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W. Eric Martin
Given how many games I look at, I often appreciate it when a publisher puts a game on the table and I can't fathom how the thing even works. Yes, I'm a jaded soul and I crave newness and unpredictability, so it was a nice surprise at Spielwarenmesse 2017 when Philippe Nouhra of Funforge showed up at our appointment to talk about Professor Evil and The Citadel of Time from Brett J. Gilbert and Matthew Dunstan.
Sure, the game board somewhat reminded me of Kill Doctor Lucky, what with the labeled rooms in a mansion-type environment and a black pawn that represented the automated character of Professor Evil while everyone else had a token that started the game outside the house, but what are the Magna Carta and Dead Sea Scrolls doing in the mansion? And what are these strange gear-like devices? Why does everyone have their own character deck? And what is this giant clock in the center of the board?
Prototype artwork and components; nearly final cover design
Turns out the Professor Evil owns a time machine, and he's been ripping off all the best historical items from times both past and future. Your team has been charged with confiscating these items and returning them to their proper locations in time, so you now need to infiltrate the mansion and abscond with four items before Prof. Evil can secret four of them in locations inaccessible to you. Thankfully the old soul is a bit daft and won't evaporate you should he catch you lurking through the mansion, but simply scoot you out the front door where he'll forget about you immediately.
Main character card on left; other character cards in center and on right
On a turn, you first draw and reveal two cards from your tiny deck, then keep one of the cards based on what you think will help you this turn. You then take three actions, such as open a door in the room you're in, move from a room (or outside) to another room (assuming the door is open), disable a trap, or grab a treasure; using a card isn't an action unless it says otherwise. You can repeat actions as desired or needed, but you can't enter a room with Prof. Evil and you can't exit the house on your own (in order to run across the grounds to another window) once you enter. You're now committed to grabbing those treasures!
After you finish your turn, Prof. Evil now moves, but again he's not all there, so he doesn't necessarily move in a logical manner. To move him, you roll three dice: One die advances the secondary Prof. Evil figure on the clock on the board either five or ten minutes; the other two determine where Prof. Evil moves and how far. What's more, as he walks through rooms, he closes the doors through which he travels and reactivates any inactive traps he encounters. If you roll a blue and a 1, for example, he moves through the blue doorway into the next adjacent room; a red and a 3 will move him through three rooms, walking through the red doorway each time. A color and a particular signal will teleport him immediately to the treasure bearing the same colored marker.
Let's look at these treasures in more detail: Each treasure shows a time value and one or more traps on it. Three treasures are placed on the board, then a blue, red and green token are placed on the treasures, with a matching blue, red and green token placed on the game board clock on the time matching what's on the treasure. The Magna Carta might say 45 minutes, for example, and after placing a blue token on the Magna Carta, you place a blue token on the clock 45 minutes away from where the Prof. Evil figure is located. If Prof. Evil moves onto this token on the clock, then that treasure is lost — and if you lose four treasures, then you've lost the game. Remove it from play and replace it with a new treasure, marking the proper time on the clock.
Final artwork for some of the traps
Note that you can't just grab a treasure, however. Professor Evil can't be in the same room (of course), but you also must ensure that all the traps shown on the treasure are currently deactivated. The game board starts with eight traps on it — half active, half not — and you'll play tug-of-war with Professor Evil over keeping them in this status. Collect a treasure, and a new one will be added to the game board; collect four treasures before Prof. Evil does, and you all win the game.
Time to get a special power — before you most likely lose a treasure, alas
Aside from re-stealing and re-stashing treasures as he moves around the clock, when the Prof. Evil token on the cloak reaches 3:00 and 9:00, one of the players reveals the flip side of their character card, which grants them both an ongoing small advantage and a one-time larger power that once used will return their card to the face-down position.
That's it for the game, with a game of tug-of-war taking place between what is surely a noble group of characters and a clueless bandit meandering about his house content to look at the goods he's nicked. Don't let him get away with it when Professor Evil and The Citadel of Time becomes available in Q2 2017!
Final artwork for two of the player characters