Isle of Wight
(In which I scored 59 Ecu, and my girlfriend scored 44)
Khronos is the first game I've seen to capture the time-travelling theme well, and this alone should make it appeal to many gamers. Playing it also evokes similar feelings to 2 well loved games, Tigris and Euphrates and to a lesser extent Reef Encounter.
Let's get down to some specifics:
1) Components: The components have been well reviewed elsewhere, but to summarise the box is somewhat lavish, the tiles are perfectly functional, but the game shipped with some horribly made wooden cubes (unequal sizes, powdery iky feel to the paint job, and they smell awful!) However, the publishers have kindly agreed to supply replacement wooden bits to those who bought the game at Essen and thus suffered.
2) Theme: Many have derided Tigris and Euphrates' connection (or lack thereof) to it's theme. For a game that feels and plays quite similarly, somehow the theme sits so much better on this game. Perhaps because the time-rippling mechanic has to be considered at every move, the whole time-travelling storyline simply sticks with you? I'm not sure, but it works.
3) Mechanics: First up is the innovative time mechanic. The game is played on 3 identical boards, in a clearly defined chronological order. Larger buildings built on earlier boards ripple through time and appear on later boards. There are many subtleties to this game that don't jump out at first thought, but are brought out through play that I believe this game will take some time to master!
Firstly, if you build on the earliest board, which is chronologically the safest (as time ripples only travel forwards), you earn less money than if you build on the middle, riskier board. As money is your score at the end of the game, this has quite the effect on where you choose to build.
Secondly, smaller buildings (and by smaller I don't just mean less powerful - the buildings are physically different sizes), don't ripple up as they have a smaller impact on the region. Thematically this makes perfect sense of course. Mechanically, it means that you might make a large domain on the earliest board which you have control of, but it might fracture into 2 or more pieces as only the larger buildings ripple through time. However, this could also be to your benefit, as the rules for determining score are different on each board.
On the first board (known as the Age of Might) you score for a domain if you have the single largest Military building in that domain. (The rules prevent there being any ties.) However, the amount you score is determined by the Civic buildings, which no-one owns. Religious building initially appear worthless here.
However, on the next board, the Age of Faith, you score a domain if you have the single largest Religious building in the domain, and again the amount you score is based on the Civic buildings. In this way, Military buildings that ripple up from the Age of Might can have a dramatic effect, as although they cannot claim domains for themselves, they certainly can destroy Religious buildings, swinging the tide of the game.
Those religious building in the Age of Might that initally appear useless are far from it - they can prevent the upgrading of Military buildings, as the upgraded nuildings take up more room on the board and this simply cannot be done if there is no room to expand. Similarly, larger Religious buildings that ripple up to the Age of Faith can score there, but there are still more factors to consider.
I hinted earlier that there cannot be ties in a domain for the strongest building. This is called the Rule of Hierarchy. However, you can deliberately break the Rule of Hierarchy by joining up 2 domains, feeling very much like an external conflict in T&E. What happens when there is no clear Hierarchy? It must be re-established, by downsizing one of the offending buildings. However, by downsizing that building, you may split the domain it was in into 2 or possibly more parts, which may now also violate the Rule of Hierarchy, and must be resolved. Not to mention the rippling effect that these downsizings cause, which might cause still more paradoxes.
So, those seemingly useless Religious building on the Age of Might board can, through downsizing and splitting domains, have a dramatic effect not only on the Age of Might but also on the Age of Faith. When I say that the possibilities are staggering for your moves in this game, I'm certainly not exaggerating.
However, your options are limited by the fact that you can only build types of buildings afforded to you by the cards that you draw from the deck. Whilst you may pay to flush your hand and redraw this is somewhat expensive. I'm glad though that your options are reduced in this way, or the risk of Analysis Paralysis would be even more extreme than it already is!
I haven't touched on the mechanics in ply in the Age of Reason, mainly because our 2 player game didn't use this board. We simply never made any of the largest Military and Religious buildings to ripple up to that board, so it was never worth travelling up there as the reward would be slim (in this board the scoring rules are flipped - You populate the Civic buildings, and whoever has the highest population in these buildings scored the combined Military and Religious power of the domain. However, you may not build directly on this board, so the only way to create building to score from is to ripple them up from earlier times)
No doubt the Age of Reason will hold many more suprises for us when we come to fully explore it.
4) In summary: This game makes you think, and makes you think quite hard I believe. The knock-on effects of the most innocent looking builds can be quite far reaching, and you may not realise a posibility for a great move until it is already too late to set it up. Having said that, I never was that good at T&E, so this may be a weakness in my skills!
I very much look forward to playing this with more than 2 players, though I fear the downtime might be large, we will just have to wait and see.
Nice review. Isn't it great when you are first learning a game that you really enjoy? You have all the possible tactics and strategies to explore.
Thanks tons for this review. I'd seen this at my FLGS and was interested solely on the look and theme of the game. I'm sold now. Thanks a ton!