A to Z Gaming: Chrononauts

Next in our A to Z game-shelf play-through we play with the very fabric of spacetime in Chrononauts.

Basic Info: Chrononauts
Players: 1-5
Time: 30 Minutes
Designer: Andrew Looney
Artist: Alison Frane, Derek Ring
Publisher: Looney Labs


In Chrononauts, each player takes on a secret identity with a longing to put the timeline back to the one they know, a mission to collect specific artifacts, and a desire to repair paradoxes in the timeline.  There are three ways to win the game – getting the timeline to look the way your secret identity wants it, collecting the artifacts listed in your mission, or getting 10 cards in your hand (from repairing artifacts). Alternately, everyone can lose the game if too many paradoxes are in play at once.

The game begins with the timeline cards played in order with the blue or purple side up – this represents the timeline as we all know it. Each player has a hand of cards, and on their turn draws one card and plays one card. If the card played is a patch to the timeline (more below), then that player gets to draw and keep an additional card.

The timeline comes in two different types of cards – Linchpins and Ripplepoints. The play deck contains 6 types of cards: Inverters, Patches, Artifacts, Actions, Timewarps, and Gadgets.

Inverters allow the player to flip over a Linchpin card in the timeline. These Linchpins, in turn, create paradoxes in selected Ripplepoint cards. For example, if instead of Sputnik launching it exploded on the launchpad (flipping the 1961 Linchpin card) this would cause a paradox for the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis and 1969 Apollo 11 Moon Landing. The 1962 and 1969 Ripplepoint cards are turned over, showing Paradoxes in the timeline.

Patches are played directly on top of Paradoxes in the timeline. These show what might have happened if the Linchpin points in history had been changed. In the above example, the patch for 1969 is that Cosmonauts Orbit the Moon.

The Artifact cards are simply that – artifacts that our time travelers have collected from the past and future. My favorites are the live dinosaurs. There are also several copies of the Mona Lisa, including an obvious forgery, a good copy, and the real thing. These are played in front of each player.

Actions, Timewarps, and Gadgets all change the game play in certain ways. Actions allow players to steal things, sell artifacts for additional cards, or change out a player’s Secret ID or Mission. Timewarps allow players to retrieve things from the play deck and cancel other player’s card plays. And Gadgets give players permanent additional powers.

If, at the end of a player’s turn, they have the timeline matched to their Secret Identity, the Artifacts specified by their Mission, or 10 cards in their hand, they win. If, on the other hand, there are 13 un-patched Paradoxes in the timeline, everyone loses.

This is another game we’ve had in our collection for a long time – it’s a small box card game, so easy to keep on-hand, but also fun to pull out.

The art is great – I especially like the Artifact cards. The iconography on the Timeline, Inverter, and Patch cards helps with identifying which Linchpins and Ripplepoints are connected to which events. I also love how the theme runs through the Actions and Timewarps. For example, the card “Get there first” allows you to steal an artifact, since you were able to travel to just a moment before the other player stole it from history.

The game-play presents a puzzle to be solved, especially if you are going for the timeline readjustment or fixing enough paradoxes to get a hand of 10 cards. You have to consider which Linchpins to turn in order to get the right years paradoxed. At the same time, your opponents are changing the timeline in different ways for their own goals.

I enjoy that there are several ways to win. This gives each player several strategies which can change depending on the cards they’re getting. It mitigates not having the right cards, say, for collecting your Mission’s Artifacts.

How is it as a 2-player game?  Chrononauts is okay as a 2-player game, but is much better when there are more players messing with the timeline. With just two players, each player can concentrate on a single strategy (collecting Artifacts or manipulating the Timeline) without affecting the other player. With more players, there is more push-pull between what each player wants.

How about the art and component quality? The cards are good quality, and I like the art on the cards, as noted above. I also appreciate the iconography used to identify with Ripplepoints will be affected by a change in a Linchpin.

Will this stay in my collection?  Yes. I enjoy this game. While it frequently gets overlooked, I quite enjoy it when it makes it to the table.



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