Frank de Jong
Netherlands
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Hi all,

Second in my (perhaps future series of) reviews after a first playthrough is Anachrony.
But first, I have to make a couple of statements to make things clear:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
– I borrowed any images used for clarity from BGG or google and do not claim any copyright. You can find the appropriate links yourself if interested.
– This not an attempt to give a complete overview of the game (there is usually enough reviews out there that do that). It is a review, not a rulebook.
– As stated in the name: this is a first time play review, meaning I (most of the times) only played the game once and often do not necessarily plan on playing it again. See it as quick review or as a first impression, however you like it. I realize fully that to give a through and tested review you would need multiple sessions with different people and yadayada: this is not that kind of review. If this bothers you from the get go, save yourself the time and go do something else you might actually enjoy. Why do I do this? Because I think most games are usually only played once or every so often by most gamers and because I think if you played a game a lot of times (and usually thus own it) you are very liable to have a certain predisposition for the game. This is also why I do not review games I own.
- I am reviewing a collection of card(board) and wood and/or plastic. It will not likely get offended. Please do not get offended either, this is a review and thus an informed opinion. It does not mean I expect the world to agree now and forever hold their peace.
– I realize fully that some games I will review will be a couple of years old and I am comparing them to my own standards of today. This might be unfair, indeed. At the same time: it offers a useful and insightful comparison. After all, I am not playing a game because it would have been good in year XXXX, I play it because I enjoy it now.
– English is not my first language. If you spot mistakes, please do tell me, so I can improve.

Alright, now that this is out of the way, let’s get started!

The session:
4 players (all first time players)
Close to 4 hours (including explanation and some rules questions)
No modules added, played with A sides, basic version (no miniatures)

Beware! The apocalypse is coming. The world of Anachrony is going to die, so, naturally, we are all going to fight over dominance of that future heap of ashes. And why postpone that fight till after the event takes place if we can already fight over it now? Exactly!
Anachrony is a game that combines workerplacement and enginebuilding with a mechanic meant to simulate time-travelling. You collect resources, more workers of three different professions (and a joker) and buildings. You have a player owned board of options which you can improve during the game, or you can send workers to the main board for which they will first need to be put into an exosuit, and of course those are limited.

So now that past me has played it, what does current me think? Would future me send back a copy to past me to play when so requested? Let's find out.

What did I like?

Clarity of rules
Lets state it at the start: Anachrony is a daunting game when you start playing. There's a lot of things you can do that on their turn interact with other things again. It is not a casual game, like you likely already knew. ( And hence, this review is also quite long.)
That being said, the rules are quite clear and coherent. You are not left with a whole lot of questions after reading it once and most questions relate to the specific symbols on specific cards. There's no weird exceptions or cards that interact in weird ways.

The symbology
Although as I have seen from my scans of reviews here before writing this there is quite some hate for the symbols on all the cards, I actually thought they were most often quite clear. (I say most, because some are not, I'll get to that later.) It makes the game easier to play and visually more appealing.

They also help in visualizing the rules. What I mean by this is the following: most (older) games would tell you that in order to deploy your Exo-suits, you need to pay one hex core for every one beyond the 4th you deploy and gain one water for every one you do not deploy. Instead of making this a rule you need to remember or one that is written on a quick reference card, it is elegantly visualized on the board it self. You'll never have to think twice about it.



Dual layered deploying
No, I do not mean the exo-suits. Although nice, perhaps even innovative in concept, in reality the exosuits present little actual choice, but I will touch on this below. What is nicely executed though (although not unique nor very new) is the combination of a common board and the main board. Spaces on the main board, in a four player game, are tightly contested. Getting the correct mix of what actions you want on your faction board, what to prioritize and when to do actions that enable your other actions (see the tired mechanic below) is one of the definite strong suits of this game.

It is therefore really a shame that, because of randomness, scoring (more on these two later) and building choices the game does not fully utilize this nice mix it creates. It is something I liked, but it needs to be said there was definitely even more to be gained here!

The tired worker mechanic
When you send out workers in Anachrony, be it on the main board or on your own faction board, they might return active or, more frequently, tired. Tired workers cannot be used until they are activated again, either by use of a mass activation through whipping them (- points) or breakfast and or/a shower(+ points), although there are some buildings that meddle with this mechanic. In essence a very simple mechanic, right? But it makes the game so much more interesting! It adds this extra layer to your worker placement and planning. Do I take this action now, possibly forgoing a timely activation next turn? What worker type do I send? What do I need next turn or round? And when will I reactivate my workers? The best is of course at the start of next turn so they are all back in for reactivation, but then that means using your first action to do so while other players snatch up the good spaces on the main board! This mechanic definitely adds another dimension - pun intended - of though decisions.

