Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Tobias Stapelfeld


No. of Players:
3 - 4



Some years ago EGGERTSPIELE released Space Dealer, a game designed by Tobias Stapelfeld in which the players took the roles of interplanetary traders. The players first had to build up a production chain before they could send their trading spaceships to other planets, but the most interesting aspect in this game was the fact that all the player actions where determined by the use of 1-minute hourglasses which represented robots at a player's disposal. Research, production and movement in interstellar flight all required the use of one hourglass, and an action was deemed to be "done" after an hourglass which had been placed at a matching tile had shown the passage of one minute. Each player had two of these hourglasses, and with a fixed total duration of 30 minutes the game quickly developed into a literal race into space. Space Dealer was quite tricky with its different researchable items and the energy/production requirements, and some players saw the game as being too sophisticated for its restricted time frame, whereas especially serious hobbyists quickly came to grips with the game's mechanics and recommended the game for its unusual mechanics.


Overall, the use of the hourglasses to determine actions certainly was a novelty to boardgaming, and perhaps it was the value of this idea which had brought Tobias Stapelfeld and EGGERTSPIELE to release Time 'n' Space, yet another space trading game with hourglasses. Quite interestingly, the rules of this game feature no reference to Space Dealer, and this is even more astonishing due to the fact that many of the playing mechanisms found in Time 'n' Space are corresponding to the mechanisms of Space Dealer. In fact, the basic plot of both games is identical, with both players owning a planet with some basic production and trading capacities and which, during the course of a 30 minute game, must be expanded and used to maximize the players' victory points. The gain victory points, the players of Time 'n' Space have to collect VP markers from the planets of their competitors, and to collect a VP marker, a player must…

  1. produce a number of goods corresponding to the colour and value of an available VP marker,
  2. send his spaceship to the orbit of the planet where the VP marker is available to establish a trading contact, and
  3. use Beam-Stations to beam the goods from his homeworld to the world orbited by his spaceship.
All these steps require the use of 1-minute hourglasses, but apart from the always identical speed of the player's spaceship the efficiency of the player's production and beaming actions can be increased by increasing the level of the factories and Beam-Stations owned by the player. When visiting a moon, a player is allowed to collect the "blueprints" for an advanced factory or Beam-Station, and if he spends an hourglass to research this technology he may place the newly acquired facility onto his planet's surface, now standing ready for further use or another upgrade to third and highest level.

As can be seen, Time 'n' Space is a game of demand and supply where the players compete to collect most VP markers. Good timing is of great importance, since otherwise a lot of frustration will be felt by players who come too late to deliver goods for a VP marker which was just snatched away by a competitor. However, it is exactly these markers where Time 'n' Space differs quite a bit from Space Dealer, and as it seems author Tobias Stapelfeld has searched for a way to minimize the somewhat frustrating waste of time which could be felt by late arriving players in Space Dealer.

So, each player becomes responsible for making VP markers available on his homeworld so that these markers can be collected by the other players. A player does this by using hourglass operated Trade modules where VP markers from the player's stockpile can be placed, and the incentive for the players to make new markers available on their planets comes from an intelligent linkage between the markers collected by a player through trading and the markers in his own stockpile. At the end of the game a player has to separate all collected markers into the four different available colours to calculate their scoring values, but a player only can score markers of a colour of which he does not have markers left in his own stockpile. So, a player needs to bring his own markers into play in order to score at all, and this scoring requirement turned out to be a clever move to increase trading activities. Likewise, the value of markers of the same colour can be increased if they come from different planets, and this component of the scoring also leads to increased interstellar moves and cross-player trading.

Both of these simple but effective ideas give the trading component in Time 'n' Space much more drive than the sometimes stagnant trades in Space Dealer, and furthermore player interaction and communication increased as well. All players now have an easy overview which VP markers are still available in each player's stockpile, and so the players will try to convince each other to provide specific VP markers in their Trade modules, or to come to their planets and deliver some desired markers. However, the comparatively easy accessibility of Time 'n' Space comes at a price, and one point which must be mentioned here is the rather functional graphical design of the game. Apart from the cover of the box the whole game features no fancy sci-fi graphics, but instead all playing components are rather simplistic in order to facilitate their easy identification during the rush of the game. Furthermore, in comparison to Space Dealer the game has lost some of its playing depth due to the removal of some special researchable facilities and the rules for energy supply, and even a bit of the original charme and coherence of Space Dealer has been lost in the streamlining process. The players now do not load goods onto their spaceships anymore, but instead the ships now just move around to establish contacts, and the goods then are beamed from one planet to the other. This change might be useful for better playability, but nonetheless it felt more "satisfactory" to load goods onto a ship which then was sent off into space.

This results in a question which each gamer needs to answer on his own account: is the rather well developed and interactive trading mechanism with its fancy timing aspect found in Time 'n' Space sufficient to guarantee long-term interest and playing sessions, or should the older - sometimes cumbersome - bulk of rules found in Space Dealer be preferred because optimization freaks will find more screws to turn and twist? From my perspective, the answer is no true "yes" or "no" for either game: Time 'n' Space certainly enjoys the benefit of being the more balanced and streamlined, but for the sake of replayability I would rather wish for an expansion which includes some of the playing depth found in Space Dealer. However, I am sure that Tobias Stapelfeld will have discovered this as well, and so I would bet on the fact that we will see an expansion for Time 'n' Space within the next couple of months…

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Copyright © 2013 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany