Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time
- Designers: Brett J. Gilbert and Matthew Dunstan
- Publisher: Funforge
- Players: 2-4
- Ages: 8+
- Time: 30-45 minutes
- Times played: 7, with review copy provided by Funforge
Says OG writer, Eric Martin (originally on BGG):
Professor Evil owns a time machine, and he’s been ripping off all the best historical items from times both past and future. Your team has been charged with confiscating these items and returning them to their proper locations in time, so you now need to infiltrate the mansion and abscond with four items before Prof. Evil can secrete four of them in locations inaccessible to you. Thankfully the old soul is a bit daft and won’t evaporate you should he catch you lurking through the mansion, but simply scoot you out the front door where he’ll forget about you immediately.
On a turn, you first draw and reveal two cards from your tiny deck, then keep one of the cards based on what you think will help you this turn. You then take three actions, such as open a door in the room you’re in, move from a room (or outside) to another room (assuming the door is open), disable a trap, or grab a treasure; using a card isn’t an action unless it says otherwise. You can repeat actions as desired or needed, but you can’t enter a room with Prof. Evil and you can’t exit the house on your own (in order to run across the grounds to another window) once you enter. You’re now committed to grabbing those treasures!
After you finish your turn, Prof. Evil now moves, but again he’s not all there, so he doesn’t necessarily move in a logical manner. To move him, you roll three dice: One die advances the secondary Prof. Evil figure on the clock on the board either five or ten minutes; the other two determine where Prof. Evil moves and how far. What’s more, as he walks through rooms, he closes the doors through which he travels and reactivates any inactive traps he encounters. If you roll a blue and a 1, for example, he moves through the blue doorway into the next adjacent room; a red and a 3 will move him through three rooms, walking through the red doorway each time. A color and a particular signal will teleport him immediately to the treasure bearing the same colored marker.
Let’s look at these treasures in more detail: Each treasure shows a time value and one or more traps on it. Three treasures are placed on the board, then a blue, red and green token are placed on the treasures, with a matching blue, red and green token placed on the game board clock on the time matching what’s on the treasure. The Magna Carta might say 45 minutes, for example, and after placing a blue token on the Magna Carta, you place a blue token on the clock 45 minutes away from where the Prof. Evil figure is located. If Prof. Evil moves onto this token on the clock, then that treasure is lost — and if you lose four treasures, then you’ve lost the game. Remove it from play and replace it with a new treasure, marking the proper time on the clock.
Note that you can’t just grab a treasure, however. Professor Evil can’t be in the same room (of course), but you also must ensure that all the traps shown on the treasure are currently deactivated. The game board starts with twelve traps on it — half active, half not — and you’ll play tug-of-war with Professor Evil over keeping them in this status. Collect a treasure, and a new one will be added to the game board; collect four treasures before Prof. Evil does, and you all win Professor Evil and The Citadel of Time.
Thoughts from the Opinionated Gamers
Dale Y: I wasn’t quite sure what to think of the game when I first heard about it – the story just didn’t make sense… I’ve always been a sucker for time travel games, and at least based on the title, I was thinking that we might be whipping thru time looking for things. Alas, that is not the case – the “citadel” here is really the old coot’s mansion… and while he’s the boss at stealing things from antiquity, he apparently doesn’t own a home security system nor does he really mind young meddling kids from traipsing around his house re-stealing some of those ill-gotten gains. As you play, the goal is for you to get four of the treasures before he manages to steal four of them from himself (?!) and lock them away in his vault? What?!
Anyways, once you suspend your disbelief about the nonsense story, there is a challenging and fun game lying underneath the farce. The puzzle is always the same – that is, turn off all the switches for a particular treasure and then get someone in the room with that treasure to save it – but it does not get old. I think the reason for this is that there is also a higher level puzzle trying to manage the clock. There are plenty of times where the timing of the treasures is so close that you wouldn’t be able to get them both free (because ALL the involved traps are set to the “on” side when you save a treasure), and you also have to figure out which ones you are going for and which ones you are sacrificing. There may be times when one of the characters isn’t near anything involving the treasure to expire first, and the goal should be to start working on the next save-able treasure down the line.
The Dr Evil dice add a huge amount of uncertainty to the game. First, barring a few character abilities, you just have to hope that the dice work in your favor. The movement of Dr Evil is capricious, and sometimes, the movement can just about reset all of your hard work. Sometimes, the dice will move up the deadline of a particular treasure just when you least expect it. If you’re not ready with the right action, it might even cause you to miss out on a treasure entirely. We have learned never to take the dice for granted, and until we have a treasure secured in our side of the board, the dice can always snatch it away from us at the last moment!
Speaking of those actions, there is certainly a small learning curve to the game – mostly in becoming comfortable with the five different action card decks. On each turn, each player draws two action cards from his small deck of six cards – and he can play ONE of those two on a turn. Each player deck has a specific theme, and knowing what actions you might have left in your deck can help your team make a plan. Additionally, each player has a special action on the reverse side of their character card – each time the Professor Evil marker on the clock makes it to the 15 and 45 minute spots, one character is able to turn their card over to the special action side. So long as this action side is visible, that character gets an always-active special ability found at the top of the card. In addition, there is a super special awesome action at the bottom of this side which can be used, but when this is triggered, the character card will be flipped over, and you then also lose the always-active ability.
In my first few games, we thought it was weird that there weren’t any changes made for the number of players – if you’re in a three player game, you simply use three characters and that’s it. But, the game doesn’t feel unbalanced – the flow is the same… Player turn, roll the dice, player turn, roll the dice… Sure, when you have 4 characters in the mansion, it’s a bit easier to get to the different areas of the house with more feet, but at the same time, you don’t get to use any particular character’s actions as often. It has felt a bit more challenging with fewer characters, but not overly so. The team will have to work a little bit harder though at getting a character in the right spot at the right time.
I suppose if you wanted the same feel, you could just have a fourth character in the game which the group would collectively decide what to do – and this really wouldn’t be different from any of the other characters. This is the sort of cooperative game where the group makes the plan together even while only one person is officially taking a turn… and it does mean that the game can be subject to a fair amount of quarterbacking. (Or, I suppose it also opens up the option of making this a solo game…)
We’ve played seven times thus far, and though we have not yet won, we have literally been a single die roll away from winning twice. And, those close finishes have kept the game exciting and enthralling. I have yet to play the game in a session where we did not play at least twice in a row – as the group wanted to immediately play again after failure. Sure, this game feels like it’s on the easier end of the co-op spectrum, but my group is notoriously bad at actually winning them! Despite that, we have had a number of fun sessions with the game, and I believe we will have more coming in the future as it has been well received by the gamers around me.
Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers
- I love it! Craig V
- I like it. Dale Y, James Nathan
- Not for me…