The art
Even though not entirely my own style, I can appreciate the art of Anachrony. It conveys a world, a story and is overall very well executed (with the exception perhaps of the leader characters which just look a bit odd; inhuman). It gives the game, especially the game board, an extra touch. The story it self is, if you ask me, very standard and not very interesting, but the art that accompanies it makes even this mediocre story passable. It is not the most beautiful art found in a boardgame, but it is certainly in the top of the upper segment.
Sadly, but I will get to this below, the art is used sparingly and not allowed to truly shine.

What did I not like?

Bland presentation
For all the things that are looking nice in this game, the game alas focuses your attention on the not-so-nice stuff. What you are actually mostly looking at and using, is rather bland: the buildings, the cubes and the workers.

Buildings
As stated above, the game tries to emanate its theme with a passion. Yet when we come to buildings, undeniably a big focal point of the game, it falls flat. Not only do they not have names, they do not even have an image, merely looking like a tile with the symbols of what it does on there. While this may provide clarity in some sense, I cannot help but feel a little disappointed when I am building 'this blue building' next to 'that blue building'. The super projects do have a name, but again lack any form of imagery. It is a shame that the theme suddenly stops here and we are just building differing copies of the uninspiring groups (power plants, factories, life supports, labs).



The visual design of the buildings and the superprojects

Cubes
Ok, I will not rant about cubes in general here although they did produce f#%$%^@g plastic exo suits in the KS version, but the resources are just that. As far as cubes go in quality, size and material, they are actually quite ok. No, the only real problem here is colour. Especially the colour combined with their translucence. It is hard to tell them apart, especially if seen from a distance on the (dark) player boards, with not-optimal lighting. And lets be honest: how many gameshops and playing areas do have optimal lighting on each table? It seems like a shoddy design flaw to pick these exact colours and although the game does provide cardboard chits as well, honestly this should not have been an issue in the first place.


Is that cube you got black, purple or grey?

Workers
The workers themselves, although not repulsive either, continue in this line: they are functional, but nothing beyond this. They feature a same-style, same-looking person on all of the classes and are overall just rather dull.

All of this is not to say Anachrony is not a nice-looking game. On the contrary, like I stated above: there is even true beauty in there. But what you are essentially doing is covering the nicely made player-mat with the art, with bland, non-distinctive buildings without art. What you are working towards and for, is standard and dull themed. This feels like an odd design choice to me. We are looking at spreadsheets on display in the main hall while the van Gogh's and Rembrandts are in the poorly lit basement: there was simply so much more to be gained in this department.

The Future is Unknown - randomness is everywhere
So for a game about time travel, this point is actually quite ironic isn't it? Yet, for all the things you can 'send back in time', information, sadly, is not one of them. This often leaves you hopelessly equipped to deal with what comes next turn.

I will give an explaining example: buildings, which are a core thing in the game which builds your engine and gains you victory points, are divided into four stacks. Each turn a new building is opened up and you can choose between that building and the one that was available last round. And while buildings of the same stack often do something somewhat comparable, they still can differ significantly in their effects and thus their utility for you. So, it might be that your rival builds what you were planning to build, and the new one is not actually doing the job. This in itself is not a problem in many comparable games (take Caverna for example). He/she just played faster or better and got there first; part of the game. But it does become a problem, when that building only showed up that round and player order is decided in the round before without prior knowledge of what is going to show up.

Or, worse even, it might be that a particular building just does not show up at all. Leaving you unequipped to do something while others move ahead. Imagine Caverna with random rooms, but you only know which ones will be available at the rounds which they are available. Will your strategy work? Well, who knows, lets see what shows up! This coincides with the different factions being asymmetrical and needing different things. If your faction can already make Hex Cores (the stuff needed to send out your workers), and the buildings to make them do not show up, the other three are at a disadvantage. If they do show up, or are the only thing in a certain stock even, you are obviously at a disadvantage, since you could already build them anyway and the building will be a waste.

This lack of foresight is not limited to the buildings, it is found everywhere: resources available for mining will be largely random, workers to recruit too. Science tiles gained: random. Science tiles needed for the next superproject (a sort of bigger building): random. Function of the next superproject: random.

For a heavy euro which challenges you to think ahead and plan, there is really an awful lot of stuff left to chance here (and I am intentionally leaving out the random die for disaster that the rulebook already mentions as an opt-out). Moreover, there is no real option to avoid this chance: you'll just have to try to prepare for the unknown and hope you get lucky sometimes.

So many options... yet so little choice
Very much connected to the last point is the variability in your actual choices. This issue has several aspects to it, but the total package ultimately was for me the most destructive to the game at large.

