As Machinations diagrams are dynamic it is important to understand how they handle time. There are three different time modes for Machinations diagrams:
- In synchronous time mode all automatic nodes are activated at regular intervals of arbitrary length specified by the user. All interactive nodes clicked by players fire at the next time step, at the same time when automatic nodes fire. In this mode all actions in one time step take place simultaneously. It is possible to for a user to activate multiple interactive nodes during a time step, but during a time step, each interactive node can only be activated once.
- In asynchronous time mode automatic nodes in the diagram are still activated at regular intervals of arbitrary length specified by the user. However, players can activate interactive nodes at any time within the intervals and the resulting actions are executed immediately. In this case an interactive node can be activated multiple times during a time step.
- Alternatively, a Machinations diagram can be in turn-based mode. In this mode time steps do not occur at regular intervals. Instead a new time step occurs after the player has executed a specified number of actions. This is implemented by assigning a number of action points to each interactive node and allotting players a fixed budget of action points each turn. After all action points are used, all automatic nodes fire and a new turn starts.