I had been looking at getting Tempus Draconis for a few months after seeing some information on it here at the geek. The description about the game has alot of detail so I will skip rehashing much of that info and concentrate on what actaully is going on while you play the game.
First Impression: As some may have seen in the articles on the game, I was very impressed with the quality of the components for the game. The ten tiles for setting up the Millenarocca are the best I've seen for tile based games. They are so good, that they could be easily used by someone creating a tower for use with DnD Miniatures or other RPG. The cardboard used for the tiles and character/monster cutouts is very think and sturdy and the stands are the best I've seen for use with cutouts being made out of wood. The cards for the game for the room, RIP, monster and spell decks are small comparable to TI3 or WOW:BG cards. The rulebook is laid out in all the different languages and the back has a character sheet and monster life point sheet for printout. One noticable omission is the lack of a playeraid for Adventurers/Classes and Special Rooms. Players will have to refer back to the rulebook or create their own playaid for that info.
Game Setup Setting up the game is fairly easy as you place out all the room "tiles" and make sure they are connected. Although it is possible to make some harder combinations then necessary as long as each room has at least one connection to another room, your imagination can dicate the design of the Millenarocca. Most games with this style of setup there are usually rules determining who gets to place tiles but in Tempus Draconis, you just set them up as you wish. Players wishing more control can set house rules allowing one person at a time to setup a tile but again it is player choice. Depending on the number of players, you then setup entrances which can be destroyed in the game. All the cards for the game are shuffled and placed near the board with the beginning monster "Babasamba the Vampire" or more advanced monster if your adventurers are sufficient level. Level you may ask -- yes -- your adventurers may "level up" in this game.
Metagame Believe it or not but Tempus Draconis is really a bit of a role playing game in that initially they start off as the caste of "Poor Devil" and may level up (if they survive multiple playings) to make it 5 levels up to Prince/Princess. This basically gives them more Life Points (Level 1 "Poor Devil" has 8 RIP(Life Points) and the Level 5 "Prince/Princess" has 12 RIPs. Only a higher level character can take on the more advanced monsters -- Babsamba the Vampire, then Gnurr RoastBeast, Petrus, Skuorn and finally the big boss Arguille the Dragon. The monsters range from 8 LP to 16 LP for Arguille and do anywhere from 1 to 3 RIP damage per attack. Players level up by gaining Evolution Points (EP) through game actions -- killing the monster will net 3 EP, each Rune and each Amulet will net 1 EP each, Treasure, Shield and Armor will net variable EP based on their card stats and each freed Prisoner will net 1 EP. Each playing of Tempus Draconis, the monster is determined by the highest level player in the game. So if you have 2 level 1 players "Poor Devil" and 1 level 2 player "Man of the People" and 1 level 3 player "Squire" then you will face the level 3 monster Petrus. Players can die in the game so it will definitely take a bit of luck and skillful play to survive all the way to become level 5 and defeat all 5 monsters. Kudos for them adding this type of depth to the game - it isn't necessary to enjoy the game but gives an incentive for playing multiple sessions.
Adventurer Selection There are 12 different adventurers available for selection and each have a different skill that can be used during the game. Again, this is where a playaid would be needed since players will have to either write down their skill or refer back to the rulebook to check what their skill allows them to do.
Warrior / Amazon : gain +4 with Axes vs. +3 for other classes
Golem : Doubles value of Runes against the monster (+2 per Rune)
Thief : Skill at using special function of Banquet Room to create entrances
Dwarf : Skill at using special function of Throne Romm to rotate tiles
Elf : During Phase 4 can restore a room or an entrance square
Magacian : Skill at using special function of Library Room for spells
Alchemist: Skill at using the Alchemic Room to create healing potions
Evocater : Skill at using special function of Armoury to teleport to other tiles
Mummy : convert a Rune into an entrance square
Skeleton : For each Rune owned may add +1 to movement
Spectre : Use a Rune to teleport to middle of a room or if the monster is attacking it to an entrance square without damage.
If during the game, your adventurer dies, you can re-enter the game with a new adventurer and a new entrance square but the rules do not detail if all your items are lost or what level you return. I have inferred that you do lose all the items and become a level 1 adventurer but it is not spelled out in the rules so players will have to agree ahead of time what will happen.