Randomness as a design choice
Since, as highlighted above, you are basically doing something that more reflects contingency planning than actually planning your player board, you are mostly forced to make the least bad of choices instead of a really good or satisfying one. And though some games thrive on that experience and it might even be thematic here, the way the game handles it for me mainly conveyed disappointment: Anachrony is not 'I managed to scrape by and survive' - the good execution of this style of gameplay; it is more 'I wanted that, but I settled for this lesser version of it because luck did not favour me'. And that leaves you more disappointed and shrugging than actually looking into strategy or what you could have done better - much like when going 'bust' a good Eurogame would challenge you to rethink your strategy and your moves, whereas when playing Blackjack you are more likely to shrug and move on slightly disappointed.

In Anachrony randomness and random availability is seemingly elevated to a design choice purportedly forcing you to adapt and adjust. Contrary to achieving that, it actually just frustrates and leaves players with a feeling of mediocrity. And thus I cannot help but notice that the choice for randomness is more connected to a lack of balance between buildings, factions and strategy than anything more elaborate. By not always making the same stuff available, the game implies freshness and forces you to make different choices - but not because you opted to do so, but because you had to. It thus railroads you on a different path. Although efforts are made to ensure balance (worse buildings deliver more victory points at the end) it just does not seem to work enough and thus it seems like the designers opted for randomness as a fix to what was actually an imbalance between different choices and different victory paths. If 'A' is always superior to 'B', you will, perfect availability and information present, always opt for 'A' in a worker placement. Thus, Anachrony sometimes just gives you 'B' or even 'C' and tells you to suck it up. And while, again, this might work in some games, it does not in a heavy worker placement / engine builder like this, especially because as explained above you never know what is going to be available. And that feeling when you pick up 'B' even though you wanted 'A' only to have 'A' show up afterwards for your colleague is just plain frustrating and ruining the experience of the game. Why? Because there is no better choice you could have made. It is simply luck, the roll of a die. In a heavy euro to have your strategy and even your success in the game hinge on that is inexcusable.

Path dependency
The second thing limiting your array of actual options, is the railroad the game essentially puts you on from the start with the selection of your path. It is not that you do not have choices to make in this game; you make a lot of them. Yet if you wish to compete in this game, you will have to do what your path requires you to do (more about this below). Likewise, because some paths are just better at doing something than others, competing on off-grounds so to speak becomes rather disheartening. Why try to best someone on research when they got an innate bonus on it that will make them beat you to it? The game essentially heavily incentivizes you to go for what you do best (or at the very least: what others are not innately better at). You could also say it forces you.

Truly when thinking about this game it made me wonder what the different factions, called 'paths', add both gameplay wise and theme wise. Purportedly, you are playing a faction striving for dominance of their way of life after the disaster - be that harmony, domination, progress or salvation (read: crazy guys embracing disaster as the new god). But are you actually enacting what your faction is supposed to embody? Not really, no. OK, progress is pushed to develop science and super projects and the crazies can do weird shit with anomaly tokens, but that is about it. There is nothing disincentivizing harmony players to take to the whip or domination players to be nice and kind. In a peaceful game without any form of direct interaction these concepts are a bit weird anyway. They certainly did not add any theme as far as I was concerned, while they did constrain gameplay. And why not let players develop their own path while they play? Is that not much more thematic? Would it not have been far better if players, through playing and making different choices, opted for one path over the other, thus selecting certain benefits and in the end also victory conditions? Instead of letting you build your own city in this way, the game constrains you needlessly and basically tells you what you should be doing.

If anything, in their current form the paths are like this nagging voice/message in a computer game reminding you of what mission objective you should be doing while you are out exploring the world and having fun.

To Exo-suit or not to exo-suit?
One of the eye-catchers of this game, particularly in the premium version, are the exo-suits. Hailed as the interesting part of the worker placement in this game (you already know I enjoyed other bits far more), a necessary question to answer in any review therefore becomes: does it deliver? The short answer: nope. The longer one: not really. Here's why:

I am going to have to go into detail here, perhaps too much so for someone who has not played the game. On the main board, there is 12 initial base actions, and two to copy those actions. Ergo: 14 actions. There are two other actions you can take an unlimited amount of times, but really, these are back-up options at best usually. They just do not offer the same amount of benefits, which is natural since they cannot be blocked either. So when you are deciding how much suits to power up, three come free of charge, for every other you need to pay a hex core which are limited to most factions but supplied to some amount at start. You can deploy up to six suits. But honestly, doing a simple sum, you will never. Except in the very rare circumstances where either one player is dozing off or employing a very weird strategy or at the end-game round(s) where part of the deploy options are blocked and spaces on the main board function differently.
Why not you ask? 3x4 = 12. There is bound to be at least a few players who can afford to send one extra though, especially the faction that can just gain hex cores for activation by the snap of a finger. So mostly, players just send four. Not more, not less. You don't want to be left out of the good actions, so will never send less than three because you only gain a measly water by doing so. But if everyone sends three or their timing of actions is sub-optimal, you might benefit by sending the fourth (or else send it to do a consolidation action). You virtually never send less than three or more than five. This is tied together with the randomness and the need for contingency planning: you never know what is going to show up after player A builds a building, so best be prepared for whatever. Hence, what is broadcast as one of the most innovative and interesting mechanics and in its core could present an interesting puzzle, is just slammed flat by simple mathematics any designer could (and should) have done when making their game.

