I’m a sucker for time travel and I get cranky when it’s not done right, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Legacy: Gears of Time is by far the best time travel themed game.
“I got the idea for Legacy: Gears of Time at the end of a board game night with one of my gaming groups,” Ben Harkins the designer of Legacy: Gears of Time said. “I proposed the idea of traveling back in time to invent something even earlier to take credit for it. We had a good laugh at that. Since I’ve long been a huge fan of time travel (Primer is one of my top-five movies) I thought this would be a fun premise for a board game…. so I got to work!”
In Legacy you play as a time traveler going back in time and altering the time stream to fit your needs. So every round you start in the present and you have four turns to go into the past to establish and influence various technologies.
At the end of a round, players score points for successful technologies they influence and get extra points for when those technologies are used in other technologies. For example, if you have influence over writing you might also score points when someone else influences the printing press because you can’t have a printing press unless someone first creates writing.
The main mechanic of the game is that you are building an engine in reverse. It’s a constant gamble every time you put down a new technology because you never know if you will successfully meet its requirements. Someone else may build it in the past before you do, they may put so much influence on it that you lose control, or you may run out of turns and never get a chance to establish the pre reqs.
“This was really the core idea I wanted to capture mechanically,” Harkins said. “I think having as seamless an integration of theme and mechanics is vital to the entire gaming experience. A game should really feel like you’re doing the things you say you’re doing; everything around you is constantly trying to pierce the veil, so a game needs to strive to prevent that from happening in every way it can.”
To help keep the game from being static are a set of powerful Fate Cards. You get to play them for free and they offer a big boost. The catch is that you truly have to play them at the right time to maximize their worth and figuring out that opportune moment isn’t always easy.
Because of the reverse thinking required in the game, Legacy Gears of Time becomes a very thinky game. You will spend a lot of time trying to not plan out your current turn, but your next four turns. Then your opponents will often do something to screw up your plan and you’ll have to figure out the best way to salvage your strategy.
“I tried to keep the technologies iconic and utilitarian as much as possible since the artistic license in the dependencies is necessary for simplification,” Ben Harkins said. “I bundled a lot of specific technologies into buckets, such as Basic Tools and Advanced Sciences instead of breaking them up into Chemistry, Physics, and such.”
Legacy: Gears of Time hit the streets last year and only recently did it’s first expansion Legacy: Forbidden Machines get released.
In Legacy: Forbidden Machines, the majority of mechanics and rules are the same as in the base game, except now instead of using earth technologies, players get to use ancient extraterrestrial machines. The best part? Some of the alien tech causes actions to come into effect when they are completed. So now instead of just completing a tech tree and scoring points you’ll also be able to access special abilities which really up the game.
“The idea of using”the technology to perform a game effect came up pretty early, but I opted to leave it out,” Harkins said. “The core mechanisms seemed to be really fun without adding this layer of complexity, and the Fate cards seemed to add just the right amount of variation and trickiness.”
You can pick-up both Legacy: Gears of Time and Legacy: Forbidden Machine directly from Floodgate Games. Both the main game and its expansion are well worth your time.