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In solo Chrononauts, you play as a sort of overseer of a number of time travelers (the rules suggest you play with 8) who must get back to their own time continuum. You'll play inverters to change history, patch the paradoxes, and go back and forth until all of your travelers are home.
The solo game plays essentially the same as the "regular" style, except you only play with a subset of cards--no missions, no artifacts, no time warps, no actions. Your only goal, and only way of winning, is to alter the timeline to match what's on the individual ID cards. Oh, did I mention you only have one run-through of the deck to do it?
While the real enjoyment of games comes from playing with others, it's oftentimes nice to just grab a box and go to town solo. Especially when my wife isn't in the gaming mindset, solo games like Chrononauts fit the bill wonderfully. The core gameplay doesn't really change much, so it can be considered a good practice session for multiplayer, and since it doesn't take terribly long to play, it's great for a quick before-bed or lazy-afternoon game.
For me, the nice part is that I can work up to a level of challenge that I feel comfortable with. While the rules recommend 8 ID cards, I started with 4 on both of my solo games, since I hadn't played multiplayer yet--it just made sense to me to take it slow. The first game I won with a fair amount of challenge, but not too much; the second saw only one or two of my IDs have their timelines met. I'm sure as I gain some proficiency I'll be able to increase the ID cards with which I play.
It's also nice that you can play at your own pace (yes, true of all solo games!); it's especially important in a game like this where you've got to plan your moves several steps in advance. And of course, you're always free to say, "Oops, I didn't mean to play that...I'm going to take it back"...although in one case I think I'd already drawn a new card, but who's going to tell?
I really don't know of much that's bad, aside from the game feeling somewhat limiting--mind you, it's by design, since it doesn't make a lot of sense to have victory conditions that exactly match the multiplayer games. While it's a good warm-up and great practice, it also (again by design) lacks a lot of the dynamics of the non-solo game, like the actions and artifacts. I certainly wouldn't buy Chrononauts to be a solo-only game; it's really just there for when you don't have anything else to do.
As I mentioned in a posting about a solo game of Quiddler, solo Chrononauts feels much like a puzzle, or at least a game that you're playing against yourself. That last part, mind you, is different from just a "solo" game; here, you're almost playing the ID cards against each other, since one card may directly contradict another. It's a great challenge to try to figure out how you're going to make sure that each ID is met while realizing that you only have one run-through of the deck.
So far, I'm quite enjoying solo Chrononauts. It's got a built-in difficulty adjustment (simply play more IDs, or fewer), it doesn't take forever to play, and it's never the same game twice. I definitely recommend it!
Score: (based on solo-game play)
I found solitaire Chrononauts to be fun, if not headache-inducing.
It IS rather "puzzly". In a way, it reminded me of that old patience game "Maze".
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Great job on a concise and well-written review. I've played a few solo games of Chrononauts myself, and it is a pleasant yet challenging distraction. I agree that it's not worth getting only for the solo game, but the solo game certainly adds a lot to its value for the price!
I really do like the puzzle of it. As you add IDs, the conflicts increase. If you are intent on winning, you will soon find that planning ahead is vital. The problem is that each time card may only go from "normal" to "alternate" and back to "normal" once. I bought and mixed in the Lost Identities expansion when I bought the game. I am not certain, but I believe I found at least one combination with those cards that is actually impossible to complete without recycling the patch cards at least once.
A variant would be to allow patch cards to be picked up instead of discarding after playing a Change Fate (or other yellow card) on that position. I need to flesh that out, though, as that could mean a lot of patch cards when Hitler's assassination is prevented (again). Maybe patch cards are discarded to a separate pile, and the top card may be drawn instead of from the facedown deck. Hmm... I need to dig this out and play with it.