1-6 players, Cooperative, Exploration
Designer: Kevin Wilson
Artwork: Alex Horley
Publisher: IDW Games
Overview of Gameplay
You have traveled back through time and crash landed atop an active volcano in 100 million B.C.! You have to explore the land to retrieve enough time travel machine parts to repair your machine so you can others can successfully travel back to your own time. But beware! The more you “mess” with the past, the more paradox accrues and the more the future might not just be the way you remember it……
So that’s the theme, now about that gameplay. You and up to 6 total players start in the middle of the map on the volcano tile and take actions to move about the board. Every time you move to an unexplored tile you draw from the particular stack of the terrain you are moving to. You flip the tile and lay it down on the space you are moving. The tiles have a variety of stuff that can happen such as an animal attack (Carnivorous or Herbivorous or Aquatic); you might have to draw an adventure card which usually ends up with you rolling dice to see if you succeed on said adventure. There are gear and items that you can find which allow you to draw from that deck to strengthen your character. Also the ever elusive Time travel machine parts!
Once all the players have taken their 2 actions of moving or resolving tiles then the next phase of the game commences. You roll a red die and a white die, then if there are any open rifts on the board that match the numbers rolled the paradox meter gains a point. Then you move around any active animals or rift people on the board corresponding to the movement compass printed on the board. Lastly if the added amount of the 2 dice rolled is equal to or less than a certain number on the paradox track then you open a new rift. Opening a new rift will cause you to draw a rift traveler card which is someone from time. Usually someone famous like Socrates or Amelia Earhart etc. you then draw a random number token and place that over the corresponding numbered rift on the board and then move the numbered standee as many spaces away from the rift as it says on their card. Basically it’s like they were zapped into this time period and take off running through the jungle away from the rift. Then you have to go and convince them to come with you and lead them back to the open rift to shut it down before the paradox tracker gets out of control.
These two phases repeat over and over until either you lose or you win which I will get into in the next section below.
Win Condition /Length
Before I begin on the win condition let me just say this game is supremely variable. And I mean that in all shapes and forms. The difficulty can be adjusted from the get go from only having to gather 6 time travel machine parts all the way up to the max of 9. Then all the different terrain tiles are mixed up at the beginning so you never know where the parts are. Some could be close some could be far who knows. The random card draws add to the variability and then after all that, you have the dice…the ultimate in randomness.
So to win you just need to collect all the parts based on whatever difficulty you chose to play. Once you collect those you and the rest of the players just make your way back to the volcano tile in the middle of the board and boom! HOWEVER not so fast……………….IF you left anything behind such as undrawn equipment cards or those elusive rift travelers I mentioned earlier, you will gain paradox. So you have to count up all the paradox points on all the undrawn equipment cards and the remaining rift traveler cards and add that much paradox to the paradox track. If it reaches the volcano icon, the volcano erupts and you lose! However if you successfully go through all that not there are still spaces left on the paradox track then you WIN and successfully travel back to your time. Now this is where it gets really cool. There is an entire page in the back of the rulebook with 30 some different scenarios based on how high you got the paradox track. You just check what number you are on the paradox track and then find the corresponding section and read what your new future is like. I’m not going to spoil anything but there are some pretty interesting situations that arise from leaving a bit too much future stuff in the past!
The length is another thing that is super variable. I mean expect a game to at minimum take an hour even playing solo. But after that it swings wildly depending on how lucky you get on finding the parts and your dice rolls. The better your dice rolls, the less bad stuff happens which equates to less overall game management which means less game time.
There are quite a few components in this one. You have small cardboard tokens for health, willpower, ammo and the different kinds of creatures corresponding to carnivorous, herbivorous and aquatic. Then there are pieces for tracking the rift travelers and then all the different decks of cards. Luckily there is a spot along the sides of the board for all the decks so that makes organization a breeze. I believe there are 6 different decks of cards along one side of the board and spots for the active cards along the bottom of the board. Then you need space for discard piles and your character cards. There is also a smaller time machine board where you store your time machine parts you find and all the terrain tiles.
