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Chrononauts Official Rules

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
Getting Started Immediately
Detailed Overview
Three Ways to Play
How to Play Chrononauts
Your First TimeJump
Starting Your Journey

The TimeLine
An Example: Saving JFK
Types of Cards
Starting the Game
Taking Your Turn
How to Win
How to Totally Lose
Temporal Anomalies
Clarifications & Reminders
How to Play Artifaxx
How to Play Solonauts
Questions and Topics for Debate

Executive Summary

In this game, you are a Time Traveler, with a Secret Mission, a Secret Identity, and a very important job to do: Paradox Repair. You can win by fixing enough Paradoxes, gathering up the three rare and amazing Artifacts listed on your Mission card, or adjusting history in the three ways necessary to allow your character to return to the alternate reality from which he or she originally came.

The constant changing of history is tracked by a special layout of 32 cards, called the TimeLine, which functions rather like a gameboard. The three ways to win provide for several different plotlines and layers of action, but you can also split the game up into two less complicated games: Solonauts (The Solitaire Game of Changing History) and Artifaxx (The Fluxx-style Game of Collecting Amazing Stuff). Special rules for playing these sub-games appear towards the end of this booklet.

Getting Started Immediately

For those who like to jump right in and learn as you go, here are the fast-track instructions:


Number of Players: 2-6 (but you can push it)

Set up the TimeLine: Arrange the 32 double-sided TimeLine cards in an 8x4 grid on the table, following the row-column numbers (called the Time Index) in the lower left corners, with all cards set to True History (i.e. Ripplepoints blue, and Linchpins purple).

Issue Missions and IDs: Shuffle the secret Mission cards and deal one to each player. Do the same with the ID cards, then set these two small decks off to one side.

Shuffle and Deal: Each player starts with three cards from the shuffled Chrononauts deck. The remaining cards form the draw pile.

Decide Who Goes First: Everyone guesses the current time; whoever is closest goes first.


Draw 1, Play 1: Begin your turn by drawing one card from the draw pile. If you can't (or don't want to) play any of your cards, then discard one. If you do this, you may choose to discard a second card, and draw one. Otherwise, play one of the following five types of cards, as follows:

Inverter: Choose one of the Linchpins this card will allow you to change and flip that card over. Then look at the years listed under "Ripples" on the Linchpin you just flipped, and turn to the Paradox side any Ripplepoints that qualify (examine the icons to see if they do). Similarly, restore any Paradoxes that are no longer paradoxical, first discarding any Patches that have been Nullified. (See detailed rules later in the booklet for a helpful example.)

Patch: A Patch can only be played when the corresponding year on the TimeLine is positioned Paradox side up. Cover the Paradox with the Patch, then draw an extra card (as an immediate reward for doing this vital repair work). Be sure to follow any special instructions on the Patch when playing it (see 1945 and 1962).

Artifact: Announce that you are traveling through Time to the year listed on the card, in order to fetch the item in question, then place the Artifact card face up on the table in front of you.

Action: Put the card in the discard pile and do whatever it says.

Timewarp: Put the card in the discard pile and do whatever it says.


When You Can Win: The only time you can claim a victory is when your own turn ends.

How You Can Win: There are three different ways you can win, which are as follows:

1) Going Home: You win if your character can return to the alternate reality listed on your ID card. To do this, the three key events must appear on the TimeLine exactly as they do on your ID card, when your turn ends.

2) Completing Your Mission: The three Artifacts listed on your Mission card must be on the table in front of you at the end of your turn for you to win by completing your Mission.

3) Power and Success: If, after you've completed your turn, you have 10 cards in your hand (not counting your ID and Mission cards) you win!

How You Can Lose: Everyone loses if the Universe is destroyed, which happens when someone creates the 13th Paradox.

Detailed Overview

In Chrononauts, you are a Time Traveler, with a unique identity, several different goals, and a yearning to return home. For you, the real world of today is an alternate reality. You grew up in a universe where something was different. Perhaps in your history books, JFK wasn't assassinated ­ but Adolf Hitler was. Maybe you're from a world in which the Russians got to the moon in 1969 instead of the Americans. Or perhaps the Titanic missed the iceberg in 1912 but sank anyway, in a different accident years later. Or maybe, just maybe, humanity was destroyed by a nuclear war in 1962, and you are a super-evolved cockroach from a hundred thousand years in the future. Whatever the differences were, you grew up in an alternate reality, and your first goal is to return to that reality.

