Board's Eye View previewed Time of Legends: Destinies, as it was then known, way back in a time before Covid - did such a time really exist? - and we were excited to show you the innovative story-driven RPG-lite board game. At the time it shipped, our world was just beginning to slip into chaos but eventually we got the game in hand; so, did it deliver when it was delivered?
To recap, Michal Golebiowski and Filip Milunski's Destinies sees 1–3 players assume the roles of multiple different characters in a fantasised agathokakological world inhabited by Joan of Arc and her near contemporaries. Each character has their own raison d'etre, from a disgraced knight to a money-grabbing nobleman and an ostensibly penitent nun. Through the course of each 2–3 hour scenario - which themselves describe an overarching anthology - the players must discover not only what is going on but what their character must learn and achieve in order to find their destiny before someone else does.
Mechanically the game is laudably simple: player boards have tracks for Intelligence, Dexterity and Power, scaled from 1-12, and at the outset of a scenario three or four markers are placed on each track. When dice are rolled against a statistic, the more markers that are equalled or exceeded in value, the greater the chance of succeeding the task at hand. Of course, items and allies can be found to augment your abilities, and experience improves your chances at a moderate pace. The scenario's story, non-player characters and events are run by an essential app which records all progress and has proved stable during play, crashing just once in 15 hours; the app uses QR codes in the same way as Lucky Duck's Chronicles of Crime and to equally impressive effect.
Visually, Destinies could be a looker... if you were to spend time painting the mostly tiny miniatures that otherwise are indistinct grey blobs on the slowly revealed map which itself is made up of thick-ish cards with excellent art by Karolina Jedrzejak, Magdalena Leszczynska and Irek Zielinski. Certainly the insert holds things tight and is robust, player boards and cards are functional and attractive, but looking at the interactive elements on the map - grey blobs and generic tokens - is not as satisfying as it could be. Given that the miniatures swap in for different characters and are not in every scenario, the investment in painting time can't be wholly justified; perhaps a 'sundrop' treatment would be a nice compromise.
I was once an avid role-player, GMing games with an absurd amount of plot intricacy for years at a time; I have found, these days, that I am less excited by narrative in games, especially when they are not backed up by the mechanics. Mice & Mystics (Plaid Hat) was a big culprit here, with a decent story but painfully repetitive game play; Forgotten Waters (Plaid Hat) palled quickly for me. Fortunately, boatloads of enthusiasm were supplied by my son in both those titles and even more so in Destinies, to the point where he happily went back and played the unchosen character in a scenario solo. Of these three games, Destinies is the strongest in both respects: I thought everything was well done, but the longish playing time and limited variety did make my concentration waver before we eventually saw the biggest miniature in the box thunk onto the board.
A couple of issues arise with the game. First, tasks can be started by one player then hijacked by another who happens to have had the right means to complete it and overheard the exchange in real life, even if their character was a distance away on the map. That is, though, if one pays attention during another player's turn, which is not strictly necessary and, oddly, quite thematic if you don't; because of the race to complete your character's story, it is not strictly multi-player solitaire but it comes close. Also, once you have played a scenario, playing it again is really only an exercise in optimisation; despite the various modes on the app, the mystery of discovering what you have to do simply isn't there second time around.
Overall, I was impressed by Destinies, but neither wowed by it nor entranced enough to try my own solo play. With my son's exuberant reception, however, I look forward to trudging through more 15th century mud with him in search of magical MacGuffins and messianic revelations when the expansions come out. Whether this game will be for you is down to your love of narrative and experience-style gaming; the mechanics are solid and perhaps a more competitive attitude than I can muster would add excitement to proceedings. There's certainly little at fault in the box.
(Review by David Fox)