Strategically Thematic: Tragedy Looper

July 14, 2017

Strategically Thematic is a segment featured on The Dice Tower's bi-weekly Throat Punch Lunch videos about games where the theme and mechanics go together really well.

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Hi! This is Ambie from Board Game Blitz, and this is Strategically Thematic, a segment where I talk about theme in different strategic games. This time, I’m talking about Tragedy Looper.

Tragedy Looper is a Time Travel themed game where one person is a Mastermind, and everyone else is working together as the Protagonists to try to stop something bad from happening. The main way the game gets the time travel theme through is by playing through a series of loops. Each loop consists of a number of days, and it always starts out the same way. But depending on what actions the players do, events can play out differently. The Mastermind knows which characters can trigger which events, and is trying to get the other players to lose every time by triggering the bad events. Everyone else only knows that certain bad events could happen on certain days, but you have to play through a few loops to figure out what causes the events.

Each time you play, you play a different script that only the Mastermind knows. The script defines what plot points are in effect and how the Protagonists can lose the game. The character roles will stay the same throughout the whole game, so when you go back in time to repeat the loop, the same characters will be the causes of the same events. But by playing cards on the characters and locations, players can affect what happens. Players get to choose different actions for the characters to do, like where they move, or different types of tokens to put on them, which can change their behavior. But meanwhile, the Mastermind is also playing their cards, trying to steer the story toward a bad ending. Just like in time travel movies, there are multiple ways for the Protagonists to lose, so even when they’ve figured out and stopped one bad thing from happening, something else can cause them to lose!

A big part of the game is deduction. There are player sheets that show the possible scenarios that can happen in each game, and players have to deduce which characters are what roles and what scenarios are in the game based on what has happened each loop. But unlike other deduction games, in Tragedy Looper the Mastermind is actively hindering the other players, so the deduction is mixed with mind games, adding a lot of uncertainty to the actual cause of the problems.

An interesting mechanic in the game is that in order for certain incidents to trigger, the character that’s tied to the incident has to trigger it. In the game, this is done by a paranoia limit - each character has a different limit, and if they’ve gotten enough paranoia tokens, they’ll trigger the events. For example, one of the incidents is a murder, so it only happens if the murderer has the right mindset and is paranoid enough. But if not, or if there's no other character nearby to be murdered, the murder can be prevented. This is the main way that the players can affect the future - by using their actions to prevent the characters from getting paranoid and doing bad things, future problems can possibly be solved.

The one vs. many aspect in the game really makes it feel like one of those time travel movies where it seems like the protagonists are working against fate, and no matter what they do, the outcome is always the same. Luckily, in Tragedy Looper you actually can change your fate, so the Protagonists do have a chance to win. I love the time travel theme and the deduction and mind games throughout the game, and all of this makes Tragedy Looper one of my favorite games. Thanks for watching Board Game Blitz! Comment below with your thoughts.
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