Full disclosure: A preview copy of Antinomy was provided by Button Shy. Some art, gameplay, or other aspects of the game may change between this preview and the fulfillment of the Kickstarter, should it fund, as this is a preview of a currently unreleased game.
Alright, it’s been Kickstarter season for two hundred years, now, but still kinda loving it. That said, I’ll pretty much never turn down a chance to check out the latest Button Shy game (especially after the recent bump for Sprawlopolis to my Top 15), so, here I am, doing precisely that.
In Antinomy, you are, were, will be, and is, I think, two wizards who currently will have fought their way up and down the timeline trying to amass relics of significance, as uniting them will create paradoxes, which in turn create powerful paradox crystals. These little temporal nuggets hold the key to controlling space and time, though, you’d kind of think that if you were going to be successful then you already were successful, wouldn’t you? Something something Douglas Adams something something time travel verb tenses. Regardless, this power is clearly important to you and you’re willing to fight for it, so get ready to do just that.
Not a ton to say here. Take the cards:
Shuffle them, place one face-down. Give each player three, and put the remainder in a line. The face-down card should go on the right end at a 90-degree angle. Now, break out 10 Paradox Crystals:
Place one on the face-down card; this is now the Codex. The color you place this crystal on should be the same color as the card on the opposite end of the line. Nice and thematic.
Each player should choose a spot on the line to place their player cards:
It’s fine if they’re on the same spot, for now. Once you’ve done that, you’re all ready to start!
So, in Antinomy, you play as mighty wizards who seek to cause powerful paradoxes across time and space. If you can cause five, you win! But what exactly is a paradox (other than a great place to park two boats)?
On your turn, you can do one of three things:
- Move into the future: You may discard a card to advance that card’s number spaces forward (to your right). You may not use a card that would take you off the edge of the timeline; stuff gets weird around there (it’s Jeremy Bearimy).
- Move into the past by color: You may discard a card to go backwards (to your left) to a card of the same color.
- Move into the past by symbol: You may discard a card to go backwards (to your left) to a card with the same symbol.
No matter what you do, swap the card you discarded for the card you land on.
If you have three cards that share a feature (three of the same number, three of the same color, or three of the same symbol), you might be able to cause a Paradox! Check the current Codex color; if none of the cards in your hand match the Codex color, then you’ve caused a Paradox. Reveal it to your opponent, and then take a Paradox crystal. Now, shuffle the three cards and choose three cards from the timeline directly to the left or to the right of the card you’re on (you may only choose left or right, not a mix of both), and swap your three with those three. If there are not enough cards on one side for you to take three, you must take three from the other side; no choice. If you successfully caused a paradox, shift the Codex crystal one space clockwise.
Now, if you’re sharing a space with your opponent, a clash occurs! Show each other your hands; the player with the highest combined card value wins! Well, highest combined card value after ignoring cards matching the current Codex color. Hope that’s not a problem. If there’s a tie, nothing happens, but otherwise, the winner takes a Paradox crystal from the loser. If a Paradox crystal changed hands, advance the Codex color one space clockwise (even if you already did that for causing a Paradox this turn).
Continue play until one player holds five Paradox crystals!
Player Count Differences
I’ve only played the two-player mode. I’ve heard rumors of a solo mode and I look forward to seeing what that will play like.
- If you’re going for colors, shoot for the colors that are one step counter-clockwise from the Codex. This means that if there’s a shift, you won’t get screwed. Also, bonus, if you play your cards right, it’s possible to use that to chain into a Paradox on a subsequent turn, which would be kind of ideal, if you can pull it off.
- Combos are your friend. Ideally, when you put the cards down onto the board for a Paradox, you pick up a set that’s pretty close to another Paradox. I’ve been able to get three crystals in three turns by sorta-cycling these. Your opponent, naturally, should try to block you, but the catch-up mechanism in this game is clashing, not blocking you from gaining crystals, in my opinion, so you might see more of that instead.
