Binging on history videos made by Extra Credits has made me want to revisit Anachronism, a game that honestly invokes such mixed feelings from me. As time goes on, the pros and cons of the game both feel more extreme to me.
It is a one-on-one combat game that has various great figures of history smack each other around. And it had this weird collectible card design with no blind bags. You bought each warrior as a pack of six cards, the warrior and five pieces of equipment. You could mix and match them so you could have Achilles wielding a katana and inspired by Loki.
The actual warrior card itself was the piece on the board. Which seemed weird at the time but Summoner’s War has made that seem normal. So all you needed was a grid, some dice and six cards each.
Okay. Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. Since the game only lasts six rounds and and is heavily dice-based, it can be really swingy. More than that (and this is the big one), the game is wildly unbalanced. Some cards are simply better than others and, even in the first set alone, there were overpowered combos.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say Anachronism was broken. No blind bags was a great leveling element. But the players had to do their part to unbreak the game.
So what’s good about Anachronism?
Well, one fight only takes about five minutes. That both forgives a lot of sins and also makes Anachronism convenient to play. The dice didn’t go your way? What you thought was a brilliant combo is a bust? Well, it only took five minutes and there’s plenty of time for a rematch.
And there is the fact that the game is very portable and accessible. As far as deck building games go, it is easy to learn. I have friends who bought new tables to hold their giant game experiences. I skew to the opposite end of the the spectrum. Will a game work at a coffee shop or on an airline tray or standing line?
But the combination of an interesting theme, art that still holds up today and lots of neat (if not particularly balanced) combos is the real draw. Yeah, from a game balance standpoint, there are real issues. But if you’re willing to go along with the wild ride, you will have fun.
As much as I look at elements of Anachronism and wonder ‘What were they thinking?’, I also have to admit that I don’t remember playing a game of it that wasn’t fun. While the game snob in me only sees flaws, the kid in me says ‘What a blast!’
As I’ve grown older, I become more and more aware of the mechanical issues of Anachronism, which are definitely there. But I also grown more aware of how legitimately fun it is and I’m glad I have held onto my cards.