You're also on a Mission. Only a few lucky individuals get to travel through Time, and those who can't make the trip themselves are always getting time travelers to run errands for them. Perhaps you've been instructed to gather up some live dinosaurs, or fetch some stuff from the Future, or grab a few long-gone items just before they were destroyed, for inclusion in some museum devoted to that sort of thing. Whatever the reason, you've been asked to travel through Time to collect three items, and your second goal is to accomplish that task. But watch out ­ other chrononauts may be searching for some of the same Artifacts, and with a time machine, your opponent can always Get There First.

Finally, you've got Paradox repair work to do. Time Travel is tricky business; when someone changes history, there are almost always ripples and repercussions somewhere down the TimeLine, which tear holes in the fabric of the Time-Space Continuum. These holes, called Paradoxes, are created whenever someone changes a significant event. These Paradoxes must be repaired, lest they start a chain reaction that could destroy the entire Universe. So, as a Temporal Mechanic working for the Time Repair Agency, you've been trained to patch up these holes. Your third goal is to repair enough Paradoxes to retire from the Agency, or to get a promotion ­ whichever suits you better.

Three Ways to Play

This game is one big adventure made up of several different stories that are all going on at the same time. These stories are primarily about one of two things: either changing history, or using time travel to bring stuff forwards or backwards through Time. These two basic game elements can actually be separated, making for a pair of related, less complicated games. This means there are three different games you can play with these cards:

Artifaxx: A fast and easy Fluxx-like time travel game, involving just the Missions and Artifacts
Solonauts: A solitaire game that focuses only on the characters and the TimeLine
Chrononauts: The complete time travel card game experience! (below)

How to Play Chrononauts

What follows are the rules for the whole game. Instructions for playing Artifaxx and Solonauts appear towards the end of this booklet.

Your First TimeJump

Time Travel First-Timers may want to start off with a few rounds of Artifaxx before advancing to the complete game. Moreover, while your gaming group is doing that, you (that's right, you, the person who actually reads the rules) might want to use the rest of the cards to play a game of Solonauts, so that you can learn your way around the TimeLine and thus be ready to act as TimeKeeper (see below) when your group starts playing the full game.

Starting Your Journey

Before starting, you are issued the following items:

One Secret Identity: Your ID card gives you the name and some background information on your character (in the form of a fifty-five word story, aka Nanofiction), along with a listing of the three TimeLine settings necessary for you to return to your alternate reality.
One Secret Mission: Your Mission card tells you which three Artifact cards you need in order to win (and why you need them).
Three Chrononauts cards: You start with an initial hand of three cards, and each time you Patch a Paradox, you get an extra card, thus increasing your hand size by one. (You can also get extra cards by using the Sell an Artifact Action.) To win on cards, you must have ten cards in your hand after having just played one.

The TimeLine

The TimeLine of Alterable History is a special set of 32 cards that are dealt onto the table in a 4x8 grid that functions rather like a gameboard. Think of the TimeLine as being like a huge Mission-Control-style status board at Time Repair Agency Headquarters (TRAHQ), located somewhere outside the normal flow of Time, where scanners can track all the active chrononauts and the Paradoxes they are continually causing.

Go ahead and deal out the TimeLine right now (assuming you have time and table space available). Each card on the grid is marked in the lower left-hand corner with a row/column notation, called the Time Index, which tells you where it shoul be placed. This is particularly useful if the TimeLine cards get mixed up.

As you will note from looking at the cards, the TimeLine consists of Linchpins and Ripplepoints. Each Linchpin shows a key historical event, with the flipside showing (in red) another way that event could have gone. Ripplepoints are historical events that are affected by changes to these Linchpins; their flip sides depict a gaping hole in the timestream, called a Paradox. At the start of the game, all Linchpins should be placed purple side up, and all Ripplepoints blue side up, so that the TimeLine reflects the way things actually were. (We call this arrangement the True History setup.)

Although a time machine allows you to travel backwards or forwards to any point in history you choose, history can only be changed (in this game, anyway) at 13 pivotal moments in recent history, times when the world changed overnight because of an event that a time traveler could easily reshape. We call these key events the Linchpins of History, and there's a special symbol for each one.

