In Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, players represent heroic adventurers, racing against time to save the world’s greatest treasures from Professor Evil, an absent-minded super-villain who has stolen artifacts from across time, and is trying to lock them all in his secret strong-room. Can you rescue 4 treasures before he can stash 4 away in his strong room? And is the game any good? Let’s find out!
Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time – What’s in the Box?
Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time is a really nice-looking game. The characters are represented by solid little boards which have full-art on them. The cards you play are large and clear.
The board has a good level of detail, and looks really nice, the tokens for Treasures and Traps are solid, and the character standees are fine, if nothing especially exciting.
Overall, the component quality in Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time is really top-notch. There’s a slightly steam-punk feel to everything, which works well with the pseudo turn-of-the-century adventurers who mysteriously have the power to time-travel.
Sounds good: How does it play?
In each game of Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, the adventurers are trying to rescue 4 treasures. To rescue a treasure, you need to turn off all of the traps protecting it, then go to the room it’s in and grab it.
Sounds simple? Well, it turns out that there are a few obstacles. For one thing, you only get 3 actions per turn (move, open a door, flick a switch, rescue a treasure), and it’s a race against time to get round the board and get to the treasure. Each treasure has a time-rating of between 30 and 55 minutes, and you only have that much time to secure it before it’s taken away and secured in the professor’s strong room.
Something Evil this way Comes!
The Professor has rolled 2 Arrows and Green. He looks for the door out of his room with a green mat and goes through it (1) – entering the room, he flips the switch, turning the trap back on. Then he looks again for a green mat and moves right. This time the door he went through was open, so he locks it, as well as turning the trap in his final room on again.
As if rescuing the treasures wasn’t hard enough to begin with, you also need to deal with Professor Evil himself. After each player takes their turn in Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, they roll 3 dice for the professor. The first two will move the professor around his house at random – he will move up to 3 rooms (or leap across the map via a secret passage), locking all the doors he passes through, and turning the switches back on in any room he enters. Every room in Professor Evil’s House has 3 doors, and they have colour-coded mats next to each of them – if you roll red, he goes through the red door (or the secret passage to the red treasure), if blue then blue, etc.
As this is his house, and not yours, any time you would find yourself in the same room as the professor, your character must immediately flee the castle. As there are only 3 points of entry to the castle, having to re-enter via a window or the patio doors on your next turn will slow you down considerably, and can make the difference between rescuing a treasure and the professor locking it away.
This time the Professor has rolled Red and the Secret Passage symbol, so he moves directly to the room with the Red treasure in, and reactivates the trap there. He doesn’t lock any doors as he didn’t go through any.
The fact that the professor can move through 1, 2 or 3 adjacent rooms, leap across the map via a secret passage, or stay completely still, means that Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time can feel very random at times – too predictable would make the game get dull very quickly, but sadly it feels like they went too far in the opposite direction.
The Reckoning: A Matter of Time
The black dice shows 2 symbols, so the clock marker moves ten minutes, reaching the Green marker – the professor locks the Green treasure away.
Worse than that, rather than moving this turn, the Professor has moved the blue treasure forward 10 minutes – as it’s now BEHIND the clock marker, that one is lost too!
For every treasure in Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, you will eventually have to determine whether your heroes are able to rescue it, or whether the professor has safely stashed it away. The final, black, die rolled at the end of each turn measures that passage of time. If the black Clock marker, moving on 5 or 10 minutes per turn, ever catches up with the time marker for a treasure, it gets locked away, and can no longer be rescued – to add to the challenge, sometimes the Professor won’t move at all, he will just reduce the time you have to rescue a treasure!
Alternatively, if you manage to turn off all the switches and get to the treasure, you can take an action to reclaim the treasure. Immediately upon taking it, all the relevant switches are returned to their on position, meaning that you will have to start from scratch with any further treasures you want to rescue.
Whether a treasure ends up in the “rescued” space, or the “lost” space, you need to immediately replace it: draw a new treasure from the stack, and a room card to see where it goes. Every treasure has its own time-frame, and you put the marker on the clock that many minutes into the future.
