You might be wondering why the headline is growling at you. Well, GRRR is actually the wonderfully evocative acronym for the Game Review Round Robin, a group of game designers who have all agreed to read and review each other’s games. This group is the brainchild of Eleri Hamilton, who designed Unwritten. Eleri also did the legwork of setting up the review assignments, so that the rest of us can just sit back and read games. Thanks, Eleri!
As you might have guessed from my work on Rockalypse, I really enjoy games that take a close look at story tropes that exist in popular media but are not adequately represented in RPG form. Rewind: Temporal Tales is absolutely one such game. R:TT tackles the time-looping story styles of Groundhog Day and Edge of Tomorrow. Time travel has never been an easy concept to render as roleplaying mechanic, which is why this is a solo/duet game.
The basic form of play (after a very nice set of questions for character/game creation) revolves around making a timeline map of branching decision trees that represent all the different things the character has tried throughout their various loops. As the character fails, they collect “rewind points” that can be used to improve skills and knowledge (but not physical traits, since they keep returning to the same body). However, each major event can only ever provide one rewind point. Once you’ve learned that particular lesson, that’s it. So ultimately you’re going to have to explore a variety of choices to find your way to success.
And here’s where I need to stop and just say – Todd nailed it. There’s more great stuff in the game, like a very smooth action resolution system with more degrees of success than any game I’ve seen, a robust randomized card system to help with solo play, and a nicely detailed example of play at the end. But honestly, the rewind point mechanic is all it took to sell me on this game. It is an elegant design that perfectly captures the experience of being in a time-looping story. And since successfully capturing the intended experience is pretty much how I define a well-designed game, I can only conclude that R:TT is a well-designed game. But on top of that, those extra elements are hackable to other games and stories (seriously – read the degrees of success), so I would go so far as to say that it is a great game that people should make an effort to read.
My one suggestion is that I feel like maybe, just maybe, it actually could be possible to play with a (smallish) group. I envision each person having different characters but being tied to the same looping trigger. As long as everyone stays together and rewinds together, I think it could work. But since my only criticism involves getting more people to play this game, clearly I think it’s a game that deserves to be played.