Notice that large versions of these icons appear on the Linchpin cards, while smaller versions of them appear, often in combination, on the Ripplepoint cards. Notice also that both the year and the icon on the backside of the Linchpin cards are marked with an accent mark, or apostrophe, which is read as "prime". This distinction denotes the difference between an event that happened as our history books record it, and an event that has been changed by a chrononaut. These symbols are used in the game to keep track of how history has been changed and restored by the players.

Ripplepoints may depend upon a single Linchpin, or upon two (or three) Linchpins connected by the word "AND" or the word "OR". If a Ripplepoint has just one Linchpin symbol, it becomes Paradoxed whenever its Linchpin is flipped to the alternate (red') side. If that Linchpin is flipped back to True History, the Paradox vanishes, and the Ripplepoint is flipped back to normal.

As noted, Ripplepoints that depend on more than one Linchpin come in two varieties: "OR" and "AND". In the first case, the year becomes Paradoxed if either of the Linchpins shown are turned red'-side-up. The "AND" case is trickier: the Ripplepoint will stay intact until both of the Linchpins indicated are turned red'-side-up, and it's restored if either Linchpin is changed back.

An Example: Saving JFK

Let's take a look at a specific example. Assuming that you have the TimeLine properly arranged on the table, take a look at 1963, "Kennedy Assassinated". If you turn that card over, it becomes 1963', "JFK Injured in Motorcade Shooting." Flipping a Linchpin in this way is how chrononauts change history in this game. (Note: in order to do this, you need the right card, in this case either a Prevent Assassination or the general-purpose Reverse Fate... but we'll cover that later, under Types of Cards.)

Flip 1963: OK, let's assume someone has just changed history in this way. Instead of being killed that dark day in November 1963, JFK was only wounded and thus went on to create a different history than the one we all remember. How was it different? That's a good question. To find out, we must first detect, and then repair, several Paradoxes.

Flip 1968: Look further along the TimeLine, at 1968 in particular. At the bottom, it shows the JFK icon, in red, marked as prime, under the words "Paradoxed If." This means that whenever the JFK Linchpin gets flipped, this card too gets flipped. The unholy trinity of '60s assassinations are interconnected; changing the first event causes ripples through Time that change the other two. What happens instead isn't immediately obvious; right now, there's just a big hole in the universe where 1968 used to be... a hole that must be patched.

Flip 1969: Next, look at 1969. It is dependent on two events: JFK's assassination (1963) and the successful launch of Sputnik (1957). This is an OR case; flipping either of these Linchpins will cause 1969 to go differently. (The Space Race started with Sputnik and was driven by America's desire to fulfill the dream of their fallen president, by landing a man on the moon before 1970.)

Don't Flip 1974: Lastly, look at 1974. This year also has two dependencies, but this time it's an AND case. To flip 1974, both of the linchpins shown must be flipped. 1974 should stay face up until both the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations have been prevented. (What is the connection between these killings and the events of 1974? To answer that question, you must play the 1974' patch...)

Optionally Mark 1974: You might find it useful to place a token (a penny, go stone, small icehouse piece, etc.) over the JFK' icon on the 1974 Ripplepoint, to remind you of its halfway-paradoxed status. You can also just give the card a 45 degree tilt. But it's not really necessary... after a few games you probably won't need it.

To Sum Up: Whenever a Linchpin is flipped, you need to look ahead along the TimeLine to see what other changes may occur, flipping Ripplepoints one way or another, as needed. To make it easier to find all the connected Ripplepoints, each Linchpin has a list, on the left-hand side, of the years that may (or may not) be impacted when the Linchpin in question is turned over.

Types of Cards

The game of Chrononauts consists of 136 cards in two decks. The Timeline deck (black bordered) contains 32 Timeline cards (13 Linchpins and 19 Ripplepoints) along with 10 Missions and 14 Identities. The 80 card play deck (white bordered) contains 20 Inverters, 21 Patches, 15 Artifacts, 10 Timewarps, and 14 Actions.

Linchpin: As described above, Linchpins are part of the TimeLine and represent great historical moments whose outcome can be changed by chrononauts.

Ripplepoint: Ripplepoints are also part of the TimeLine, but these events cannot be changed by the direct action of a Chrononaut. Instead, Ripplepoints are changed, or changed back again, by the flipping of the Linchpins. When Ripplepoints are turned over, they become Paradoxes.

Inverter: Inverters are used to reverse Linchpins. There are six different kinds of Inverters: Prevent Assassination, Avert Disaster, Halt Attack, Sabotage, Restore History, and the all-purpose Reverse Fate. When you play an Inverter, just discard it, flip the target Linchpin, and adjust all affected Ripplepoints as described above.