Easy Pickings or Mission Impossible?
Only 3 traps guarding these 30-minute treasures
Generally speaking, the harder a treasure is to rescue the more time you are allocated for your attempt. However, treasures protected by more switches don’t just need more actions to switch them off.
55 Minutes isn’t all that long with 7 traps to deactivate
The more traps guarding a treasure, the more rooms the switches will be spread over, making it more likely that Professor Evil will wander back into one of the relevant rooms and put it back on again. As such, the 50 or 55 minute treasures can get locked into a frustrating cycle of nearly getting all the switches pulled, only to have to go back over to the other side of the castle because a trap has just been switched back on again. The rules recommend leaving out the 55-minute treasures for your first game, and this is definitely advice I’d recommend following.
A League of Extraordinary (Ladies and) Gentlemen
There are 5 playable characters in Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, and they each have their own flavour. Despite how light the game is, choice of character has a remarkably big influence. For one thing, each character has a deck of 6 cards, and you draw 2 at the start of each turn, with the option to play 1, before discarding any left over at the end of the turn. These cards will generally tie-in with your character’s sub-title, so the “Mistress of Time” manipulates the clock and the treasure markers, the “Lord of Gears” interacts with the Switches themselves, and the “Master of Movement” can get himself around the castle in an unlikely fashion.
As there are only 6 cards per character and you draw 2 a turn, you’ll get to see them often, and get used to the sorts of things you’ll be able to do when it gets to your turn. On the downside however, if you have a card that you don’t like, you’re going to see it about 1 turn in 3!
Overall, I’d say that most of the playable-characters in Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time have got some decent abilities, and are worth using. Personally, our least favourite was Destiny Bradshaw, the Mistress of Randomness – as the name might suggest, her abilities are random, determined by a dice roll. In theory, you could be aiming for a more powerful effect than you would see on another investigator, but inevitably we just hit the negative option, giving the game a helping hand against us that it didn’t really need.
A Moment of Inspiration
When you start a game of Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, aside from your deck your character is blank, without distinguishing features, except for art. Every time the clock hits quarter-past or quarter-to the hour, someone has a “Moment of Inspiration” meaning that one character can flip their card over.
Once flipped, each character will have an ongoing ability, such as being able to open a door at the start of each turn, or to move near the professor. There will also be a powerful ability at the bottom of the card, which you can trigger by flipping the card back face-down to pay for the boost.
I really liked this aspect of Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, as it felt like we had some meaningful decisions to make, both in terms of which character to flip, and in terms of when it was worth using the flip-back abilities.
Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time: Overall Impressions
As I said at the start, Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time is a really nice-looking game. The Characters are fun, the board is beautifully designed, and overall theme and premise really appealed.
That said, when you get down to actually playing the game, the level of randomness is HUGE. You are trying to rescue a treasure from a random room, guarded by a selection of traps that have been randomly distributed around the house, an arbitrary number of which will currently be switched on. You will attempt to plan carefully, and optimise your moves, only to roll the dice, and find that all your work was wasted, as the Professor suddenly charges back in your direction.
As much as I want to like Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time, I got annoyed by the extent to which it was dependent upon random factors. It wasn’t simply the fact that we were losing (either individual treasures or the game as a whole), but the fact that – other than magically predicting the dice-roll – there often wasn’t anything obvious that we could look at and think “ah, that’s what we need to do differently.”
Professor Evil and the Citadel of Time looks really nice, it has a clear rulebook, and the basic idea behind it all is good, but it swings wildly between comically easy and frustrating to the point where it’s nigh-on impossible. For that reason, I can’t see myself keeping hold of this one for long.
6/10 – nice idea, but fails on execution.
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I'm an avid board and card-gamer, still trying to figure out where Board Gaming fits into life as the dad of a very grabby toddler.
I enjoy thematic games (Fantasy, Cthulhu, etc) and play a lot of cooperative games, along with a bit of competitive gaming (currently Legend of the Five Rings) when I can make it out of the house.
When not playing games, I can be found doing a mundane office job, or working on my own Blog, Fistful of Meeples.