I am very excited that my first ever review will be for this game. I have been following Legacy since it was a Kickstarter project and I am embarrassed to say that I did not back it. I saw Legacy for what it was at the time and did not jump on the opportunity to help get it off the ground. Having now played Legacy, I was proven correct that this is a great game. I have since learned the error of my ways and backed some other Kickstarter projects. (I hope Ben Harkins can forgive me for not jumping on this sooner.) That being said, I would like to make amends by offering a written review of Legacy: Gears of Time.
I have always been intrigued by time travel as a concept for a board game. There have been several board games that have attempted to make this theme work, but most of them have fallen short for one reason or another. The most common problem with time travel board/card games is that they are either overly simplistic as to be devoid of any sort of strategic decision making (Back to the Future) or they try to take on more than they should and as a result fail by being overly complex and confusing (Timestreams). I am not trying to use this review to bash those games that were mentioned as they are both good games in their own respect…well maybe not Timestreams…but rather to illustrate what Legacy does so well. Legacy keeps it simple and avoids the pitfalls that other games of this theme have succumbed to.
I do not want to lay out a tutorial of how the game is played; the rulebook is posted for that purpose and also Tom Vassal does a great job of that in his video review of this game. Rather, I want to give my impressions about what this game does right and where it could improve.
I will start by giving my opinion of the category in which Legacy excels and that is with its game play. The first of the four turns of the game are relatively straight forward and should move quickly. In turn 1 you do not have the option of placing extra influence cubes on the technologies in play (with one exception) and no technologies are in danger of being unsuccessful as influence cubes are placed on them from the supply right when they are introduced. In essence, one of the core game mechanics is not present during the first turn. Turn 2 is where the real game begins as you gain influence cubes in your pool based on how many technologies you controlled at the first scoring phase; now you get to decide whether and how many of these cubes to place on an existing technology. This can cause a lot of conflict for control on each of the technologies. This is where it can become strategic to take a later turn order as you can wait until you watch your opponents travel to earlier eras before placing your cubes to ensure that you have the majority. Of course, then your opponents will get to control the earlier dependencies which will ultimately be worth more points.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
This is where the game slows down considerably and that is not a bad thing. At this point, it becomes crucial to calculate the effect of every move you make from this point until the game ends so as not to miss any opportunities. Where in the first turn you did not have to worry about other players competing with you for control of technologies or whether an advanced technology would succeed, now those become realistic concerns that need to be managed. Somewhere around turn 3 the realization hits that you do not have enough opportunity before the scoring happens to do everything you want to do. The amount of decisions you are required to make in this game is incredible considering the length of the game.
This game works well because the basic game mechanics are simple yet the strategy and decision making are complex.
This is the one area that I feel the designers need some constructive criticism. My comments here are in no way meant to take away from the quality of the play of Legacy but are meant to reflect realistic concerns my group had with this game.
The actual art and design of the game is great. I like what the artist did with each of the technologies and how they are represented in a less is more style of art. This game is very original and the art reflects the feel of this game very well. My criticisms are with two components: the board and the cards.
For a game that gets so much right it is bound to need improvement in some areas and the board is one of those areas. For starters, when the game is played with four players, the present day marker is placed off of the board for the final turn. A bigger board would fix this. This actually didn’t bother me as much as it did others in my group as there is no gameplay involving the present day but it is worth mentioning. The scoreboard is also not very attractive and could use a little polish. Other than that, my biggest beef is with the cards.
There is not enough space for the cards! However minimal the spread of cards looks at the end of the first turn, do not be fooled as your entire table will be consumed by this game by turn 3. Since I do not think that this game would work as well as it does with less cards I would actually be in favor of using the Fantasy Flight Games/Ticket to Ride tiny cards instead of conventional playing card size. We were so tight for space by the end of the game that we had to overlap cards just to get them all to fit in each era (which is a shame because I really like the art work.
Floodgate Games has produced a gem. For an experienced designer this game would be incredible. For a first time designer to have come up with this is nothing short of brilliant. This game has its flaws (mainly having to do with form and not substance) but it just gets so many things right that they can be overlooked. I would recommend this game to anyone interested in seeing just how well time travel works in a board/card game with the right designer and the right team behind it. I am excited to see where Floodgate Games goes from here.
I don't care for the hobbit-sized cards you mentioned as they can be hard to shuffle. We tend to overlap the techs to cover up the Fundamental text which helps with space in the earliest part of the board.