Patch: Patches are used to repair Paradoxes. Patches can only be played onto their corresponding spaces on the TimeLine (as indicated by the card's year and Time Index), and then only when the Ripplepoint at that place in Time has been turned to the Paradox side. To Patch a year, simply place the Patch card over the appropriate Paradox. You then get to draw a bonus card! Some Patches, specifically 1945 and 1962, have special properties; see "Temporal Anomalies" below. Patches are Nullified (i.e. removed from the TimeLine and placed in the discard pile) whenever their Linchpin events are set as they are shown on the bottom of the Patch card.

Artifact: Artifact cards represent various amazing items from the past or future, which only a time traveler could acquire. When you play one, you just set it out on the table in front of you, for others to see, perhaps bragging a bit about how you managed to acquire it.

Action: Actions are single-use event cards that each have their own special instructions. There are eight different Actions: Get There First, Sell an Artifact, Perform a "Miracle", Discontinuity, Time Vortex, New Mission, It Never Existed, and Your Parents Never Met. Just follow the directions on the card.

Timewarp: Certain very powerful actions are classified as "Timewarps" because they distort actual game time and are therefore subject to certain restrictions. The four Timewarp cards are: Memo From Your Future Self, Fast Forward, Rewind, and Quick Trip into the Future. The Memo can be played out of turn; Fast Forward lets you take two extra turns in a row; and the last two let you steal cards from the past or future and play them in the present. None of these cards may be harvested with the Rewind or the Quick Trip. Again, follow the directions on the card.

ID: Your ID card provides you with your unique Identity. Your ID card (issued to you randomly at the start of the game) tells you how to get your character back to your version of reality, and thus win (see How to Win). You should not reveal your ID to anyone until the game ends (unless you are required to because Your Parents Never Met).

Mission: This card lists the three Artifacts you need to win, along with an explanation for why these particular items are needed. To win by accomplishing your Mission, you must have the items in question on the table in front of you (not in your hand) so make sure you've played your Artifacts down on the table before revealing your secret Mission.

Starting the Game

Who Goes First? OK, everybody, close your eyes, quick! Your eyes are closed so that you don't accidentally look at a clock or a watch. Now think: What time is it? Take a guess. When everyone has guessed, find out what time it really is. Whoever came closest to being correct goes first. (If you just looked at the time, you are honor bound to disqualify yourself.)

The Identity Mulligan: At the start of the game, if the character you are dealt is someone you've just played, or someone you've gotten one time too many, or just someone you really don't care for, you can try again. But no whining the second time.

The TimeKeeper: As you've probably already noticed, there's a fair amount of maintenance work involved in keeping the TimeLine up to date. Therefore, just as there's a Banker in Monopoly, a player should be appointed to keep a watchful eye on the TimeLine and make sure it's properly configured at all times. This person will be referred to as the TimeKeeper.

Taking Your Turn

Draw 1, Play 1: Once the game is setup and the first player has been identified, players will each take a turn until someone wins. Each turn consists of drawing one card from the draw pile, adding it to your hand, and playing one card.

Killing Time: If you can't (or don't want to) play any of your cards, you must discard one. If you do this, you may also choose to discard a second card, and draw one to replace it. This option is called Killing Time.

How to Win

To win a game of Chrononauts, you must meet one of the following three conditions at the end of your turn:

1) Mission: The three Artifacts listed on your Mission are face up on the table in front of you when your turn ends.

2) ID: The three events listed on your ID card are set on the TimeLine just as they are on your ID. The year printed in black on your ID card is blue side up on the TimeLine, while the other two years (in red on your ID) are flipped to the Paradox side and Patched In other words, the three headlines printed on your ID must be readable on the TimeLine at the end of your turn.

3) Hand Size: You have ten cards in your hand (not counting your ID or your Mission) at the end of your turn. In other words, if you have nine cards in your hand at the beginning of your turn, you don't win just by drawing a card. You must gain a card (by Patching a Paradox or Selling an Artifact) in order to win. Artifacts you have on the table do not count either.

How to Totally Lose

Beware the 13th Paradox: It must be understood that Paradoxes are bad. Really, really bad. If too many of them occur at once, they will cause a chain reaction that unravels the Time-Space Continuum and obliterates the Entire Known Universe. (At least in theory.) To put it another way, if ever there are 13 open Paradoxes on the TimeLine at the same time, the universe is completely destroyed and all players lose. So, be careful.

