What would have happened if President Lincoln had survived that fateful night at the Ford Theater, or if President Kennedy hadn’t been struck by the magic bullet fired from the Texas School Book Depository? How different would history be if other key events, such as the Titanic sinking or Sputnik launching, were suddenly altered? In the newly updated re-release of the classic Looney Labs game Chrononauts you are a time traveler from the future entrusted with the task of preserving the timeline.
There are three ways to play: the standard game, Solonauts and Artifaxx.
In the standard game, each player has a unique identity and secret mission that they must achieve before getting to return to their future. Twists and turns of events prevent major events that can cause paradoxes that will either help you or prevent you from achieving your goals. Too many paradoxes can cause the collapse of history as we know it.
The 32 timeline cards cover events from the 1865 Lincoln assassination to the 1999 Columbine Massacre. Your mission may require you to get the Nuremberg Race Laws repealed in 1942 or it could be as simple as collecting historical artifacts such as the Rongo-Rongo tablets of Easter Island that were burned by missionaries in 1865 or the lost Ark of the Covenant. In addition to the 32 timeline cards, there are 14 ID cards (who you are in the game), 10 mission cards (goals you must achieve to win the game) and 84 Chrononauts cards including Artifacts, Inverters (undo or redo a historical event), Timewarps, Gadgets, Patches (repair history without necessarily returning events to the original timeline) and Actions (things you do that effect the destruction or reparation of the timeline).
While some events or artifacts are historically sound, other events you must instigate or artifacts you must retrieve are a little tongue-in-cheek. For example, if you’ve prevented John Lennon’s assassination you might be able to retrieve The Beatles’ reunion album, The Purple Submarine, or if you are one of the giant mutant cockroaches from a far distant future, you might like a Videotape of the Creation of the Universe (World War 3), on Betamax no less.
The standard version of the game is for 2 to 6 players and our average game time was about 45 minutes.
When playing as a Solonaut, instead of each player being a Chrononaut with his own agenda, you must get eight Chrononauts back home in a single pass through the deck. You remove the artifacts, gadgets and missions from the deck and then play through the remainder of the deck until either you get all eight of your characters home or you run out of cards and lose.
Artifaxx is a fast version of the game for 2 to 4 players. Because it is less complex, it’s also a good game to play with younger players. You sort out all of the Artifacts, Actions, Timewarps and Missions and put aside the rest of the deck. Players take turns drawing one card and playing one card until someone achieves their secret mission.
Gameplay is similar to Looney Labs’ Fluxx games but far more structured. You really have to pay attention to the information on the cards because they contain certain “If ___, then ___” scenarios. It takes a few rounds to get the hang of, but is easy to learn and fun to play. Not only will you laugh at the mayhem you cause mucking up the timeline, you might just learn a thing or two about history as well.
Having moved from state to state or school to school at key times, I ended up only getting U.S. History in the 4th and 12th grades, so I have to admit that seeing the dates connected to the events was educational for me. We had a lot of debates about historical events while playing, about both history the way it happened and the way it could have happened if key events had gone differently or not occurred at all. It is a more complex game than other Looney Labs offerings I’ve played, but no less entertaining.