Time travel; we all wish for it! We'd all secretly love to be Marty Mcfly, zipping through time in our supped-up Delorean, changing the future as we know it. Paradoxes be damned, some of us could live with knowing that reaping millions on a long shot bet could outweigh the utter collapse of the universe itself.
Snarkiness aside, time is becoming popular in games. From Evil Baby Orphanage and travelling back in time to rehabilitate brats to the creative use of time as a resource in games in like Tzol'kin the Mayan Calendar, lately, it seems everyone is finding a way to make the intangible a resource.
This week's Critical Review, Legacy: Gears of Time, does just that; it uses time as it's primary resource, and puts you in charge of what you have always dreamed about... going back in time, making something cool, and reaping the rewards from it!
This game we're looking at is the base set of Legacy. There has since been an expansion called Legacy: Forbidden Machines, which just recently finished up on Kickstarter, and quite successfully I may add. Legacy has a good following, as it should. Ben, the owner of Floodgate Games, is very approachable, well connected with the community and committed to his products. While this alone can't make a fun game, it's a great foundation for one.
Speaking of foundations, that's the core of Legacy. You and your opponents (2-4) are time travelers, who will go back in time, laying out plans for the Internet, Spaceflight, Railroads, and all other types of technology, but of course, you need the fundamentals; Fire, the Wheel, Law, etc.
Each player picks a character, who have a basic starting story as to what they are working towards and why, but more importantly, has a specific invention on the back that provides a bonus if they own, or influence, that invention. After choosing, each player is given a General Supply of colored cubes and a play marker of a matching color.
Game begins with 4, 5 or 6 timeframes based on the number of players in the game (2, 3 and 4 respectively). Timeframes are managed on the small board, and will grow as the game progresses, meaning more time, more places to invent, and more chaos to cause.
Each game consists of 4 rounds and each round consists of 4 turns. Note to noobs like me, you score at the end of a round, not a turn! Players will take turns, inside a round, choosing to take actions, from moving back in time, developing a technology (playing it from your hand), drawing more cards (players start with 6) or playing fate cards.
The crux of course is going back in time to invent things. Note however, you can only move backwards in time. Outside of an important fate card, you won't be moving back forward for the round, so use your movement in your 4 turns of the round wisely.
Because of this, you almost have to reverse engineer your plans. Cards have a cost (in the gear symbol), victory points they reward when scored (in the crown) and either "Fundamental" or a list of prerequisite technologies or inventions required to determine its success. The interesting thing is that when you develop a technology or invention, you don't have to have it be successful. You simply play it form your hand, pay the associated cost (discarding cards from your hand equal to the number in the gears) and place it in the timeframe you are in.
This means, you can place something in the first timeframe, and then on a future turn, move backwards again and establish prerequisite technologies it will need to be determined as successful when score comes up at the end of the round. The challenge of course, is throughout the game, you have to manage your time and your influence wisely.
If you go too far back, you can't go forward gain, so while you may think it's cool to go back to the furthest point, it also means you will probably be building a lot of Fundamental techs. Fundamentals are just that, no prerequisites required, these are the basics and building blocks. Law, Fire, Logic and the like. While these may not seem important or valuable at 1 or 2 victory points, there is a plan. When a technology scores, it scores the yellow crown points for the person with the most influence cubes on it, but all prerequisite technologies that are also successful and acting as a prerequisite for that scored technology, they also score, providing exponential points. So while Fire may only score you 2, if 4 other cards score and need Fire, you're racking up the points with each of those!
Obviously the more complex a technology, the more perquisites it needs, which leads to more opportunities to create chains of points that will just have you swimming in victory points! What about that influence you say though? I'm glad you asked.
In addition to discarding cards from your hand when establishing a technology, you place cubes of your color, from your General Supply on the technology as well. When scoring at the end of a round, any technology without cubes fails and can't be used as a prerequisite for future techs that need it. Additionally any technology with cubes is only scored for the person with the most influence cubes on it. When you score, each player takes an influence cube of their color off of successful technologies, so after the first round, people will have an Influence Supply of cubes that they can then place on other techs. This allows for thievery, and a lot of it!
Did your opponent create fire? No problem, you're about to score at the end of the next turn which wil end the round so go back in time, add your influence cubes to the Fire tech and steal their tech for you to start scoring the points. OR... create a paradox!
Yes, you can create the same tech, in an earlier timeframe, and "trump" that player, making their tech obsolete as it was already invented. Bye-bye McFly, you just disappeared from the game!
This all sounds complex, and it is. However, Legacy is surprisingly easy, once you get it. Getting it is the hard part. It's simple but challenging, easy but complex, and all wrapped up in a unique package!
Finally, on top of all that we've talked about there are Fate Card. As a free action, you can play these massively impacting cards. There are not many of them, but those that exist will bend, shape, and quite frankly, blow time away, all to your advantage when needed. Some let you move forward in time, others let you eliminate a required technology from one you are building, and another can completely eradicate victory points for a tech. All are fun and all make a major splash.
Unfortunately, that splash may not even be enough. One thing we found when playing our games is that, since this is a highly complex game of seeing the connection points between technologies and ensuring you have the right influence and efficient chain to score the maximum number of points, experienced players can jump out to a quick lead early and never have to look back. Many times, when playing with new players, it was nearly impossible to play catch up. In fact, in some of our games, one or two good turns could spell utter defeat, even when playing in a fully experienced group.
Overall, Legacy: Gears of Time is a very fun game. It is a very analytical and thinky game though. This is not a light game nor a filler game, but one that should be treaded into with the best intentions of paying attention! Your plans will be shifted with each turn, and just as time passes on, you'll need to know when to adjust to maximize your victory points. This can lead to lengthy turns, even lengthier with new players. There's a lot to think about, a lot to see, and honestly, a lot to miss if you don't pay attention.
Legacy: Gears of Time is a Hit of a game. It provides a different and unique take on Time as a resource and offers some really fun (and funny) moments when successfully creating technology or blocking your opponent's plans! There are slight elements of "take that" when you play a Fate Card that can shift things, but the best games and the best experiences come usuall after everyone knows the tech trees well enough that they can plan as best as possible. That takes time, pardon the pun, and may be one of the major things that holds Legacy back, as it could force new players to not invest just that into it to truly reap a rewarding experience from it. That said, we've enjoyed it thoroughly, at all times, and would easily recommend it to you to check out as well!
Critical Score (Crit, Hit or Miss):