My only playing of this game was way back in early 2000 at Gulf Games 5 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At the time, however, a few of the rules were misplayed, so the game was not received very well by the participants. I never gave the game much consideration after that ill fated attempt. Until now.
I finally had the opportunity to give this Alan Moon / Aaron Weissblum collaboration a fair shake and I must say, the game is better than my original impression led me to believe. No, it's not the pinnacle of gaming, but it was certainly not bad, either. I also must say that I think the theme is fascinating, and it reminds me of the 1980's movie which bore the same name (I think). Yes, the theme isn't fastened to securely, but it still works.
Players each represent pirates roaming back in time collecting artifacts from various epochs. When they acquire enough of one type of artifact, they can jump to the international bazaar and sell them to a collector for a handsome profit. Of course, such piracy is illegal, so players ust attempt to stay one step ahead of the dreaded Time Police. After three rounds of collecting and selling, the player amassing the greatest wealth earns the title "Great Time Pirate". Hey, I don't make this stuff up ... it's in the rules!
The board depicts seven different epochs in time, each which contain a various amount of artifacts, ranging from 3 - 7. Artifacts come in five different colors, as well as the wild 'white' color, which can be used as any color. Players attempt to collect sets of colors, which can then be sold at the bazaar, exchanging the artifacts for a larger contract of the same color, but carrying a value based on the number of artifacts exchanged. It is the value of these contracts which will ultimately determine the winner.
Players travel between the epochs following time lines. These lines, labeled '1' or '2', make it possible to move in two different directions from each epoch. These same lines are followed by the time police when their movement is triggered by drawing a time police chit from the cloth bag.
If a player begins his turn in an epoch which does not contain the time police token, he may, if he so desires, re-fill an epoch with newly drawn artifacts, but ONLY if that epoch does not contain a time pirate. re-filling an can provide a better selection of artifacts, but it also runs the danger of drawing one of the eight time police tokens from the bag of artifacts. If this occurs, the time police token moves along the path numbered on the token. If a player begins his turn in the same epoch as the time police, he is in trouble. He must surrender an artifact from his largest set collection, plus surrender any wild 'white' artifacts. Further, his first action MUST be to move away from the time police.
On a player's turn, he has two standard actions he can perform. As mentioned, if he is in the same epoch as the time police, his first action must be to move to a different epoch. Otherwise, a player can choose from several actions, including moving, taking an artifact from the epoch he occupies, or jumping to the bazaar and selling a set of artifacts. He can perform the same action twice, if so desired.
In addition to the two standard actions, a player may perform any number of special actions. Several artifact chits depict special symbols which allow a player to perform a special action. One special action is the exchanging of an artifact with another player (depicted by two arrows), while the other allows a player to jump to any epoch on the board (depicted by an atomic symbol). These powers are a bit dubious and of limited value. In particular, a player should only exercise the 'exchange' power when he is ready to jump to the bazaar and sell a set of artifacts. Otherwise, the player with whom he forced the exchange will simply reverse the exchange on his turn. Pretty strange.
When jumping to the bazaar, players exchange a set of either 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 artifacts of one color for a contract of the same color. Contract values usually begin at an amount equal to the number of artifacts exchanged, but ultimately climb in value to be worth a point more than the number of contracts exchanged for it. Thus, a '7' valued contract requires six artifacts to acquire.
In addition, there are a number of 2, 3 and 4 'white' contracts. These are acquired by trading the appropriate number of DIFFERENT colored artifacts. In either case, the wild white artifacts may be used to act as any color when performing these exchanges.
Once acquired, contracts are safe and cannot be stolen by other players. This was one major rule we played incorrectly in our first outing over a year ago.
When eight time police tokens have been selected from the bag, the round ends. Players tally the value of their contracts and record this total. Two more rounds are played, with scoring occurring at the end of both of these rounds, too. However, at the end of the third round, bonus scores can also be earned. Players secretly allocate their white contracts to one or more of their other colors. Then, these allocations are revealed. Each player with at least one contract from each of the five colors receives a 2 point bonus. Further, the player with the most points in a color scores another 2 point bonus. The player with the greatest cumulative score is victorious.
The game is not bad ... but it isn't terribly exciting. It just doesn't have much 'kick'. The movement of the time police is about the only real tension in the game, and even that is minimal. It is pretty easy to stay away from the token, and even if you are caught, the penalty isn't all that severe. The wise player will minimize the number of artifacts he has in his possession if he is in range of the time police. Plus, once four or five of the time police tokens are drawn, it is possible to calculate with reasonable odds where the time police token will move next. A few more police tokens in the bag would have made this predictability less certain and perhaps added a bit more tension to the proceedings.
Further, the special actions provided by the artifacts are of limited use and not very varied. It would have added more spice if there were more special actions which could be performed. Variety can be a good thing, and there just isn't much of it present here.
Finally, there are no mechanics provided to 'get' the leader. Contracts cannot be stolen from players, so once acquired, they are perfectly safe. There is not a terrible amount of interaction amongst the players, so the game has a fairly static feel to it. This contributes to an overall lack of excitement.
So, my assessment is as stated earlier ... not a bad game, but not very exciting, either. It's a game which likely won't be requested very often, if at all. I'll give it a few more tries, with a particular effort to get my wife and daughter to play, and see if it gets a better reception in that forum.
Dave was the first to acquire a few contracts and held a lead following the first round. He had used most of his artifacts in doing this, though, so was a bit deficient entering the second round. We all remained very close throughout the game, but I managed to sneak by with a one point victory over Joey.
Round 1: Dave 10, Joey 7, Greg 6, Keith 6, Steven 6
Round 2: Dave 24, Greg 23, Joey 22, Keith 21, Steven 15
Round 3: Greg 48, Joey 47, Keith 44, Dave 42, Steven 32
Ratings: Greg 5.5, Keith 5.5, Dave 5, Joey 5, Steven 3