Anachronism Review

Anachronism History Channel card game in play

Are you looking for an awful game that you can buy to get free shipping?  Well, then lucky for you, I'm going to talk to you about Anachronism!  (To be fair, I bought this game at full price when it came out originally, and then I bought it again a few months ago because it was $1 and I needed another couple bucks in order to get free shipping.)

In Anachronism, each of the players takes on the role of one of history's most famous warriors - someone like William Wallace, Ramses II, or Spartacus.  Each warrior also comes with various forms of equipment, which can be mixed and matched between sets.  To start the game, however, you take four "support cards" (equipment and special stuff), and you lay them out in front of you.  To start each round, both players will flip over their next support card.  The initiative of these cards will determine who goes first (and the card will also give you a bonus of some sort).  Each player gets to perform a number of actions based on their character (Joan of Arc and William Wallace as two examples, both get three actions).  These actions can be to move, attack, or use an ability.  Moving is fairly straightforward, and abilities are explained on their corresponding cards.  However, in order to attack, your character has various attack zones that they can target (and weapons may have different zones in order to expand your range).  To attack your opponent, you position yourself so that your opponent ("target") is in one of your corresponding zones, and then you roll the dice and apply the modifier for that zone.  Your opponent also rolls the dice - and if you rolled higher (after applying the modifier) than your opponent, then you hit them for damage as indicated on your character or weapon (generally one).  Play continues like this until one character dies or until you have played five rounds (the last round doesn't get a support card).  At the end of the last round, whoever has the most health remaining is the winner!

cards fighting in Anachronism game
Joan of Arc and William Wallace positioned to strike!
The pros for Anachronism are simple - the concepts are amazing.  I really like the idea of historical warriors fighting it out in an arena.  That idea is so appealing that I've bought this game twice for it!  Also, the attack zones are a pretty cool concept, and really makes quite a bit of sense - depending on who you are and what kinds of weapons you are using, it makes sense that you would be able to attack in different areas around you with different amounts of success.  And, in fact, the execution of the attack zones in the game is decent - it encourages you to move around in order to get your opponent in one of your zones.  However, since the ultimate outcome of the attack is determined by a die roll, a slight modifier really isn't worth spending an extra action to get your character in their ideal position.  And thus, the modifiers become fairly unimportant strategically.

Now that I've covered my pro for Anachronism, let's expand upon the con that I started hinting at.  The attack zones, though neat conceptually, don't actually affect your decisions as much as they should.  Each attack is determined by both players rolling dice and the attacking player applying a modifier.  Joan of Arc has three basic attack zones - two of them provide a +0 modifier, and the other one provides a -1.  However, in order to move her from being able to attack with the -1 to attacking with the +0, you must spend one of her three actions for the round.  Instead of moving, you could simply attack an extra time.  And, though your odds aren't quite as good with any of these attacks, making more attacks significantly increases your odds of hitting your opponent with at least one attack, while giving you the chance of hitting them with an extra attack.  So, there's no incentive to position your character.  This could be slightly changed if you thought that you might be able to move your character to a position where your opponent wouldn't be able to easily counterstrike you - but your opponent will probably get as many actions as you do, and so they will simply be able to make similar movements and attack you - with the ultimate affect being that you have less overall attacks.  And so, you don't hit each other as often.

Joan of Arc cards from Anachronism by the History Channel
A full set of Support cards
Speaking of not attacking terribly often, Anachronism's next con is that it is too short.  You only play five rounds.  And, each character generally has seven or more hit points, and deals only one damage (though, to be fair, you may be able to attack several times in a round, and if you roll doubles, the attack deals double damage).  And, chances are that you aren't going to hit your opponent on all of your attacks.  So, this game winds up being much more of a fight to the somewhat injured instead of a fight to the death.  Which really ruins much of the theme of the game, as I can't see Genghis Khan fighting an opponent and then going, "oh wait, sorry, I need to leave - I have a professional wrestling match here in a few minutes."

With all of those cons, though, I think that my ultimate con might be that the game just simply isn't very strategic.  There are some strategic choices in the game - how do you want to lay out your support cards, how would you like to position your character, but the ultimate decision maker is the dice.  Whoever rolls the dice better will win the game.  The board isn't large enough to strategically position especially well.  You simply can't get out of range, especially if your opponent's character is in the middle of the board.  So, you will be fighting every turn.  Roll well and you will win.  I don't really know how to express this any better than to share this - the lack of strategic choices made the game so dull that, even with as short as the game is, we were still bored with it before the game ended.

Overall, I give Anachronism a 5.0/10.  The concepts of the game are really intriguing, and I wish that another designer would pick up this theme and run with it.  It could be amazing!  But, unfortunately, the History Channel may not have been the best publisher for this kind of game.

If you want to read about a better skirmish game, you might check out Summoner Wars, BattleCON, or Dungeon Command.

1 comment:

  1. I have to agree with a lot of what you've said. Conceptually, and visually, and even partially during gameplay, Anachronism is AWESOME!
    But then you sit down and play it, and you're like, "er...this could have been really, really good...but it's not."
    I'd like another game designer to take the premise and some aspects of this game and make it into something that is awesome. Is that too much to ask?