Chrononauts is a small little card game from the creators of fluxx. I feel I should mention that now as I get the feeling I shall be discussing fluxx a fair bit in this review and wanted to make sure I introduce it nice and early. See once you’ve established that it becomes a lot easier to understand………………..
You begin the game by setting up your 32 base cards in a sort of timeline though in truth you probably want to aim for more of a square just for ease and efficacy. This represents time as we know it though not as your characters may know it. For you will be given one of several characters to play and one way for you to win is simply get home. You do this by rewritting or preserving bits of time. You do this by playing cards from your hand and just like Fluxx you start with three and each turn draw one and then play one.
Sounds simple right? Well hold on ‘cos things are about to get heavy. You need certain cards in hand to change events with some only letting you mess with a set few while others give you more free reign though you are still limited by linchpins. Your timeline will have thirteen linchpins coloured a fetching shade of purple. When flipped they change to a more dramatic red and tell you how things now went down with things like JFK going from assassinated to simply injured in motorcade shooting. These will then have ripples through time with a short list of dates that this affects, some of these “ripple points” will require one thing to flip them, or a choice and some two or more. It is these ripple points that your character will be chasing as they are the key points it seems that drive your characters timeline. However because they are ripple points once they become changed they don’t flip to a new history but instead a paradox that one of you will have to patch; again with cards from your hand. Thus you can change the right event and have someone patch the timeline with a completely different version of history than you wanted to stick in. Oh and should you decide to leave a paradox un-patched either because you haven’t got the right card after all or because it was simply a side effect for trying to change the year you were after then you can start to worry; because thirteen or more paradox at any one time can lead to total platonic reversal and the end of space, time and life as we know it. Not only is that very bad but it also means you all loose the game.
Oh but we haven’t even started yet because not only will you have an i.d assigned at game start that will dictate what two periods need changing and which one you have to preserve but you will be given a mission which reads like a time travellers shopping list. These artifacts are also in the deck and need to be found and then you need to make sure no one steals them, either through an action card or by that old trick of “Look behind you a paradox”.
This is already starting to sound confusing and I’m only trying to review the game not teach it. This is where the fluxx comparison really comes into play however. Yes it is hard to explain and hard to grasp but once you get through a turn or two it actually begins to make sense. All of the cards come with text to explain what they are, how to play them and what they do and you typically only have four cards to ever worry about at any one time. That being said the game is still far more chaotic than Fluxx and while that requires a lot of luck to win you can see skill coming into games from complete newbies fairly soon after starting. With Chrononauts it feels more like a pleasant surprise to everyone when someone does win and yet win someone does and usually well within the twenty to forty-five minutes the game figures. Granted I think every game I have played has been won by the artifacts being found by a player and I certainly have not seen anyone win by managing to go home yet but I suppouse that’s why they put the alternative win conditions in because even they knew that rewritting time would be too hard a task for a fifteen quid card game.
It’s a strange little game but well worth your time and scales well for two to six players.