#241 – Temporal Odyssey

Box

Base price: $25.
2 – 4 players. There’s a 2v2 team variant, but I’m focusing on the 2p game.
Play time: ~30 minutes.
BGG Link

Buy directly! (Will update once link is live.)
Logged plays: 3 

Full disclosure: A review copy of Temporal Odyssey was provided by Level 99 Games.

I’m trying more and more to broaden my horizons and … review more games, both to try and develop as a reviewer (growth mindset, y’all) and also to try more games and see more perspectives on gaming. This leads me to notice when I’ve really only played, like, one game from a company. In this case, it was Millennium Blades, from Level 99, which, I mean, fight and die for, but I hadn’t really tried their other games, which is odd. There was an opportunity to check out Temporal Odyssey, and so, I jumped at the chance and here we are.

In Temporal Odyssey, you play as one of several Travelers recruiting warriors and artifacts from across time to duel another. Lucky for you, being defeated in combat is just an inconvenience, as you can rewind time to undo your past failure. Unfortunately, that sort of time meddling doesn’t go unnoticed by Lovox, God of Time, and now they’ve got their … eye(? Hard to say.) on you, and you risk their final judgment at the end of time. Can you combine past, present, and future and banish your opponent from the timeline? Or will it be your time that’s running out?

Contents

Setup

Setup is reasonably straightforward, once you know what you need to do. First, have every player choose a character:

Characters

There will be a set of cards with each character’s face on the back — that’s your character’s starting hand.

Now, check out the cards. You’ll want to choose three sets of cards from each of the Past, Present, and Future sets:

Card Sets

Those three sets will compose your Past, Present, and Future draw piles:

Picked Sets

For your first game, it’s recommended to use:

  • Past: Ancients, Elementals, Beasts
  • Present: Assassins, Paladins, Warriors
  • Future: Engineers, Machines, Soldiers

You’ll also want to add in the Past, Present, and Future spells; those should be included in every game:

Past Present Future Spells

Also set up the Token Deck (5 special cards you can get over the course of the game); set it next to the other cards.

Token Cards

Lastly, give each player 4AP (red lightning bolt tokens), and set the remaining tokens off to the side:

Play Tokens

You should be all ready to start! Also, give the second player the Haste Token Spell.

Setup

Gameplay

Gameplay 1

So Temporal Odyssey is primarily a battling game. On your turn, you’ll try to bolster your defenses and hit your opponent hard to defeat their summoned allies or their Traveler in the hopes of banishing them from time, forever. It’s aggressive, but, I mean, it’s them or you. So better them.

Your turn essentially always progresses the same way; you’ll be able to do four Action Points’ worth of actions, and then you’ll end your turn with a “draft”, where you draw three cards from one of the Time Period decks. You keep one, put one back (face-up) and Banish the other, putting it in a pile, out of play.

Let’s talk about actions. Generally, you can use an action for four things:

  • Enlist a card. You may play a Character or Artifact from your hand by placing AP tokens equal to its cost (top-right corner) on that card. That card is now in play and, unless otherwise stated, you immediately perform its Enlisted effect. Many cards that you can enlist also have Sigils on them; these can power up various spells and effects as long as they’re present on cards you control.
  • Attack. Provided a card has no AP on it already, you may flip an AP token over to its orange (sword) side and place it on this card. Deal damage equal to the card’s attack (and any other passive bonuses) to the leader (front card) of any group, noting that the leader (and support [back card]) may have abilities that reduce (or negate!) damage. Place damage tokens equal to the damage inflicted on the card. If you place damage tokens equal to or exceeding the card’s health, it is Defeated. If you Defeat a Traveler, ungroup it (moving it away from its group), remove all damage, and flip it over; all other cards are placed in the Discard Pile. Any time your Discard Pile has more than two cards in it, Banish both cards and immediately gain an Instability. Naturally, this means you want to defeat your opponents’ cards. The first player cannot attack on their first turn.
  • Cast a Spell. Magic and time travel are two great tastes that taste great together, so you figured you’d try your luck. Place AP on a Spell Card in your hand and then place it under your Traveler to use it (they’re one-time uses, unless otherwise stated). This is one place where Sigils come into play — if you have all the pictured Sigils available in your play area, you can use the Level 2 version of a spell. If you have two sets of all the pictured Sigils among your active cards, you can use the Level 3 version of a spell. That’s always fun.
  • Use an AP Ability. Some cards have abilities that cost AP to activate. If you wish to use one, just spend the required AP (placing it on the card) and you’re ready to use it. Again, you cannot place AP on a card that already has AP on it.

