Review: Anachronism

by Frances Moritz

With strong support from the History Channel, TriKing Games debuts in the gaming market with Anachronism, a fast-play combat card game.

At first glance, you'd think it was a collectable card game. But there will be no random distribution of cards with this vaguely educational game - each warrior is bundled with four culturally appropriate support cards. Julius Caesar, for example, is bundled with Jupiter (an Inspiration card), Gladius (a Weapon card), Caesar's Greaves (an Armor card), and De Bello Gallico (a Special card).

The starter pack, which comes with a playmat and two six-sided dice, features Achilles and Spartacus. Sixteen other warriors are available individually bundled with their support cards. Two warriors - Beowulf and Miyamoto Musashi - are only available as promotional sets at conventions.

The initial release of the game features four cultures and five warriors from each of them. The featured warriors and cultures are:

  • Achilles
  • Alexander the Great
  • Herakles
  • Leonidas
  • Milo of Croton
  • Miyamoto Musashi
  • Nakano Takeko
  • Ninja
  • Oda Nobunaga
  • Saito Musashibo Benkei
  • Beowulf
  • Canute the Great
  • Freydis Eiriksdottir
  • Grettir the Strong
  • Harald Hardrada
  • Amazonia
  • Julius Caesar
  • Marcus Claudius Marcellus
  • Maximinus
  • Spartacus
The game is easy to learn and play, with each battle only taking five to ten minutes. Each combat last a maximum of five rounds, with each round only taking a couple minutes. An entire tournament can run in only a couple hours.

Almost everything you need to know to play the game is on the cards; what's not is on the playmat. All the rules are written out on the side of the playmat, including a diagram of the warrior cards explaining what each symbol and number on the cards means. The top center displays the warrior's basic combat grid; they may only attack a square where they have an attack modifier listed. The top right is the warrior's element; these are mostly irrelevant, but some support cards affect only certain elements. The text on each support card tells you what it can be used for and what limitations it has. You can mix and match the support cards, as long as you take the warrior's element into account, and apply the restriction of one face up card of each support type. Likewise, the text on the warrior cards define any special abilities they have.

The bottom left of each warrior card has the collection of numbers that are used the most during the game: life, actions, experience and damage. Life is the number of hit points a warrior begins with, which typically are reduced with combat (unless your opponent consistently rolls badly). The number of actions per round effects movement, facing, attacks, and any special actions taken based on your support cards. Experience is used for initial placement on the playmat and for resolving initiative ties. Initiative appears on the upper left corner of each support card; in case of ties, the more experienced (which, in this game, appears as the higher number) warrior goes first. Damage is the base damage that warrior does before any special modifiers they or their support cards may have.

The speedy game play and ease of learning the rules are delightful. It makes for a quick game break that can be taken anywhere. The high quality artwork on very strong cardstock shows that a lot of thought was put into both the quality and the durability of the game. I only found two major flaws while exploring this game: the lack of counters or any other easy method of tracking life, which will go up and (mostly) down during the game, and the fact that the rules are only printed on the playmat; while convenient for game play, it strikes me as inconvenient for passing around to other players who may want to glance at them while watching the game.

I visited TriKing's website in hopes of printing a spare copy of the rules, but their graphics-intensive website, which loads everything using Macromedia Flash, has the rules divided onto multiple pages which print in a small font and half a page of black background. They appear to have forgotten the lowest common denominator of dial-up users (a group I no longer belong to, fortunately), and have no realistically printable version of the rules available for those of us that firmly believe in the usefulness of a spare copy. With their plans for organized play, known as the Anachronism War CollegeTM , they will hopefully make their website and rules more accessible to the average gamer.

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