Friday, 28 December 2018


Plays: 3Px1.

The Game

At the end of the 26th century, Earth is a wasteland. A mysterious catastrophe 300 years prior had destroyed most of human civilisation. What was left of mankind formed four distinct nations, and they have been living mostly in isolation, except for when they meet in the old capital. At ground zero of the catastrophe, a new substance, neutronium, was discovered, which lead to great advances in technology and the invention of time machines. Using time machines to gather resources from the past, the nations developed quickly. However time travel came with risks, and if not managed well, could lead to disaster. Recently scientists detected a great asteroid heading towards earth. Upon impact it would create a new catastrophe. The mineral signature of the asteroid was found to be the same as that of the neutronium discovered at ground zero. Mankind realised that the first catastrophe had been his own doing, a result of meddling with time.

You are the leader of one of the four nations. As you prepare for the impending impact and eventual destruction of the old capital, you try to gain the most influence, so that your city state will become the new capital of all mankind. Translation: Score the most victory points before the game ends.

The first thing you'll notice are the robots. Well, they are not robots. These are exosuits. Anachrony is a worker placement game. You send your workers to work in your own city (player board) and also in the old capital (main game board). The old capital is exposed and not well-shielded like the four city states. Your workers need to wear these exosuits to be able to visit the old capital.

Those narrow tiles stuck into the exosuits are the workers.

These are leaders of one of the nations. You have two to pick from. They have different special abilities. E.g. the one on the left lets you recruit a worker at the cost of two water resources during Phase 6 of a round.

The full view of the game. The main board is the old capital. You send workers here to gather resources, exchange resources, construct buildings, research new technology and recruit new workers. Those arrow shaped tiles on the left are the timeline tiles, each corresponding to a round of play. The asteroid strikes between rounds 4 and 5, after which the old capital starts crumbling down. The game ends after the old capital is completely destroyed, or after Round 7. The five small cards on the right are game-end scoring cards. Throughout the game you need to consider how you will make use of them. At the bottom are four stacks of buildings. Not all buildings appear in every game, and the order in which they appear is random. This creates variability.

Above each timeline tile is a research project which players can work on. Every round a new project becomes available. If you complete a project, it becomes a new large (and powerful) building in your city. Some projects need to be triggered by a worker, some don't, just like regular buildings.

The time travel aspect is implemented as basically a loan system. Every round you may place some of your warp tiles (those triangles) on the timeline tile of the current round to immediately collect some resources or workers. This represent you going back in time to take resources. However, you eventually need to pay your debt. In a future round, you need to use a time machine to go back in time to when you took the loan, then pay the debt (interest free) to reclaim your warp tile. So essentially you are spending resources you don't have, but you have to pay it back later. At every timeline tile, the players with the most warp tiles must roll a paradox die and suffer the consequences. Thus the pressure to reclaim your warp tiles.

This was the situation in Round 5. The black player had many warp tiles on the timeline and would likely suffer some penalty.

This is the player board. The hexes on the left are the prep area for the exosuits. At the start of every round you need to decide how many exosuits you will prep for missions to the old capital. If you prep many, you will need to spend energy cores (a type of resource). Workers come in yellow, pink, blue and green. They are arranged in two columns - shut-eye and open-eye. Normally a worker needs to sleep after completing a task, and is moved from his workstation to the sleeping column. You need to do a wake-up call action to move workers from the sleeping column to the awake column. There are two ways to wake people up. If you give them a drink (coffee I assume) when waking them, they feel happier, and you get points. If no coffee, they are grumpy, you lose points, and some may even die of thirst.

The right side of the player board is for your buildings. You may build up to three buildings in each type. The building costs are printed on the board.

This section of the player board is related to time travel. When you roll the paradox die, it may give you paradox tokens (orange triangles). Collect three, and you are awarded a red building, which is bad. The red building takes up a building slot, and costs you 3VP. To get rid of it you need to spend resources, and the poor guy you send to dismantle it will die. That track in the middle is a scoring track. Each time you go back in time to repay a debt, you advance one step. So time traveling is not just about taking loans. It is also about scoring points whenever you pay your debts.

The big square tile is your nation. One important scoring action is the evacuation. This is a one-time scoring action which you need to plan for diligently. The nations have different pre-conditions and scoring criteria. This particular nation needs to have built 3 blue buildings to qualify for evacuation. Satisfying this pre-condition gives 2VP. When performing the evacuation, every genius worker and gold resource pair scores 3VP. The evacuation action can score a big chunk of points and must be planned for.

Notice the large tile with 3 heads. This side of it is shown before the asteroid impact. Once the brown stuff hits the fan, you flip it over to show the other side (next photo).

This side of the large tile shows the evacuation icon (on the right), reminding players they can perform evacuation now.

Workers come in four flavours - engineers, scientists, administrators and geniuses. Some tasks can be performed only by specific worker types. Some tasks when performed by specific worker types give small benefits, e.g. the worker enjoys his work and doesn't feel tired, and thus doesn't need to sleep. The geniuses are good at everything. You can use them as engineers, scientists or administrators. In short, jokers!

After the asteroid impact, two of the exosuit prep spaces are disabled. You can send at most four workers to the old capital now, and from the second one onwards you already need to consume energy cores.

During the final countdown, whenever one of the six central spaces are used, it is destroyed permanently. Once all six are gone, the game ends. In this photo, five are already out and only the last one remains. Players do have some control over how quickly the game ends.

The Play

Anachrony is a worker placement game. You collect resources to do stuff. By constructing buildings, you add to your options. By recruiting workers, you get to execute more actions. Players' buildings create differentiation among them, in addition to their leader abilities and evacuation conditions. There are multiple ways to score points. The evacuation is an important one which you must plan for. My guess is the time travel aspect is a do-or-do-not thing. If you want to use it for scoring, don't do it half-heartedly. It would not be efficient. I am not entirely sure whether time travel scoring can be completely ignored. In the game we played, I was planning to do that, but then I constructed a building which let me time travel twice for one action. "Buy-one-free-one"! So I couldn't resist. All three of us did a fair bit of time traveling. I am not sure whether one of us would have done much poorer had he neglected time traveling, and instead focused on something else, e.g. research projects. None of us completed any research project. Han did spend more effort on scientific research, and scored points for scientific breakthroughs, but he never went all the way to complete a major project.

The five end-game scoring cards will probably give the game a slightly different flavour each time. They augment the values of certain actions.

The evacuation criteria differs for everyone, so you won't have a situation of two players directly competing, and others benefiting from staying out of the fight. In that sense there is some balance. However players do need to compete for resources and action spaces - the typical competition in worker placement games.

The three stooges (engineers) riding exosuits to get some construction done.

My evacuation pre-condition was three blue buildings, which I had achieved by this point (3rd row). Buildings themselves have victory points. See flag icons at bottom left of buildings.

These were my workers at game end. My evacuation criteria included having geniuses (pink workers) so my HR department had been focusing on them.

The Thoughts

Anachrony looks complicated, has an interesting backstory, and features time travel. Now that I have played it, I find it not as complex as it looks. To me it is mostly just another worker placement game. Some bits are interesting - how you have different types of workers, how buildings create new worker placement spots and new actions exclusively yours. Managing workers who need to sleep after completing a task is a new challenge. Don't expect too much from the time travel mechanism. It is just a loan system with a troublesome debt repayment process, which serves as an excuse to score points.

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