A recent card game
from Looney Labs
, creators of Fluxx
, 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.