- For ages 10 and up (publisher suggests 13+)
- For 2 to 4 players
- Approximately 60 minutes to complete
- Counting & Math
- Logical & Critical Decision Making
- Strategy & Tactics
- Hand/Resource Management
- Worker Placement & Area Control
- Child – Moderate
- Adult – Easy
Theme & Narrative:
- It’s your job to maintain the Timeline, but no one said it had to be 100% accurate. Rewrite history to be the greatest inventor in history!
- Gamer Geek approved!
- Parent Geek approved!
- Child Geek approved!
With the advent of time travel, the powers that be quickly established a government department with one single purpose: maintain the status quo. Using the Ancient Machine, as the time traveling device has come to be known, you will venture to the past to ensure previously established technologies remain firmly establish. But time is a funny thing and history books can be re-written with ease. You have an opportunity to be the first to invent everything, if you are savvy enough to do it under the radar.
Legacy: Gears of Time, designed by Ben Harkins and published by Floodgate Games, is comprised of 66 Technology cards, 6 Fate cards, 108 Influence cubes (4 different colors, 27 cubes per color), 2 Turn/Round markers, 4 Player markers, 4 Character cards, 1 Timeline game board, 1 Present Day marker, 6 Timeframe Capacity markers, 8 Legacy “50-Point” tokens, and 12 Failed Technology markers. The illustrations in the game are stylized and very well done. The components are either made of solid wood, durable cardboard, or thick card stock. A very nice game, indeed.
Pre-Time Travel Set Up
To set up the game, first place the Timeline game board in the middle of the playing area. If at all possible, sit all the players on one side of the table or in a semi-circle around the front of the game board. It will become apparent why when we get to playing the game. Now take a moment to determine who will be the first player.
Second, shuffle the Technology and Fate cards together to form a single deck. Place this deck, face-down, on the space dedicated to this draw deck on the Timeline game board.
Third, take the Gear markers and place them on the left-most space on the Turn and Round tracks found on the Timeline game board.
Fourth, place the Present Day marker on the center Timeframe space on the Timeline game board for a 2-player game, 1 to the right for a 3-player game, and 2 to the right for a 4-player game. There are little “pips” (dots) on the Timeframe spaces to assist in the Present Day marker placement.
Fifth, place the Technology Capacity marker on the Timeframe spaces to the LEFT of the Present Day marker. If playing with 3 or 4 players, you’ll need to use the Technology Capacity marker expansions.
Sixth, have each player select or randomly distribute 1 Character card and give each player 1 Player marker with matching colored Influence cubes. Set the cubes aside, but within easy reach of their owning player. This collection of cubes is referred to as the player’s “supply”. The Character card is placed in front of the player, face-up. When players obtain Influence cubes, they will place them on their Character card. Cubes on the Character card are referred to as the player’s “Influence pool”. The Player markers should be placed on the Present Day marker. Each player should also take 1 of their Influence cubes and place it NEXT TO the “1” position on the Legacy Point track located on the Timeline game board.
Seventh, deal 6 cards to each player from the draw deck. Players should pick up their cards, but keep them hidden from their opponents until played. And by “should pick up their cards”, I mean “pick up their cards and give them a good look.” The cards they were dealt might influence the next set up step.
Eighth, starting with the first player selected at the start of game set up, each player takes 1 Influence cube and places it on any open position on the Player Order track. Once all the Influence cubes are placed, deal 1 additional card to the 2nd and 3rd players in turn order sequence, and 2 additional cards to the 4th player. This is a onetime card bonus.
That’s it for game set up. Time to mess with time.
On Being an Antiquitect
Within the game’s narrative, each player is an Antiquitect (say that five times fast) who are one part temporal guardian, one part scientist, and one part opportunist. It’s the player’s job to maintain all the inventions ever made so the present day timeframe remains as it is. The Character card given to each player during game set up provides a character name and back story that are interesting to read, but do not have any impact on game play. The larger portion of the Character card is dedicated to reminding the player what they can do on their turn and as a convenient place holder for earned Influence cubes.
The most important part of the Character card is the Pursuit Technology. If the player has the most influence over the specific technology at the end of the round, and that technology is successful (more on this when we discuss scoring), the player is awarded the bonus points listed. Note that a player never needs to actually pursue the technology listed. It’s simply a special perk for the player made available by their Character card.
