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.
- 1865: April 14, 1865 Lincoln Assassinated (Linchpin) | President Shot Dead During Theatrical Event | Ripples: 1868, 1974
- 1865': April 14, 1865' Lincoln Wounded (Flipped linchpin) | Theatrical event marred by attempt to kill president | Ripples: 1868, 1974
- 1868: February 24, 1868 Andrew Johnson Impeached (Ripplepoint) | President escapes conviction and removal from office by one vote | Paradoxed if: 1865' that is, if Lincoln lives, since Johnson won't be president.
- 1912: April 14, 1912 Titanic Sinks (Linchpin) | Collision with iceberg dooms new ocean liner | Ripples: 1929, 1933
- 1914: June 28, 1914 Archduke Ferdinand Assassinated (Linchpin) | WWI begins | Ripples: 1918
- 1914: June 28, 1914 Ferdinand Unharmed in Attack (Flipped Linchpin) | Injured bodyguard still missing | Ripples: 1918 This is the first flipped card to suggest a mechanism for the time-traveler to change history.
- 1915: May 7, 1915 Lusitania Sinks (Linchpin) | German submarine torpedoes ocean liner | Ripples: 1917, 1933
- 1917: April 6, 1917 US Declares War on Germany (Ripplepoint) | Key reason: Sinking of Lusitania | Paradoxed if: 1915' that is, if the Lusitania didn't sink.
- 1918: Jun 28, 1918 Europe in Ruins after World War I (Ripplepoint) | Flu epidemic kills 20 million | Paradoxed if: 1914' that is, if Franz Ferdinand wasn't assassinated. Debate the logic of this if you like.
- 1929: October 29, 1929 Stock Market Crashes (Ripplepoint) | Millionaires lose millions | Paradoxed if: 1912' that is, if the Titanic got further than its maiden voyage. The designer attributes this and the following connection to the impact on the economy of losing all those wealthy types.
- 1929': April 14, 1929' Titanic Explodes (Patch) | Steamship sinks after striking derelict mine | Nullified if: 1912 that is, if the Titanic already sank. Note that the stated date is the anniversary of the actual sinking.
- 1933: 1933, ongoing The Great Depression (Ripplepoint) | FDR launches New Deal | Paradoxed if: 1912' and 1915' that is, if both the steamships got through OK. Note that this is the first use of a logical operator in the game.
- 1936: August 1, 1936 Hitler Opens '36 Olympics (Linchpin) | Nazi leader makes speech at Berlin Olympic Games | Ripples: 1939, 1942, 1944, 1945, 1948 This is the linchpin with the most wide-ranging effects, so killing (and saving) the Führer is a popular pastime in the game.
- 1937: May 6, 1937 Hindenburg Explodes (Linchpin) | Zeppelin bursts into flames while landing at Lakehurst | Ripples: 1950
- 1939: September 1, 1939 Germany Invades Poland (Ripplepoint) | World War II begins | Paradoxed if: 1936' that is, if Hitler's already dead.
- 1941: December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor Bombed by Japanese (Linchpin) | US enters WWII | Ripples: 1944, 1945
- 1942: January 20, 1942 Final Solution Undertaken (Ripplepoint) | Systematic murder of all Jews agreed on at Wannsee Conference | Paradoxed if: 1936'
- 1943: 1943, ongoing Manhattan Project (Linchpin) | Secret government project works to build atomic bomb | Ripples: 1945, 1962
- 1944: June 6, 1944 D-Day (Ripplepoint) | Allied troops begin ground invasion | Paradoxed if: 1936' and 1941' that is, there's no-one to invade. No location is given on the card: if Pearl Harbor is on, but Hitler dies, then D-Day can happen in Okinawa or somewhere.
- 1945: August 6 and August 9, 1945 A-Bombs Dropped on Japan (Ripplepoint) | World War II ends | Paradoxed if: 1936' or 1941' or 1943' that is, if there aren't two American fronts, or there isn't an A-Bomb. This date is called a Nexus in the game, and there are three alternatives:
- 1945a: November 11, 1945a Allied Troops Invade Tokyo (Unstable Patch) | WWII ends as Japan Surrenders | Nullified if: 1941' or 1943; Playable only if: 1941 and 1943' that is, this patch can only be used as long as Japan are in the war, and there's no atom bomb. Note that the date given is Armistice Day.
- 1945b: August 6, 1945b Nazis Win (Unstable Patch) | The nations of Europe are united under a strong central government | Nullified if: 1936' or 1941; Playable only if: 1936 and 1941' that is, this patch can only be used as long as Germany is in the war, but not America.
