A Prophecy of Dragons is the second expansion, and therefore third adventure module for T.I.M.E Stories, and while T.I.M.E Stories remains one of my favourite games of 2015 and one of the best cooperative game experiences to date, A Prophecy of Dragons is by far the worst adventure for the system and its approach to rules and story threaten to undo all the great work accomplished by Asylum and The Marcy Case.
I will try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible; however some mild spoilers will come out in the discussion.
Whereas The Marcy Case and Asylum both set the story in definitive periods of history, A Prophecy of Dragons moves the story to an unknown planet with an unknown timeline and as such jumps into the well-trodden world of fantasy, complete with dwarves, magic and dungeons. It's an odd choice for a game that can take its story from any period in history it instead goes to the world of Dungeons and Dragons, which unfortunately just highlights A Prophecy of Dragons biggest problem; it's an 80's dungeon crawl.
Asylum and Marcy Case lived by their puzzles, there was a mystery afoot and those clever enough could solve it. There was still the possibility that you just play the game by trial and error but you often realised after the fact that the clues to the puzzle where right there in front you. But with Prophecy of Dragons there doesn't appear to be any mystery, no puzzles and it really does feel like trial and error is the only method of solving the game.
We completed Prophecy of Dragons on our second run. Second! It took us the maximum number of runs to complete Asylum and 5 to complete the Marcy case. We didn't complete the module because we were clever, or picked up on the subtle hints, no we just had a big fighter on our team, armed with a bigger sword and generally battered our way through the game. We weren't a team of super sleuths; we were just your typical party of Dungeons and Dragons murder hobos, killing everything in our path.
Then there are the issues with the rules. Prophecy of Dragons does something really clever with the T.I.M.E Stories system, effectively splitting the story into two distinct halves, unfortunately, as is starting to become the norm with T.I.M.E Stories, it doesn't do a very good job of explaining the new rules it adds. Even worse it puts those rules on a card that is now back in the location deck. We also spotted a couple of misprints where a rule keyword changed between cards.
It's beginning to feel that Space Cowboys aren't blind playtesting their English versions of the game, the Boardgamegeek forums are awash with questions around ambiguously worded rules and with this being the third module, quite frankly it's not on.
Now one thing I will say about Prophecy of Dragons is its introduction of a central plot. Not only does Prophecy introduce antagonists to the T.I.M.E Agency it also hints at an overarching story that is going to tie together all the T.I.M.E Stories modules, and that is actually quite exciting. In one particularly clever section future expansions are foreshadowed.
The question becomes has Prophecy put me off the T.I.M.E Stories system. The Answer is no, not yet. Prophecy makes a lot of mistakes, partly in its rules explanations, but mostly in its squandering of the puzzle solving good work of the previous modules by making a linear, trope ridden Dungeons & Dragons story. It makes up for some of its mistakes by introducing the overarching story so much so that I am willing to give Space Cowboys another chance but another module as poor as this is going to start putting me off the T.I.M.E Stories system.