Legacy: Gears of Time is hands-down one of my all-time favorite games. I love the theme and I love the mechanics of traveling backward in time to build a technology tree in reverse. It is such a crazy concept and it is executed to perfection, especially with the management of influence cubes thrown in to cleverly steal other people’s technologies. You don’t even realize these influence cubes are a valuable resource, but by the end of the game, they’re the crux to the whole thing. There’s a learning curve built right into the game and it’s genius.
All right, all right, enough gushing. The publisher of Legacy recently Kickstarted an expansion, Forbidden Machines, that arrived at my door during GenCon, but, sadly, I was unable to get around to playing it until my latest weekly game night. I was about to play Manhattan Project, and then another Legacy lover pulled out Forbidden Machines to play at another table, and, well, it wasn’t really much of a choice. Building bombs came secondary to building meridian timerails and expansion domes, not that I know exactly what those things really are…
So 4 of us sat down, and let me tell you how much I love 4-player games of Legacy. Oh, no, wait, I was supposed to stop gushing… Okay, but look, 4-player are great because there’s enough people running around and doing things that the entire tech tree usually gets built by the end of the game, and it’s a beauty to sit back and marvel what you have created…that is, unless you’re too busy screwing each other over – then your tech tree may end up in shambles.
Anyway, we got the game underway and it immediately started stressing me out because of how unfamiliar I was with all the cards. And there wasn’t a diagram of the Forbidden Machines tech tree on the back of the tiny manual. (There is a poster that was a KS reward, but apparently the guy didn’t bring that.)
And even more than not having a diagram, it was just a little hard to intuit what was going on with the tech tree. For instance, this technology branch:
Helix -> Hollow Lattice -> Expansion Dome -> Tome of the Origin
I’m sure there’s some logic behind that, but it’s certainly not intuitive. I mean, comparing it with real technologies in the base game:
Fire -> Combustion Engine -> Flight -> Space Flight.
It wasn’t a huge deal, but it was a small barrier to enjoyment.
Other than that, the game started out pretty much like the base Legacy game, some mid-tier techs got put down and then supported later by lower tiers. There were strange activations on some of these, but they weren’t functional to begin with, so we didn’t have to worry about them. There were some “when established” bonuses, but nothing too Earth-shattering.
Of course, that was just the ramp-up. Soon large tech trees sprang up and it became an intense game of screw your neighbor (even more than it usually is) through the card activation abilities. With one activation per turn, it was essentially like everyone got 4 actions on their turn instead of the usual 3 and that 4th was going to mess you up somehow.
– One guy was constantly swapping influence with the Helix.
– One was dropping all his cubes on the Tome of the Origin.
– Another used the Season Splicer to create a new timeline and over-write a bunch of fundamental technologies we were vainly fighting over.
– I was using the Expansion Dome to spread my influence cubes across history.
It was a close race in the end. It all came down to 3 of us needing someone to influence Gearcrafting and keeping it on the board in the end. 2 of us believed with all our heart that the third guy would do it since every single technology he owned would fail without it.
And then he taught us about the fallacy of assumptions by just doing something completely different with his last turn. Gearcrafting went away and more-or-less half of our beautiful tech tree fell into shambles. It was heart-breaking, but also masochistically enjoyable. I knew I was sunk, but couldn’t help but laugh watching all of those technologies fail. The 4th guy who didn’t need Gearcrafting for any of his techs ended up beating me by 3 points. Alas.
Overall, I don’t think Forbidden Machines necessarily replaces the base Legacy game. In fact, I would say the base should definitely be played to introduce new people to the mechanics of the game, as the activation abilities of Forbidden Machines get crazy pretty fast, which adds extra confusion and lengthens the playtime. Also, the base Legacy just feels more comfortable, and not only because I’m more familiar with the cards.
I definitely enjoyed Forbidden Machines and would love to play it again, but I haven’t lost the urge to play the base game, either, which I think might be the ideal goal of an expansion.