TimeLine in progress.

We had  the chance to try TimeLine this weekend, one of the Cheapass Games titles that made the leap to print and play licensed under Creative Commons.

The upshot is all the players have time machines. And, being sensible owners of time machines, they rocket up and down the timestreams, buying up cheap commodities and trying to offload them at financially advantageous moments in time.

The board starts out as a line of cards that trace four interweaving paths that represent the value of commodities: oilpetrol, milkbread, beetcandy and nucleons. These paths also have waypoints, which each hold one token representing one of the commodities scattered along them. Players move around by traveling in time, left or right along the path their pawn is on, or locally, up or down a column of cards.

That’s where the design of TimeLine gets interesting. The board is theoretically infinite along that up-down axis, but only ever a set number of cards wide, which depends on the number of players. Pawns can move up or down a column of cards as far as they like, constrained only by the number of turns the game lasts, the size of the playing surface and the size of the deck. The markets at the right side of the timeline extend infinitely in each direction as well, but they’re worthless unless they somehow connect with the leftmost card showing the commodities in question.

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Cheapass Games’ TimeLine Up for Ransom

Speaking of print on demand, I’ve mentioned previously Cheapass Games’ move towards ransoming Creative Commons licensed, print and play revisions of their library. Since then, they’ve rereleased a half dozen or so titles. This weekend, James Ernest put TimeLine up for ransom at $136 in donations. Earlier this morning, he posted that the ransom was halfway done; I hope that has to do with conducting the ransom on a holiday weekend, rather than disinterest in the game itself.

Conveniently, demand printer ArtsCow is holding a sale until July 7th: $2.99 for a 54 deck of cards, which neatly encompasses the materials for TimeLine. In addition to donating for the release of the game, I ordered a deck this morning. At $3 for a deck of cards, it’s like a return to the Cheapass days of yore, only these cards are full color and on — probably, from what I saw of a friend’s print and play copy of The Thing — better stock.

Fantasy Flight Games’ Print on Demand Expansions

Elliot over at The Gaming Gang reminded me that Fantasy Flight Games has been experimenting with print on demand expansion packs for some of their games. Their first foray was a small pack for their Space Hulk: Death Angels card game. Now Mansions of Madness has a single scenario expansion called Season of the Witch.

Given that, the model appears to be effective. I’m hoping that it leads to smaller expansions for more of Fantasy Flight’s game lines, especially Arkham Horror. One product long wished for by true believers, but probably not commercially feasible, is a patch kit expansion, which evens out the experience of mixing multiple expansions, so that Dunwich stays hopping while the continuing acts of The King in Yellow have an impact on game play.

The forthcoming Miskatonic Horror seemed like it might address that problem, but until I riffle through the cards, I’m taking the marketing copy to mean “more of the same” in terms of how all the expansions interact.

So here’s hoping for small packs of cards printed on demand to spice up Arkham Horror. I’d like to see the King in Yellow’s blight spread to outlying towns, the unstable locations of Dunwich more frequently rent asunder and the influences of the cult of the Black Goat of the Woods spread out to Kingsport and Innsmouth.

It could happen.