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Subject: Tempus - A brief conversation rss

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Appley award winner, 1984
United States
Manhattan Beach
California
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Before I begin, let me first state that I like meatier games. The only game that I have given a 10 here on the Geek is Die Macher, and that is primarily due to its depth of play. Objectively though, what I call meaty others call fiddly. Fair enough - tomato, to-mah-to. Martin Wallace, the designer of Tempus, also designed deliciously depth defying titles such as Struggle of Empires, Princes of the Renaissance, and though I don’t care for train games I did kinda like Age of Steam.

So here comes Tempus!

The components are nice if somewhat superfluous. Lots of the components aren’t used. Perhaps they are included for future expansions, or for others to design house rules. The game sure is expensive - I hope I didn’t have to pay extra for those pieces I don’t need. Also, the board and the cards arrived warped and several of the wooden discs were distorted. Not a big problem and it doesn’t affect game-play, just reporting the facts. The major complaints, recounting here as elsewhere, are that the colors purple and black are too close, and that the city colors are too close as well. Very poor decisions by Café Games.

Please see other reviews for rules explanations and such. Other people have spent time and effort to recount these so I won’t let that go to waste. Suffice it to say that there are no real holes in the rules that reasonable persons cannot agree on.

So on to the game play. Tempus plays like a civilization-as-amoeba-growth game. Your counters multiply and spread in a slow, measured manner. You can transform your pieces into a city if/when you run out, (or for strategic reasons). Movement is very slow at the beginning which allows players to establish a foundation for later play. Grabbing space and resources early is important as later you may be blocked in by other players. Typical of a Wallace game, there are always more things to accomplish than you have actions for.

There are some subtleties that can only be gleaned from experience. The most prominent, in my mind, being the importance of sea movement. This happens for all, (well most), on a specific turn. It is very important to “man” your coastal squares before this happens to prevent other players from colonizing your rear area, (we know how painful that can be). Another realization that can only come from previous plays is the difficulty in attacking cities. It sure seems worthwhile, since even if you fail the cost to the attacker is only the loss of one guy. The problem I have experienced with attacking cities is that it fails far more often than it succeeds. And it costs you cards, (usually). And it costs you a turn, (precious). Lastly, and this is debatable, my opinion is that winning the tech advance every turn is not so important, most of the time. Sure, on the turn when you can use sea movement, or on the turns with the extra cards, it is a valuable gain. However the rest of the time I prefer to save my cards.

Speaking of which, the cards are a very interesting part of the play. All of the cards are useful, most of the time. They also provide what little variation in gameplay there is. They fit the scope of the game nicely, but obtaining them takes time. I think this is the best part of the design.

Sadly, that’s the whole game. In the final analysis there is just not enough to do in Tempus. The constraints on time are interesting, but done elsewhere to similar effect. More interesting is the interplay between the players as they jostle for position on a board tight on space and resources. But if that’s all a game is going to offer, I think I’ll pass in lieu of more interesting titles. As I intimated at the beginning, I like meatier games. If you are like-minded, then Tempus may be a little too skimpy to hold one’s interest for more than a few plays.
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David
New Zealand
Wellington
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I agree with much of this. Tempus is a solid game but it just didn't excite me enough. The tech is very abstract and the tech catch-up rule turns the game into a race for the next terrain type. Building cities doesn't increase your options (in fact it actually limits them) and combat isn't very exciting. It has solid rules but it just lacks fun.

I think Vinci is a much livelier "abstract civ-themed" game.
 
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Geo
Greece
Athens
Marousi
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The problem we had with Tempus is that it moves very slowly (boring) until the last turns of the game where it becomes a free-for-all battle. No matter how or where you built your cities and placed your pawns, you can drop from first to last place in the last two turns.
 
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Frank Hamrick
United States
Rocky Mount
North Carolina
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All of the above (by the other commenters) is true - but yet, I still like it. I don't know exactly why. Maybe it is because I just haven't played it enough to lose my fascination for it. Maybe I just want it to be better than it is. I think I like Antike better (the other "war" game I bought at the time of Tempus' release), but I would not think of parting with Tempus yet - not until I have given it a dozen or so plays. But, I confess that Princes of the Ren and Strug of Emps are a bit more convoluted/involved/fiddly than I want at this juncture of my life. Twenty years ago I would have loved them, as I was deeply into Avalon Hill war games. But now, I prefer clean games with meat! That is, simple, elegant rules, but deep strategy. For example - Euphrat & Tigris, Canal Mania, Attika. I even think Caylus is a bit much (though I do play it). Reef Encounter is on the very edge of where I want a game to go. I do love Wallace's Liberte (though the rules are horrendous). So maybe Tempus just hits the spot for my complexity taste at the moment.
 
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Andrew Young
Wales
Wellesley
Massachusetts
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And if you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good.
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Tempus is a good game but not one of his best. Its easy to compare it to his others as that would be a normal thing to do. I think some of his others- AoS, Liberte, SoE- are better games that provide a ton of depth and anxiety. Tempus doesn't really provide a ton of anxiety and/or depth. Though, it still is a good game.

I'm looking foward to Perikles.
 
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