How Tempus Fugit!
Legacy: Gears of Time is played in rounds and turns. A round of game play is summarized here.
Phase 1: Players Take their Turn
In turn order sequence, which is determined by the Player Order track, players will take 4 turns each. Each turn gives the players 3 optional mandatory actions that they must take and 1 optional free action to play Fate cards. Each action available in a turn can be taken multiple times and in any order as long as the player takes no more and no less than 3 optional mandatory actions on their turn. These actions are summarized here.
After every player has taken 1 turn, shift the Turn marker to the next position. Then begin the next series of turns, using the Player Order track to identify which player goes first, then second, and so on.
Optional Mandatory Action: Travel to the Past
This action allows the player to take their Player marker and place it on any Timeframe that is to the LEFT of the Player marker’s current position. Caution should be taken when traveling backwards in time for several reasons. First, players will not be able to return to the Present Day until the end of the round. They are not stuck in their current position, but they can only travel further back in time during this phase. Second, the Timeline ends. This means the players will eventually hit the proverbial brick wall and will not be able to travel whatsoever.
It’s worth noting the difference between “Timeframe” and “Timeline”. The Timeline consists of several Timeframes that start with the Present Day marker and then goes backwards. Each step backwards is a single Timeframe. Players travel on the Timeline and establish Technology in Timeframes.
Clear as mud? Good. Let’s continue.
Optional Mandatory Action: Establish Technology
The players were dealt a mix of Fate and Technology cards when the game was set up. Most likely, the majority of their hand is Technology cards unless you did a really bad job of shuffling.
Establishing technology in the past makes it possible to develop better technology in the future. Technology, I might add, you get to somewhat own because it’s based on your previously established technology. Time traveling can be very profitable and nothing is more profitable than beating Edison to the light bulb.
If a player wants to establish a bit of technology in their current Timeframe, they must first be able to pay the Technology card’s Discard Cost. It has to be a unique technology, however. No fair attempt to invent something that has already been invented in the same Timeframe. The Discard Cost number indicates how many cards the player must discard from their hand (any cards will do) and Influence cubes the player must place from their supply. Not their Influence pool. Two very different things, folks. If they can pay both, they place the Technology card under the Timeframe space where their Player maker is and place their cubes from their supply on the card. Play cards in a column under the Timeframe space, face-up.
The specific Timeframe must also be within its current capacity limits. Capacity is listed in Roman numerals above the Timeframe. The value determines the maximum number of Technology cards the Timeframe can have in a column. The closer you get to the present day, the less you can manipulate the timeline. Go way back in time and you can introduce just about anything, but the further you approach the “here and now”, the number of new technologies you can invent becomes very limited. You can break the capacity limit, but it requires a Fate card to do so.
Not surprisingly, placement of a Technology card in the past has rippling effects within time. Any technology in the future that is dependent on the Technology card played in the past might change from failed to successful. Congrats, you just made a new piece of technology in the future possible! Hopefully, it was yours. If the Technology card is played and is dependent on technology that does not yet exists (either in the past or because it’s in the future), a Failed Technology marker is placed on it.
Finally, if the Technology card has the key phrase “When Established”, the ability is resolved before the player takes another action, plays a Fate card, or ends their turn.
REMEMBER! “Established” means played. Not necessarily “successful”.
Optional Mandatory Action: Influence Technology
Once a Technology card is established, all players can influence it. Players can take as many or as few Influence cubes from their Influence pool (those are the cubes on the player’s Character card) and place it on any 1 Technology card in the timeline. The player need not have their Player marker in the same Timeframe as the Technology card they want to influence. Players won’t have any cubes in their Influence pool during the first round.
Optional Mandatory Action: Draw Two Cards
If the player is running short on cards or needs a specific Technology card they don’t currently have, they can draw 2 cards from the draw deck. One of these cards the player can keep, adding it to their hand. The other must be discarded.
Optional Free Action: Play One Fate Card
This action is free, meaning it does not count toward’s a player’s 3 mandatory actions on their turn.
