Friday, May 28, 2021

Tempus Imperium: it’s time to build an empire

 For literally years, I’ve had Tempus Imperium on the back burner, thinking that it’s a game I should really try out. I finally decided it was time that I did and I ended up quite enjoying it.

Tempus Imperium is a solitaire Roll and Write with a rather quirky twist. You don’t use dice or cards. Instead, you use the date stamp. You use  the date and time to generate a string of ten numbers. You use that string to populate the starting grid map with forests, mines, lakes and a couple starting building. The string then becomes the order of actions you can take over the ten turn rounds.

The actions consist of building roads, digging to expand lakes, building buildings and using buildings. You can also spend two gold to take any action instead of the one from the number string.

Your road infrastructure is essential. If you want to build a building, the site has to be connected to forests and/or mines for construction supplies. Markets and castles have to be connected to other building to generate gold. And you will need gold. Building by lakes will earn points with the bigger the lake the greater the points.

Oh, and there are enemy squares. They will cost you gold at the end of each round and points at the end of the game. You need to build and use fortresses in order to get rid of them.

At the end of five rounds, you figure out your points and hope to do well.

At this heart, Tempus Imperium is an infrastructure development game. From that perspective, it does a nice job as a simple engine builder. You expand your network to get resources and ideally you will make a gold generating machine that let you build up your little kingdom. However, it doesn’t add anything new the genre as far as building roads and buildings go.

It’s the time-stamp and write part of the game that makes it interesting. But that’s also a double edged sword. 

On the downside, while it does create different setup every time, they aren’t random. The first six numbers will be the same if you’ll play more than once in a day. I can see the game becoming formulaic, although you could just use a random string. (That said, using a time stamp does actually weight certain options, which might actually help balance the game. Until 2030, you’ll always get a road building action)

On the upside, it’s a neat idea that does work and means you have to tweak your plans every game. More than that, it means all you need to play is the sheet and something to write with. 

Some years ago, I tried a game called Akua that promised to be a Euro with just a dry-erase board. Unfortunately it was so nit picky that it just wasn’t fun. While Tempus Imperium is a solitaire (although the designer has spoken of sometime trying a multi-player version), it does deliver on the idea of a Euro that just requires a dry-erase board. It might end up being a permanent part of my travel bag.

Tempus Imperium was and is still free at PNPArcade. You need to print out one sheet with no cutting. The game is not without its flaws and it’s fairly simple (but I think it has to be in order to work) If you go in knowing that, I think you’ll have fun.

And, yes, I will look at its spiritual sequel Tempus Quest.

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