Legacy: Gears of Time Review

So, when I asked about time travel games on Twitter, my feed instantly became the Legacy: Gears of Time fan club. So... well, so I decided that I needed to try it!

In Legacy: Gears of Time, each player represents a time architect that is attempting to invent and influence various technologies.  The caveat is that many technologies depend on other technologies existing - for example, you cannot have the Internet without having Electricity.  And so, influencing a technology that cannot possibly exist due to a historical contradiction is useless.  The game consists of four rounds, with each round consisting of four turns per player.  On each turn, you are allowed to take three actions.  The actions can be moving back in time, drawing a card (you actually draw two and keep one), inventing a new technology, or adding influence to an existing technology.  At the end of the round, everyone checks to see what historical contradictions occur - which technologies were "invented" multiple times, which ones are missing dependencies, and which ones have no influence.  After checking this (and removing technologies as appropriate), players score points for each technology in which they have the most influence.  And, each technology that is an immediate prerequisite for another technology scores again if the dependent technology scores.  (For example, if the Internet scores, then the person that has the most influence on Electricity gets to score Electricity again.)  Then, the influence on the technologies deteriorates, all the players go back to the "present" time, and you play another round.  Whoever has the most points at the end of the fourth round wins the game!

One of those Basic Tools is a fake!
The first pro that I found for Legacy: Gears of Time are the historical contradictions.  And, more specifically, how you are able to "affect" other players with these.  (Yes, "affect" is the polite way of saying that you smack them in the face, steal their points, and then laugh.  Laugh!!!)  For example, if someone decides to invent Flight, then they are going to get several points of influence.  And, if Space Flight is also invented, then Flight is suddenly one of the most valuable technologies in the game.  However, if the player that invented Flight was not careful, then they might have inadvertently stolen credit!  Because, really, I invented Flight in the era right before you "invented" Flight!  And so your "Flight" is a fake!  Ok, so I may have gotten a bit side-tracked reliving some memories.  Either way, it is really fun to play an invention in an era earlier than where that invention currently exists - thus forcing the other invention to be destroyed.  And (something I didn't mention earlier) after each round the eras are all allowed to hold one more invention.  So, the game encourages you to do this.

The next pro that I have for Legacy is that the influence on inventions (or "technologies" if you listen to the rule book) deteriorates.  And, most fundamental inventions don't have much influence on them when you build them.  This combination normally results in a mass chaos around round three in which most of the prerequisite inventions exist but without influence - and so, if nobody places influence on these inventions, then all of the better inventions are going to fail.  This makes for some very interesting choices as you decide which of your inventions are most important, and thus which prerequisites are vital to your success.  Or, if you don't have any of the later inventions, then you have to decide whether you want to influence some of the prerequisites (thus scoring a decent number of points but helping other players) or whether you want to use large piles of influence to steal credit for later inventions.

Speaking of influence, my third pro for Legacy is how the Influence Pool works.  To start the game, you have two influence in your pool.  These are the only influence that you can spend on the "place influence on an existing technology" action.  However, at the end of each round, when influence deteriorates, the player with the most influence on each successful technology puts the deteriorated influence in his Influence Pool.  (Only the person with the most influence has one removed, and influence from contradictions and from failed technologies don't go to the Influence Pool.)  Having a lot of influence available in your Influence Pool is very helpful, as it gives you flexibility with your actions - to steal credit for technologies, or to claim all of the useful prerequisites.  So, you are further rewarded for controlling successful technologies.  And, building a lot of fundamental technologies (instead of just a few advanced technologies) helps you in more than just total points.  I thought that this was a really nice mechanic that made the game play very smoothly.

The final pro that I will mention about Legacy is that I like that you can only move backwards on the timeline.  (And then, at the end of the round, you return to Present Day.)  At first, I was really uncertain about this mechanic, but as I played the game more, I really saw why it was very important.  It forces you to plan out what you intend to do in the round before actually performing any actions.  And, if you don't plan this out, then you generally won't be able to build any of the more advanced technologies.  And yet, never being able to move forward adds an element of "chicken" to the game, where several players might stay in the present and draw cards, waiting to see who will move first - and what era they will move to.  After all, you don't want to move back two eras and build Flight, just to see another time architect move back three eras and invent the same thing!

A general timeline
With all that is right with Legacy: Gears of Time, one element of the game I'm still a bit uncertain about - so I will list it as a "point of note."  This would be fate cards.  Fate cards can be incredibly powerful.  Many of them can be worth around 10-15 points if they are played correctly.  One fate card allows a technology to ignore a specific prerequisite.  This can make it much easier to score one of the advanced technologies like Space Flight or Genetics.  Another fate card can move a time architect backwards or forwards one era on the timeline; this can be used to prevent an architect from adding influence to a critical technology - potentially costing them that technology and the one it depends on.  (This can be over 20 points total!)  So, the fate cards are incredibly powerful, and they add a bit of a "randomness" factor to the game.  I think that if there were more of them, then the game might grow a bit too chaotic - whereas less of them might make the game a bit too rigid.  But, overall, I'm not really sure how I feel about this element.

And, now that I've convinced you that Legacy: Gears of Time is a great game, I guess it's time to balance that out a bit with some cons.  First, if someone in your game really wants to calculate the best move at all times, then the game will slow down to a crawl.  There are a lot of decisions to be made, and there is enough open information that, if someone wanted to, they could generally determine the best choice.  For example, you can determine if it is more valuable to take credit for one of the specific prerequisites, and if so, which one.  Or, should you add a new technology.  Should you re-invent a prerequisite earlier in the timeline in order to take control of it?  And, with all of this - which one?  If you want to calculate this, then you have to look through all of the cards in the timeline, calculate up how many of them depend on that technology, and then repeat for the next one.  And, while doing this, you have to factor in how many points you are giving to other players by allowing their advanced technology (or technologies) to score.  Basically, there is enough going on that it can cause someone to unwittingly take drastically long turns if they are not intentionally trying to keep the game moving.

Some sweet technology!
The next con is somewhat similar.  With all that is going on, scoring can be a bit fiddly.  First, you have to determine which technologies are successful.  Then, you have to check which ones are duplicated and remove them.  Then, when scoring, you have to remember who controls each of the prerequisites, so that they can get points also.  Then you have to deteriorate influence on everything, and make sure that those influence go back to the supply or to their owner's Influence Pool as appropriate.  With practice, this element of the game will become a bit easier.  But, some beginner advice will be - have only one person sticking their hand into the timeline.  Have that person take off all of the duplicate technologies, then take all the Influence off of the failed technologies, and then off of the successful ones.  This will help avoid questions like "did <my technology that I'm point to> get its influence removed yet?"

Overall, I give Legacy: Gears of Time an 8.5/10.  I was quite pleasantly surprised with this game, and, with multiple plays, I think that the cons will shrink, just leaving a bunch of pros.  If you're looking for a game with interesting time travel mechanics, then you should definitely check it out.

If Legacy: Gears of Time sounds interesting, you might also check out ARC and Innovation.

I would like to thank Floodgate Games for providing me with a review copy of Legacy: Gears of Time.

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