Fate is an anomaly when it comes to the sound science of time travel. No matter what a player does in the past or present, they cannot escape their fate. Fate cards will either target the player who plays the card or another opponent. When played, the ability of the Fate card is read out loud and immediately resolved. Some Fate cards will remain in play for the duration of the round, influencing all the players, while others are resolved and then discarded. Timing, if you’ll excuse the pun, is very important when playing Fate cards whilst time traveling. Each Fate card, however, is little more than a speed bump on the Timeline. Fate might be powerful, but its influence is minimal.
Phase 2: End Turns and Resolve Timeline
After the players have taken actions in all 4 turns of the round, moving the Turn marker at the end of each turn, it’s time to resolve the timeline. First, take all Player markers and zip them back to the Present Day marker. The Ancient Machine has recalled them and they snap back into the current Timeframe from which they came.
Players should now inspect the Technology cards in play and identify any that do not have any Influence cubes on them. Any Technology cards that are free of Influence cubes are removed from the Timeline and discard. In this game, influence is important, but not long-lasting. Players must continue to “tinker” with technology if they want to keep it running and in the Timeline.
Removing Technology cards might impact other Technology cards in the future. After removing each Technology card, determine if any Technology cards to its right (going towards the Present Day maker) were dependent on it. Each Technology card lists its dependencies, both as an icon and by name. If the removed Technology card causes any Technology cards to fail, place a Failed Technology marker on them now.
Finally, all players should inspect the Timeline and identify any duplicate Technology cards. Recall that you cannot establish the same technology in the same Timeframe, but nothing was said about establishing the same technology in different Timeframes of the Timeline. This allows players to supersede an opponent’s Technology card by playing the same card further back in the past. There is risk, however. The Timeline will scrub itself of duplicates in an attempt to remove any paradoxes.
- The oldest “successful” duplicate Technology card is the original. Remove all other Technology cards of the same name from the Timeline.
- If none of the duplicate Technology cards are “successful”, the newest version of that Technology card (the one closest to the Present Day marker) remains and all other duplicate Technology cards of the same name are removed from the timeline.
If a Technology card is removed from the Timeline that has Influence cubes, these cubes are returned to their owner and placed in the owner’s supply. Not their Influence pool.
Phase 3: Award Legacy Points
Time to award points for all that hard work maintaining the Timeline, but only those players who have the most influence will be awarded. When determining if the player has the “most influence” over a specific Technology card, count the Influence cubes. The player who has the most Influence cubes also has the most influence over the technology. Simple.
First, each player should look at their Character card and determine if they gain bonus points based on their Pursuit Technology. The Technology card listed on the Character card must be in play and be successful. Then the Influence cubes are counted. If the player meets the requirements, they are awarded the number of Legacy points listed on the Character card. This is recorded by moving the player’s Influence cube on the Legacy Point tracker, counting the number of points earned and adding them to the total gained.
Second, it’s time to count points for successful Technology cards. If the players have not done so already, they should quickly inspect the Timeline to ensure that all Technology cards that are NOT successful have a Failed Technology marker on them. This makes it easy to keep track of what Technology cards need work and which ones are ready to score and overly influence.
“Successful” means the Technology card has met all of its dependencies. The technology the Technology card requires must be in the past from its current position. Technology in the Technology card’s current and future Timeframes do not count. There is one more catch. The technologies that the Technology card is dependent on must also be successful. Fundamental Technology cards are simple and are successful by default, but the more complicated Technologies have a great number of dependencies. The more complicated the technology, however, the more points it’s worth.
One player should now determine the points while one other player moves the cubes on the Legacy Point tracker. It’s just easier this way, but it’s not a rule you have to follow. Each successful Technology card will now be looked at starting from the oldest point in the Timeline and moving right to the Present Day marker. I suggest you do this for each player’s color, one at a time. Again, not a rule, but it does make things easier. Counting points on the Timeline can be confusing.
For each successful Technology card the player has the most Influence cubes on, they will score that Technology card’s reward in Legacy points. If there is a tie, points are split as evenly as possible. And here is where things get a bit tricky. If the Technology card being scored lists dependencies, those also need to be scored because they helped. Quickly jump back in time and see who has the most influence on each of these technologies. The player with the most influence scores the Legacy points listed for that specific dependent technology. You only travel back once. You don’t travel back and then back again each time a technology has a dependency of a dependency. Nevertheless, it can be confusing. If a 2-player game, this isn’t an issue. In a 4-player game, expect scoring to be a bit “involved”. Not difficult, mind you, but players need to keep track of what they are doing so no players are shorted points. Expect some Technology cards to be scored multiple times.