Temporal Anomalies

Unstable Patches: 1945 is a particularly hot temporal hotspot, called a Nexus. It's special for three reasons. First, it's paradoxable by three different Linchpins (while all other years are dependent on one or two). Secondly, 1945 can be repaired with three different patches (for all other years, there's just one patch that will fit). Finally, these three alternate 1945s are all what we call Unstable. This means they won't necessarily fit, and may be nullified without the accompanying closure of the Paradox. Therefore, when playing a 1945 Patch, be careful to double-check the icons under "Playable If", to make sure the Patch won't immediately be Nullified.

The ÜberParadox: World War 3 creates a special situation we call the ÜberParadox. As long as the 1962' Patch is in play on the TimeLine, nothing beyond it is accessible (other than the world of the distant future that a certain super-evolved cockroach calls home). To emphasize this, all of the TimeLine cards after 1962 should be moved down an inch or so on the table, to remind the players that they are unreachable. If the three years listed on your ID all pre-date 1962, you can still win by going home, but you're stuck if your home reality depends on any events after 1962. (You also can't play the Sports Almanac or the Cure for Cancer during an ÜberParadox.) Note that the ÜberParadox is in effect only when the WW3 Patch is on the table; the 1962 Paradox is just like any other Paradox.

Breaking the Turn Barrier: Players may only play their cards during their own turns, with one exception: the Memo From Your Future Self. This card can be played at any time, to negate a card being played by someone else. Note that playing a Memo just cancels and discards the card being played; it doesn't change whose turn it is.

Clarifications & Reminders

Inverter Restrictions: With the exception of the all-purpose Reverse Fate card, Inverters can only change specific Linchpins, from one direction to the other, as listed on the card. For example, Avert Disaster can switch any of the disaster Linchpins (Titanic, Lusitania, or Hindenburg) to the non-disaster side; however, it cannot be used to make one of those disasters reoccur. Only Restore History or Reverse Fate can do that. Similarly, Prevent Assassination can keep any of the names listed on the card from dying, but it can't be used to re-assassinate any of those people once they've been saved. Reverse Fate, however, can flip any Linchpin from either side to the other side.

Inverters Only Flip Linchpins: A common mistake is trying to use an Inverter to flip a Ripplepoint. Remember, history can only be altered at a few pivotal moments in time, i.e. the Linchpins. To flip a Ripplepoint, you must locate the correct Linchpin(s) that precedes it, and use Inverter(s) there, thus causing the desired Ripplepoint to flip indirectly.
Be Punctual With Memos: Remember that a Memo must be used to stop a card as it's being played. Obviously it takes a little bit of time to absorb another player's action and decide to use the Memo on it, but you also can't let too much time go by and still expect to have the Memo accepted. Here's a good rule of thumb: once another card has been played, or drawn, it's too late.

Memos Aren't Retroactive: Since certain cards allow you to play more than one card in a row, it must be noted that a Memo only cancels the most recently played card. If you play a Memo as soon as another player reveals a Fast Forward, then the entire Fast Forward is canceled; however, if you wait until the player has revealed one of the cards being played as a result of the Fast Forward, then it is only the new card that is canceled. In this case, the Fast Forwarding player may still play a second card.

Memos Can't Stop Victory Itself: The Memo cannot be used to cancel an ID or Mission card. Once a player declares victory by revealing one of these cards, it's too late to use a Memo to cancel the card they used to achieve that victory. Given this, though, etiquette (and coolness) suggests a good solid pause after making a play that's going to let you win, to make sure no one wants to use a Memo on you, before revealing your ID or Mission (and doing the Chrononauts Victory Dance).

Cycling through the Deck: If the draw pile runs out of cards, shuffle the discard pile and keep going. But don't shuffle early... the discard pile should be maintained until someone needs to draw a card and finds no cards available in the draw deck.

Exchanging a Mission or ID card: When a New Mission or Your Parents Never Met card requires you to replace one of your two goal cards, place the old one underneath the appropriate stack and replace it with the top card in that pile.

Winning Isn't Automatic: Remember, you can only claim a victory at the end of your turn. If you realize after the fact that your character could have gone home on a previous turn, it's too late; that's no better than when the universe changes to what you need, then changes again before your turn comes around. Always keep an eye on the TimeLine.

