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Thinking Out Loud

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Disappointment, Thy Name Is ... Tempus!

Just got back from Jorge and Eva's, where Marshall "mdp4828" from BGG stopped by to join us while visiting from Wichita for the weekend. We played Tempus, the much lauded and hyped new Martin Wallace game published by Warfrog & Cafe Games. Boy was that disappointing.

I can see why people would rate Power Grid or Age of Steam highly, even though I personally don't care for them based on the meticulous calculations and limited margin for error. Heck, I can even see why some people rave about Ticket to Ride if they desire nothing more than entry level gaming. But I'm baffled why Tempus has so many 9s and 10s over on BGG.

I know I may preaching to the choir for some of these gripes, or to some of Tempus' biggest advocates, but I just gotta' get this off my chest. What a friggin' disappointment.

My initial rating after one play is 4.5/10 ... This is a fabulous concept that feels wholly incomplete. Nice components, and I like the evolution of the civilization tiers. But other than a few neat ideas, I am actually surprised Tempus was published in its current form. Tempus as released feels like an early concept prototype.

There are several major issues with the game.

1) The mountain spaces are worth no points and cannot have cities built, yet are the most common terrain element, severely restricting space and creating a lot of game clutter.

2) Movement is so incredibly limited early on that you can accomplish very little at the point in the game where you need the most flexibility and planning.

3) Meanwhile, the board is so cluttered by the end, you find yourself with the most actions available in the game (5 or 6 actions per round) with nothing to do because you can't have babies, can't build new cities, can't move into any better positions, etc. Lots of churning Idea Cards.

4) Combat is incredibly difficult to pull off, especially against a city. The stack limits prevent all but a massive card investment to succeed in taking on any sort of city, and then only if you guess right about what terrain the defender is going to call.

5) The artificial restriction of not being able to attack someone on 3 or fewer hexes is ridiculous -- buy a bunch of cities and then consolidate your stacks to make yourself immune to counterattack. It may prevent leader bashing, but it completely eliminates any sort of catch up mechanic... the only people you can go after are the people out of contention.

Am I off my rocker, or right on mark? You tell me... If you've played Tempus, what did you think?

6 Comments:

  • You're right on the mark; however issues 1 to 4 are perhaps the reasons I like the game as much as I do. What really lets it down for me is the endgame; despite my misgivings I gave it an eight. Perhaps I could see beyond the hype, perhaps my expectations were not as high as others'; probably I was expecting a ten but got an eight.

    Issue 5 is there to prevent elimination not leader-bashing - what kind of game were you playing? Issue 5 is being heavily debated on BGG - should the limit only apply to people and not cities, should cities be included, should cities be immune? The publishers say one thing, but most involved in the discussion believe the intent of the 3-hex safety rule is not being honoured properly by the rules as published.

    I believe cities should not be counted, and should always be vulnerable (so three stacks or less means only your stacks can't be attacked).

    By Blogger Fellonmyhead, at 8:12 AM  

  • Re: Mountains and dead space. It would be one thing if they weren't so bloody common. If you place last in a 4 or 5 player game, you're going to get a horribly dead spot to start developing, putting you further behind the already slow early game power curve.

    The tweak I discussed after the game was to simply create a greater building cost for Mountain Cities... Such as requiring 1 additional tribe member to found the city -- so you'd need 3 tokens to found a level 2 city, etc. This means the option wouldn't be available until a few eras into the game, when the stack size increases, but adds some extra incentive to either be the leader going into that round (to have the first option to build under those conditions) but it also opens the game board up halfway through the game to alleviate stagnation.

    By Blogger Jason Little, at 9:31 AM  

  • Tempus as released feels like an early concept prototype.

    Well, how many Warfrog games don't feel like they needed another couple rounds of development work? From where I stand, virtually all of them. You can't exactly be shocked about that. Some of them are still OK, but they're all pretty unpolished.

    I actually don't think that's the major problem here. Mainly, I think Tempus is just plain, simple, outright boring.

    By Blogger Chris Farrell, at 10:33 AM  

  • Issue 5 is there to prevent elimination not leader-bashing - what kind of game were you playing?

    If it's not there to prevent leader-bashing, it should be--it does an excellent job at it.

    By Blogger Alfred, at 10:53 AM  

  • Issue 5 isn't about player elimination at all -- otherwise, cities would be targetable. After all, losing a city does not impact a player's population tokens on the board, their movement capacity, their supply or any other factor. If you could target cities and just not individual stacks of troops, the impact would be completely different. As it is, the oft-discussed Turtling strategy seems far too lucrative.

    By Blogger Jason Little, at 11:52 AM  

  • To be fair, turtling isn't all that lucrative: If I hadn't misplayed during the last action, I'd have won the game by 1 point. Still, I found myself with few options on most turns, as I had nothing useful to do.

    It seems that Martin Wallace's playtesters never used the 3 stack rule for evil, as he said in a recent BGG thread.

    Here's the thread, but I warn you: it's full of incoherent and illogical ramblings of J.C. Tsistinas http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/122365

    By Blogger hibikir, at 3:42 PM  

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