In this way, one player could score, score again, and then score again. Possibly scoring on their turn and on each of their opponents’ turns to score. Remember, it’s not necessarily how many Technology cards you establish and make successful, but which ones you influence and how far back in the Timeline. If lots of players are dependent on what you invent, you’ll reap the rewards of their labors.
Phase 4: Cleanup
After scoring, it’s time to do a little maintenance on the Timeline.
For each successful Technology card, determine which player has the most influence. Take 1 Influence cube of the player’s color from the Technology card and return it to the owning player. This cube goes in the player’s Influence pool located on their Character card. NOT their supply.
For each failed Technology card, determine which player has the most influence. Take 1 Influence cube of the player’s color from the Technology card and return it to the owning player. This cube goes in the player’s supply.
If there is ever a tie for most influence, all tied players take 1 Influence cube of their color and add it to the Influence or supply, depending on the state of the Technology card being inspected for cleanup.
Note: It’s possible that a Technology card might have its last Influence cube removed. The Technology card remains in play, but is in danger of being removed from the Timeline during the next round of play.
Phase 5: Prep for Time Jump
Time to jump back into the past, but before the players can do so, they need to move the Round marker forward to indicate a round has been completed and a new round is ready to begin. The Turn marker is reset to its left-most position, all Fate cards still in play are discarded, and all players draw back up to 6 cards. If the draw deck is ever exhausted, shuffle the discard pile and place it face-down to create a new draw deck.
Time keeps moving on regardless of how the players may or may not feel about it. This is represented by shifting the Present Day marker to the right one Timeframe. The Timeline in which the players can now travel has grown and the technology capacity of each Timeframe has increased. The Technology Capacity marker that lives on the Timeline slides to the right with the Present Day marker and a new piece is added to its left-most position.
Lastly, turn order sequence is now determined. The player with the least number of Influence cubes gets to determine their place on the Player Order track, followed by the second least, and so on. Ties are broken by lowest score.
The End of a Hard Day’s Work in Time
After the 4th round ends during phase 3 (scoring), the game comes to an end. The player with the most Legacy Points wins the game. Ties are broken by number of Influence cubes on Technology cards.
The Fate cards are shuffled in with the Technology cards by default and making them a card that is randomly stumbled upon. A small number of game variants are provided that let the Fate cards play a slightly more prominent role in the game or none at all.
Our Fate is Sealed
In this game variant, the Fate cards are removed from play. Players must rely on their own wits and skill to manipulate the Timeline and dominate Timeframes. This also means players are completely at the mercy of Time itself, since they can no longer circumvent the natural temporal order of things by invoking Fate.
It Is Our Destiny
Each player is dealt 1 Fate card that they can use during the game, but it does not count towards their initial or ongoing hand size. Nor can the players use the Fate card to pay for a new Technology card’s Discard Cost. All the other remaining Fate cards are removed from the game. When the player plays their Fate card, it’s also removed from the game once it is fully resolved.
Shape the Future
Fate, it would seem, is something you can package and put up for grabs. During game set up, find the 6 Fate cards and place them to one side of the game board, face-up. This is the Fate Draft Area for the duration of the game. On a player’s turn, they can take 1 Fate card from the Fate Draft Area as an optional free action. This can only be done one per turn per player. When a Fate card is selected, all other players can take 1 Influence cube from their supply and place it on any remaining Fate cards in the Fate Draft Area. If a Fate card is ever selected that has Influence cubes on it, the players who own those cubes place them in their Influence pool. When a Fate card is played and resolved, it is placed back in the Fate Draft Area. When playing with this game variant, Fate cards cannot be used to pay for a new Technology card’s Discard Cost and are never discarded.
To learn more about Legacy: Gears of Time, visit the game’s web page.
