Friday, December 6, 2013

Anachronism: violent yet educational

Published in conjunction with The History Channel, Anachronism offers an interesting variation on the trading card game format combined with the tactical movement of a miniatures game. Each player assembles a stack of 5 cards, consisting of a warrior from history and four support cards representing weapons, armor, and cultural inspirations and advantages. One of the anachronisms of the game is that players can use support cards belonging to other cultures and time periods, so you can finally find out what might have happened if Beowulf had been given a Spanish arquebus, or Cleopatra had the Russian Okhrana backing her up. The card artwork is absolutely gorgeous, with foil printing on much heavier than usual cardstock.

The warrior cards are placed on opposite sides of a 4x4 grid, and the other four cards are laid out, face down, in whatever order the player wants. A game consists of at most five rounds: each round players turn over their next card, activating that card's abilities, and then has a limited number of actions with which to move his warrior into position and attack. Each attack's outcome is determined by dice rolls, modified by various card effects. If there's no winner after four rounds, a fifth is played with no new support card, and if both warriors are still standing, the one who has taken the least damage is the winner.

With an average game taking about 15 minutes, Anachronism was envisioned as something that could be played during a break between other games at a tournament or gaming convention. Later on, the game proved popular enough to inspire tournaments of its own, with players choosing 3 or more warriors and their support cards and playing a series of matches.

We decided on a series of 5 matches. We didn't want to spend time looking for the best card combinations, so we just chose the support cards that originally came with each warrior.
  • Match 1: Priam, King of Troy vs. David of the Tribes of Israel. Cassandra (one of Priam's support cards) gave him a major edge, and he won the battle.
  • Match 2: Greek leader Agamemnon vs. Celtic revolutionary Boudicca. Boudicca's support cards worked particularly well together, with her Carpat (a Celtic chariot with nasty spiked wheels) allowing her do do a lot of extra damage that Agamemnon couldn't recover from.
  • Match 3: Native American Black Hawk vs. Robert the Bruce of Scotland. Black Hawk was able to go first every round, and had an amazing spear that allowed him to attack every time Robert tried to use one of his abilities.
  • Match 4: Salah Ad-Din, the Saracen who re-took Jerusalem, vs. Sun Tsu, Chinese author of The Art of War. Sun Tsu's weapon was a crossbow that only worked at long range, and Sadah Ad-Din just stayed too close for it to be used effectively.
  • Match 5: Maori warrior Ariki Te Wherowhero vs. Joan of Arc. Wherowhero's support cards allowed him to use the natural terrain to his advantage, much as the Maori were able to do in their conflicts with European settlers.
Katherine won four out of the five games, with Boudicca being my only victorious warrior.

Anachronism avoids many of the pitfalls of trading card games, with its simple rules and smooth game mechanics. It was much easier to pick up and play than the Aliens Predator CCG, but I think we would get more out of the game if we spent time figuring out interesting and anachronistic card combinations to use.

Rating: 4 (out of 5) A good, solid game with plenty of replay value, but it requires a commitment similar to that of any trading card game to get the most out of the game.

Date played: November 29, 2013

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