Players create the island of Tempus by placing the map tiles on the sea hexes.
Each player starts with a small civilization made up of 3 Tokens, and tries to expand their presence on the island as they move forward through time from one era to the next. Each era is broken into a number of action rounds in which a player can choose to move, have babies, have an idea, build a city, or have a fight. How effective each action is depends upon the era, with the actions in later eras being more powerful.
At the end of each era, Progress Points are calculated, determining which civilization makes the leap to the new era. Progress Points are awarded to players with tokens in the terrain type corresponding to the terrain of the New Era, Those players who did not advance in this era will automatically advance at the end of the next era.
The goal of the game is to finish with the most Victory Points, which are gained for controlling hexes, having cities, and developing flight.