Paradoxes Block Your Way Home: You can't win by getting home if there's an open Paradox in any of your three special years. These Paradoxes must either be erased, or covered by the appropriate patches, such that your three headlines appear on the board. Otherwise, you can't go home.

The Many Mona Lisas: There are three Mona Lisas in the game, the Real Thing and two forgeries of differing quality. Three Missions revolve around these paintings: Mona Lisa Triptych, Cheaters Sometimes Win, and Mona and the Dinosaur. The first of these requires all three, and the second requires either of the two forgeries; but the third requires the most convincing of all Mona Lisas currently in play. The same is true for the Sell an Artifact card with the Mona Lisa Bonus: To collect the bonus, the painting you sell must be the "most real" of any currently face-up on the table.

Don't Forget About the Story: While there should always be a TimeKeeper on duty making sure the TimeLine is configured properly, each player is encouraged to flip the cards on the TimeLine themselves whenever they play Inverters. Remember, to a certain degree this is a role playing game, so feel free to describe your actions as you take your turn. Don't just say "I'm flipping 1963"; try to describe what you're doing and why it causes the changes that it does. It'll make the game more interesting and more fun for everyone.

How to Play Artifaxx

Overview: Artifaxx is a fast and easy time travel game that uses a subset of the cards from the Chrononauts deck. It's a faster, lighter-weight version of the game that leaves out all the complexities that crop up when people use time travel to change history. Artifaxx is also good if you've got younger players, who may have trouble grasping all the historical events on the TimeLine. Finally, Artifaxx is a great variation for the airplane or the lunch counter, where space for the entire TimeLine isn't available.

Number of Players: 2-4 (but you can push it)

Setup: Sort out all the Artifacts, Actions, Timewarps, and Missions. The rest of the deck is not used for this game (but it can be used by someone else to play Solonauts). Also set aside the Action called "Your Parents Never Met" (unless all players agree to equate it with "It Never Existed.") Shuffle the Artifacts, Actions, and Timewarps together, and deal three cards to each player, along with one random Mission card.

How to Play: Players take turns drawing one and playing one until someone achieves their secret Mission. To play an Artifact, just set it out on the table in front of you, face-up. To play an Action or a Timewarp card, place it on the discard pile and do whatever it says.

How to Win: You win if you have the three Artifacts listed on your Mission on the table in front when your turn ends.

Okay, now I want to read the rules for Chrononauts.

How to Play Solonauts

Overview: Solonauts is a solitaire game in which the challenge is to get eight Chrononauts home on a single pass through the deck. It's a great way to experience the fascination and humor of the TimeLine when you don't have any opponents on hand, and it's also a great way to really learn the ins and outs of the TimeLine.

Number of Players: one (although two or more can play together as a team)

Setup: Remove and set aside all the Artifacts, Actions, Timewarp, and Mission cards. Shuffle the Patches and Inverters together, and set up the TimeLine, configured for True History. Then deal out eight random ID cards, and arrange them face-up underneath the TimeLine. Finally, deal out five cards from the reduced play deck, and line them up under the characters, or hold them in your hand.

How to Play: Choose one of your five cards and play it just as you would in the full game, except without drawing an extra card after playing a Patch. Feel free to discard any Patches you know you aren't going to need. Draw back to five cards and keep playing until one of the characters can get home. Move that character up to the space above the TimeLine, and carry on. Remember, you only get one pass through the deck, so plan each move carefully!

How to Win: To win, you must get all eight of your characters home before you run out of cards.

To Adjust the Challenge: Once you've won a few times, you might want to increase the number of IDs you start with to make things more difficult. On the other hand, if you're finding it too difficult to win with eight characters, you can start with six or seven.

Okay, now I want to read the rules for Chrononauts.

Questions and Topics for Debate

1) Why can't I change anything before 1865?
One of the great design challenges of this game was the decision of which events to include. History's big, and there are so many interesting things a chrononaut could do that there's just no way we could include everything, or even anything close to that, in this game. So we limited it to the major events of the last century or so, trying to work in as many references to classic works of time travel literature as possible (while also attempting to be historically accurate). But clearly, there's ample room for other versions that focus on more ancient history, or on future history, or on less Americocentric history. Those of you with real time machines are encouraged to skip ahead a few years and find out what other editions of this game Looney Labs will eventually create.