And perhaps, after thirty playthroughs you are going to meet this rare instance where one player has developed this strategy with his player board and the right faction and all the right buildings turn up at the right time and do not get blocked and he has the opportunity to benefit from gaining this one water which will ultimately, given the right victory conditions being drawn, result in three more points at the end of the game and hand him/her this victory because he/she only send two suits out on this particular turn. Sure. For the rest of humanity though, it is a dead mechanic.


Image showing, inter alia, the exo-suits deploying spaces.

Unsatisfying victory conditions
Anachrony starts of by being a scary place, of seemingly endless possibilities but also challenges in realizing those possibilities. You need to account for a lot of things, and this makes the game entertaining and interesting. Until you have played a few rounds, built up your own city, got the hang of it and start really in-depth looking at the victory you are planning for. It is at that time that you realize that the world of Anachrony is actually much more shallow than what it seemed up to that point.

You see, Anachrony offers a lot of options, but in the end you will have to do as the game tells you or lose. While arguably this can be said about a lot of games, in Anachrony I found it limiting the experience. Let me explain.

In Anachrony, what you set off doing is, sometimes despite all odds (read: randomness), building up your engine, finding a nice collection of buildings and send your workers to do those actions that you need to get there. Essentially very common worker placement mechanics, but the game executes this nicely. But this optimizing of your city and worker pool, this smartly and timely selecting actions before other players do is not what grants you points (or only very little). What does? Using (read: doing) the time-travel system, waking up workers, doing what your faction has to do, building stuff and getting lucky.

The first commandment: Thou shalt use our game mechanics - or be damned
A considerable - arguably and depending on the victory cards (see below) even most - points in the game are earned by doing two core mechanics: the wake-up system and time-traveling. Yes, you read that right: by doing them. Not by using them. Not by elegantly waving them into your strategy. Just do it, it gets you points.

Without going into detail: Time-travel in Anachrony is essentially loaning from the future, with an added mechanic of needing certain buildings to pay yourself back, but with the risk that if you used most (or tied for most) loans on a given turn you get negative points. While interesting in theory, in practice it was not all that useful. The risk-reward ratio was just not positive, so after the first round, most players opted out of using it at all. This is of course a problem for a game that is about time-travel. How the game fixed this? Simple: using this system gives you points. And thus, not using it, is essentially going to make you lose the game. So you are not using it because it is interesting or part of your strategy. No, quite the contrary: you adapt your strategy so that you can lend useless stuff from your future self that you are most likely able to pay back not because you needed the stuff, but because of points. The game basically tells you: you have to use this system. And with that, any alternative strategy falls flat.

The same is true for the wake-up system to get your tired workers back to active. The preferred system (the one that costs you resources, but gives morale which is points) is one of the bigger contributors to points in the game. So opting out of this system, for example by having an alternate way of getting active workers through building synergy and smartly selecting specific options, costs you points. You essentially - again - have to use the games preferred system.

The result is that efficiency and elegance are often detrimental points wise and choice is all but lacking. And that is not only counter-intuitive, it can be downright frustrating. Don't need to wake up your workers en mass by paying because you developed a neat engine and made those choices that send them back ready for use again? Too bad, no points for you. Don't need additional stuff from the future? Too bad, no points for you. Want to specialize in a certain direction? No points for you!

Asymmetry
But what probably gives you most points is your faction specific end-game victory condition. Basically these conditions consist of two parts and tell you to build a certain type of building for part one and then collect as much of some resource as you can for part two. Since these are set at start, they highly limit your strategic choices to the point that you are mostly just trying to optimize your path towards these preset conditions. What's worse: like mentioned before, the availability of different resources (workers, cubes etc.) is largely random as is the usefulness of the buildings on sale in your category. Are you starting to see why this is such a big problem yet? Does your faction collect points from worker type 'D'? Too bad, we don't have those this game.

