Tag Archives: time travel

Happy Hour – Legacy: Gears of Time review


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.

Click to embiggenify, revealing the tech tree needed for The Internet!

Click to embiggenify, revealing the tech tree needed for The Internet!

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!


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Episode 51 – Future Time

And we’re back! This time around we’re dabbling in a little fun with Time, looking both to the future and the past…

First up, journalist Will Freeman joins me to discuss the state of board gaming from a wider perspective. Will is responsible for games coverage in The Observer, one of the UK’s leading broadsheet newspapers, and has begun writing reviews of the kind of games we know and love. Will this help bring gaming to the masses? What will happen in 2013? And could there be a negative effect brought on by opening up the hobby to a much wider audience?

I then have the pleasure of speaking to Ben Harkins, designer of Legacy: Gears of Time and owner of Floodgate Games. The concept of Time Travel is tricky enough to get your head around, but making it work in a streamlined fashion on your tabletop can prove nearly impossible. How does Ben manage to make it work without destroying the universe and still keep it an entertaining experience?

Oh look: links!

Direct Download of Episode 51 – http://littlemetaldog.podbean.com/mf/web/nna98w/LMD_Episode51.mp3

Will Freeman’s original Observer article – http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/dec/09/board-games-comeback-freeman

Will’s Twitter feed – https://twitter.com/spadgy_OTA

Floodgate Games’ site – http://floodgategames.com/

Floodgate Games on Twitter – https://twitter.com/FloodgateGames

Legacy: Gears of Time on BGG – http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/119781/legacy-gears-of-time

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Any Day Now – Back To The Future: The Card Game review

Without doubt, one of the finest movies (there’s a big difference between movies and films) of the 1980s is the mighty Back To The Future. The time-travelling adventures of Marty McFly are forever etched on the minds of a generation of thirty-somethings around the world, myself included.

This year sees the 25th anniversary of Back To The Future (which, of course, also spawned two pretty damn good sequels). While the retro hype machine hasn’t exactly gone into overdrive, there’s been a reissue of the trilogy on Bluray and even some screenings in cinemas of the original movie. Along with that, Looney Labs – creators of Fluxx – have released a licensed card game to tie in with the celebrations.

Many people find Looney Labs games very divisive, ironic for a company that prides itself on an inclusive, friendly attitude. Fluxx is often seen as the main offender, its chaotic rules meaning games can last for minutes of hours with no way of knowing in advance. Back To The Future: The Card Game is based on another of their releases, the time-bending Chrononauts, but how does it stand up to its predecessor?

Where the original was… alright (it’s been damned with faint praise, sorry!) this updated remix cures a few problems and is actually a pretty decent game. It’s also very simple – something that Andrew Looney and his team do well. Each player takes on the persona of a character from the town of Hill Valley – however, they’re not the ones you’d expect. Invariably done to help the game work a little better, you play previously unknown members of the various characters families – second cousins twice removed, that kind of thing. Marty must’ve been too busy making Biff drive into a manure truck…

Whatever character you’re dealt, the winning condition is the same. You each have a set of goals to achieve, some of which may coincide with other players’ ambitions. Laid out before you are a series of 24 cards (in a 6×4 grid) that represent the whole trilogy’s time line from the 1880s to what is now nearly present day.

This review definitely needs pictures, so here's the first - the grid of Linchpins and Ripplepoints.

God I feel old. Not even a hoverboard to show for it either.

Anyway, the grid is made up of these cards, all of which are have different versions of events printed on either side. Depending on the cards you play from your hand, these Linchpins (causes) and Ripplepoints (effects) will flip back and forth, showing fluctuations in the time line – event A will effect event B, which in turn will effect event C. You know what I mean. It’s like a very small-scale Butterfly Effect, causing a hurricane in China when you step on a bug in Bristol.

Here's the ID card, front and back. Don't recall Marlin from the movie? Me neither.

You affect the grid by taking one card from the draw pile then playing one from your hand. This could be an item which stays in front of you, or one off action and Power Action cards. Time Machine and Doubleback cards (normally) allow you to flip a Linchpin, hopefully helping you to victory. This is a game all about time though, so you know that may not happen…

Here's a close-up of a couple of cards. They stay in the same position when you flip them, as shown by their co-ordinates in the top right.

Once you’ve managed to get the cards exactly how you want them (as stated on your character’s ID card), you’ve then got the chance to grab a win. Again, this involves you flipping a card, only now it sees you attempting to un-invent time travel in order to keep everything as you desire. There are five cards on this part of the grid, shuffled at the start of the game. When you attempt to finish the game, you take the top one hoping it’ll say Doc Brown has hung his clock properly (as opposed to slipping off the toilet, having a eureka moment and coming up with the flux capacitor). If you’re unsuccessful, the game goes on with you now racing to try and flip the next card on that pile as your opponents feverishly attempt to disrupt the cards on the time line that will scupper you but allow them to win.

Each grid card has two sides. Here's what happened when Doc Brown met the Libyans...

...and when he remembered to wear his bullet proof vest. Same card, two events.

As with anything to do with time travel, it can get very messy very quickly. Something that you do to help yourself may also aid another player while messing up someone else’s scheming. In turn, your opponents can quickly have both negative and positive points on your objectives. While it initially seems random, with a few plays you should be able to work out (through checking out what they’re moving) the characters they’re playing. Know that and you’ll know what to avoid flipping yourself, coming up with a method that gets your goals met and no-one else’s!

So, highs and lows. On the upside, like many games from Looney Labs, it’s a quick affair with a simple set of rules. Beneath those, though, lies a game that initially appears random and chaotic but actually has a welcome unexpected level of strategy. The theme works incredibly well too; after all, it’s the film about time travel. The only way it could be more thematic is if it came in a DeLorean shaped tin. There’s a few minor downers; you’re not playing with characters from the series, but I understand why – it would have made the game far too complex and unwieldy to play, and if it’s hard to play no-one is going to have fun. Also (and I hate to say it) the fact it’s from Looney Labs may put certain players off. If that’s the case though, tell them to harden up and give this entertaining little game a try. Back To The Future: The Card Game may not change the world (despite the efforts of the characters within) but give it a shot with an open mind and you’ll have fun!

Back To The Future: The Card Game is available now, and will cost you around £10. Designed by Andrew Looney, it’s an evolution of his earlier Chrononauts game system, streamlined and made just that little better. Still not sure? Check out the video right here for a swift run through!


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