Our latest game is Professor Evil and The Citadel of Tim—we picked it up because we liked the box, and because we have been enjoying cooperative games, generally. We’ve played it twice so far, and have really enjoyed it. It’s basically a more complicated version of Forbidden Island, by which I mean that the gameplay is absolutely nothing like Forbidden Island, but it helps to have Forbidden Island in mind when you sit down to play this one. Like that game, your team (who each have special abilities) is trying to loot four treasures before Tim runs out. There are, however, a lot more moving parts in the Citadel, so there’s a lot more to do, and a lot more option for how to do it.
The main problem with co-operative games of this kind, for me, is that I am tempted to attempt to dictate everyone’s actions all the time. I am aware that this is not good for the MFQ, but then, if I’m spending the whole game biting my tongue to prevent myself hectoring the table then that’s bad for the MFQ as well. At this point, playing with YHB’s own household, it’s not bad—for one thing, my progeny are now better at these games than I am, which helps. But I would hesitate to suggest any of these games for any group that did not have form playing together. And for a group that wanted to try a game of this kind, P.E.&tCoT is certainly not the game to start with. But for a group that knows they enjoy Forbidden Island but is a bit bored with the mechanics and gameplay, this is an excellent game.
I am impressed by how well the game hangs together—there are twelve rooms in the titular Citadel, and each room has three doors to other rooms which can be locked or unlocked as well as a device which can be switched on or off, and may have a treasure as well. There is also the titular Professor, who is Evil, and who moves through the rooms locking doors and switching on devices, and then there’s Tim, whose inevitable march around the clockface determines victory or defeat for each treasure. This all seems very fussy and overly elaborate, but it fact, we didn’t have difficulty grasping how all the bits worked together.
Speaking of Tim—another thing that P.E.&tCoT has in common with Forbidden Island is an attempt to create a mechanism that creates a sort of time pressure (or Tim Pressure) which is (imao) extremely good MFQ. It’s not actually time—each individual turn can take as long as people like, and the group can choose to talk out all the possible moves or to move ahead with dispatch, without worry about having to rush. Nor is it a specific and arbitrary number of turns, as it might be accomplish this in twenty turns or some such. There’s a mechanism that has an element of randomness, within some fairly complicated constraints, such that it’s not possible to tell at the beginning of the game exactly how many turns are available, but as the game continues it becomes somewhat clearer approximately how many turns are left, and then with a few turns left, it is pretty obvious that there are only a few turns left to accomplish the remaining tasks. This sparks something of the immediate pressure of a timeclock without the unpleasant aspect of having to rush the decision-making. And it also means that the game is fairly brief, and doesn’t drag, as if there are a couple of turns without much to do to immediately achieve a target, it’s simple to move on quickly.
The downside of P.E.&tCoT, as far as I’m concerned, is that I have some difficulty seeing the entire board, and it’s important to remember the location of some fairly small icons scattered around it. It’s not terrible, but during each game I wound up spending a couple of turns standing up at the table so that I could take in more of the tabletop. I could easily imagine it slowing down the game play a lot, if all the players have to keep scanning the table frantically to make sure they have found all three of the little cameras or locks or whatever. The icons are well-designed, I think, but my eyesight isn’t all that good and the board, when fully set up, is a little ongepotchket. That said, they don’t move around very much, so I suspect what I really need is to put some effort into remembering ‘the lasers are in the cellar and the gallery’ at the start of the game, and then I wouldn’t need to do so much scanning the board later on.
Other than that, the design is pretty good. For such a complicated game, there aren’t very many pieces, and the setup isn’t terribly laborious or time-consuming. The part that takes the longest is the placing of the devices, and since that’s a large part of the strategy of the game, it doesn’t feel tedious.
Also—we’ve played both games on ‘easy’ mode, one of which was a crushing loss and the other of which was a squeaky victory. It seems likely that the game will continue to be challenging and interesting as we get better at it. I don’t think it’s likely to be a game we pull out for years to come, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a couple of dozen times through to get to the point where we have definite tactical ruts.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,