Sunday, December 16, 2007

Time travel is hard!

Khronos won the Advanced Strategy Game of the Year award, so my friend Jeremy was really interested in playing it. I have played Khronos a few times and I like it pretty well, so I picked it up on Friday and we played it at the Ides of Gaming event yesterday.

The verdict? Time travel is hard!

Khronos is a cool game, but it's very difficult to figure out. It's about time travel, so there are bound to be some confusing elements - time traveling in any genre will create some paradox, and in a game there have to be rules to govern that paradox. Many game rules can mirror real life physics, but that's tough for Khronos since the physics of time travel hasn't been worked out just yet....

In short, the game works like this. There are 3 Eras - Age of Might, Age of Faith, and Age of Reason. They occur in that chronological order. Each player has 2 pawns which can travel through time between those 3 eras.

On your turn you can spend cards (of which you have 4) to build buildings. There are 3 types of buildings, Military (orange), Religious (purple), and Civic (blue). When a building is built, it casts a "time shadow" onto later eras - that is to say a building built in the Age of Might is still there in the Age of Faith and the Age of Reason. This part isn't too complicated, you build a building on one board, it appears on all later boards as well, and you put your control marker on it to show you're the one who built it.

There are a few rules as to where you can build a building such as "you can't build on a river except with a blue building," which aren't a big deal, but there are 2 rules which must be followed that are very difficult to wrap your head around and recognize on the board:

The Rule of Dominion: You may not connect 2 domains except with a Civic (blue) building.

A domain is a clump of adjacent buildings. If you want to join any 2 clumps, you can only do so with a blue building, not an orange or a purple one. It sounds simple enough, but on practice it's relatively easy to accidentally break this rule.

The Rule of Hierarchy: The most prestigious Military and Religious buildings in a domain must be unique.

Each type of building has 3 sizes, 1x1, 2x2, 3x3. The larger the building, the "more prestigious" it is. So the Rule of Hierarchy is saying that there can be only 1 building of the largest size in each domain... if there's already 1 2x2 orange building in a domain and no 3x3 orange building in that domain, then you're not allowed to build another 2x2 orange building in it. You can build a 2x2 orange building elsewhere, you can build a 3x3 orange building in that domain, and you can build a 2x2 purple building (as long as there's not already a 2x2 purple and no 3x3 purple there already)... and you can always build whatever size Blue building you want.

You see how confusing that is? There can be only 1 of whatever is currently the biggest orange building in the domain. Same for purple.

Once you have those 2 rules down, you can build buildings and reasonably know what will happen... until someone builds on the Age of Might and the "time shadow" of the building in the Age of Faith would break the Rule of Hierarchy... than what happens? Well, in that case the building just doesn't ripple. Same for the Rule of Dominion. You're allowed to build a building as long as it's a legal play on the board you're building on, and if the ripple of the building would break the rules, it just doesn't ripple.

One more thing... There might be a building on the age of Faith board that isn't also on the age of Might, because it was built later. If someone builds in the same space on the Age of Might board, what happens to the building in the Age of Faith? Well, since there was a building there already (because someone went back in time and built it), they would ever have been able to build the Ag f Faith building, and therefore it comes off the board (as well as it's time shadow in the Age of Reason, of course).

The game lasts 7 rounds, and at the end of your 4th and 7th turns you score your position. You score where your pawns are, so you can only score for your position on 2 of the 3 boards. On the Age of Might board, you score points for all the blue buildings in any domain in which you own the largest Military (orange) building. Same for the Age of Faith, except on that board you score if you one the largest Religious (purple) building. The Age of Reason is altogether different, on that board you don't build buildings at all, but instead you spend blue cards to put cubes on the blue buildings, and you score for the orange and purple buildings in any domain in which you have the most (tied for most is ok) cubes.


So you see, even though there's only 2 rules to the game, the Rule of Hierarchy and the Rule of Dominion, there are all kinds of specifics that govern those rules, and it's tricky to (a) learn them, and (b) follow through with them while also trying to formulate a strategy.


No comments: