BENGALURU: Anachrony is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, in which large sections of the surviving population have fragmented into radically different factions called Paths; each with their own philosophies, agendas and isolated home bases. However, the bulk of humanity still resides in the Capital, the last major city on the planet. When a wormhole opens from the future, the knowledge of time travel is unlocked for the Paths; but it comes with warning of a catastrophic asteroid impact that will take place in the near future. Players take control of one of the Paths and try to build up your base as best you can to prepare for the devastating impact that will soon occur; but you’re also trying to arrange matters so that the bulk of the Capital will evacuate to your base instead of your rivals, ensuring that you’ll be in charge once the dust settles.
Anachrony is, at heart, a worker-placement game — every turn, you’ll send one of your workers out to do something. You can send them anywhere in your home base without any trouble; the problem is that, at the beginning of the game, your home bases have no buildings you can send your workers to. You need to turn them from hick towns into thriving centres of industry, and for that you need to send your workers to the Capital.
Getting to the Capital, however, is no simple matter either. Whatever the original cataclysm was that wrecked the planet also made large areas of it inimical to human life. So, if you want to send workers to the Capital, you’ll have to send them in giant mech-suits to keep them alive. However, in a touch that’s at once genius and maddening, you need to power up these mechs before the round actually begins — which is a perfect example of how Anachrony forces you to plan ahead.
Perhaps my favourite aspect of Anachrony is this — you remember that whole ‘message from the future’ that started everything off and gave everyone access to time travel? Well, you can use that to your advantage by requisitioning resources from your future self. The catch, though — there’s always one — is that, at some point in future rounds, you’re going to need to build a time machine and essentially give up whatever resources you originally received in order to close the loop. If you don’t, you get paradoxes and maybe even anomalies for messing with the timeline — as, really, you might expect.
Once the asteroid hits (after round 4), the game shifts into fast-forward mode. The Capital is collapsing and its people are desperate to escape — meaning that your opportunities to interact with the Capital are limited, but the rewards are multiplied. If you can perform an evacuation, you’ll score according to your personal faction objectives; but you don’t even need to bother with that if you’re hoovering up points elsewhere. It’s a glorious open-ended puzzle, and there’s never a clear solution.
Hopefully it’s clear by now, but I’ll spell it out just in case — Anachrony is an order of magnitude more complex than any other game I’ve written about in this column. It’s a definite brain-burner, but the satisfaction that comes with seeing your machinations play out just as you intended...well, there are few games out there in my experience that come close to matching what Anachrony has to offer.