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[GR] Tempus

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  • Tom Vasel
    There was quite possibly more hype about Tempus (Café Games, 2006 - Martin Wallace) than any other game in the last couple years. Several people told me how
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 29, 2006
      There was quite possibly more hype about Tempus (Café Games, 2006 -
      Martin Wallace) than any other game in the last couple years. Several
      people told me how tremendous it was, and indeed, with Mr. Wallace as
      the designer, I had great expectations for it. The word was that
      Tempus was finally a good "Civ-lite" game, a game which was a
      civilization game that could be played fairly quickly. Early reports
      were good, and I was excited to get my hands on a copy.

      First of all, let me say that I think Tempus is a superb, well
      balanced game, being one of the most streamlined games I've seen.
      It's certainly quick enough, with lots of interesting choices (though
      less than a typical Wallace game), and I'm certainly happy to play it.
      Multipurpose cards, a random map, and fast, quick gameplay are all
      positive factors of the game. However, I think the game might
      displease some who are looking for a light civilization game, because
      this one may be too watered down for them. There is one rule that
      makes me raise my eyebrows, and I'm not sure the theme is really
      there. Still, this only brings the game down from being "great" to
      "really good" in my opinion. Despite these concerns, Tempus seems to
      have been well playtested and is a good way to spend ninety minutes.

      Each game, the board is set up as players place eight to twelve map
      tiles (depending on the number of players) on a sea map to form a land
      made of adjacent hexes in different types of terrain (mountains,
      hills, forests, grasslands, farmlands, and water). A stack of idea
      cards is shuffled and placed next to the board, and each player takes
      eight city tiles, six action tiles, one player aid sheet, and sixteen
      people tokens in their color. Players place a cube in the starting
      era box on the first space in a ten space column that shows the
      different eras in Tempus. Each player places three tokens on adjacent
      spaces on the map to show their initial civilization. One player is
      randomly chosen to go first, and the first era begins.

      Each player gets to use a total number of action tiles each turn (3
      to 6), depending on which era their civilization is in. On a player's
      turn, they place the tile on one of the action boxes on their player
      aid sheets and take the corresponding action. Play proceeds clockwise
      around the table until all players have used all their actions, at
      which point the era ends. The actions that players can choose are:
      - Move People: A player may move one to three tokens one to five
      spaces each. The amount of tokens that can be moved and the amount of
      spaces are determined by the era the player is currently in. For
      example, in the first era, a player may only move one token one space.
      Players must obey the stacking limit of their civilization (two to
      four tokens, depending on era) and cannot move through opponents'
      tokens or cities. In the seventh era, players may use the sea to move
      their pieces, moving them from one hex adjacent to the sea to any
      other hex adjacent to the sea.
      - Have Babies: A player may add one token to any grasslands hex that
      has one of their tokens, again following stacking limits.
      - Have an Idea: The player may draw idea cards (the number is shown
      in the current era) and must adhere to a hand limit (also denoted in
      the current era). Idea cards can be used in war, in the progress
      phase, and also can be played as a special event card on a player's
      turn.
      - Build a City: A player can remove two or more tokens in a single
      hex and replace them with a city that has a number on it that is equal
      to or less than the number of tokens removed. Cities may never be
      built in mountain areas or adjacent to each other.
      - Have a Fight: A player may attack a stack of tokens or an enemy
      city that is adjacent to one of their tokens. A player can never be
      attacked if they have three or fewer hexes with tokens in them on the
      board. The attacker then plays as many idea cards as they want to
      face down, with the defender doing the same. Each player reveals
      their cards and determines the final outcome. Combat points are
      totaled for each side, with players receiving one point for each token
      involved, points equal to the number on a city if involved, one point
      for each idea card that is played that matches the terrain of the
      contested space (a city is whatever terrain the defender decides), and
      one or two points for certain idea cards. If the attacker wins, then
      the defender must remove all tokens or the city from the board; and
      the attacker can move in as many tokens as they want from the
      attacking space. If the defender wins (or there is a tie), then the
      attacker must lose one token from the attacking space.

      At the end of each era, players must see which player(s) will progress
      to the next new era in the era column. First, all players who did NOT
      progress last turn automatically catch up to the leader. Players
      then, in order, play as many cards as they want face down and then
      reveal them simultaneously. Players are attempting to get the most
      "progress points", which are scored from these things:
      - One progress point for each city they own on the board.
      - One point for each token in a space that matches the terrain shown
      on the new era space.
      - One point for each card played that matches the terrain shown on the
      new era space.
      - One point for each Education idea card played.
      The player with the most progress points moves their token down to the
      new era for the next round (in case of ties, all tied players move
      their cube down). This allows a player to have a benefit that the
      rest of the players will not have for the next era.

      When one player's cube reaches the last column on the era display
      ("Flight"), the game ends. Each player calculates up their victory
      points, with one point for each non-mountain space they have a token
      in, points equal to the numbers on the cities they control, and three
      bonus points for the person who moved their cube to the final era.
      The player with the most points is the winner!

      Some comments on the game…

      1.) Components: Tempus comes in a really nicely designed, high
      quality box, with a pile of great components in it. The city tiles
      look nice, although some of the colors are easy to mix up. The discs,
      the cubes, and the start player are nicely painted wood, and stand out
      well on the board. I really enjoy the ocean board and land tiles;
      while they look a bit abstract, the theme still manages to peek
      through. What are really impressive are the gameplay cards. They
      give a good short description of each of the actions, the
      improvements, and the cards. They, as well as the action and city
      tiles, are made of thick cardboard and can withstand a good deal of
      playing. My copy of Tempus was actually a used copy; and you would
      never know it, as there is little wear and tear. The cards are the
      best - thick, vinyl finish cards with nice artwork and vibrant colors.

