Aik Yong Heng
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Tempus, a new release from Cafegames, is billed as a civilisation-lite game in the vein of Antike. For those not familiar with these terms, see my previous explanation on civilisation games and impression of Antike in an earlier posting. Civilisation 'lite' in this game means a short 90-minute game (shorter than Antike). This however, means that most of the civilisation details are even more abstracted out than Antike.
Coming from the respected designer of Age of Steam - Martin Wallace, Tempus receives a lot of hype prior to its release but subsequently gets mixed feedback after that. It is praised in some quarters but blasted in others.
Amid these interesting developments, fellow gamer Chua receives his copy of Tempus. Billed as the first copy of Tempus in Malaysia (information correct at posting time ), it arrives through the mail rather than waiting for the usual friendly local crack dealer services.
A call quickly went out in the forums and four brave civilisation pioneers answered. Dave, KJ, Jeff Goh and Heng, join Chua 3pm sharp on Saturday 9 Sept 06 in Games Circle to answer a very important question: Is Tempus good or bad?. Jeff Au, despite registering his interest early, came late and his civilisation was replaced. In the world of Tempus, time waits for no civilisation (sorry Jeff!). Jeff Au was instead relegated to journey as a nomad Through the Desert (But that is another tale for another game...).
Jeff Au, as one of the nomads in Through the Desert!
In the beginning (of Tempus), the world was void, without form. Then, thee board was layeth and lo, the sea of Tempus formeth. By God-given-1st-turn powers, the Davian civilisation chose the first snowflake-landmass and created an island amid the sea. KJian, Jeffian, Chua-ian and Hengian civilisations followeth suit in clockwise order, extending the landmass across a turbulent sea. The creation continues anew with the Davians until all landmasses were used. The primitive civilisations all then stood back and surveyed their world:
"Hmm, there’s a peninsular and a lake."
"I don’t know what we are doing."
"First game doesn’t count, right?"
Exercising their God-given-1st-turn powers again, the Davians establish their 1st three tribes in the rich fields of the northwest, an area large enough for the expansion of one civilisation yet discourages other civilisations from setting up nearby. As a consequence, the KJian tribes went to the far north, while the Jeffian tribes establish themselves in the east. The Chua-ians and Hengians face a dilemma. All that is left are barren, rocky mountains, unable to grow civilisations. After much deliberation, the Chua-ians set up east of the Jeffians while the Hengians set up isolated in the south.
An island in the sea of Tempus! Davians (yellow), KJians (black), Jeffians (red), Chua-ians (light blue) and Hengians (purple) wage a contest of civilisations (Picture taken in mid game).
"The objective of each civilisation," proclaimed the almighty rulebook, "is to be the most civilised people on Tempus."
"This you do by building cities and controlling terrains."
"Like any good eurogame, I shall limit your actions to the following: you can only
1. move your tribes to new pastures
2. have babies and multiply your tribes
3. have ideas and draw cards to give your tribes bonuses
4. build a city to improve your chances of technological superiority, or
5. have a fight and eliminate your neighbours"
"You shall start off uncivilised and you only have limited actions per round. You shall move slowly, have few babies, have few ideas, build small cities, have small fights."
"But fear not. You all shall advance through the ages every round and discover technologies to increase your civilisation's efficiency."
The Tempus civilisation technology advancement track.
"At all times, one of you will be one step more advanced than others.
This is determined from the terrain you control and the technology being contested.
e.g. if you own more forest than others when advancing into the technology of writing or printing, theoretically your civilisation will have an advantage in producing more papers and hence gain the benefit of the writing or printing technology first.
The rest of you will automatically catch up to the leader at the end of the turn."
With the knowledge thus gaineth, the civilisations went off on their business of being civilised. From the onset, it was clear that there were advantages to being the civilisation that is one step ahead in the technology advancement track. Each turn, the civilisations spent the bulk of their actions manuevering to dominate different types of terrain depending on the next technology advancement. Their tribes thus went back and forth: over the hills, forest, fields, pastures... This manuevering proved to be the focus and continuing effort of all civilisations.
Ai yah, where to manuever next? - Heng
Gotta stand up when making a bold manuever! - Dave
> Look! From this end you can still see me manuevering! - Jeff Goh
All together now! Hands-on-chin + Arms-folded analysis mode. Where to manuever?!
In addition to manuevering, the civilisations discover that having ideas are also very important. The idea (cards) add some randomness to the game when you draw them. However, they give extra benefits during actions and can also be used as +1 modifier cards during contest of fights or technology advancements.
The idea (cards)
In the end, the KJians emerge victorious with their multitude of civilised cities. Davians came second, followed by Chua-ians and Jeffians. The Hengians was badly beaten due to a combination of bad city placement, emptying of hand at the wrong time, and the misfortune of being set upon by vicious neighbours. Oh well... first game doesn't count!
The winner in action - KJ (person in middle) consulting with Dave
KJ scratching head in thought
KJ massaging his fingers
Notes: The history of Tempus recounted above was obtained from the annals of the failed Hengian civilisation, which in turn referenced the records of a Chua-ian historian found here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/125737
Footnote: So, is Tempus good or bad? Overall, I feel that the landmass generating mechanic is nice and the randomness provides replayability. However, the abstracted nature of the civilisation theme kinda throw me off the experience. It feels more like a brain burning exercise in area manuevering-controlling instead of civilisation building. Playing this game gives one mixed feelings, one must try Tempus to ultimately decide whether they like it or not.
Playing this game gives one mixed feelings, one must try Tempus to ultimately decide whether they like it or not.
Being slowly tortured gives one mixed feelings, one must try Chinese water torture to decide whether or not they like it or not.