Tides of Time is a game of ancient civilizations, following them as they prosper and collapse through time. Build gigantic monuments, raise impenetrable fortifications and amass vast knowledge as the ages pass. The greatest civilizations will leave their mark long after their collapse. As you carefully craft your civilization some monuments will fall, but you will choose others to continue to exist as relics of the past as you progress through time.
Tides of Time is definitely the smallest civilization building game we own, and it doesn’t particularly evoke that theme strongly. However, it’s only a micro game - the box only contains 18 tarot size cards, but with just a few simple rules and a few symbols on the cards, an interesting two-player card drafting game is created.
Tides of Time Gameplay
Tides of Time takes place over three rounds of drafting cards. During the first round both players are handed five cards, they pick the card that they like the most and add it, face down, into their kingdom. The remaining four cards they then pass to their opponent before both players reveal the card that they took. This then repeats with each player choosing one card from ever-diminishing hands until there are no cards left. At this point each player should have five cards in their kingdom.
The cards themselves have two main attributes. Every card has a small bit of text telling you how they help score points in your kingdom, while all bar three cards have one of the five symbols in their top left. Your typical card may say something like “score three points for every blue symbol you have,” while simultaneously giving you a gold symbol. Of course the harder the cards requirements are to achieve, the more points you will be rewarded, but as your opponent can see your kingdom growing they will often decide to take a card that you desperately need away from you even if it isn’t the best choice for them.
At the end of round one and two you count together all the points your cards earned you this round, then pick up all your played cards to form a new hand for the next round. You then choose one card to become permanent, the one remnant from your last kingdom that has survived the years to become part of your second. You also decide one card to throw away, removing it from the game permanently before drawing two cards to refill your hand to five.
These choices have immense tactical weight, if your opponent wants certain symbols then you may do well claiming one permanently, while throwing another away. At the end of the game you add together the scores that you earned at the end of each round and the player with the most points wins.
Amy’s Final Thoughts
Tides of Time has a truly impressive amount of decision making in such a small game. At first you may keep taking what seems to be the best card for yourself, but eventually you learn that there is a careful balancing act between furthering your own agenda and preventing your opponent’s. This becomes more important as you play the game more, when both players understand what cards are in the deck you begin planning for the future rounds as much as playing the current one. After all, you can only make a card permanent if you played it, some of the cards are very difficult to score in round one, but give big rewards in round three.
I wouldn’t recommend Tides of Time to a couple who can’t handle being mean to each other, the nature of a two-player drafting game means that every option you take is one taken from your opponent, which can cause some colourful remarks to be aimed at you. The artwork is gorgeous, although all the information on the cards is in a thin strip at the top of the card, I find that this draws the eye far more that the gorgeous vistas printed on the card which is a real shame.
Otherwise it is a great little game that manages to provide a lot of depth for something so portable and quick.
Fiona’s Final Thoughts
Tides of Time is super quick, easy to learn, but the way you have to balance your own goals against your opponent’s intentions really gives the game enough depth to make it really re-playable. We can play this numerous times in one sitting. Like most two-player games it certainly can cause arguments when your opponent ‘steals’ the exact card that will take you to victory, but because the game is quick, there’s always next time.
We really enjoy card drafting games like 7 Wonders and Sushi Go, but to find one that works with two players and uses the card drafting mechanic in its most basic form is really great for us. Tides of Time has been a go-to travel game for us for a couple of years – sometimes you have to be creative to ensure that your card tableau doesn’t blow away, or use up too much space, but with a bit of ingenuity we’ve played this on a train, a cruise ship and in parks and restaurants whilst on our travels.
For me, Tides of Time is also my preferred game rather than its sequel Tides of Madness. Tides of Time is simple and streamlined and I find it to be a perfect small package and a great couple’s game.