When some board games begin to show their age or are plagued with problems due to broken gameplay, unreadable rules, or untapped potential, publishers may reprint these board games in a newer edition. For Chrononauts, it needs an update because of both reasons.
For the unfamiliar, Chrononauts is a board game, produced by Looney Labs, about time travel and alternate histories. Ah yes, alternate histories, perhaps my favorite subject in science fiction. What if Nazis won World War 2? What if Lincoln wasn’t assassinated? What if the South won the American Civil War? There is so much potential for great and in-depth stories that can take the reader on a wild ride.
Chrononauts is the embodiment of that alternate histories and it does so wonderfully. Unlike other board games, the board is actually a group of cards aligned up in neat rows and columns. You have two kinds of cards, lynch pins and ripplepoints. Lynch pins are important events (say Lincoln gets assassinated) while ripplepoints are events that are affected by them (Andrew Johnson gets impeached). Reversing the fate of the lynch pins (Lincoln is only wounded) affects the ripplepoints (Lincoln is now impeached instead). Once you reverse event, the ripplepoint is a paradox that can only be cured by placing a patch on it (they’re the orange cards in the images). One of the ways you can win the game is to get back to your own timeline as designated by your ID card.
Okay, so why does Chrononauts need an updated edition?
The drawback of a time traveling game is that it can be outdated easily. This game came out in 2000 so many of the most recent events depicted seem unwarranted. True, the Waco Siege and John Lennon’s assassination are important events but I wouldn’t place them as truly historical.
This was remedied in 2009 when an expansion was released called the Gore Years (lol, gotta love the name). Anyway, as you may have guessed, the expansion adds new cards expressing the pivotal moments that happened during the 2000s decades. Mainly, Gore winning the election instead of Bush, the events of September 11th, and the Afghanistan War. I don’t know if it’s because these events are more recent but I like these events more so than the 1990s’ ones as they seem more important. Plus, I just love that outcome if Gore wins the presidency then Palin wins in 2008, haha.
But there’s a problem with this. Unlike expansions in other board games where they blend naturally with the original game, the Gore Years is simply stapled onto the original game. Events from the 1800s or 1900s do not affect anything from the 2000s and that seems a bit odd to me…
There’s actually another version of this game called Early American Chrononauts. This version looks fuuuuuun and I want to play with it. It adds a lot of awesome events from the 1700s and 1800s of American history such as the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of the Alamo, and the Louisiana Purchase. But this game is just a standalone game and does not add to the original Chrononauts game.
As such, Chrononauts would do wonders if a second edition came out for it. This edition can have more historical events that tie all the way back from the late 1700s to the early 2000s. These events can interweave and drastically affect each other even if they may be a century (or more) apart. What I’m basically saying is combine the original version with the Gore Year expansion and the Early American Chrononauts to create an expansive timeline.
But wait! There’s more!
There are two things that Chrononauts does that can be greatly expanded in the second edition. The first thing Looney Labs can do is add more patches for the same event. Okay, for example, the 1945 ripplepoint has three different patches. In the original timeline, the allies with the Second World War. BUT, one patch has the Nazis conquering Europe, one patch has the U.S. invading Japan (and doesn’t drop the atomic bomb), while the final patch is world peace (no World War 2). The reason for these diverse events is that the ripplepoint is dependent on three lynchpins instead of the normal one or two. As such, several events can happen for the same year. If Looney Labs, created an edition that has more of these multiple ripplepoints for the same year, that would be really cool.
The second thing they can do is have more items that come from specific timelines. The German Cake is the only item in the game that works as a special action. However, this can only happen if Germany attends the World Fair with Chocolate Cake (this takes place in 1939, the real event it replaces is the German invasion of Poland). There should be other special cards as well such as say…an open bottle of champagne celebrating the Titanic’s successful maiden voyage or the autobiography of Davy Crockett. These items from specific timelines can make the game deeper with more possibilities to exploit.
Chrononauts is already a fun, engaging, and humorous game that has the potential to be that much better. With a few modifications, it can achieve a higher status of a more in-depth game that can balance off the chance aspect of its gameplay with strategy while still retaining its original charm. I hope Looney Labs does come out with another updated edition to this game as that would be awesome.
Also, and on an final, unrelated note, while doing research for this article, I stumbled onto Andrew Looney’s website, the creator of the game, and his explanation of the weird historical events that happen in the game. If you ever wonder why the prevention of the Hindenburg disaster would prevent the Korean War then you should check it out! http://wunderland.com/LooneyLabs/Chrononauts/Mysteries.html