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116. Sci-Fi Series - Chrononauts

Something a little lighter for our next entry in the sci-fi genre...Chrononauts.

(BGG image by user arnaudel)

Chrononauts is a game for 2-6 players that was originally published in 2000.  It was designed by Andrew Looney, features art by Alison Frane, and is published by Looney Labs.  In the game, you'll be playing a time traveler charged with fixing various time paradoxes.  Each player will have a secret identity and a secret mission, and your goal is to adjust history so you can return home.  Think Quantum Leap meets Fluxx.

(BGG image by user Firepigeon)

There are 136 cards in Chrononauts.  This includes 32 Timeline cards, which have black borders.  These are broken down into 13 Linchpin events, and 19 Ripplepoints.  There are 10 Mission cards, and 14 Identity cards.  The play deck includes 80 white bordered cards (seen above), and this deck can be broken into 20 Inverters, 21 Patches, 15 Artifacts, 10 Timewarps, and 14 Actions.  We'll see what those mean shortly.

There are three different ways to play this game.  I'll be talking about the full game, but there's also Artifaxx (which is a lot like Fluxx) and Solonauts (a solo version of the game).  The rules recommend that some people play Artifaxx while one person plays Solonauts to figure out the full game rules.  I say, just read the rules ahead of time.  It's not that complicated.

(BGG image by user Cornbread46)

The 32 Timeline cards first get laid out.  Each card has a number to tell you where in the 4X8 grid it should be placed.  Linchpin cards should be placed purple side up (the other side is red), and Ripplepoint cards should be placed blue side up (the other side says Paradox).  Linchpins are 13 events from history that, if changed, would cause problems later in the timestream.  These events are:

  • Lincoln's assassination (1865)
  • The sinking of the Titanic (1912)
  • Ferdinand's assassination (1914)
  • The Lusitania sinks (1915)
  • Hitler hosts the Olympics (1936)
  • The Hindenburg crash (1937)
  • Bombing of Pearl Harbor (1941)
  • The Manhattan Project (1943)
  • Sputnik launched (1957)
  • Kennedy's assassination (1963)
  • John Lennon's assassination (1980)
  • Reagan's attempted assassination (1981)
  • The attack on Waco (1993)

Ripplepoints are moments in history that are dependent on a Linchpin to occur.  For example, in 1968, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.  If JFK's assassination was prevented, these assassinations didn't happen, creating a paradox.  Sometimes, multiple events are needed to create a paradox.  For example, Nixon's resignation in 1974 is dependent on both the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations.  Prevent one, Nixon still resigns.  Prevent both, paradox.

(BGG images by user simonh)

To start the game, everyone close their eyes.  The person who guesses closest to the actual time goes first (if you peeked, you should bow out gracefully).  Each player gets three cards, as well as one secret identity and one secret mission.  Identities give you a little bit of a backstory, and also give you three timeline conditions that you need to fulfill to return to your reality.  Mission cards list three Artifacts that you need on the table in front of you in order to win.

On your turn, you draw one card and play one card.  Just like Fluxx.  You must always get rid of one card, either by playing or discarding.  If you don't want to play, you may "kill time" by discarding one card.  If you do this, you may also discard a second card and draw a new one to replace it.

There are five different types of cards you can play.

  • Inverters flip Linchpin cards.  There are six different types of Inverters - Prevent Assassination, Avert Disaster, Halt Attack, Sabotage, Restore History, and Reverse Fate.  When you play an Inverter, flip the target Linchpin and adjust Ripplepoints as indicated.
  • Patches are used to repair Paradoxes.  They can only be placed on their corresponding spot on the Timeline, and only on a Ripplepoint that has been turned to the Paradox side.  By placing a patch, you get to draw a bonus card.  Patches can be nullified if certain events on the Timeline are changed.
  • Artifacts are simply played out in front of you, your trophies from time traveling.  Get the three from your Mission, and you win.
  • Action cards are single-use cards you can play, follow the instructions, and discard.  There are eight types - Get There First, Sell an Artifact, Perform a "Miracle", Discontinuity, Time Vortex, New Mission, It Never Existed, and Your Parents Never Met.
  • Timewarps allow you to break the rules a little.  Memo From Your Future Self is a card that can be played out of turn; Fast Forward allows you to take two turns in a row; Rewind and Quick Trip Into the Future allow you to steal cards from the past (discard pile) or future (draw pile) and play them in the present.

(BGG image by user simonh)

Play continues until you have fulfilled one of the three winning conditions:

  1. Collect the three artifacts listed on your mission card.
  2. Have the three events on your ID line up with the Timeline.
  3. Have ten cards in your hand at the end of your turn.  If you have nine cards and draw a tenth, you don't win because you must end your turn either by playing a card or discarding.  Now, if you have nine cards at the beginning of your turn and play a patch, you'll win because you get to draw a bonus card.

And that's Chrononauts.  Read more at BGG, and expect to pay $20 in an FLGS.  One more sci-fi game to cover.  Happy gaming!

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This blog is all about board and card games. Look around and find out about some games you may not have heard of. For a complete table of contents, click on the supplements tag and look for Supplement #4.

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