Design by Jon Perry & Derek Yu
Published by Quibble Games
2 Players, 30 minutes
Review by Greg J. Schloesser
The subject of time travel has always fascinated me, and several attempts have been made to utilize this theme in board games. Sadly, none have worked exceedingly well. Khronos from Matagot Games as probably been the best, but it had the tendency to sow confusion and could easily be misplayed. One of the more recent time travel efforts is Time Barons, a 2-player card game from designers Jon Perry and Derek Yu.
Essentially, Time Barons is a “take-that” game, wherein players play cards in attempts to remove their opponent’s followers. Bolstering one’s own forces, both in terms of followers and offensive / defensive capabilities, is also of vital importance.
Players begin the game with a home base containing ten followers and a handful of five Level 1 cards. There are four different levels of cards, each level representing a different age. Cards tend to get more powerful with each successive age, but also tend to take more actions to play.
A player has three actions per turn, but this can be increased with certain cards Actions can be spent to:
Draw Cards. For one action, a player may draw a card from an age at or below his current level. Increasing a level can be done by expending the appropriate number of actions. For example, to get to Level 2, a player must expend two actions. To reach Level 4 takes four actions, so a player must have a card that allows him to spend beyond his normal three actions.
Gain a Follower. Additional followers can be gained and added to one’s employed cards for one action apiece.
Relocate. Followers can be moved around one’s employed cards as the player sees fit.
Play a Card. Cards come in a variety of types. Site cards remain employed in front of the player and can be utilized for their special ability each turn Some sites require a certain number of actions to utilize, and many also require a specified number of followers to be present on the card. The “relocate” action is handy in meeting these required numbers.
Other cards have immediate effects (often causing damage to your opponent’s sites), while others are defensive in nature. The cards are all well marked with both easy-to-understand icons as well as my favorite: good old text.
Attack cards usually inflict damage on one or more of an opponent’s sites. When a site is damaged, an appropriate number of damage markers are placed upon it and an equal number of followers are removed. If a site’s “integrity” number is met or exceeded, the entire site–along with all followers still present on it–are destroyed. This presents players with a dilemma, as you want to have a few extra followers on a site in order to continue using its inherent ability if some perish, but you don’t want to overload a site with followers lest they all perish if a site is suddenly destroyed.
As mentioned, the goal of the game is to completely eliminate all of your opponent’s followers. Thus, attack cards are beneficial, and get more powerful and effective in the more advanced decks. So, upgrading levels is essential. It is also important to employ sites that have strong inherent abilities, including those providing extra actions, followers and/or attacks, additional followers and free relocation abilities. As such, the game has some similarities with games such as Magic: The Gathering in that you are building an engine (although a quick one) that will allow you to do more and be more effective each turn. At the same time, you are trying to inhibit your opponent from doing the same.
The game ends when either one player eliminates his opponent’s followers, or the Level 1, 2 and 3 decks have all expired. In the latter case, the player with the greatest number of followers is victorious. A typical game takes about 30 minutes or so to play.
For those who enjoy “take that” style games, Time Barons may be worth a look. It is certainly on the lighter side of the strategy and depth spectrum, as one might expect from its fairly simple rules and quick playing time. There are certainly decisions to be made, particularly as to how to use one’s actions each turn. Jostling followers about one’s sites also requires a bit of planning and thought, but most of the game is played without much mental taxation.
Like many engine building games–and the engine building here is fairly light here–it is deadly to fall behind the progress of your opponent. Indeed, it likely spells doom. If a player gets a step or two ahead on employing powerful sites, particularly those with strong attack capabilities, he will likely steadily and consistently damage his opponent, further weakening his position. Sadly, much of this is up to the luck of the draw, with not much strategy to be credited.
For me, Time Barons is part of a genre I tend to not enjoy, namely “take that” games. There are exceptions (Star Realms is brilliant), but overall I don’t find these games satisfying. Time Barons doesn’t offer much, if anything more than those that I’ve played in the past, and there is nothing here that helps it shine. Its saving grace is that it can be played relatively quickly and it is easy to grasp. For me, however, I would prefer to spend my gaming time elsewhere.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:
Eric Martin: (1 play, review copy) I can’t imagine why Greg is stating that Time Barons is a “take that” style of game given that Time Barons is for two players only and given that your goal while playing is to eliminate all of your opponent’s followers. Smacking down the other guy isn’t incidental to carrying out your plan, but the entire plan!
Time Barons is effectively a card-based wargame with you trying to recruit special-powered cards that boost the options available to your followers (and the quantity of those followers), while thinning the herds on the other side of the table. I enjoy “cards with text”, as a gaming compatriot calls them, so this game was already up my alley. In practice it was intriguing, and additional plays would definitely improve your ability to plan and play.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it): W. Eric Martin
2 (Neutral): Greg Schloesser
1 (Not for me):