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The Card Game of Time Travel!
Chrononauts card game.jpg
Chrononauts is a tabletop card game that investigates cause and effect in historical events.
Designer(s)Andrew Looney
Publisher(s)Looney Labs
Publication date2000
Years active2000-present
Genre(s)sci fi
Setup time5 minutes
Playing time20–45 minutes
Random chanceModerate
Skill(s) requiredStrategy, collecting
Media typecards
WebsiteOfficial website

Chrononauts is a family of card games that simulates popular fictional ideas about how time travellers might alter history, drawing on sources like Back to the Future and the short stories collection Travels Through Time. The game was designed by Andrew Looney and is published by Looney Labs.[2] The original game and a variant each won the Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game.[3][4]


The game was designed by Andrew Looney of Looney Labs in 2000.[2] In 2001, Chrononauts won the Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game of 2000[3] and Parents' Choice Silver Honors 2001 Games.[5]

The game's first expansion, Lost Identities was released in 2001. In 2004, Looney Labs released Early American Chrononauts (EAC), a prequel version of Chrononauts,[6] introduced "Gadgets," a new card type.[7]

The game's second edition was published in 2009. The Gore Years expansion set was issued that year also.[6] Released on September 11, 2010, Back to the Future: The Card Game variant re-implemented the system to match the movies.[8][9] This variant won 2011 Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game.[4] In 2013, EAC was reprinted.[10]


Chrononauts is played with a specially designed set of 136[2] or 140 cards.[citation needed] There are 32 Timeline cards that form the game board (with four tiers of eight cards),[11] plus ID and Mission cards describe goals for the players,[2] and 80-84 Chrononauts cards providing Artifacts, Actions, Gadgets, Inverters, Patches, and Timewarps, making up the deck from which players draw.[citation needed] Gadgets were added with the Early American Chrononauts variant and grant special actions.[7]

The 32 timeline cards represent significant events in (real) history of two types: Linchpins and Ripple Points. Players use Inverters to directly change the Linchpin events, changing to the alternative event on the reverse side of the timeline card. Changing a Linchpin also turns over one or more Ripple Point cards, exposing paradoxes. Player can use a Patch to resolve the paradox.[2]

The game can be won in one of three ways:[11]

  1. Return Home: The timeline can be altered so that certain events happen as described on a player's ID card and involves 2 patches and one linchpin.
  2. Complete the Mission: Each player has a Mission card detailing three or four Artifacts that can be retrieved through time travel. If a player collects all three (or three out the list of four) of these artifacts at the end of their turn, the player wins the game.
  3. Gain Power: A player gains cards from playing Patches. A player whose hand contains 10 or more cards at the end of their turn wins the game.
  • If there are ever 13 or more unpatched paradoxes on the timeline, then the universe is destroyed and all players lose.[2]

The game comes with two other game rules, Solonauts (a solitaire version) and Artifaxx (a Fluxx-like variant).[1][12] The Chrononauts and EAC timelines can be interconnected to create a third game, ÜberChrononauts,[13] which requires players to satisfy all THREE winning conditions (though NOT simultaneously) to win the game. The original Über rules were found in the EAC set on a card, with updated rules on[14]

Back to the Future[edit]

Back to the Future: The Card Game (BttF) comes with 100 cards of which there are 24 Timeline cards, 10 ID cards and the rest game cards.[15] The game cards consist of items, time machines, doubleback, action and power action cards.[8] Similar to Chrononauts, BttF lays out the timeline cards on the table to make a board with each era in the movies group together. Each player randomly gets an ID card which gives goals, or timeline changes need to make sure that future character exists. To lock in the goal and win, the player must go back in time and stop Doc Brown from inventing time travel.[15]. The licence for this game expired in 2012 and is no longer being produced.


In 2018, the Looney Labs Facebook page announced that a Star Trek-themed edition of Chrononauts, with the working title of ChronoTrek was in the works as part of their co-license with game company Gale Force Nine. As of November 2018, the game was still in development and playtesting, but was hoped to be set for release in 2019.