- Going into the past is great for a quick swap. If you have the wrong color of something, exchange it for the right one by moving towards the past! This is an obvious rule of time travel, and a very helpful way to create additional paradoxes quickly.
- It’s never a bad idea to have some high-value cards. It makes you a bit more intimidating to your opponent, even if it makes it hard for you to move forward on the board, sometimes. Plus, it might prevent your opponent trying to clash with you, which can be annoying. It also means that you can initiate the clashes with your opponent if you’re starting to get worried about the number of crystals that they have.
- Know what your opponent has (or have some idea). You wanna know what your options are, yes, but you also should know the value of their cards in case you get into a clash. If you know they’d win the clash (or highly suspect it), don’t get into a fight. Only start fights that you know you can win; it’s the responsible way to play this game.
- If you can move the Codex on your opponent, you might be able to get two Paradox crystals in one turn. It’s rude, but if you know that they have a lot of a color that will be invalidated if the Codex were to switch, playing a Paradox when you move on to their space will force the Codex change and then you clash, meaning you can also steal a crystal (and they can’t respond in kind on their turn because they’ll still be on the same space as you)! It’s an interesting way to try and win the game, for sure, but not a bad way to catch up, either. It’s just … generally a good strategy.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I kind of love the implied theme / narrative, here. I mean, you can either be a great wizard who understands the puzzles of time and space and can persist their wisdom in the past and future, or you can be a wizard that just punches that wizard in the mouth and takes all their Paradox Crystals. Think of it as a wizard that put an 18 in Strength. It makes me laugh whenever I play this game, even though that’s probably just my headcanon.
- The art is phenomenal. It’s very wizardy but also kind of weathered in a way that looks ancient and magical; I really like it quite a bit.
- As always, very portable. It’s a Button Shy game; this is practically a publisher-level Pro.
- Doesn’t take long to learn, either. Again, I’m pretty convinced this is just every Button Shy game.
- It’s a tough little puzzle. Just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, the Codex shifts and now suddenly you can’t use any of those cards. You can’t count them for Clashes, either, which might cause you to get nuked from orbit if you’re not careful.
- The whole thing where your opponent moves in the opposite direction of you is really interesting. I’m not gonna lie, I haven’t gotten good enough that I can leverage it to my advantage, but it’s definitely a neat little piece of design work. It all feels very smart.
- It feels like it still has some interesting future directions to it. Why does the Codex always move clockwise? Are there events or special cards that can be added to mix up the gameplay? I’d be interested, but, being honest, I still think the base game is rock solid.
- Sort of a BYO crystal situation. Thankfully, a solid 65% of Kickstarter preview copies have some generic crystal token with them that I could just steal (thanks, Towers of the Sun!) for this game. I wonder how they’re going to make that work with the typical wallet format — maybe cardboard tokens, like Ahead in the Clouds? The crystals are a nice touch, though.
- It’s a nitpick, but I basically have to fix the line every turn. Since the cards aren’t symmetric and they tend to slide a bit, it kinda aggravates a thing where I’m kinda particular about card placement (I think it comes with doing a bunch of card arrangements). It’s one of the few Button Shy games that I think would really benefit from a playmat.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, Antinomy is a superb little puzzler! It’s got great art, it’s easy to learn, and it plays quickly, and that right there checks plenty of my boxes on games that I like and want to play, so, there we go. I also really appreciate that the catch-up mechanic can ignore the puzzley parts of the game, as it essentially introduces asymmetry into the game in a very interesting way. You can just follow your opponent around and try to beat them up every time they get a Paradox, in lieu of trying to solve the puzzle yourself. It’s weird, sure, but weird is good! I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I thought Button Shy is on the cutting edge of like, what can be done with just a few cards and a wallet, and they’re consistently surprising me with the range of possibilities they’re executing on. I think it’s good for board games that games like Antinomy exist, and I really thought it was quite fun, so hopefully it’s not the last I see of it in this timeline. If you’re looking for a quick puzzle game with some potential asymmetry and/or battling, Antinomy is worth checking out!