Delorean not included: a review of Temporum
A review by Scott Fish
Temporum is the latest entry from the legendary Donald X Vaccarino, a man whose games I have a... complicated... relationship with. Some of his games I have loved and have recommended to anyone who'll listen (Dominion and Kingdom Builder). But there are also games (Gauntlet of Fools, Pina Pirata) where I was upset for wasting my time on them. So when I was handed this game, I was cautiously optimistic. Which will this game be: boom or bust? Let's take a closer look.
Temporum is a 2–5 player game about time travel; you will spend your turns travelling to 4 different eras to change the future and secure your power in the present. The zones in each era are set up in pyramid fashion: the first tier has only one zone, but the fourth zone has four zones you can visit. The catch is you can only visit a zone if the timeline connects to it. Each time you change history in the past, you alter the future timeline and may move players in a future time to a totally different zone! You win when you have moved all of your crowns (influence) from the first era to the last era. Gameplay takes 25–45 minutes on average.
Entry level to moderate experience players who are looking for a fast, lightweight game but also has solid game mechanics and tight finishes each time they play. Hardcore gamers or people who are looking for a cool time travel theme need to keep looking.
Typical gameplay for Temporum
Gameplay is very straightforward: on your turn you will be able to change history by switching the path token to its other course; this will change the timeline of players in a time later than you, and you will be forced to move to the now "correct" zone in their era. You may then travel forward or backward in time to any location in the current timeline. Once you choose your destination, you carry out the action on the location card to the best of your ability.
Usually you will be instructed to score a card (to move your crowns towards the bottom era), draw a card, or play a card for its effect. Each card has an option to either play it for its ability (either a one-time effect or ongoing) or to score it to move your crowns. Some locations give you a bonus if you "rule" that era, which simply means you have more crowns in that era than anyone else (in games with 4 or 5 players, the top 2 players can rule an era). Finally, you check to see if anyone has completed the victory condition and pass the turn. That's it!! Very easy to learn.
The board in all its glory.
The components are a bit of a mixed bag; you get some awesome stuff alongside some mediocre stuff. First, the artwork on the board is just that: a true work of art with vibrant colors and just an overall pleasing aesthetic. I think I actually gasped in awe when I first unfolded the board. The player tokens are wooden meeples which are cut into different character shapes for each color. I really enjoyed that little touch. The power tokens are little wooden crowns which left me indifferent. The cards are standard cardstock with no real advantages or disadvantages. Finally, there are arrow tokens which show the correct timeline on the game board; these are too small and bland to contrast the gorgeous board and kind of fade into the background rather than stand out as they should. They are my least favorite thing about the components and the first thing I would replace in my home copy. Despite the arrow tokens' subpar appearance, the overall quality of the game’s appearance is very good.
The game retails for roughly $60 at your friendly local game store, and I cannot say it is worth that price. Not counting the board, all of the pieces fit into a space less than a quarter of the box. You just don't get enough pieces to justify that high of a cost; not when you can buy a game like Argent the Consortium for the same price and get much more goodies. I might be persuaded to pick this game up if I saw it on sale for $40 or $45 somewhere.
Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first: this is not a time travelling game. This is a racing game with a time travel theme pasted on. And it wasn't even pasted on with good glue; they used that old, white, chunky, safe-for-preschoolers-to-eat paste. The actions of each location card (score a card, draw a card, gain money, etc.) do not tie in with the title or artwork of the cards at all; they could mix and match the card art with any of the text and it wouldn't make a difference. There’s also no connection between the timelines. It is left to your imagination to determine how or why the Roman Empire evolved into a police state and then changed into an age of cats. If you are looking for a strongly themed time travel game, I would recommend Chrononauts over this.
Ok, enough with the doom and gloom, let's talk good points. Mechanically speaking, this game is a finely oiled machine. The gameplay starts off slowly, but quickly ramps up as people start developing their board and combos emerge. By the end everyone is in a tight race to get their last few crowns to the finish line. In my games the winner usually only won by a single turn; if he or she would have waited just one more round someone else would have won. You can't plan ahead too far as your options will likely change from turn to turn (this gets worse the lower on the board your meeple is), but your options on your turn are rather limited so turns go pretty quickly. My first game with 3 people who had never played it before ended in less than 45 minutes; experienced players can crank this out in 20-30 minutes easily.
I only have one complaint about the mechanics: the center 3 locations in Ages 3 and 4 are much easier to get to than the ones on the edges of Age 3 or bottom corners of Age 4, but since cards are randomly distributed for each age and all the cards are of roughly equal power, there’s usually no incentive to make a strategy involving those isolated locations. I would have liked to see some high power cards be restricted to those spots to give a high-risk, high-reward option.
As tight as the mechanics are, they aren't terribly original. Apart from the option to move the arrows to select a different set of locations, this is a pretty standard worker placement game. You can block people from going to certain locations by switching the timelines if they are farther down than you are, but this doesn't prevent someone from scoring a card as the first era will always allow you to score. In short, you can inconvenience people and slow them down slightly but not outright stop them from getting what they need like you can in a game such as Lords of Waterdeep.
I would have also liked a more random change to future locations whenever you alter history, rather than the alternate timelines be set in stone. This would increase the luck factor tremendously, but also help with the theme.
If you do not own many worker placement games or are just looking to get your feet wet with a nice intro level game, this is a fine start. If you don't care about the theme and are looking for an easy to learn game where one wrong move might allow your opponent to snatch victory from you, then this is your game. But if you already own games like Lords of Waterdeep and Carcassone and you are looking for a new twist on the game's mechanics, you might not find enough novelty here to keep your interest.
Final Score: 3/5
Let me clarify: 4/5 for newbies, 2/5 for veterans. I would be happy to reach for this game to play with my non-gamer friends or a younger crowd, but as someone who owns several worker placement games already, I cannot justify the shelf space for another which does not add anything special to the genre. If I could time travel to five years ago, I would hand myself a copy of this game knowing I would get many enjoyable plays out of this game. Then I’d go place a bet on the Saints winning the Super Bowl.
Hi, I'm Scott Fish! I have been an avid board game player / collector for about five years. My favorite games include Power Grid, BattleCON, X-wing, Warmachine, and Galaxy Defenders. I spend most of my free time either playing games with various gaming groups in the Omaha metro, learning new games, or playing soloable games at home.