The cards are all of a great quality with a nice linen finish and the terrain tiles all felt very sturdy as well so they should last a good long time. The board itself isn’t terrible starting out and has a nice variety of colors corresponding to the different terrains that you will be exploring. As you add the tiles to the board it really fills out and becomes more interesting with the different paths you can or cannot take which I though was really cool. Overall I was pretty impressed by the quality of the complete package.
This one has quite a bit to it when it comes to getting it all setup. You have 5 different terrain types which means 5 different piles of terrain tiles to shuffle and place in stacks. 6 different decks of cards to shuffle and place. Picking your starting character and getting them setup with their starting gear and making sure the piles of tokens are within easy reach. This is no small game board so that may be easier said than done. Make no mistake this game is a table hog! Everything goes in plastic baggies so it’s kinda up to you on how organized you want the game to be which leans into the quickness of setup and takedown.
Nothing spectacular about the box. The insert is nonexistent so you will have to bag up all the tons and tons of tokens and pieces and cards and fit them in the box. I personally prefer a good insert with my games as a good one always makes the game setup a breeze. However if there is one thing to be said about plastic baggies, you never have to worry about stuff spilling and getting mixed up!
Visual Appeal /Theme
Honestly the theme is what lured me to this game, I go wild for a good theme in a board game. It really shines in this one, I mean not only do you have dinosaurs but you have random rift travelers from all over time making appearances! Some of these are hilarious and I love how their cards reflect the person or thing. Visually it’s not bad. The board is kinda meh and even once you have a bunch of tiles placed it doesn’t really improve the artwork or anything, just makes the board look more busy. The card artwork though is really good BUT the player character sheet artwork is pretty bad. I’m not sure what happened there but the way the people look on the main playable character cards are cringe worthy.
The rulebook is easy to read and learn from. It’s a bit on the small side but gets all the main aspects of the game across for the most part. If there was one thing I found myself saying while reading it though, I wish there was an index. A page to show each of the kinds of cards and explain what the symbols mean on them. For example on all the equipment cards there is a paradox symbol on the bottom and you start out with some equipment. So like just looking at the card you ask yourself, “what does this mean?” It never really explains this until the very end of the book during the end game section when you count up the paradox on undrawn equipment cards.
So having said all that, I HIGHLY recommend reading through the entire book before playing or you will be very confused by a lot of stuff indeed.
Table Talk/Fun Factor
The game does create a decent amount of table talk starting out on which way you want to explore. Beyond that though each player basically just plays the game on their own exploring and finding stuff. Not much to discuss as far as strategy goes as everything is random.
Having said that if you don’t like randomness in your games then you will probably not like this one. Personally I love it. Not all the time mind you but in this game I found it extremely attractive thematically. I mean you are not supposed to know where the parts are or if a trex stumbles upon you in the next jungle section or if a rift opens. That’s stuff you don’t really have control over and there is a lot of that in this game. On top of that there is so much choice beyond the random dice rolls that you can make. Like if you find all the parts, you can choose to go ahead and risk it and leave even though you know you still have a decent amount of equipment to locate or a few more rift travelers to save. It’s awesome having that excitement of chance mixed in with choice. You’ve gotta risk it for the biscuit.
Optimal Player Count
This is where it gets tricky. I’ve found the more players you have, the easier the game becomes. And I mean VASTLY easier. The game can be super challenging playing solo as you have the ENTIRE map to explore, alone, to find all the parts. With 6 players you can cover the entirety of the map in almost no time at all making finding those parts a cakewalk. I would suggest this game for no more than 3 players personally. It’s really challenging solo, with 2 it’s a good time and with 3 you are starting to push it. Heck even if setting the difficulty to max and having to find all 9 of the parts it’s still gonna be easy with six players. Now getting the best ending? That’s a different story. At a higher player count you do start higher up on the paradox tracker so it will probably be more difficult to get the better endings the more players you have. Something to think about.
I was instantly taken with the game. I love the exploration aspect and I love the theme. Going in not knowing what you will find and the sheer variety of cards all around in every deck shows me that this game will differ every time I play it based around what I’ll find and who I’ll meet. It’s the stuff like that I just love in board games. The rift travelers are especially interesting and add a very awesome mechanic to the gameplay. The game itself isn’t too deep so you can get younger children playing but there are some parts that you will need to work on if you hope to get a better ending of the 30 some that are there.