Personally, I feel that Chrononauts is one of Looney Labs’ more interesting games. It is one of the best time travel games that I have played that is both light yet still rich in theme. It has the kind of chaos I have come to expect from Andrew Looney yet the game never loses the feeling of time travel.
However, one of the biggest limitations of the game is the limited number of I.D. cards and mission cards. For those of you who haven’t played Chrononauts, each player represents a different time traveler who needs to change the timeline in specific ways. They also get a mission card, which serves as a shopping list of artifacts that they need to pull out of the time stream. These cards are kept hidden and the players work towards these secret goals.
The problem is that if you play the game enough, you are going to get to know the I.D. cards and the mission cards. If you’re able to twig to what someone else’s goal is, it’s a lot easier to shut them down. This is particularly a problem with the I.D. cards since people can give away their identity by the ways that they change the timeline. It’s also a lot easier to shift the timeline around to make it harder, if not well nigh impossible for people to complete their goals.
Well, the solution for this problem comes in the form of Lost Identities, a tiny little expansion for Chrononauts. It is a tiny packet of fourteen cards with thirteen new identities, as well as a new mission card.
The little stories that let you know the background of each time traveler come from a Nanofictionary contest that Looney Labs held in 2001. One of the reasons why I like Looney Labs so much is because of the strong feeling of community they foster and this is one more example of that.
On a whole, the new identities simply add to the mix of different goals that players can strive for, although some of them are very cute. My favorite is Rufus, a dog who got lost in the time stream. Thankfully, he’s apparently a dog who’s smart as a whip and who has a knack for finding his way home.
However, there is one I.D. card whose goal is a major shift in the meta-game. That is Crazy Joe, also one of my favorite new cards. Normally, having the universe end is a bad thing. However, in Crazy Joe’s case, that’s what he’s trying to do. In addition, Crazy Joe can win even if it’s not his turn so that is two ways that Crazy Joe busts up the paradigm of the game. What can I say? The guy’s crazy but the game does become a little more interesting knowing that he might be out there.
On top of the new I.D. cards, you also get a new mission card. This card is another change from the usual format. Instead of requiring you to collect specific artifacts, The Most Toys just requires you to hit a critical mass of artifacts, the number of which varies depending on the number of players.
I do wish Lost Identities had more mission cards. However, I also feel that it is much easier to disrupt someone’s I.D. card goal than their mission card goal. Yes, artifacts can be stolen or discarded. However, they can also be retrieved. Also, you only need to play one card to have an artifact in play. You need to play two cards in order to have a patch in play, one to create the paradox and the patch itself.
On a whole, Lost Identities is a nice addition to Chrononauts. In general, it gives you some new options without shaking up the game too much. The real reason that I like it, though, is because it has Crazy Joe in it. He increases the potential chaos of the game while still remaining very true to the theme.
I would also like to comment on a Chrononauts expansion that is not included in Lost Identities, the Beatles Reunion Album. While there are a number of promotional cards out there, the Beatles Reunion Album comes with Fluxx Blanxx, which means that is much more available for anyone to get.
The Beatles Reunion Album is an artifact which can be substituted for any other artifact. However, it can only be played if you prevent John Lennon’s assassination. Since artifacts can normally be played independent of the timeline, I do like seeing one connected to the timeline. German Chocolate Cake, one of the promotional cards, also acts in a similar way.