Buildings for building's sake
Most (all?) of the factions are required to build a certain type of building three times in order to evacuate and gain points. The build action is one of the most contested spaces on the main board and it is rare to get two builds in a single round with 4 players, let alone more than that. Moreover, you will want to build other buildings too during the game, for your engine, to time-travel etc. So let's say that at most you can dedicate one build per round to your objective. Since the game, with 4 players, typically will hardly ever last longer than 6 rounds, you will hardly need nor really use most of the buildings you are forced to build and basically you are just building them because the game told you to do so. "Do I need another building that produces more water in round 5? No, but apparently I need it to evacuate so lets build it and get even more water which I cannot use anymore anyway." Not very exciting end-game choices.

Randomness - oh how we missed you!
And, of course, Anachrony would not be Anachrony if victory conditions, again, were not random too! And, again, while there are games out there that use a randomized set of victory conditions to great success (looking at you, Isle of Skye!), in Anachrony its frustrating. Why does it not work here? Because instead of offering you a set of random victory conditions and challenging you to get to them in your way, thus invoking strategic choices, competition and fun, or offering alternate paths to victory than those offered by the vanilla game, the victory conditions present in Anachrony just reinforce the actually already existing victory paths and ask you to do 'most of it'. What's worse: again, certain factions are just better at something. So basically, if your faction matches a victory condition for a particular game, you are in luck! - and your fellow players are just going to shrug again.

Concluding, the game tells you what to do and challenges you to do that the best way possible, instead of challenging you to find your best path to victory. It offers you a puzzle, but only on the game's terms. Yes, of course, you can choose to ignore the direction it pushes you in, but it is blatantly obvious you will not win if you do this. The game essentially tells you to go make it a sandwich, instead of giving you a set of ingredients and a kitchen and telling you to go make something delicious. In RPG terms the game 'railroads' and leaves little meaningful choices to the player. On top of that, the randomness in victory conditions and achieve-ability of them messes up any sense of achievement that could be had by offering a fair fight. This is a kind of gamedesign that I had hoped we had left behind.

Final thoughts

After playing Anachrony I am left with a mix of feelings. Yes, the game is challenging at first glance, engaging even. It offers lots of options, the core is solid and the different workers and what they can do in and outside of their exosuits (not the suits themselves) is interesting. Yet halfway through the game comes that feeling of 'what are we actually doing'? This usually, for me, is the point in the game where I pinpoint what my winning condition is going to be and I work towards that goal (whereas at the start in workerplacements you usually focus more on getting a sort of engine going). And that is when the game started to feel weird and dissatisfying and to come apart. The act of building up, of sending your people out to do different tasks, of optimizing that and getting new stuff in is nice, rewarding even maybe for a short time. Until you realize that all you are doing is not actually going to earn you a lot of points or have you win the game. And then, in hindsight, the game begins to feel rather empty and all you have done before seems rather shallow. The game does not reward you for seeking your own path to victory. It does not often reward you for smart moves or elegant efficiency. It rewards you for doing what it wants you to do and for snatching up a correct building, which, more often than not, is based on randomness.

And so thus, while you enjoyed the experience of the game till that point and perhaps even after that point, the final point tallying for all of us was rather uninteresting. Most of us - if not all - did not really care a lot who won. And this is, for a heavy euro, a weird thing and perhaps does not justify the time and money invested.
The question you need to ask yourself when contemplating whether to get Anachrony is thus whether you can live with these pitfalls to experience the enjoyable part of the game which is certainly present or whether, like me, this spoils the game too much and leaves you with a sour aftertaste. Whether you would enjoy a heavy euro that employs a great deal of randomness and asymmetry which in the end for a large part will decide the scoring. Whether you can live with not being able to choose your own path but are OK with optimizing what you are given by the game.

(For the record: Playing Anachrony once, on the other hand, is an experience I would not advice passing up to anyone who can get past the rules hurdle.)

We enjoyed the journey, but not its destination. Perhaps that mindfulness sounding one-liner is teaching us something about timetravel itself? Who knows. Future me, please, can you help me out here?
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S. R.
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Damn you! Damn you to hell! Thrice damn you!
...now look what you'll make me do - you'll make me sell this (IMO) beautiful game...
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Or, to put it differently, thank you for clarifying my own dissatisfaction with the game for me. I love so many things about the game, but the beautiful artwork and the awesome minis, and even my love of asymmetry in games kept me from seeing the sad, disheveled, confused and mad man behind the curtain...

I could go into detail, but you basically have said all there is to be said. While the railroading did not bug me too much (as I said, love of asymmetry, which almost always is railroading in some way), the randomness just didn't sit right with me. If you are told what to do by your faction, there better be a good way to capitalize on it. However, as the game flows, it is damn well possible that you might achieve (e.g.) your evacuation condition, but will not get any VP whatsoever due to your secondary evacuation aspect. Etc.