Gameplay There are four phases in the game and you will spend most of the game doing phase 1 actions which is basically moving through the Millenarocca freeing prisoners and gathering loot. Movement is handled by simply rolling a D12 and moving the result. However, every dice roll also involves moving the monster from the center point of each room to a new room if allowed. Each side of every room tile has 1 of 6 number sets 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8. 9-10, 11-12 which will dictate if the monster moves or not based on your movement dice roll. If the result would move to an entrance square then that entrance is destroyed. If the movement of the monster is to a room with an adventurer in the middle square then the monster will fight the adventurer (they cannot fight back during phase 1). The monster attacks with its RIP factor (1 RIP for level 1 monster) and a monster card which has various damage effects. Players can use spell cards or items to defend themselves but cannot attack the monster until phase 3.
As I mentioned, this is the longest part of the game as the Room Card deck dictates which room players move towards to get that card. The backs of all the Room Cards correspond to the different symbols on the Room tiles so players will be moving to and fro trying to be the first one to get the Room Card and reveal the next location. Room Cards can only be taken when you are on the center square of the tile which is also the only place a monster will move to in each room. Different variants have been posted to speed this portion of the game and players can again develop house rules to suit their desires. One game that we played, we had to go through the entire Room Card deck before the last prisoner is freed which took awhile but obviously if all of the 8 prisoners are freed sooner in the deck, the game would move to the next phases quicker. In this phase, players will need to stock up on loot, potions and Runes (which can be turned in for Spells) to help beef themselves up to fight the monster.
Amulet During Phase 1, players will get one piece of Amulet for each prisoner they free. Once the last prisoner is freed, a DR is made on the Table of Elements to determine which element the monster favors and which element will harm it. The four elements are Air, Earth, Fire and Water. The last prisoner freed then gives that player one piece of Amulet from the element that will harm the monster. At this point, Phase 2 begins and the remaining Amulets pieces are combined with the Room Card deck. Players now have to continue moving to rooms on the deck to build 4 pieces of Amulet before they can fight the monster. Each piece of Amulet corresponding to the element that will harm the monster will give the player a +1 in combat against the monster.
Defeating the Monster At anytime during Phase 2, once a player has 4 pieces of Amulet they may chase down the monster and attack it. To defeat the monster, the player will roll the D12, adding all items with red circles (weapons, armor etc.) and each piece of Amulet of the damaging element will provide additional +1 each. Each unused Rune card will also give you a +1. Then the monster rolls a D12 and the difference in the two dice results will either result in the player taking RIP points or the monster losing life points. If the monster is not killed then it must be moved to a free central room square and the players will have to try and finish it off. Wounds caused during this phase to the monster remain. Once the monster is destroyed, the player who destroyed the monster gets to teleport his adventurer out of the Millenarocca and to safety.
Collapse of the Millenarocca Once the monster is destroyed all players must try to exit the Millenarocca before it collapses. Each time a player makes a movement DR, instead of moving a monster, the DR signifies which room collapses and that tile is flipped over, killing any adventurers on it. Players must make it to entrance squares to exit the Millenarocca. There are spells and character special skills that allow creation of more entrance squares as well as the Banquet Room tile which will give players a 1-shot chance to try and use that room's special function to create entrance squares.
Special Room Option : Some tiles have a Stairs icon which allows player who spend 1 turn on them to move to another tile with a Stair icon in lieu of making a movement DR. Good for escaping the Millenarocca or setting yourself up for a quick movement across the tiles to a Room Card location.
Spells There are 3 levels of Spells available to purchase by turning in either 1, 2 or 3 Runes for the appropriate level Spell. We haven't had much use of the higher spells as we mostly just bought 1st level spells for 1 Rune but they could be useful if you get alot of Runes. The level 2 Spells for instance almost all allow you to steal items from your fellow adventurers which could tip the balance of a final fight for you. Each time you use a Rune, it goes to the bottom of the Room Card deck so they do replenish but unless the deck is going to be reshuffled, (i.e. all prisoners just freed) you will most likely not get any more Runes once a player is going to kill the monster.
Bottom-Line Tempus Draconis is a fun game but can become tedious during the 1st two phases as there seems to be an endless shuffle back and forth across the tiles gaining loot and freeing prisoners. I've played this game with kids as young as 6 yrs old and they had no problem with gameplay. Obviously some of the more subtle strategies of spell use are geared for older players, this game is very playable with a younger audience. Once the hunt is on for the monster the game becomes fast and furious since when the monster is destroyed the Millenarocca is about to collapse. I have rated this game a 7 based on the components and ease of play which are really only hampered from a higher rating by the tedium of the initial two phases which are still fun trying to get loot and free prisoners but sometimes seems to drag. Tempus Draconis was different from what I expected with the roleplaying elements but it is definitely worth adding to your collection if you like games like Runebound. A must buy for those who like this genre. While it is playable with 2 players, I recommend that 3 or 4 be your minimum play group.