The concept of causality can be hard enough to get your head around at the best of times; combine it with the notion of time travel and it may well make your eyes bleed. The idea of being able to travel back through the ages, tinkering about with things then returning to present day to see the reactions you have caused is a central tenet of many a science fiction author’s work, but attempts to transfer it into the medium of gaming have struggled somewhat. The best example to date is probably Chrononauts (and its recent remixed re-release, Back to the Future) but now there’s a new box on the block: Legacy – Gears of Time.
I think we can cut to the quick here. You may now chuck your copies of Chrononauts in the bin because Legacy wipes the floor with it. Rather than interminable games where players can get caught in nigh-on endless loops of flipping over cards, this new contender gives players four rounds to do as much as they can – after that, the game is done and if there’s some bases you’ve forgotten to cover…? Well, tough. This is a game of crossed t’s and dotted i’s, where you’ll need to make sure you’ve considered all the details if you’re going to have a chance of winning.
As Antiquitects (great name, that) you travel back through an ever extending timeline, placing technology cards in the timeframes you find yourself in. Many of these are fundamentals, stuff like Fire and The Wheel, the kinds of things you’d expect our ancestors from millennia ago to have developed. Of course, just like In Real Life, these basic technologies will lead to more complex developments that you’ll need to play later on in the timeline but – as you’d expect in a game where futzing about with time is a major part of play – nothing is that simple.
Each time a card is added to the timeline (and space is limited, though it does increase each time a round ends), you discard the cost in cards from your hand then place that same number of cubes on top of it from your Supply. This development is YOURS and no-one can take it from you! Actually, that’s a filthy lie – when it’s been added to the board everything is up for grabs as all players can add cubes of their own colour from their Influence Pool to cards you have placed, and whoever has the most there at the end of a round is considered to be in control of that technology.
The first round at least affords you a little protection as no-one has anything in their Pool to begin with; it’s only at the end of each round that some cubes are removed from cards to give you the power to influence other player’s creations or bolster your own. But why would you want to do so? Well, each card has a certain points value, and points mean winning. If you’re in control of a technology at the end of a round you score the points for it but there’s a twist (of course)!
You see, remember where I said that fundamentals can lead to further developments? Getting your head around this is vital, as you’ll score every time you’ve contributed to something further down the timeline. Manage to have the most influence on a decent variety of these basic technologies and you could well be scoring multiple times for each of them. However, you’ll need to make sure you’re in control of the (much) higher scoring later technologies if you’re going to come out on top.
You’ll get points at the end of each round, assuming that the cards you control are actually allowed to remain on the table. If they don’t have the necessary prior cards they could well end up being removed, meaning that precious actions have been wasted in a game where each decision needs to be considered and measured.
As an example, the card representing The Internet is one of the high scoring technologies. In order for you to be able to score the ten points it will give you, many other cards need to be in place before it in the timeline, a bit like this:
– Analytical Engine and Radio cards have to be in play. These will also give the players who control them bonus points.
– For Analytical Engine to work, Electricity, Logic and the Printing Press need to be on the board too. Printing Press can’t exist without Writing, by the way.
– Radio requires the Electricity card too, but just one on the table is enough,
Sound confusing? Well, it is a little – but it does all end up making sense pretty quickly. Everything in Legacy is quite obvious; after all, why would the Printing Press exist if no-one had developed writing skills before? Technologies only need to be on the board once so duplicates are removed at the end of each round, as are any that have no influence cubes on them at all. Again, why would they exist if there was no-one there to invent them? It’s a clever but straightforward system that works really well, giving you and your fellow Antiquitects a real feeling of tinkering with history.
There are other elements; a handful of Fate Cards allow for some further manipulation of the rules while characters handed out at the start of play grant the chance for some bonus point action. However, the main meat of the game is in the time travel, laying out the technologies, gazumping those developed by your opponents and grabbing as many points as possible – especially from supporting later cards. I think that the rulebook could’ve done with a little bit of further tweaking to clarify some points (the difference between the Influence Pool and Supply, for example, as well as a little bit more detail on the Fate Cards) but these are small issues that have been dealt with on Legacy’s boardgamegeek page.
For a first time at publishing, Floodgate Games have done a great job on Legacy: Gears of Time. There are always bumps in the road with the production of any game but designer Ben Harkins has done his very best to smooth the vast majority of them out – anything remaining will be dealt with in an eventual second printing, I’d hope, but in all honesty this is a fantastic package that offers a challenging experience every time you play. Best of all, you could end up with a society that is capable of Space Flight but has no concept of Sanitation – what more could you ask for?
Legacy: Gears of Time was first released by Floodgate Games in 2012. Designed by Ben Harkins, between two and four people can play (though I’ve found that more is better) and games normally take around an hour. Copies are available in the UK exclusively from Gameslore (complete with limited edition card sleeves!) for £39.99. Grab one before time runs out!