Dammit!
I love the theme, and even see more in the time travel mechanism than just a forced VP generator (it IS possible to capitalize on it), but it is counter(un)balanced by all the randomness in everything and anything else.

...and the variants and modules that can be added won't really change that.

So, damn you, for speaking the truth.
As much as I wanted to hear it, I didn't...
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Please do more reviews
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Stormparkiet wrote:
Please do more reviews


...maybe one regarding Trickerion? That is another of those games where I simply cannot figure out what I think...
 
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Frank de Jong
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Dumon wrote:
Stormparkiet wrote:
Please do more reviews


...maybe one regarding Trickerion? That is another of those games where I simply cannot figure out what I think...


Thanks guys. Glad you found it interesting.

I will do more reviews most likely, but I am limited by what I get to play. And since my budget is also limited I mostly write reviews on what others bring to the table.
 
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Hooray! I'm glad to see you doing more of these. I've said it before, but in the current gaming environment where most people don't play a game more than once or twice anyway this kind of review is especially important. It helps that you're a solid writer. Thank you!
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I want to chime in with a bit of a contrarian view. Yes, there is randomness, but the designers seems to have put in quite a bit of effort to mitigate that randomness. 3 examples.

Research - When doing research, you set one of the dice then roll the other one. Depending on which superprojects are out there, or what sets you are going for, this means you won't get something useless. If I recall correctly, this was modified during the Kickstarter campaign to address the concerns of too much randomness.

Mining - The card that seeds the mine for the next era is random, but the mine always produces 1 each of gold, titanium and uranium on the right side of the area. Also, after impact, the top spot on the left always produces neutronium, so you always have a good sense of what is going to be available.

Buildings - Yes, the selection of buildings is random, but many of the buildings are similar, so it may not matter that much which one you get. Plus, there are always two face up at the start of an era. Depending on what was purchased or not the prior round, you may actually know more than that. For example, when the top building in the main stack is not purchased, it moves to the secondary stack. If it gets bought later, then the previous building is revealed, so you know what 3 of the buildings will be.

Yes, this is not a perfect information Euro, but I don't think it was intended to be. Some randomness means you need to be tactical in taking your actions in each era, but you can make some reasonable long term plans. My son and I have played 4 times and really enjoy this game. It's mainly the long setup, play, and tear down that keep us from playing it more, since he's still in high school.

I don't mean to say the criticisms in the review are completely unfounded, just to say that not every game is for every player. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there, both now and in the future, that will enjoy Anachrony. We certainly do.
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Pattersonclan wrote:
I don't mean to say the criticisms in the review are completely unfounded, just to say that not every game is for every player. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there, both now and in the future, that will enjoy Anachrony. We certainly do.


And I do not mean to say you cannot have a different opinion than my review or should not enjoy the game.

And certainly, not every game is for everyone. This is why I in principle only review euro(ish) games. If I would do a review of Arkham/Eldritch horror I would come to the conclusion that to me it sort of represents an evil version of Pandemic in which some ungodly creature had the unsavory idea of replacing tactics with dice.
But nobody would gain a whole lot from a review like that, and I hope that the review above - even when you do not (completely) agree with it - gives more insight and grounds for a useful discussion.

Pattersonclan wrote:
I want to chime in with a bit of a contrarian view. Yes, there is randomness, but the designers seems to have put in quite a bit of effort to mitigate that randomness.


Very much true, there is not total randomness and I do not hope I gave that impression above. However, for a heavy euro, the randomness is significant and much higher than in competitor games - even with the mitigation you mention. This is not necessarily something you should dislike, but for some, like me, it does make the game less interesting. It makes my plans go awry on random chance, or it makes someone else's plan go right on random luck while I am 'contingency planning' and thus not optimizing. In a different, perhaps lighter game that would have been something I could ignore. But when a game challenges me - like Anachrony does - to think about strategy, to plan ahead, this significant effect of chance bothers me.

But, then again, like you said: for some it will not. And I hope these people read my review and will not be dissuaded from playing/purchasing due to that particular criticism.
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The problem with the randomness in this game, for me, is that it is very much a game about momentum, and tempo. Okay, maybe all euroish games are, and maybe that is even more true for WP games. However, it is just frustrating if you are screwed out of your chance of winning by random chance. Especially when the game seems to tell you that it is about good planning, timing and strategy - and more so when it limits choices by providing you a narrow frame in which to act (i.e. your path restrictions).


