Time, time, time...see what's become of me. While I look around, all possibilities. I was so blind to see.
My work life has changed with starting a new job that has me working a huge number of hours. I decided to take a step back and balance my life by getting back into the routine of game nights. My usual group that meets on Friday misses me but I have a second group that I enjoy playing with and decided to drop in after many weeks of absence.
One of the group pulled out Chrononauts which a few looked on with skepticism. I was intrigued by the concept of alternate reality so I enthusiastically put in my vote. Four of us gathered and had the rules explained to us.
Chrononauts is a simple pile of four types of cards which, I guess, is best described as: the pertinent years that can be altered, id which represents your character, objectives which can constitute game end if victory conditions are met at the end of your turn and a large deck of events which range from patches in the space time continuim to miracles to artificats and the like. The art could get some improvement. I feel that the iconography silhouettes do not lend to the mood of the game. Perhaps some nice artwork would really jazz up the look and feel. That's my opinion anyways.
The card stock is standard and the size of the box makes it a nice little game to tuck away in my tickle trunk when I visit a gaming venue.
The turn is simple: draw a card and play a card. Use of patches increases hand size. If your hand size reaches 10 cards you may declare a victory. You can mend the alterations and paradoxes to the real timelines and two of those particular patches (corresponding to certain key years) are two parts of another type of victory condition. This must also have your original "home" year unaltered. The patches are cool. They have events like the Hindenburg being reinvented later in time add a spice to the altered timeline.
I like the fact that you can win through various means. I like the random element that prevents anyone from knowing if their competitor has fulfilled their victory requirements. Thirteen paradoxes can also end the game. I am told that this is similar to the game Flux. Having never played Flux I cannot say but I find that the variety can make this interesting.
One of the victory conditions of collecting three certain artificats is kind of cute. The Beatles Reunion Album....what would have happened if John Lennon wasn't murdered? Hmmm....
Some of the artifacts are neat, others corny.
I found the game easy to learn and fun to play. I also feel that this game has a touch of history that can serve as a good teaching tool but also as a great conversation starter for a party type situation. Imagine speculating on what type of effect something like the Titanic not sinking or Hitler being assassinated would have on the future. That in and of itself makes me like the game.
I find that this is an easy game to teach to a group that has never played it before. It plays very quickly and we had a complete game played in about 30 minutes. I can see that the game can end very quickly if you get the right combination of cards.
This is not like anything that I have in my collection and for that reason, as well, makes me want to consider picking up a copy.
It is good, lighthearted fun.
I have seriously learned more history from playing Chrononauts (and the stand-alone expansion/prequel, Early American Chrononauts) than I did in two years of history classes in high school. It isn't an incredibly deep or immersive game by any stretch (few of the Looney Labs games are), but it does have some strategy, some opportunities for faking out your opponents, and it's just all around a good time.
And if things aren't going well for you, you can always declare World War III and destroy the world in a nuclear holocaust. Then NO ONE can win until it's fixed (except for two characters in the expansion who are super-evolved cockroaches). And since it's a patch, you even get an extra hand size for it!
To expand on Paul Shabatowski's excellent review, there are 3 ways to win: expanding your hand to 10 cards (the easiest way to expand your hand is to play Patches, so the Time Police recognize the good work you've done repairing the timeline and rescue you); complete your Mission (usually collect 3 specific artifacts, although some are easier than others); or arrange the timeline to match your backstory so you can get home on your own (always 1 normal event and 2 patched events).
However, you can't affect these events directly; you can only modify particular "linchpin" events, which then cause "ripples" mentioned in your backstory. For example, you can rescue Archduke Ferdinand (1914), which then prevents the US from Declaring War on Germany in 1917 (because the war starts later and England and France aren't having such a bad time of it). This makes 1917 a "Paradox" (represented by a swirly black hole of failure; too many of these and the entire timeline collapses, causing everyone to lose), but you can Patch it with 1917': President Wilson Keeps US out of War (like he promised to in his 1916 reelection campaign).
Each event (whether linchpin or ripple) is a notional newspaper headline: e.g. "1936: Hitler Opens '36 Olympics", "1957': Rocket Explodes on Pad" (the reverse of the linchpin Sputnik Launched), "1945a: Allied Troops Invade Tokyo" (one of the many possible patches for A-Bombs Dropped on Japan).
All in all, it is a fun and often hilarious game, with constant struggles between people who want to kill Hitler and save Lincoln, against people who want the Titanic and the Lusitania rescued, vs. those who want to call off Pearl Harbor and sabotage the Manhattan Project, vs. people who just want to complete their live dinosaur zoo or videotape the Creation of the Universe (on Betamax!). And yes, these are all possible in Chrononauts.