Thursday, 5 February 2009


Carcasean boardgame cafe. 1 Feb 2009. Tempus was the 4th game that Chong Sean, Michelle and I played that day. We had quite a productive day.

Tempus is a minimalistic civilisation game. It is so simplified that it almost feels like an abstract game. Yet it is quite thematic. All the actions that you can do it the game correlates to something that civilisations do in history.

At the start of the game, the players construct a landmass, which has different terrain, e.g. grassland, mountains, farmland etc. Then they place three tokens onto the board, representing their starting population. Throughout the game, you grow your population, you migrate, you build cities, you attack other civilisations, and you advance your technology. Your technology level impacts all the actions that you can take in the game, e.g. how many token you can move, how far they can move, whether they can travel by sea, how many power cards you can draw, your hand size, etc. Technology progresses every round. Civilisations that are behind previously first catch up, and then all civilisations are compared to see which one (or more) will progress first to the next technology level. As the game progresses, there is more and more that you can do. Your actions become more powerful.

At game end, you score for cities you have build, the spaces occupied by your tokens, and for being the first to invent the aeroplane.

In our game, we created a landmass with lots of lakes. This is interesting because lakes allow you to move quite far. With one move, you can move a token from a space next to a lake to any other space next to the same lake. I was conservative and placed my tokens together. Chong Sean and Michelle split up their tokens. Throughout the game I wasn't very aggressive in pursuing technology, which requires placing tokens on specific terrain types. I think out of the whole game I only had a technological advantage for one era, out of 10 eras (I think). I also soon found myself hemmed in, when Chong Sean and Michelle still had space for expansion. So I schemed to start wars, to destroy their cities to make space for my own cities. Cities cannot be built on mountains or next to one another, so suitable locations are limited. I did manage to win some battles, but it was not enough to catch up. Chong Sean won with 24VP (10VP from cities, 11VP from spaces occupied and 3VP for flight). Michelle had 22VP (13VP from cities, 9VP from spaces occupied), and I had 18VP (16VP from cities, and a pathetic 2VP from spaces occupied).

Early in the game. I was yellow (no green available) and concentrated my people in the south east. Michelle (red) and Chong Sean (blue) were more spread out. I was the first to have built a city.

I had expanded across that long lake and built another city. Chong Sean had 2 cities and Michelle 1 at this point.

By now I had also used lake movement to expand to the central northern land piece.

This was at game end, I think. Chong Sean had quickly spread out his tokens to occupy as much non-mountain hexes as possible. Experience shows. I did manage to raze one or two of his cities, and built my own cities over the ruins. But Michelle had also razed one of mine and built over my ruins.

I find that the game is very spatial. Before the start of the game you need to study the board and strategise. Space is limited, forcing the players to compete, both in the form of a race to claim land and in the form of warfare after space starts to run out. Movement is rather limited, so moving your armies around and maneuvering in preparing to fight a war is very expensive (in terms of actions required, there is no money). There was less fighting than I had expected. Fighting is probably not the most effective way of gaining points, but I think towards the end game a well planned and executed war can mean the difference between winning and losing the game. So one should always be prepared for war, or even plan for it if it looks necessary. This feels right. Your civilisation needs to expand, you need to build cities, you want to improve your technology. But while you are busy with all this, you must not forget about the threat of war. I would say the game is 80% expansion and development, and 20% warfare. War may not be necessary, but the threat is definitely there.

I rarely talk about game components when I write about my gaming experiences. I think Tempus is probably the boardgame with the worst component quality I have ever seen. The publisher is cafe games, and I think this version is made in China. I think there is more than one version. Not that made in China means poor quality. I have no problems with Ticket to Ride Switzerland and other games made in China. For the copy of Tempus that I played, the components were literally falling apart. The printing on the cardboard tiles were coming off like dandruff. Chong Sean asked me to use a pencil to write the city size numbers on the city tiles where the numbers were fading. I did so. Then when I tried to blow away the tiny spots of paper that had broken off, my breath tore away a few big chunks of paper / printing. Oops. I felt like an amateur archaeologist accidentally destroying a precious thousand-year-old document. The tiles in the game were that fragile.

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