The last game, I played Salvation, A-Sides, with Shepherd. The problem with A-Side, though, is the evacuation condition. And that is (or can be) quite a lot of VPs for players (mostly the other paths). For Salvation, you need to get your hands on lots of neutronium - both for the buildings AND for the VP. In order to evacuate at all, you already need 4 neutronium(for building 3 yellow buildings). Unfortunately, there are not that many buildings that let you generate it, and if the mining cards do not come up in your favor, that's that. Especially, if opponents have a use for neutronium, aswell (and they, obviously, all do). After the impact of play, I had 2 yellow buildings and 1 neutronium to build the third. Simply because two players snatched the only neutronium-producing building in the game away, and took the neutronium from the mine the only time there was any, before I could get to it (because it was my turn later in the round). I ultimately got 6 VP for neutronium in my evacuation, and barely made it to be third (and not suffer -3 VP for being last).

Now, you could say that I can always trade in neutronium. Yes, I can. But every trade action is a loss of momentum, because in order to do it, you need to acquire the things to trade away first. Of course, all players will (and will need to) trade at some point. But generally, you should avoid getting bogged down by trading or getting water on the main board, if you can help it. And if, by chance, you get your hands on the (for you) more useful buildings and might deny others their useful buildings in the process (similarly, with ressources and research), you will be one or more steps ahead, simply because you were in luck and/or at the right place at the right time.

I am not bothered by losing a game. However, if I lose my chance of winning simply because of a string of bad luck situations, in a long, heavy euroish game like this, it leaves me absolutely frustrated. Incidentally, this is way different for luck-fests (especially cooperative ones) like Eldritch Horror and their ilk...

Unfortunately, Anachrony has this vibe that, if all players play equally well, the winner is decided by random chance. And not by a small margin, but possibly even by a quite large one...

If you are all about the flow of the game, and don't care too much about these things, I can see the appeal. Then, this game is absolutely awesome!
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Some people just don't like games that simultaneously force you to think long term AND try to mess you up via randomness.

But it's okay to be wrong.
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Wow. What a review! As someone who really enjoys Anachrony, I gotta say that I'm very impressed with your review. It's quite thorough, actually, for having played the game only once.

So while I agree with several of your observations, I can't help but wonder if your conclusions might be different after a few more plays? Remember that no respectable game published today is designed to be played only once.

Regardless, your review was based on a first play, and that's what you gave us. Again, for it's purpose it was very well written and thoughtful which is why I gave you a TU and some GG. I look forward to reading more reviews from you.

In closing, you kept referring to it as a "Heavy Euro". I actually consider it a "Hybrid" due exactly to its randomness. So I wonder where the game was ever officially billed or marketed as a "Heavy Euro"? Or even a "Euro" for that matter? As Euros by their nature don't include randomness (or if they do, it's very insignificant), then perhaps Anachrony is NOT a Euro after all.

And so if it's NOT a Euro, then how does that change your review? Because the entire tone of your review is one of grading the game against what you expect from a Heavy Euro. But if it's not an Euro?

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I'm really happy to see the measured responses to this review so far. I was one of the people who encouraged Frank to do more "one play" reviews. Having done a fair number of live reviews of albums as well as tested the concept on game reviews (Just Plain Old Real Estate - A Live Review) I wanted to say that the nature of writing a review after a single experience is that it will tend to be negative. It's a lot easier to pick out and write about the things you didn't like than the ones you did. I try to keep that in mind since I've had plenty of albums that got torn apart on the live review that ended up having staying power. Although I expect in the current environment that it's much more likely for an album to get a second listen than it is for a game to get multiple plays.
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First play reviews, I think, add something good to the conversation on any game. As the saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. Clearly, there are many games that may not impress as much on the first play as on later plays, but not everyone wants to put the time in to change their initial feelings about a game. Of course, different people will have different first impressions, so I'm glad we've had a lot of discussion here as well. As was mentioned, a first impression may be heavily influenced by assumptions and preconceptions. So I hope this discuss has helped to shape those as well for those who haven't played yet.

I personally like a mix of strategic and tactical play. It seems realistic to me for this type of theme, as well. Yes, you make your overall plans, certainly guided by your path and evac condition, but you need to allow for contingency plans as well in response to what you have to work with. For me, that adds to the puzzle and the enjoyment. If it were a pure strategy game, it could in some sense be over before it starts.

Hopefully all this discussion has helped someone decide if Anachrony is worth a play or a pass. If so, then it's all been worth it. Keep gaming!
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bgm1961 wrote:

So while I agree with several of your observations, I can't help but wonder if your conclusions might be different after a few more plays? Remember that no respectable game published today is designed to be played only once.


Maybe it will. Like I hope my review showed, it wasn't all negative what I thought about the game and if asked to play again I might just do it and see what changes.


bgm1961 wrote:

In closing, you kept referring to it as a "Heavy Euro". I actually consider it a "Hybrid" due exactly to its randomness. So I wonder where the game was ever officially billed or marketed as a "Heavy Euro"? Or even a "Euro" for that matter? As Euros by their nature don't include randomness (or if they do, it's very insignificant), then perhaps Anachrony is NOT a Euro after all.