It took the Child Geeks an entire game to understand what Legacy: Gears of Time was all about. This is not a complicated game, game play wise, but the way in which cards influence other cards going back and forth on the Timeline can be a bit difficult to grasp. The game plays with the idea of time, but what we are really talking about here is nothing more than order and sequence. Conceptually, all the Child Geeks understood what was going on and gradually demonstrated that their understanding of the game was enough to make some very smart plays. According to one Child Geek, “This game is tricky at first, but then you understand how to play it, but then it gets complicated again.” The “complexity” of which the Child Geek makes mention of is the building of more complex Technology cards on the Timeline. Another Child Geek said, “I really like this game, but I’m annoyed that I can only go backwards. I’m a time traveler! I should be able to go anywhere at anytime.” In this Child Geek’s defense, he’s a Doctor Who fan, so his ideas of space and time traveling go beyond what this board game can handle, but his point is valid. The Child Geeks carefully marched backwards in time and groaned when they realized they should have stopped in the future to play a Technology card before traveling further back in the past to support it. The one thing the Child Geeks could not shake throughout all the games was analysis paralysis. The games normally take longer with the Child Geeks, but the consistent inability to make quick decisions caused our games to take much longer. We never forced the Child Geeks to speed up, but we did keep them on task. Some Child Geeks found this to be a sure sign of the game’s difficulty, while others just thought it meant they had too many cards. Despite the difficulty of the game and the mental vapor lock that plagued them, all the Child Geeks who played Legacy: Gears of Time found it to be a fun game and voted to approve it. The Child Geeks, it would seem, are starting to grow up. Which is also kind of sad, in a fatherly kind of way…
The casual gamer Parent Geeks understood how to play Legacy: Gears of Time without issue with the non-gamer Parent Geeks struggling to understand how cards were dependent on each other. I’m always fascinated how a Child Geek’s mind can sometimes grasp a new concept so much faster than a more mature Parent Geek’s mind. But it didn’t take the non-gamers long to understand how the game was played. According to one non-gamer Parent Geek, “I have to be reminded a few times what each action does, but I think the game is really straight forward when you understand the basics.” Another Parent Geek said, “I like the idea of time travel, but I think this game is really about hand management, timing, and simply having a plan. I like that. It makes me feel like it’s a game I can play my way.” The Parent Geeks were a bit uncomfortable playing in a line in front of the game board, finding it a bit crowded, but they stopped squirming and got into the game. The Parent Geeks also suffered from analysis paralysis, but to a much lesser degree than their children. Before we took our final vote, one Parent Geek said, “This game is fun, challenging, and most importantly, I think it’s educational. Discussing how each technology came about and how we have progressed to where we are today is a good conversation to have with our kids.” After all the head nods of agreement, the Parent Geeks voted to approve Legacy: Gears of Time.
Th Gamer Geeks had heard of this game before it even hit the table. In fact, one of the Gamer Geeks took the game from me and started teaching it while I was in another room. All the Gamer Geeks found the game rules to be surprisingly simplistic, which some suggested would make the game feel a bit “dumbed down”. The Gamer Geeks who played the game before snickered at that and told their concerned Gamer Geek peers to “just wait”. While they played, I saw nothing short of what I would expect from gaming elitists. Smart card plays, good hand management, and slightly longer than normal pauses to consider what actions to take. One Gamer Geek said, “I’m concerned that this game wouldn’t allow me to catch up if I had a bad round, but I’m winning, so maybe not.” Another Gamer Geek said, “I don’t care for the game’s theme, but the game play is excellent.” When the last game was over, one Gamer Geek said, “This is a solid game, but I think the scoring is too involved. Counting points and then counting them again makes the scoring too long and prone to errors. Easy enough to avoid if you take your time, but the scoring feels slightly less refined than the otherwise wonderful game.” When all the votes were counted, the Gamer Geeks approved Legacy: Gears of Time.
Yes, the scoring is wonky in this game. It’s easy to understand after a few times, but the amount of effort you put into calculating scores is equal to the amount of effort you put into a difficult round of game play. Still, if we consider that the game designer is allowing points to be won in the present Timeframe, while simultaneously awarding points to players from previous Timeframes, it makes total sense and is worth the effort. If you can travel back and forth in time, there is no such thing as a “missed opportunity”.