Gameplay 2

There are a variety of effects that can occur as a result of these actions, as well. I’ve already discussed being defeated, but there are others:

  • Stunning. Some abilities will Stun characters. When that happens, turn them sideways. You cannot place AP on a stunned character, but you can use support abilities. They’ll recover when you Regroup at the end of your turn.
  • Gaining Instability. If your Traveler is defeated and you have 2 or fewer Instability, on your turn you will gain 1 Instability and flip your Traveler over. If you have two cards in your discard pile, you gain 1 Instability and Banish both. In either case, if you already have 3 Instability when you would gain more, you do not gain more. Instability on its own isn’t all that bad, though; while it’s face-up in your play area it provides a Sigil for you to use. You could also flip it face-down to provide yourself with a powerful ability that might turn the tide of the game.
  • Regrouping. Towards the end of your turn, you should organize your party into groups. Each group is composed of two cards: a Leader and a Support. Leader goes on top and is the only card in that group that can attack or be attacked. Support stays behind and can use a defensive ability. That ability can also affect the leader if the Support has a double-ended arrow next to the ability. Note that AP Abilities and Spells can target your support, so, don’t take it for granted. You can only modify groupings on your turn.

Again, at the end of your turn, you’ll take three cards from any one Time Period Deck. Return one face-up to the top of the deck, keep one for yourself, and banish the third from play, putting it in the Banished Pile.

Gameplay 3

Play continues until one player has three Instability and their Traveler is defeated. When that happens, Lovox passes their judgment and erases that player from time, forever! In case that wasn’t clear, that player loses.

Player Count Differences

Honestly, I didn’t play it at four (since I was really more interested in this as a two-player game). It seems fine, you just play 2v2 and your team needs 4 Instability to lose and you can view each others’ cards. No real opinion on it, but I’d probably just stick with two players, myself.

Strategy

  • Synergies, synergies, synergies. You really want to be picking up cards that improve your spells, artifacts that up your attack or defense, or really just anything that you can use to combo your opponent into the ground (or, I suppose thematically, the darkness beyond time).
  • Watch out for certain cards. There are cards that, for instance, transfer all damage on the card to your card if they attack (that will usually kill you). There are cards that will automatically win the game if they defeat your Traveler. There are spells which can annihilate entire groups. You should be aware that this can happen; the game is an aggressive back-and-forth (not swingy, just a lot of intense moves).
  • Figure out what you want and sift for it. If you’re looking for certain Sigils, check the Info cards for the sets in play, as they’ll mention what Sigils tend to be in that set. Sometimes that means digging through the entire Future for a single card you want, but, them’s the breaks.
  • Don’t fear Instability. You’d be hard-pressed to avoid it, and it’s generally good to have one or two (because of the abilities). You just want to make sure you don’t end up with three, lest you set yourself up for a loss.
  • Balance offense and defense. Some cards have very good attacks or defensive abilities. Protecting your Traveler isn’t a bad idea, but remember that if you don’t take the offensive against your opponent you risk them building up enough forces to really put the hurt on you.
  • If you see a card your opponent needs, Banish it. Some cards will let you recover from the Banished pile, but they’re generally costly, so, better to make them use the ability there than to just be able to get it for free at the end of their turn. Make them work for it.
  • Artifacts are worth having. In my first game I undervalued Artifacts, which was a mistake. The second game saw me take an Artifact that blocked the first attack against my Traveler, meaning that I took a lot less damage. Since you want to avoid damage, this seems like a pretty good way to go about doing that.
  • Don’t just summon a lot of characters. You’re just creating cannon fodder which your opponent can use to kill easily and give you more Instability. Focus on buffing your characters up once you have 4 or more, generally.