2) Wouldn't history have been radically more different if Event X were reversed?
Oh sure. Remember, this is just a game after all. Obviously, our world would be totally different if WWII had never happened. But we had to draw the line somewhere.

3) Why would Event X cause (or prevent) Occurrence Y?
The question of how things would be different if we really had Time Travel is as old as the notion of Time Travel itself. The literature tells us there are three possibilities for how the mechanics of Time Travel might actually work:

1) history cannot be changed (no matter what you try)
2) history is totally changeable (so mistakes are easy)
3) history is somewhat flexible (minor changes only)

In this third case, Fate or the Time Police will always prevent you from stopping the Kennedy assassination, but still allow you to alter the destiny of someone unimportant.

This game presents a combined version of these ideas. History can be changed, yes, but only in a few specific places, hotspots in the time-space continuum where a specific event instantly changed the world forever. Reshaping one of these events will cause ripples through Time that further change history but, again, only to a limited extent. One could argue, for example, that World War II would never would have happened if it weren't for World War I; however, in Chrononauts, Time isn't so volatile. Preventing the first great war will simply rename, not prevent, the second one.

The literature also shows us that the future sometimes reshapes itself in funny and unpredictable ways. An insect squished by a chrononaut in prehistoric times might, for example, result in surprising changes to the language and politics of the present. Sometimes the cause and effect of certain changes is clear, but in other cases the chain of connections that leads from one to the next is less obvious.

This game could be described as being like Fluxx combined with a book of short stories, with elements of a jigsaw puzzle and a Live Action Role Playing game thrown in. As you play, you gradually piece together the various little stories that are scattered throughout this game. Consequently, certain cards may not make much sense to you until you've seen the rest of the deck. In other cases, the stories are still just in my mind. And most of these stories are sketchy or incomplete, with you, the players, providing the endings and filling in the gaps.

For example, one of the weaker links is the Titanic/Stock Market connection. But think about it... a lot of influential businessmen died on that ship, and if they hadn't, the stock market crisis of 1929 might well have gone very differently. (Someday, when I have more time, I'll put up a web page that fills in some of these gaps and explains more fully my logic behind the details of the TimeLine. Keep an eye on the official Chrononauts website:

4) Isn't it in poor taste to include Tragedy X? And how could you leave out Event Y?
This game is a work of fiction, and satire, and no disrespect is intended towards the memory, or the survivors, of anything in this game. (Nor is any disrespect intended by the omission of other noteworthy events. History's big!) The numerous tragedies are included because these are the sorts of events that people who dream of time travel fantasize about undoing. Surely, more than anyone else, those touched by these tragedies would welcome a chance to erase them.
But while this game is largely about going back to right wrongs, an important element in Time Travel stories is the well-intentioned change to history that backfires. So while there is a general tendency to show better futures resulting from reduced violence, unintended negative consequences will also sometimes occur. Some alternate realities are dreams, and some are nightmares, and in a few cases, reasonable people could disagree about which is which. Open discussion is encouraged.


Designed by Andrew Looney
Produced by Kristin Looney
Color Artwork by Alison Frane
Preliminary illustrations by Andrew Looney
Additional illustrations, colorization, card design, and logo by Alison Frane
Rules and Nanofiction by Andrew Looney

Principal playtesting and additional ideas by Kristin and Alison, Kory Heath, John Cooper, Jake Davenport, Kristin Matherly, Robin Vinopal, Jeff Looney, Gina Mai Denn, Dale Newfield, Andrew Plotkin, 'Becca Stallings, Keith Baker, and the rest of the Wunderland Toast Society

Beta playtesting by everyone who bought the Beta Edition and provided us with their feedback (Thanks all!) but in particular: Aaron Schatz, Adam Kopczenski, Alexandre Owen Muniz, Allen Firstenberg, Dan Efran, Dan Isaac, Harlan Rosenthal, Heidi Jones, Ian Hayward, Jaffer Batica, Jason Matthews, Jason McIntosh, Joan Wendland, Kevin Fox, Michelle Lepovic, Ryan McGuire, Scott Johnson, Seth Cohn, Shel West, Stephen Granade, Stephen Kloder, Tammy Coxen, Timothy Rose, and Trevor W. Schadt

Special Thanks to everyone who entered the Time Travel Sweepstakes at, including in particular Eric Zuckerman, Mike Whitman, Marc Moskowitz, Jennifer L Smith, and Ginohn Cooperdenn
55 word fiction concept created by Steve Moss


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