And so if it's NOT a Euro, then how does that change your review? Because the entire tone of your review is one of grading the game against what you expect from a Heavy Euro. But if it's not an Euro?


You are right here. It is a form of a hybrid, a bit like Scythe if you will. Perhaps I keep referring to it as a euro because of two reasons: the mechanics (worker placement etc.) are the core of the game and they are mostly considered euro. And two, because I actually want to signal something that comes with this type of games, an expectation when something is labeled a heavy-euro, for want of a better name. Perhaps I should have just called it a heavy, non-casual game.

This does, for me, not change my opinion though. I can simply not reconcile the heavy planning and scoring goals with the randomness present in the game. To return to the analogy with Scythe (a game like my badges show I do enjoy): there is randomness and coupled asymmetry in both games. The difference is, Scythe employs this at the beginning and puts it out on the table for all to see, daring you to make the most of what you (and your fellow players) have been given. Anachrony does this to a certain extend, but mostly employs its randomness during the game, which for me is far less enjoyable. When I face an unusual combination in Scythe or a new faction, I feel challenged. But when I face a row of bad-luck in an Anachrony game - for example I had the genius + gold evacuation scoring and we simply only got very few geniuses in the entire game one of which was in round 1 and snatched away from me before I could even get it - I feel the opposite way, I just get demotivated to really try for a victory.

That being said, a review is of course always an opinion. Which is why I hope to give more in my reviews than just "I liked this game, it was fun" or "I did not like the game, it was too random". A good review I think gives you insight not so much into the rules or the specifics of the game, but into the core of the experience itself. I hope to give something with my first time reviews that allows readers to evaluate for themselves whether a certain game would be for them (to try) or not.

I also agree with Rococo Zephyr and Pattersonclan about the value of both first time impressions (because many games we own are not even played 10 times, even if we would like to sometimes and many players (as opposed to owners) only play a game once or twice) and the need for discussions on those impressions. Different people experience the same things differently. There will undoubtedly be people enjoying this particular mix that is Anachrony and they should - don't let me keep you from it! That does not, however, discredit the value of these discussions and I am happy to see that most here come with thoughtful remarks.

So by all means, do give your impression and or retorts to my critiques. The more discussion, the more useful this threat is to readers I think.
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Lil Blue Spider wrote:
Legend5555 wrote:
Some people just don't like games that simultaneously force you to think long term AND try to mess you up via randomness.

But it's okay to be wrong.


So by all means, do give your impression and or retorts to my critiques. The more discussion, the more useful this threat is to readers I think.


Why? If you don't like the game, then you don't like the game. I'm not here to talk you out of it. I just wanted to make a humorous quip. It's cool if the game isn't your style.
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Legend5555 wrote:
Lil Blue Spider wrote:
Legend5555 wrote:
Some people just don't like games that simultaneously force you to think long term AND try to mess you up via randomness.

But it's okay to be wrong.


So by all means, do give your impression and or retorts to my critiques. The more discussion, the more useful this threat is to readers I think.


Why? If you don't like the game, then you don't like the game. I'm not here to talk you out of it. I just wanted to make a humorous quip. It's cool if the game isn't your style.


Then perhaps I just took the humour wrong - sometimes fora and humour are a though combination.

Edit: I should have read the emoticon with it I suppose... I will edit my post.
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Lil Blue Spider wrote:
If I would do a review of Arkham/Eldritch horror I would come to the conclusion that to me it sort of represents an evil version of Pandemic in which some ungodly creature had the unsavory idea of replacing tactics with dice.


Actually I think the reason I like Eldritch Horror is that the dice are essentially the enemy. The dice are the ever present force of evil corrupting every effort they touch. Only by your tactics, planning and training can you hope to stave off the imminent destruction of reality.

Essentially to me EH is the face off of Euro vs Ameritrash packed into a flavorful game.
 
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Jetfire wrote:
Lil Blue Spider wrote:
If I would do a review of Arkham/Eldritch horror I would come to the conclusion that to me it sort of represents an evil version of Pandemic in which some ungodly creature had the unsavory idea of replacing tactics with dice.


Actually I think the reason I like Eldritch Horror is that the dice are essentially the enemy. The dice are the ever present force of evil corrupting every effort they touch. Only by your tactics, planning and training can you hope to stave off the imminent destruction of reality.

Essentially to me EH is the face off of Euro vs Ameritrash packed into a flavorful game.


I think Eldritch/Arkham is as Ameri as it gets.
 
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