Temporal Odyssey is a drafting-based skirmish game designed by Chris Solis. Players take the role of time travellers scouring multiple time periods for strong allies and potent spells to aid in their fight while avoiding becoming temporally unstable and losing themselves in the facets of time. This game can be played with two players, or with four players in a two vs two team format. A player or team wins when their opponent(s) have received three Instability cards, and then have their Traveller defeated.
Players begin by constructing the Past, Present and Future decks. Players collectively select three classes from each time period and shuffle these together with each period's two respective spells. Place these face-down at the side of the play area, with the reminder cards underneath to signify which classes and elemental sigils are available in each deck. Each deck consists of three card types.
Characters are the main component of the game, offering a way to destroy your opponent's forces as well as defend your own. Spell cards offer new tricks to whittle down your enemy's forces with, either removing problematic creatures or solidifying your own position. Finally, Artefacts provide another method to force Instability cards onto an opponent, bypassing the need to attack their Traveller directly. Players then shuffle the Instability deck and place it nearby, as well as the Token cards that may be required during gameplay.
Players may now select one of the eight included Travellers, taking their character card and associated seven-card starting hand. These cards share similarities between characters: Each character usually has one Mercenary character (A basic attacking unit); a Scout (a unit with a protection ability); a Tower (A defensive unit); an Artefact (used to power up your attacks; and three Spell cards unique to the Traveller (in Basic, Advanced and Ultimate power levels).
Players begin with their Tower and Traveller in play, and all remaining cards in their hands. Players should also gather four Action Point tokens for use during their turns, and the last player should now receive the 'Haste' spell card from the Token deck.
Players begin their turn in Temporal Odyssey by removing any AP tokens from their cards in play. Any spells are placed under the Traveller to be used later, and any start of turn effects now trigger.
Players may now perform as many of the five actions as they can meet the costs for:
- Enlisting allows a player to summon new allies to the field.
- Casting a Spell performs a one-off effect.
- Resting allows for the recovery of any spells under their Traveller.
- They may Attack with any existing creatures on the battlefield.
- They may use the AP Ability from among their cards in play.
Once a card has any AP tokens on it, it may not be used again in the same turn, so a newly-summoned creature cannot attack in the same turn, nor can a creature Attack and then use an AP Ability.
An attacking creature deals damage equal to its ATK value to an opposing character on the opponent's front line. If a character takes damage equal to or more than its HP, it is placed into its owner's discard pile. If a Traveller is defeated this way, it is flipped over, giving its controller an Instability card. Instability is the game-ending condition, but these cards also provide a one-off ability and an elemental sigil to their owners, potentially aiding them.
A player also receives an Instability card once they have two cards in their discard pile, so it is also possible (and likely) to grant Instability through whittling down your opponent's forces. The discarded cards then enter the central Banish pile.
After the play phase, the active player regroups their troops into columns consisting of a Leader (front) and Support (rear) unit. Any characters that attacked must be placed in the front row, while any who did not may be placed freely in the front or rear rows. Some characters may also share their defensive abilities with those in front of or behind them, so certain combinations are more advantageous than others.
Finally, the player chooses one of the three time period decks to draft from, taking the top three cards. The player takes one into their hand, places one face-up on top of its respective deck, and places the final one into the communal Banish pile. Play then passes to the opponent and continues until one player has their Traveller defeated when they have three Instability cards. The other player is the winner!
Final Thoughts on Temporal Odyssey
Temporal Odyssey is a tidy package offering a card battle experience akin to many deck builders without the need for a large box or huge amount of expansions. Level 99 Games, publishers of the Millennium Blades and BattleCON series of games, have produced a simple yet versatile system with plenty of variety in a cost-effective small box game. Play is lightning fast once rule explanation is concluded, and set-up time is barely a concern. Its cards are both intuitive and well designed, leaving only as much space as necessary for game terminology while leaving plenty of room for the stunning art to be displayed in full.
Versatility is abound, which is something I was quite surprised with out of the box. The eight Travellers each offer their own unique spin on the game mechanics, and each feels like it has a distinct and unique path to victory with a game plan to suit it. While I didn't enjoy the aggressive ruthlessness of Drake Von Hearth, I found a more than willing substitute in Alicia the Medium and her ability to put new characters into play seemingly from out of nowhere. The game also offers six classes for each time deck, allowing for a multitude of play options
Criticisms then become the same as any deck builder; Set-up times can be a problem in games such as Marvel Legendary or Dominion, but I find Temporal Odyssey is compact enough that I've split the sets of each time deck in half, shuffle up and be playing inside five minutes. This allows you to easily gather the two spell cards from each time period deck at the end of a game, shuffle them into the unused classes and have a second game with an entirely different experience. Each set of cards has its own distinctive back, making sorting at the conclusion of a game almost effortless.
Component quality isn't a lot to write home about. The game is mostly built up of cards which are durable and hold up to repeated shuffle wear. The only other component are a set of damage and AP tokens which are a little small for my liking, but completely reasonable in a product at its size and price point.
My one concern is that as a small box game, I ponder about the longevity of the system. It seems like many games in this genre need an expansion every few months to stay relevant. Take the ever-present Marvel Legendary, which often releases close to 1000 new cards every year. For the player who doesn't want to navigate that mine field, Temporal Odyssey offers a similar experience for a fraction of the cost, size and weight of a complete deck building collection. That, and the fact that designer Chris Solis has been very vocal about organised play for the system makes me hopeful that the game is supported beyond the casual setting.
Make no mistake, Temporal Odyssey may not have the weight behind it to oust established games from their pedestals, but for the budget-conscious gamer I find it hard not to recommend the game for what it is: A light, slick skirmish game at a competitive price point, with plenty of player interaction and versatility with quick rules that suit the beginner, and enough strategic complexity to whet the appetite of the veteran gamer.