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Books of Time Board Game Review

When I wrote the components overview and impressions article for Books of Time, I noted that this was one of the more interesting games I’ve played in the last few years. The creating a book mechanic isn’t something I’ve seen before, and the way the game plays out is really interesting. There are so many things to keep track of, which might suck for some people, but I found the decision space really captivating. Does the game hold up long term over a few plays? Let’s take a look.

In Books of Time, players will be creating books by adding different colored pages to different colored books. Throughout the game, players will activate their books and collect various resources – pens, paper, files – which they will use to move up various tracks, achieve bonus objectives, and more. The player with the most points when the game ends is the winner.

Our gaming group recently talked about games with set ends, and this game definitely has this. Although the end of the game can get lost as you continually turn pages in the central book, a handy bookmark will indicate once there are three turns left. The game length did feel a bit long for our group, but looking back at the way the game is played, I think too many fewer turns would ruin the great opportunity to build your book engine.

Ultimately, I would argue, this is a tableau building game, except you are using books and can only activate certain pages at certain times. This takes a basic tableau building game and elevates it with one more little twist that makes you think, and it makes you think often. This probably impacts the time it takes to play the game – even with a solid understanding of how the game works, which pages you purchase, and when you decide to activate for resources, are really big decisions, and I did find that too many mistakes probably took you out of winning contention (unless everyone else was making equal number of mistakes).

That being said, I don’t find that type of game bad. Sure, I would argue that you need to be in the mood for that kind of game, but this is a game where I think too many hiccups is going to cost you the game. And when I say too many, I’m not saying 50% of the time. I made notes as I played, noting times when I felt I made pretty big errors, and I never won when I felt I screwed up over 10% of my turns. That’s not much of a scientific test to make a definitive statement, but I do feel like I say this with confidence: make sure you are doing what you really want to do, and think through all your options.

Even though this game felt long for our group, we all still enjoyed it a lot. It is a game you plan to play ahead of time as there is some setup you’ll need to do, including building a really cool and VERY useful lectern for the central book to sit on. So often games include accessories that don’t actually make the game easier to play – I’m looking at you, Everdell Evertree!

This game is gorgeous though, and the quality of all the components is top notch. I was initially worried about the binder rings separating and not closing nicely, but let’s get real – this isn’t grade school, I’m not opening and shutting those things 100 times! The page quality is fantastic, as it should be in this type of game. I’m glad to see the designers add that extra bit of quality to each and every component in the game. It really shows, and says a lot about how they feel about their own game. You may pay a bit of a premium to experience this game, but it’s one worth paying a premium for.

Ultimately, I go back to the decision space for the game. Deciding which page to purchase and add to your book is pretty important, both for getting your end-of-game objectives and to maximize your resource retrieval when the time comes. I love making the decisions, and the wide variety of pages and abilities has made each game feel really fresh.

Hats off to the team on this one – this is one of our favorite games this year, and one we think will get a lot of traction with serious board game players!


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blank Adam Roffel has only been writing about video games for a short time, but has honed his skills completing a Master's Degree. He loves Nintendo, and almost anything they have released...even Tomodachi Life.

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Twitter: @AdamRoffel