A quick word on number of players. Legacy: Gears of Time can seat up to 4, but I don’t think you should. First of all, the game becomes chaotic with 4 players with Influence cubes flying on and off cards, scoring taking a longer period of time, and longer game play that doesn’t feel like it should take that long. I recommend 2-players and certainly no more than 3. I personally enjoy Legacy: Gears of Time most as 2-player game. It becomes much more casual without losing any of its depth or complexity.
And an even quicker word on the analysis paralysis that plagued our younger and inexperienced players. Some of the Technology cards require a lot of previously built technology to be successful. Nothing on the Technology card, however, tells you what the listed dependencies are also dependent on. This is part of the fun, in my opinion, as players reverse engineer technology through time, but my kind of fun is not for everyone. The game comes with a Technology Tree of sorts that can be used by players to see what is dependent on what and so on. It worked well for those who used it, but some found it more confusing than helpful. Here is the Technology Tree. If you understand it, then it’s for you. If not, ignore it. For everyone, though, it should serve as a reminder that some technologies can only be built during the final round of the game, which is fantastically complicated when you think about it.
Which brings up an aspect of this game that I found to be very interesting. When and where you establish technology is very, very important. All of our new players establish technology where and whenever they could to their detriment. More complicated technologies required more dependencies and each Timeframe has a Technology card limit. This means players have to build a specific piece of technology and its parts by scattering it throughout the Timeline. This sounds very complicated, and it is, but it’s something that can be done only through smart card plays. Play too soon and you have a piece of technology that is too far in the future or too far in the past to be of any help. It’s all about connecting the technology dots and mapping out the path through time to your final technological destination.
I really enjoy this game. Its casual play shrouds the game’s depth. On its surface, Legacy: Gears of Time would appear to be little more than a card game with area control thrown in with Influence cubes, although the game’s overall presentation strongly suggests otherwise. Once you get into the game, you come to realize it’s so much more. This is not a light game. Timing, both in game play terms and on the Timeline, is so very important. Establishing technologies early allows you to work on bigger technologies later and get points for all the technologies that piggy back off your cards. Then there is the Influence cubes, which are more important than they let on. The Technology cards are nothing more than a means to an end. It’s the Influence cubes that determine if you get any benefit once you cross the finish the line and if Technology cards remain in play. Finally, there is the wonderful and simplistic way the game uses card order to represent time. Other “time traveling games” I have played allow players to jump back and forth, moving and shifting components. It becomes difficult to keep track of and tiresome to keep everything in order. Legacy: Gears of Time simplified the mechanics without sacrificing any of the game’s theme or narrative. I wouldn’t say I felt like I was a time traveler, but I could certainly see how each of my actions would influence, the present Timeframe and everything in the future.
The only aspect of the game that annoys me is the game board. I understand why it was designed for players to sit in front of it, but it can get a bit crowded on one side of the table with 4 players all comically trying to hide their card hand, while simultaneously inspecting the Timeline. When your game is highly dependent on order and sequence, you need all the players to look at the game from the same angle. For 2 players, it works great. For 4 players, it’s crowded. Game play is slightly disturbed thanks to everyone being in such tight quarters.
But that’s it and what a silly thing to be miffed about. Maybe I need to play with thinner people, but that would exclude me…
Oddly enough, as much as I enjoy playing this game, I really suck at it. I have never won a single game, despite playing it many times. I know why, but I don’t care to adjust my strategy. My tactics are fine, but my strategy of always going after the BIG Technology cards is worthless. My 10-year-old gave me some pointers that I thought were pretty insightful.
“It’s like we are both ice fishing. I’m pulling up every fish I catch, big or small. You keep only looking for the big fish. At the end of the day, I have more fish which is more important than the size of each fish.”
Bingo. He is absolutely correctly. Pursuing specific technologies is a worthwhile venture, but to win the game, you must pursue them all. From the very big to the very small. Or not. I enjoy playing games, but my end goal is not always to win them. There is much to explore in Legacy: Gears of Time and I have all the time in the world to plunder its temporal depths.
This game was given to Father Geek as a review copy. Father Geek was not paid, bribed, wined, dined, or threatened in vain hopes of influencing this review. Such is the statuesque and legendary integrity of Father Geek.