aren’t particularly good, but there are a few exceptions…
The third and last Plaid Hat Games title is also the best in the line. And if they end up making a movie of Mice & Mystics and not Stuffed Fables, it will be a real tragedy. With identical mechanics to both Mice & Mystics and Comanauts, Stuffed Fables easily beats them all.
In the title, players take on the roles of named and colorful stuffies, yes, stuffed animals, seeking to save the child they love from a scheming, evil mastermind. As the child sleeps, her brave animals sneak away to protect her dreams by entering a fantasy world which could be connected to her subconscious. As long as she sleeps, the story can continue. In the first adventure, the heroes must retrieve a red blanket with later tales adding more complexity with the rise of a singular menace. The narrative changes based on player choices as well as the outcome of battles. Although the game is claimed to be directed to kids, my wife and I adore it on its own level despite have no spawn of our own.
In case you are curious, Stuffed Fables is actually the best written game I will mention in this series.
Story Quality: 9/10
Although not solely based on a movie, Sub Terra does come off as a thinly veiled knock-off of The Descent. Four hapless cave divers find themselves with ropes cut at the bottom of a shaft with an unfamiliar cave network ahead of them. Certainly, escape must be possible, so our heroes venture into the labyrinth, surviving cliffs, floods, gas explosions, cave-ins, and eventually, terrors hiding in the darkness. Potentially, not everyone will survive in this race to escape before flashlight batteries die.
A basic horror story, Sub Terra is a brilliant organically told story as player motivations are channeled into their unique (though unfortunately nameless) characters. On its own, it’s a passable story with each session behaving differently based on player choices and tiles played. There are also a handful of expansions that create all-new stories, some of which can almost be considered sequels or reboots of the base narrative.
In Extraction, the characters are not there by chance; they are trying to find three members from a previous expedition. Upon finding their dead bodies (spoilers), the survivors must escape before meeting the same fate.
In Annihilation, those same characters, now with some hired protection, are returning to that same network, this time entering through the exit they recently found, but this time packing enough explosives to bring down the entire labyrinth and those monsters within. Now, that’s cool. Despite lacking a storybook or character motivations, Sub Terra succeeds where others fail.
Story Quality: 7/10
Time Stories is not a bad idea, but it’s handled exceptionally clumsily. Tipping a hat to Quantum Leap, Time Cop and Trancers, the players are playing…well…themselves, as members of an organization that sends the minds of people back in time to inhabit people in the past in hopes of repairing potential space-time fluctuations caused by similar breaches like the one the players are employing. Beyond the player’s team leader being a complete jerk, each episode of TIME stories presents a bizarrely jarring storyline that in no way presents what appears to be a time travel plotline.
IN fact, the game appears just to be a framework to tell a variety of effectively unrelated escape-room-style stories. The first introduces a paranormal element while the second introduces zombies. Later episodes dive into hard science fiction and aloof fantasy. That doesn’t come off as time travel to me. Throughout it all, the game lays down the foundation of a potentially overarching storyline…well…do not get your hopes up, because as word on “the street” claims, it is utterly disappointing.
Story Quality: 5/10