Overview: Time travel to the past is a tricky subject. Never mind that it’s impossible; what about the tech tree? If nobody discovered writing, what would become of the Internet? That’s the sort of question that you’ll get to explore in Legacy: Gears of Time.
Legacy: Gears of Time successfully funded on Kickstarter a year ago and is now available for purchase from Floodgate Games and Amazon. The first expansion to the game, Legacy: Forbidden Machines, is now funding on Kickstarter with about two weeks to go. My review will focus primarily on Gears of Time, with a brief explanation of what Forbidden Machines adds to the experience.
Players: 2 to 4
Ages: 13 and up
Playing Time: 1 hour
Retail: $49.95 for Gears of Time; $27 for Forbidden Machines
Rating: Mind-bending, in a good way.
Who Will Like It? Fans of time travel. Players have to be okay with a good deal of “take that!” tactics, since much of what you do affects other players directly. Sometimes you can beg for a little cooperation, but don’t count on it.
The Ancient Machine allows Antiquitects to travel back through time to ensure that present-day technologies are intact. You have to be sure that anything a later technology relies upon is established in an earlier time, or else things will fall apart. Of course, there are some other Antiquitects, too, moving through time, preempting your discoveries or taking credit for them.
Aside from the problems inherent in time travel to the past, the overall feel of Legacy does capture the idea pretty well. It’s tricky, obviously, trying to plan ahead for things that will have happened in the past, and earning Legacy points for having the most influence on successful technologies.
- 72 cards
- 100 influence cubes (25 each in 4 colors)
- 4 player pawns
- 2 wooden gears (turn/round indicators)
- 4 character cards
- 1 game board
- 1 present-day marker
- 6 timeframe capacity markers
- 8 50-point tokens
The cards are a good quality, though my oversized character cards tend to curl a little. The cards have an illustration and short bio of each of the characters (named by four backers of the original Kickstarter project), and the back includes a sample turn order and one technology that provides a bonus for the character.
The board is a long, narrow board, and the cards are actually played below the board. The present-day marker slides along the timeframe spaces, and then the “timeframe capacity markers” go above the timeline, showing how many cards can be played to each column. The rest of the board has spots for a draw pile, a discard pile, the current round and turn, player turn order, and a score track.
The timeframe capacity markers are an interesting feature. The present day will move into the future, and the further you go into the past, the more cards can be played in the column. The capacity markers tell how many cards can be played in each column, and they need to be movable. So there’s one piece that’s fairly long to accommodate the first round, and then as the marker moves to the right, individual sections are added on the left.
I’m personally not a huge fan of this style of artwork, but the cardsare pretty easy to read and laid out well. The scoring track is also pretty plain — it doesn’t look stylistically like the rest of the board, and it would have been nice to have the discard/draw piles marked on the board (since cards are discarded face-down).
The goal of the game is to have the most Legacy points at the end of the game, by establishing and influencing successful technologies over the course of four rounds of play.
The starting “present-day” depends on the number of players, and leaves a number of timeframes to the left of the present-day. The player pawns go on the present-day marker, and each player takes a character card. Each player puts their cubes in their “supply” — but note that this is different from their “influence pool.” I did notice that the Forbidden Machines character cards will have a place for the influence pool, making it easier to keep them separate. When I played, we decided to just put all of the cubes in a common supply in the middle, and then put our influence pools in front of each individual player. One cube from each player is placed near the scoring track, and another cube from each player is used to mark the turn order, randomly selected the first round. Each player gets 6 cards from the draw pile.
During each turn, you get three actions, with which you may do the following:
- Travel to the past
- Establish a Technology
- Influence an Existing Technology
- Draw a card
You may also play Fate cards for free.
Travel to the past: move any number of spaces into the past (toward the left). You can’t move back toward the future.
Establish a technology: play a card from your hand into the current timeline. You must also discard cards from your hand equal to the number shown on the gear icon, and then place that number of cubes from the supply onto the card. You may only play a card if that timeframe isn’t filled to capacity, and if that technology does not currently exist in the timeline.
Influence an existing technology: place any number of influence cubes from your influence pool onto a single technology in your current timeframe. Note that the first round you won’t have any cubes in your pool, so you can’t take this action.
Draw a card: take the top two cards, keep one and discard the other.
After all players have had a turn (with 3 actions), then the turn number gear is moved forward a space and this repeats. The round lasts four turns — and then the round is over and players will score points.
