Anachrony: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again!!!

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Well here goes, my first crack at writing a real review. I guess with Anachrony as my first one it’s a fitting, as I’ll wish I could stop myself from writing this if it doesn’t go well.

Theme

When it comes to Euro style games you have two kinds. Those that bring the theme out, at least a little, and those that could really have any theme because it doesn’t come through at all.  With Anachrony I think the developers did a good job on bringing theme through. A large part hinges on the time warping mechanic. Basically, you and any other players are trying to prepare for an oncoming meteor hit and near the game end are trying to save as many as you can once said hit has finally arrived.  Whomever was most efficient at performing their actions and gathering points will be the winner. The mechanic of warping various things back in time does a good job at providing theme, as does the various mechanics you use to accomplish your goal.

Components

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The components for this game are phenomenal.  The water and various resource cubes are represented by bright and colourful pieces. All the tokens are thick with good solid artwork. The game board and individual player boards are sturdy and nice to look at and all cards are good quality. Buildings and Superprojects are a bit abstract as they depict no artwork and have only basic iconography explaining their ability. The only indication you have of what it is you’re building is a name on the superproject tiles and only a number on the building tiles. I thought this would bother me at first as art in games is really something that draws me in, but the abilities of the buildings function well thematically and you can look up all the names of the individual building and what they do in the back of the rulebook. Iconography is all over the various boards and was a little daunting at first, but one flip through the rulebook and a practice solo game and they were quite easy to pick up on. A lot of pictures online also depict the fancy miniatures you can receive in the expansion. While they do look amazing I am happy with using only the tokens that come in the base game, which look nice as well.  The rulebook is very well written and clear and I never had any difficulty in understanding the rules. One thing, there was a change made to the solo rules after a loop hole was posted online about being able to beat the bot easily if you passed early every round.  The rules were adjusted so that the bot took at least three actions before passing.  This was not in my rulebook, but can be found online in an updated version and may be in future printings as well.

Art

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I won’t go on too long about the artwork and will simply say that it is great. All the images on the components are crisp and clear and do a good job of depicting a futuristic dystopian society. Even though some of the building do not depict any art, as I said above, they have clear iconography and good graphic design.  Art helps immerse me into a game, and the artwork in this game does just that.

Gameplay & Set Up

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The set-up for the game can be a little lengthy: organizing the goods, putting out workers, sorting a couple card piles, organizing buildings and superprojects, putting out the timeline. Then you have individual player set up such as: picking your faction boards and what side you’ll play on, getting your path board and starting resources, picking a leader card with an special ability. All-in-all about 15 minutes of set up, but that can be brought down with good organization of components, experience and help from other players. Gameplay centers around placing workers on player boards or the main board to perform actions such as gathering resources and workers as well as constructing buildings and superprojects.  To perform actions on the board you need powered up exosuits for your workers to use as it’s dangerous to go out into the world. Some workers are more efficient at certain actions and can get you bigger benefits or do not become tired when performing actions. Also, some spaces on the various boards can only be taken by specific workers.  There is a phase in the round where players can send various items back in time, such as workers, exosuits and resources, to give themselves a leg up in the action phase of the round. Warping these materials can be beneficial, but players must be careful as resources not paid back can potentially cause anomalies, which are negative points at game end if not gotten fixed.  Buildings and projects constructed during game give players special abilities, resources and the ability to travel back in time.  You go through several rounds until the meteor hits at which point a game timer of sorts starts.  Spaces on the board are made unavailable as they are used.  Its is during this time that players can take a special evacuation action depicted on their path board if they have fulfilled its requirements.  Requirements can be things like have a certain amount of  buildings or water. You earn points for fulfilling the requirement and some bonus points if you collected a certain combination of things depicted under the requirement.  This can be a huge source of points. Once the seventh round ends or all spaces are made unavailable the game ends. Points are tallied from various things such as points accrued during game and buildings.  Negative points are taken from anomalies and warped items that were never fulfilled. The person with the most points is the winner.  I haven’t played any of the expansion material and cannot speak to that, but it all looks interesting.

Solo

There is a solo version of this game where you are competing against a bot that takes actions based on a die roll that moves tokens around on a special board. I have played this several times with various factions.  The bot has certain resources and workers that it prefers and will take them when gathering those items. You play your turns and then roll the die and perform the action of the token depicting that number.  You then move the token down a path to the next action. If the bot cannot perform the action he gets two water and a point. The bot gets to perform at least 3 actions, but will pass once you have passed if he has performed at least that many actions. This was a very clever system and worked well. I played on easy the first couple of times allowing the bot to only take two water when not doing an action instead of a point as well. My win rate once playing normal seemed about 50/50 and is a good challenge. Your trying to be efficient and not give the bot too many opportunities to score points. The system is very clever and works well with the bot making it harder to perform actions on the main board by taking spots or even building buildings I wanted to build with a future action. I enjoyed my plays of this very much and it’s not only one of the better solo euros I’ve played, but one of the better solo games in general. I just hope that future expansions (and I’ve heard this may be the case) will incorporate the expansions into solo play.

Variability

The variability in this game, even without expansions, is quite high. You can play as different factions with basic sides or advanced sides, different path boards with different evacuation bonuses and even different leaders that give each player a different power adding asymmetry to the game, which I love. Different buildings and superprojects will also be available for different games meaning you won’t see the same ones in every game. Not only this, but the way resources and workers are seeded onto the board each round is changed by a deck of cards that says what is available. When playing non-solo their will also be five different end game scoring cards available that will change for each game. All this gives quite a bit of variability in itself.  Once you add in expansions and variants available at the back of the rulebook this game has a ton of variability.

Final Thoughts

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As you can probably tell I really love this game. Everything from the artwork to gameplay is fantastic.  For a game that seems daunting and really difficult to pick up it is quite intuitive and easy to follow.  The various phases and actions available flow very well and the iconography is clear and doesn’t slow the game down.  Gameplay is deep and strategic and gives you a lot to think about. You can try and build lots of buildings that give resources or help you warp more efficiently. Some generate points or can give you free actions that don’t cost a worker. Building superprojects can give abilities that make play even more varied and interesting.  Going for end game bonuses and your evacuation bonus give you something to plan for. There are just so many things to think about, but it never feels overwhelming. Resources and workers can be very tight as you never have quite enough to do everything you want.  I’ve heard people grumble that the time travel mechanic is just a glorified loan system.  I say whatever, it works, it’s thematic and it’s a whole lot of fun.  I just can’t say enough great things about this game.  I don’t have a top 50 or 100 list, but if I did I imagine this game would definitely be top 20 material, maybe even top 10 for me.

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