      2.) Rules: Tempus boasts one of the best rulebooks that I've ever
      seen included in a game (and certainly the best one for a Wallace
      game!) The eight full color pages have wonderful formatting and show
      through a variety of illustrations and color examples just how the
      game is to be played. As I stated, the gameplay aid cards are very
      useful to players, and I was amazed at how quickly new players picked
      the game up. Even those who sometimes had a harder time grasping new
      concepts understood the game - the era chart is something that is
      simple and contains a lot of knowledge in an easy-to-understand
      fashion on the board. The cards are simple, and there are not a lot
      of problems figuring out how they effect each other, etc. Tempus is
      one of the easiest civilization games I've ever taught and played.

      3.) Civilization and Time: I love a good civilization and empire
      building game and think that the pinnacle of this genre is 7 Ages.
      However, 7 Ages is a game that takes a very long time to play (upwards
      of seven to twelve hours), and thus doesn't fit into my schedule
      often, if at all. I'm not the only one, because I'm constantly seeing
      folk online talk about the search for a short, playable civilization
      game. Tempus seems to initially fit these criteria; it's certainly a
      short game, and the theme is definitely that of a growing
      civilization. But while I can't explain completely, it feels more like
      a game than like the growth of a civilization. Perhaps it's the lack
      of a technology tree, or the impersonal feel of some of the mechanics,
      but it's more likely the fact that the game is streamlined to such a
      degree that it's hard to be thematic. This doesn't mean Tempus is a
      bad game - it's quite the opposite; but if you're looking for a
      theme-filled civilization game, you may be disappointed.

      4.) Cards: I enjoy any game that has multi-purpose cards, and Tempus
      does it in a nice, simplistic fashion. Each card has one of nine
      special abilities but also can be used in combat or progress,
      utilizing the background. A player with a hand full of cards can be a
      dangerous fellow to attack, but perhaps they are bluffing and have
      cards that match another era/terrain? Some cards seem better than
      others, such as religion (convert an adjacent enemy token) and
      education (+1 progress points), but I've seen none that I considered
      worthless - every one can be used at different points to help your
      empire.

      5.) Actions: I still think it's hilarious that one of the actions is
      named "Have Babies", rather than a more austere "Propagate", or
      something like that. There are only five actions to pick from each
      turn, and weighing which ones to take is an interesting but usually
      quick decision. One can build their hand full of cards but do so at
      the expense of growing their empire. A person can have babies
      everywhere they can, but when should they build cities? And when, oh
      when, should you start a fight with your neighbor? As in many games
      of this type, you'll always feel like you don't have enough actions
      and are forced to choose between several good ones.

      6.) Fighting: In Tempus, it's usually difficult for the attacker to
      win a battle, especially the well fortified cities. However, the fact
      that an attacker loses only one token in an attack helps to mitigate
      this, and the game actually seems to encourage attacking. At first,
      when the game begins, no one really seems inclined to attack anyone
      else but rather concentrate on their own civilizations. But as the
      game progresses, those jerky neighbors will be building cities in the
      prime spots on the board (there are a LOT of mountains), and fighting
      is inevitable. There is little luck in fighting, and battles are
      quickly and easily resolved.

      7.) Cities: When should a player build cities? The obvious answer
      seems to be as soon as possible, because cities are difficult to
      capture and are worth quite a few points at the end of the game.
      However, a player removes tokens every time they build a city and must
      be careful not to limit themselves too much by only having a few
      tokens left on the board. However, this is also my main complaint
      with the game. A player who has tokens in three or less spaces cannot
      be attacked, and this does not include cities. Players will often
      build cities and have a large, thriving civilization; but because of
      the three space rule, cannot be assaulted. I find this a bit "gamey";
      and while I understand that the rule is in place to prevent a player
      from being eliminated (a BAD thing), it also seems open for abuse. In
      aspect of game terms I can understand it, but it seems thematically
      off.

      8.) Eras: It's a nice thing to be the only person to advance to the
      new era, as you will have a good advantage over everyone else.
      However, a player must be careful to not put too much effort into
      this, as the advantages aren't that great, and all the other players
      will get them the following turn. There are two eras: reading and
      printing, that award the first person to get there an additional two
      idea cards, which make them a bit more important; and the person who
      goes to the final era gets the three victory points, so not all eras
      are created equal. The Era mechanic, while greatly simplified
      thematically, is a tight system and really works well, besides being
      easy to understand.

      9.) Fun Factor: Tempus is a fun game - I won't deny wanting to play
      again, attempting to spread my empire in a different way across the
      board. The mechanics are simple and easy to understand, and gameplay
      is almost flawless (except that annoying
      can't-be-attacked-with-less-than-three-cities rule). We had fun when
      playing it and enjoyed that the game took less than ninety minutes for
      a fulfilling, satisfying experience.

      Okay, this isn't "Civ-lite"; and you won't be reminiscing for days
      about the glorious trek of your Empire to world domination. Much of
      the theme was squeezed out with the simplization of the game
      mechanics. But it is a good game, possibly one of Wallace's best -
      because it's accessible to everyone and offers a deep, entertaining
      game experience. It may be one of the best designs of the year,
      although I'm not sure if it's slimmed down theme will help its
      longevity. Wallace has designed yet another great game, and fans of
      his work should definitely check it out.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games"
      www.tomvasel.com
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