Tragedy Looper ★★★★
You have the power to travel through time.
How you got this power doesn’t matter. It could be the strange pocket watch you found at a mysterious antique shop or a magical diary or even the high-tech phone application your mad scientist father created. However it might be, what matters is that you’ve been using it; travelling back in time to prevent the tragedies that are increasingly involved with your life.
Because this time, someone, somewhere, is behind them. And they keep happening.
Inspired by the likes of Steins: Gate and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, Tragedy Looper is a unique game of deduction that pits a small group of time-travelers against an evil mastermind. With absolutely no information available at the start the protagonists must slowly unravel the nefarious “script” that triggers the tragedies and find a way to stop it before they run out of time. It’s a tense, challenging game completely unlike anything else. Each turn, the Mastermind plays three facedown cards on either one of the four locations that form the board or the unsuspecting characters that populate them. He might move them around, make them paranoid or push them to do his bidding. For the Mastermind, information is power and he must hatch, not one, but several plans to keep it under his control.
Because the Protagonists also play three facedown cards and while they might not know much at the start, they have the tools to figure out what’s happening. They know what possible roles characters might play and can befriend them, using their unique abilities to their advantage. Above all, they can try again, starting the game anew when the tragedy finally happens .
It’s a battle of wits and information. Unlike the vast majority of deduction games, there’s no need for a mathematical model to reduce the number of possibilities, what matters here is the intent behind each move. Is the Mastermind trying to take over the School? Is the Patient a decoy or a key part of the tragedy? Can the Protagonists be mislead into thinking he’s something he isn’t? The sense of chase, of being observed and manipulated comes strong through the mechanics, with the with the animesque artwork providing the necessary context to interpret them. It’s hard not to cackle as the Mastermind or feel determined as the Protagonists, immersion in each role is fantastic. This immersion is made easier by a manual that takes its time to advise the players both on rules and strategy.
Deduction games are notable for the workload placed on players and Tragedy Looper, with its triggers, characters, incidents and special abilities is no exception. Having each scenario come with a small strategy blurb and two different difficulty levels helps the game become much more playable.
My only issue with the game is the way hidden information is handled: Since scenarios are set from the start and no new information is injected during the game, the Mastermind is forced to rely more on obfuscation and less on the more expressive deceit. I’m not sure, though, how much of an issue this actually is. Sure, if there are three ways for the Mastermind to win, it’s true that he is pretty much forced to use all of them but it doesn’t seem strategic depth is sacrificed for it.
Rather, it seems to force the Mastermind to plan ahead instead of forcing his way through bluffing, a decidedly a good thing. In that sense the real drawback is not the lack of expressiveness, but the difficulty of recovering from a mistake: Once something is revealed, it’s revealed forever and there’s no turning back.
But it’s at a small issue that in no way prevents Tragedy Looper from excelling at its goals. It tackles a fantastic theme, it plays in under two hours, it’s fun and challenging and, all around, a great game.
|TRAGEDY LOOPER (2011)|
|NUMBER OF PLAYERS||2-4 (Best with 4)||LENGTH||90-120 Minutes|