T.I.M.E. Stories: Lumen Fidei (REVIEW)

The following review contains MINOR SPOILERS about some characters and settings but does not go into extensive detail about such. These games are best left discovered by the players. If you are worried at all about the smallest of spoilers, do not read any further.

In the fifth expansion and sixth scenario of T.I.M.E. Stories, the Consortium is sending the agents back to 15th century Spain during a period known as the Reconquista, the attempt by Christians to reclaim the Iberian Peninsula controlled by the Muslims. Your receptacles are part of a delegation tasked with accompanying Michael d’Ailly, the Legate of Pope Martin V., to a secret gathering. The appearance of a strange stone has piqued everyone’s interest, and it is your mission to locate and retrieve this stone before anyone else and return it back to present day. This is a first for a T.I.M.E. Stories scenario, where the agency asks of its members to displace something from its time. Whatever power this stone holds, the agency most certainly wants it away from dangerous hands.

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A new mechanism is introduced with Lumen Fidei, as with every previous scenario, and this one comes in the form of a faith scale. Of the available characters to choose from, they are either faithful or unfaithful; once all players have chosen their role, you’ll see where the party falls on this scale by way of the difference in faiths. If all characters have the blue faithful symbol, for instance, and you are playing a four-player game, then you will be at the highest tier – Pious. Likewise, if all characters were unfaithful, then you would be Infidels. If there’s a difference in the group, you’ll simply slide the scale accordingly. Where you end up can affect a number of things; for instance, if the group is Pious, all characters that are faithful will roll 2 extra dice on any test; similarly, if the scale is currently sat on Infidels, then all unfaithful characters will roll 2 extra dice. The unfaithful side has another extra restriction that is explained during the course of the game, and furthermore, as you encounter new characters, undergo certain tests, or discover special items, your faith may change, affecting some characters’ abilities throughout the run.

Lumen Fidei is easily the longest scenario by far, running my group just shy of 5 hours. A single puzzle did take a significant portion of time for us, and I’d put it on the same difficulty level as the notable Asylum puzzle, but the structure of the game is also unique. The Agency has been experimenting with new time travel procedures, and as a result, the way Time Units work this go around is slightly altered. Your initial run begins with only 10 TU, making this scenario absolutely impossible to complete in a single run. Your second is increased to 20, and your third, and every subsequent run after that, will begin at 30. Further, this scenario’s story is split into chapters, represented by 3 separate decks, the latter two to remain sealed until instructed to open, similar to A Prophecy of Dragons.

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As a whole, Lumen Fidei feels unique, and yet mostly relies on recycled content – and I don’t mean to stay that in a bad way. Perhaps another way of looking at it is that Lumen Fidei is the Greatest Hits of the Time Stories universe: The puzzle that you liked from Asylum? Here’s another one just as hard; the heavy combat of Marcy Case? Have some more; You like the split progression and character-specific paths from Prophecy of Dragons? This has it. It borrows less from the previous two, Under the Mask and Expedition: Endurance, but their influences are still felt. There’s a particular element of secrecy that some players may stumble upon similar to Endurance’s madness mechanism, whereby you know something but cannot discuss it with anyone else.

And for all of those reasons, Lumen Fidei could have been one of my favorite scenarios. But one glaring flaw leaves it in the middle of the pack, and it’s something the designers have even addressed and issued a fix for. During the final chapter of the game, depending on a choice you made earlier in the story, you may find yourself stuck and unable to progress unless you proceed through these final locations in an absolutely particular and specific way. The proposed fix for this is to add additional text to a certain card that allows you to draw from the item deck the card you need to progress, something that you would have gotten elsewhere had you gone down the other fork in the road earlier. Whether this was simply an oversight or a typo on the card, who knows, but this forced my group to have to instantly reset that current run because we could not proceed forward, and previous locations had become locked.

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The story pushes the overarching narrative much farther than any scenario before it. While the events of the particular characters of the time don’t ultimately matter, there are some peculiar interactions with familiar faces and a branching ending that will shed more light on the universe as a whole and broaden players’ understanding of the relationship between the Syaans and the Consortium. Of course, some players may not be exposed to all of that information, as much of it depends upon the choices you make, and the game trusts its audience enough to not spoil the fun by reading the alternative endings with a bit of warning text.

Despite the potential hindered progress, Lumen Fidei is still great, and I strongly urge any fan of the T.I.M.E. Stories system to check it out, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. I suggest not looking up the problem my group encountered unless you run into the same situation, if only because the solution is usually nestled between spoilers. In any case, proceed at your own risk. In the end, the puzzles were excellent, the game moved at a brisk pace despite being longer than usual, and the frequent combat and skill checks kept all players engaged in what can usually amount to a backseat experience in other scenarios. Of the six scenarios thus far, Lumen Fidei ranks fourth – I enjoyed it more than Endurance and Mask, but not quite as much as Dragons, Marcy, and Asylum.

Final Verdict: Good

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