Pros, Mehs, and Cons

Pros

  • The theme is super cool. It’s a neat concept and I think the gameplay does a solid job of executing on that (along with the graphic design). I wish there were more of an ability to “rewind time” on certain cards, or something, but honestly this is pretty great.
  • It feels very tightly designed. Generally speaking, I give props to games that have several paths to victory (even if all of those paths are technically through the other player), and this has many. It also seems like there aren’t sets that are particularly stronger than the others. If you’re looking for an interesting game of trying to come up with synergies, Temporal Odyssey has that in spades.
  • Surprisingly low-complexity in terms of setup and gameplay. I think I worried it was going to be more complicated than it ended up being, and I was pleasantly surprised by it … not being that. It’s very much a straightforward 30-minute card game, great for players who enjoy battling but aren’t looking to get an entire LCG or something.
  • The art is pretty great as well. It’s intense and on-brand for the theme, which I appreciate. Also sort of intensely purple, which I don’t see a lot in games? I think Haunt the House is the last one I’ve seen with it off-hand (oh, and VAST; always a good one).
  • I don’t like combat-heavy games, but this is still fun for me. I think there’s something to be said about how I’m skeptical of the game type from the start, but I still have enjoyed every play I’ve had of this. I think that’s because the game is fairly streamlined, in terms of what you can do on your turn (meaning that it’s relatively low complexity, as I’ve mentioned) and you don’t have to overthink your turn since you have relatively few actions. This means the game doesn’t really spiral out of control, and it’s got really good design fixes, like a solid catch-up mechanism and a bit of set collection encouraging you to diversify the cards that you’re grabbing in order to get the right effects. It’s definitely interesting.
  • It also plays pretty quickly. Turns are short! Sometimes you don’t have much to do, but either way you only have four actions (usually), so, there’s not much in the way of downtime, which I appreciate. I assume that goes up a bit with a 4-player game, but it’s team-based, so maybe not?

Mehs

  • Box is a bit empty. Hopefully they’re planning ahead for expansion content or something.
  • The sword side tokens aren’t … incredibly useful. I suppose their purpose is to help you remember that you attacked with that card that turn, and so it must be the Leader of a group, but beyond that I don’t see the utility of it. Still, I will give them props — having to put AP tokens on the cards to show that they’ve been used is a smart way to help keep track.
  • Putting the game away is mildly annoying. Just sifting through a lot of shuffled cards to put them into the correct order is … occasionally frustrating. It might have helped if the divider cards were a bit longer than the normal cards? That would make it easier, I think.

Cons

  • I was hoping it would be more drafting than battling. The draft aspect here isn’t terribly interesting, since it’s just “draw three, keep one, return one”, and beyond that it’s mostly combat. I don’t play a lot of direct-combat games (just not my personal preference), so the game fell a bit short for me, there. I think I’d prefer the game to have its % combat and % drafting reversed, if I was looking for games I really love.
  • Fairly text-heavy. It can take some time to understand the cards, but this is a pretty mild Con, since the cards are generally consistent within their types (there are really only three different cards per type). I don’t see this being a real breaking point for many players, but it might be challenging if you have trouble with English or something.

Overall: 7 / 10

In Progress

Thoughts on Temporal Odyssey! So this is a weird game for me; on one hand, the generic type of game that this is is a bit outside of my preferences (I don’t really like combat games, and this is definitely a game where the focus is far more on the combat than the draft). On the other hand, I’ve played enough games to notice all the places in the design that are done well and processes that are implemented smoothly to try and make a game that accessibly blends combat with some scaffolding to make the game less complex and more fun for newer players (while still challenging and entertaining for more experienced players). I think it’s definitely got some nice touches, to that effect, and it’s got a neat theme that keeps me engaged even if it’s not my absolute favorite kind of game to play. So I kind of split the difference; I think in a few ways, I can appreciate that the game is good (and it’s just not within my preferences, generally) and I think that if you’re into combat games and want a bit of drafting to go with them, I’d recommend giving Temporal Odyssey a spin!

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