The timeline expands: move the present-day marker one timeframe to the right, and then slide the timeframe capacity marker over to the right as well. Then return everyone to the present day. Next, you’ll resolve historical disputes and “Strengthen Your Legacy” (score points).
Technologies which have no influence cubes on them are removed and discarded. “Fundamental” technologies are automatically successful. Higher-tier technologies depend on everything else in the chain, and if any of those links are missing, then the technology fails. If there are duplicates of any technology, then the earliest successful version remains, and all others are discarded (with the cubes being returned to the supply).
Once all of the disputes are resolved, players will score points for successful technologies. The player with the most influence cubes on a card gets the points (the crown icon on the card) for the card; they also get points each time that technology is used to support another successful technology. For instance, the player with the most cubes on Fire scores 3 points for Fire itself, and another 3 points if the Combustion Engine is successful. (The dependency points are only awarded for one extra tier; Fire doesn’t score any points for Flight, for instance.) Finally, a cube belonging to the player with the most influence on each card is removed from the card. For failed technologies, the cube goes to the supply; for successful technologies, the cube goes to the player’s influence pool. In the case of ties, points are divided evenly among tied players; and one of each cube is removed from the card.
At the end of each round, players draw back up to 6 cards, and the next round begins.
The game ends after four rounds, at which time whoever has the most points wins the game.
I got a chance to try a demo version of Legacy: Forbidden Machines; it just included the cards (some without final artwork) but none of the added components. You can find out more details on the Kickstarter page, but here’s a quick overview. The game provides cards which will are used in place of the standard cards in Gears of Time. The story is that the Ancient Machine is having some problems, and so the Antiquitects have turned to the Forbidden Machines in order to restore balance.
The technologies in the expansion are more fanciful, with things like the Wind Harness and Skyfork and Timejar. But beyond just having fun names, some technologies now have two additional features: “Activation” and “When Established” mechanics. Cards with Activation text will give you an ability that you can use once during your turn for a powerful effect if you have the most influence over that technology. Cards with When Established text will have a one-time immediate effect when you establish them.
The expansion will also come with some Failed Technology tokens to make scoring easier, extra turn tokens, and reward modifier tokens. There’s even one card that opens up another timeframe in the far past, so there’s a timeframe marker included for that purpose.
I’ve played both versions of Legacy — the finished version of Gears of Time and the unfinished prototype for Forbidden Machines. The game takes a round or two to really start wrapping your mind around how it works, but I really like it. I do like the added abilities in Forbidden Machines, but the dependencies for these made-up technologies are less intuitive than the real technologies from Gears of Time and therefore a little harder to remember.
One of the key aspects of the game, the one that requires careful planning and a bit of luck, is that in any given round you can only move back into the past. So if you want to establish a high-scoring top-tier technology like Genetics, you have to do that in the recent past, well before you’ve moved further back to establish all of its dependencies like the Microscope and the Hospital. Although four turns with three actions each sounds like a lot of time, pretty soon you’ll realize that you shouldn’t have wasted an action drawing one more card, or that you don’t have time to go back and influence technologies in two different time frames, and something is going to fall apart.
Early in the game, most players will be establishing fundamentals and second-tier technologies, ones that they can guarantee will succeed. But in later rounds, even as you’re expanding the tech tree, you still need to remember to go back in time and influence those fundamentals, or else they’ll dissipate and your newer technologies will fail.
As I said earlier, I’m not a huge fan of the artwork, but it does have a whimsical feel that can fit the theme of the game. The other nice thing is that there isn’t anything violent or sexual in the game, so the theme is family-friendly … though I can’t say the same about the gameplay, which can turn quite cutthroat if you’re that sort of player.
The game reminds me slightly of Looney Labs’ Chrononauts, in which you influence historical events, causing effects to ripple into the future. In this case, though, it’s strictly about the technology. You don’t have to know history to know why the wheel is needed for the combustion engine or why writing comes before the printing press. Dealing with technologies is a little simpler than messing with history.
Overall, I think Legacy: Gears of Time is quite promising and I look forward to playing it a lot more now that my gaming group can focus on the strategy rather than learning the rules. If you like time travel stories, it’s definitely worth picking up. And even if you’re not a huge time travel fan, Legacy is a nice, hefty game with a lot of strategic depth. The Forbidden Machines Kickstarter campaign ends in two weeks, and one of the reward tiers will get you both the original game and the expansion.
Wired: Time travel and tech trees! Invent the Internet so we can all watch cat videos!
Tired: A bit mind-boggling the first time through.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a review copy of this game.