A recent card game from Looney Labs, creators of Fluxx, Icehouse and Aquarius, this puts the players in the roles of Time Travellers from worlds in which the 20th Century went very differently.

There are three ways to win, and one way to utterly lose. One goal is the altering of the Time Line (represented by a 8x4 grid of cards depicting significant events in the last 100 years -- with a somewhat American bias) to bring your Chrononaut back home. Another is the fulfilling of your mission: collecting historical artifacts for outside agencies. Alternatively, you might go for greed, and try to accumulate 10 cards in your hand. You lose -- everyone loses -- if thirteen paradoxes appear in the Time Line: the SpaceTime Continuum disintegrates. I call this 'crashing.'

The artifact-collecting aspect of Chrononauts is identical to that in Fluxx, however, they are significantly different games. Chrononauts is not nearly so luck-reliant as Fluxx; some of the strategies can get quite involved. The Time Travel play is particularly satisfying - changing an event causes a series of splendid ripples through time. It's kept simple, but the mechanic is a potentially rich one. Many of these ripples will become Paradoxes, which can be Patched to create an Alternative History. All the characters have two years that require Paradoxing and Patching in this way, and a third 'True History' year, which needs to be kept pristine.

The roleplaying side works especially well; you just can't help but describe the havok your meddling causes in the future as you start gleefully flipping cards about. Special mention to some of the cards: the genius Squa Tront, a super-evolved cockroach who must set off World War III in order to survive; and the Videotape of the Creation of the Universe (on Betamax.)

The game works best with at least 4 players (I've not played with more, but with less it can be rather slow-going.) It's not perfect, and you occasionally wonder quite how long the designers spent playtesting and revising it, with cards like the absurdly powerful Quick Trip Into The Future. Although timeline play is the most interesting part of the game, it only gets really interesting when several of the players have conflicting goals, and it seems to me that too long is spent waiting to draw patch cards. Perhaps this is a contributing factor to the way most games are won by Artifact play, the least skillful goal. It could also do with more Get There First cards, which allow you to steal Artifacts from other players -- Artifact play is a little bit static for my taste. But these are minor quibbles.

Chrononauts is a top fun game, light and airy like the other Looney games, and certainly worth a play.

Chrononauts (the game) is amazing fun. The main playing area is the timeline, an array of thirty-two cards representing dates from 1865 to 1999. These are divided into thirteen linchpins and nineteen ripplepoints. The time-travel philosophy adopted in the game is similar to that in the Back to the Future series of movies, and there's a nod to the series in the inclusion of an artifact called the Future Sports Almanac. Essentially, history is fairly elastic, but can be distorted by altering key events in history. These events are depicted by the linchpins, which have 'true' history on one side and alternate history on the other. Changes to these years 'ripple' forward, causing (hopefully temporary) paradoxes, where the future doesn't add up. By tweaking other details, these paradoxes are 'patched', completing the alternate history. When a patch card is played, the player doing so gets to draw an additional card, increasing his or her hand size and thus helping towards the ten-card victory. This aspect of play does not significantly affect the artifact side of things, except that there are two artifacts whose use can be prevented by a certain, specific play. Without further ado, Ladies and Gentlemen, the full Chrononauts timeline, as listed on the cards, with comments in italics by yours truly. The indented headings show the patches for each year.

And there you have it. Card information is copyright 1999, Looney Labs, Inc. Research and commentary by me.

A supplement to the game, 'Lost Identities', introduces a new quest, called 'The Most Toys', and lots of new IDs, including James T Kirk, H G Wells, another character who wants World War 3 to happen, and one who wants to destroy the whole universe.

It's quite diverting to work out what further dates might be included in any future (as it were) expansion. If anyone knows the reason behind alternate history dates I've not explained, I'd love to know.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.