- 1945c: August 6, 1945c World Peace (Unstable Patch) | For once, for a little while, there is no war anywhere | Nullified if: 1936 or 1941; Playable only if: 1936' and 1941' that is, this patch can only be used as long as neither Germany nor Japan starts WWII. Nothing need stop the Manhattan Project going ahead during World Peace.
- 1948: May 14, 1948 Israel Founded (Ripplepoint) | First Arab-Israeli War begins | Paradoxed if: 1936' that is, the foundation of Israel is purported to depend on the displaced persons fleeing Europe.
- 1950: June 25, 1950 Seoul captured by North Korea (Ripplepoint) | Korean War begins, after USA's occupation forces are withdrawn from South Korea | Paradoxed if: 1937' that is, if the Hindenburg survives. How does that work? Read on...
- 1950': January 11, 1950' Zeppelin Factory Opened in Seoul (Patch) | Withdrawl of US forces from South Korea postponed (for reasons of National Security | Nullified if: 1937 So that's the connection! The only reason I can find for the date is that one year later, the President announced that winning the war in Korea took precedence over the Fair Deal, and the UN drafted an unsuccessful peace deal.
- 1957: October 4, 1957 Sputnik Launched (Linchpin) | Russians stun world by orbiting first satellite | Ripples: 1962, 1969
- 1962: October 22, 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis (Ripplepoint) | World War 3 narrowly averted | Paradoxed if: 1943' and 1957' that is, if Russia is ahead in the arms race and behind in the space race, rather than vice versa.
- 1962': October 23, 1962 World War 3 (Terminal Patch) | Human civilization destroyed as Cuban missile crisis escalates into nuclear war | Nullified if: 1943' or 1957' This patch is also known as the Überparadox. It counts as a paradox, and nothing to the right of it can be altered or used until it's removed. No paradoxes are counted beyond this point, and as it's the twelfth ripplepoint, you can't destroy the space-time continuum either.
- 1963: November 22, 1963 Kennedy Assassinated (Linchpin) | President John F. Kennedy shot during motorcade | Ripples: 1968, 1969, 1974
- 1968: April 4 and June 5, 1968 MLK and RFK Both Murdered (Ripplepoint) | Martin Luther King, Jr. shot; Robert F Kennedy shot also | Paradoxed if: 1963' that is, if JFK lives, his family and the civil rights movement are both in much better shape.
- 1969: July 20, 1969 Apollo-11 Lands on Moon (Ripplepoint) | Small Step = Giant Leap | Paradoxed if: 1957' or 1963' that is, without JFK's martyr status or the spur of early Soviet success with Sputnik, the US falls behind in the space race.
- 1974: August 9, 1974 Nixon Resigns (Ripplepoint) | Vice President Ford replaces Nixon after Watergate scandal | Paradoxed if: 1865' and 1963' that is, if Lincoln and Kennedy both live. How so? Read on...
- 1974': August 9, 1974' President King Takes Office (Patch) | V.P. King becomes first black president following impeachment of Nixon | Nullified if: 1865 or 1963 that is, if Lincoln and Kennedy both live, the civil rights movement is strong enough that a black man can get into the Oval Office.
- 1980: December 8, 1980 John Lennon Murdered (Linchpin) | Deranged fan guns down rock star on NYC street | Ripples: 1986, 1999
- 1981: March 30, 1981 Reagan Wounded (Linchpin) | President survives when he and 3 staff members are shot outside DC hotel | Ripples: 1986, 1991
- 1986: January 28, 1986 Challenger Explodes (Ripplepoint) | Space Shuttle blows up due to freezing of O-rings | Paradoxed if: 1980' and 1981' that is, if Lennon lives and Reagan dies. Another stumper...
- 1991: December 26, 1991 Soviet Union Collapses (Ripplepoint) | The Cold War ends as Russia abandons Communism | Paradoxed if: 1981' that is, if Reagan dies, Russia is under less pressure from the West, as far as I understand the designer's logic.
- 1993: April 19, 1993 Waco Compound Burns to Ground (Linchpin) | Federal seige of Branch Davidian compound ends in death and destruction | Ripples: 1995
- 1993': April 19, 1993' Waco Standoff Defused Peacefully (Flipped Linchpin) | Tanks withdrawn from area | Ripples: 1995
- 1995: April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing (Ripplepoint) | Act of terrorism destroys federal office building on anniversary of Waco siege | Paradoxed if: 1993' that is, if Waco ends peacefully, Timothy McVeigh remains just another anti-government nutter.
- 1999: April 20, 1999 Columbine High School Massacre (Ripplepoint) | With nihilism on the rise, shooting spree is one of many | Paradoxed if: 1980' that is, if Lennon lives. That man gets about a lot for someone who's dead...
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.