Anachrony is one of the more interesting games I’ve seen in a while, a fairly lengthy, strategically dense but peaceful contest between groups of humans on a future earth battling for resources. It is a worker-placement game on steroids or more literally, a worker placement game on mechs, where you place the workers into the mechs, then move the mechs out to the spots on the game board to gather your resources, build buildings, etc.
Note: I might be dating myself in the post’s title with my reference to the time warp and for those not in the know, the Rocky Horror Picture Show, a pillar of my high school days. But, it’s still a way better reference than any Cher song.
Anachrony tackles the challenge of time travel and anomalies on a scorched earth and pulls it all off with unique mechanics and great components. It’s a strategically deep game that will satisfy the strategy gamer, but scare off those less inclined towards strategy games. The time travel element makes it feel a lot like Arrival: The Game. If you haven’t seen Arrival, take a break from playing games and watch it, it’s a great movie told in a very interesting way. That this is the game version is a good thing. There’s sort of a race against time feeling, but intertwined into it is the notion of moving back and forth through time. In short, there’s a meteor that’s going to crash to earth, but you have forewarning to prepare your faction for it. Each turn, you have the opportunity to send yourself resources from the future, plus deploy your workers and mechs, to gather resources and complete buildings and projects in advance of the meteor crash. However, while the meteor crash changes the game, it doesn’t end it.
We had a nice plastic tray that took care a lot of the setup for us, but otherwise it looks like it can be pretty nasty with all its various bits, chits and parts. There’s a lot going on, from water drops to resource cubes to cards to a time track to worker chits, and of course, choosing your faction and the mechs that go with it. A plastic tray makes the setup straightforward enough but it’s still not quick or easy.
Theme and components
The components we played with were nothing short of outstanding. The game board is large and very nice. The water currency is satisfying. Everyone loves transparent cubes, and they’re used in this game as resources, (also in Xia as resources, or in Adrenaline as ammo, etc.). The mechs you use are sturdy and good-sized, and the way you slide your worker into a mech to activate it, is some of the best stuff I’ve seen. These lend a really good feel to what is otherwise a strange world to be entering. The card art is lacking and the worker chits are ordinary, but they don’t do anything to detract from some of the really strong components included. Fans of great components will be fans of this game.
Interesting mechanics and game play
The mechanics include some of the most interesting ones out there, with the element of time travel involved. The basics of the game include powering up your mechs, then moving those mechs into spots on the game board to activate certain actions, such as hiring new workers, mining resources, or using resources to construct something. Those mechanics are typical and straightforward enough, except as mentioned, you actually slide your worker chit into the mech, an awesome mechanic. Some of the other more interesting mechanics include the ability to send yourself resources from the future, gain and use them now, then pay yourself back for them later. Another interesting mechanic is that your workers typically get “exhausted” after deployment, and have to be woken back up to be redeployed. As in many games, different types of workers (there are only three basic types in the engineer, scientist and administrator) provide different types of bonuses to different actions.
One thing I really like about the game, and envy as a game designer, is the meteor impact in the second half of the game. I love games that start out one way, then change things on you, the way this game does. I hope I can come up with similarly creative mechanics to implement changes mid-game as this one does.
Also to the game’s credit, all the rules and mechanics are pretty smooth. We never ran into a spot where it was unclear how a certain mechanic or rule worked.
You will build various buildings and super projects. You’ll activate those buildings with workers to gain yourself advantages. But, the main thing you’ll do, is slide your workers into activating the mechs, go to the surface of the planet with those mechs, and do the big things you need to do. The utilization of the mechs is the main thing, and it’s the most fun thing. You will also, hopefully, evacuate the people of your faction and complete your faction’s unique goal in a way that earns you many points.
Medium. There’s a lot going on, and you’d probably like another play just to get a better grip on most of it. It’s a long-ish game and something of a brain burner, so you’re probably not going to take this one out all the time. At the same time, it’s not so long and it’s a good enough game that I could see myself potentially playing this twice in a sitting if we had all day. There are 4 interesting factions, each with 2 different paths to victory, and many different buildings and projects, so there’s plenty to explore and no two games would be exactly alike. Even if I wouldn’t play this all the time, over and over again, I would absolutely play this again, probably even over the more-heralded Feast for Odin because I prefer the theme to Anachrony.
Even with so many great games out there, Anachrony stands out for having some of the most interesting mechanics and some of the best components, and for tackling a challenging but fascinating theme. The game play is clean and fun, with dense strategic elements to get into. It’s a game where many things are done well and serious strategic gamers ought to give it a try. Lovers of mechs and mech-like components should go ahead and buy it, even just to break out once in a while. But, I think you’ll break it out more than that, because the game itself is very good.