Back in the day, when we could casually visit other people in their house, I would sometimes come across a nice little chess set sitting on a table or shelf. Invariably it would be covered in dust, like a poorly maintained artifact in a dilapidated local historical society museum. That time you killed me is a new chess-like board game with a charming story that deserves to be put on the table and played all year round. My only major complaint is that I wish it was a little more elegantly crafted.
Designed by Peter C. Hayward and published by Pandasaurus Games, the $49.99 abstract strategy game pits two time travelers against each other in a fight to the death in the past, present and future. The timeline is represented by three different game boards and a collection of white and black pawns. During their turn, each player focuses on one point in time and moves their pawn back and forth through the timeline. As a result, they can create additional duplicates of themselves.
Once you’ve duplicated yourself, you can team up against your opponent to push their pawns against the edges of the board, eliminating them from the game. Keep in mind that if you are ever pushed into your own duplicate, the paradox created will destroy both copies at once. The result is a fast and furious game of cats and mice that takes place in just 15 to 30 minutes – sometimes even less. The simple rules make it easy to return to without brushing up on the rulebook. It’s just something to leave on the table or shelf and play rounds all day with a friend or partner.
But the scenario I just described is just one of the four main variants you unlock over the course of the game. Each alternative comes sealed in a small box, each containing new plastic miniatures, envelopes of cards, and more. That time you killed me isn’t a legacy-style game per se, but it uses the same kind of pace to slowly add complexity across multiple playthroughs.
Best of all, the climax of the story (predictably) spirals out of control, greatly increasing the replay potential by merging lines from all the different variants in the box and adding even more. It all adds up to one of the most complex two-player games I’ve played in a long, long time. There are some tempo issues, mind you: things don’t really get going mechanically until the fourth or fifth playthrough, but moving quickly into the second and third set of secret components is an easy way to round out that particular edge.
The problem, however, is that all the bits feel a little cheap. The pawns themselves are top-heavy and can easily fall over. Other parts are warped and will not lie flat on the table. Besides – and this is going to sound all off the wall, but I don’t want to spoil anything – I just can’t get these little porkpie hats on the elephants’ heads.
Produced differently, I could see a copy posted of That time you killed me somewhere in my house and pay a little attention to it every day. But as it stands, this feels more like a filler game – something to bring out as a novelty amongst other more substantial experiences. That’s a shame, because the writing and the game itself have a lot more depth than it seems at first glance. I hope there will be a deluxe version with remastered components someday.