  • Main sets
    • 1st edition (2000) time travel themed card game designed by Andrew Looney,[2][5]
    • Version 1.4 (December 2009) included a new box, an updated rule sheet and a few added cards (the Beatles Reunion Album)[1]
    • Version 1.5 (2013) has 140 cards including two gadget cards.
  • Expansion packs
    • Chrononauts: Lost Identities (2001)[6] a set of 13 new IDs[16] and one new Mission (The Most Toys) for Chrononauts. Most of these new IDs were created by fans of the game in a submission contest held on Looney Labs' website.
    • Gore Years (December 2009)[1] 11 new cards;[11] five more timeline cards from 2000 to 2008, a couple identities and patches[1]
  • Variants
    • Early American Chrononauts (2004)[6] a prequel using the same game mechanics, EAC focuses on 32 more events, set from 1770 to 1916. It also introduces "Gadgets," a new card type that can affect the play of the game[7] by allowing an extra turn or blocking other players from stealing Artifacts. Gadgets were retro-added to the third printing of the original game via the addition of two cards originally released as promos.
    • Back to the Future: The Card Game[8] (by September 11, 2010)[9] art by Derek Ring, won 2011 Origins Award for Best Traditional Card Game[4]
      • Pizza Hydrator promo card on a post card[8]


version BBG average rating
(as of March 22, 2016)
main 6.23 (of 10)[17]
EAC 6.63[18]
Lost Identities 6.74[19]
Gore Years 6.52[20]
Back to the Future 5.88[21]

The reviews of Chrononauts leans towards the positive. Gamers at gave the game an average rating of 6.23 (out of 10) as of March 22, 2016.[17] Out of the Box columnist Kenneth Hite wrote:

And I do love all that, but the game itself needs more of the first part and less of the 'scavenger hunt through time' aspect that unfortunately dominates game play — the various victory conditions are mechanically unbalanced, leading to a de-emphasis of the time changing mechanic that is Looney’s best idea for this game.[22]

Spotlight on Games' 1001 Nights of Gaming review sub-site gave the game a personal rating of 6 as it has some well designed ID goals while others are "poorly integrated." and considered the draw-discard turn and wait to be "hardly edifying".[23]

The cards do have a lot of nice thematic information however and the design of the various events and alternate realities must have been a labor of love. It's just too bad that the same kind of ingenuity wasn't put into the game play. As a two-player game this works somewhat, but tends to be better with more as otherwise it can degenerate into long sequences of simply reversing the other's move.[23]

At Board Game Quest, Tony Mastrangeli found that "Explaining the linchpin/ripple point mechanic takes some work" and "There aren’t many time travel games out there for some reason, but Chrononauts is probably one of my favorites. It’s easy to learn, plays quickly, very portable and really inexpensive." Mastrangeli gave it 3 or 5 stars "A fun card game that has a great theme and is on the meatier side of the filler game category."[11]

Reviewing version 1.4 with "The Gore Years" expansion, Jonathan H. Liu of GeekDad said, "If you like the idea of time travel, Chrononauts is a fun way to play with it." Liu doesn't recommend the Artifaxx variant rule set except for younger players.[1] Also reviewing the game with the Gore expansion, Meople's Magazine rated the game over all a 7.[16] Brian Thomas Clements reviewed "The Gore Years" expansion by itself at Gamerati. He had mostly praise for the new timeline except for an out of step patch card regarding Sarah Palin's rise to the national stage. Clements stated, "...Chrononauts: The Gore Years is a great addition to Chrononauts. It continues the historical trends of the previous game smoothly and logically (mostly), and can be easily integrated into the original game and ÜberChrononauts as well." He expects future expansions.[24]

Early American version's average rating at Board Game is 6.63 as of March 22, 2016.[18] Spotlight on Games' 1001 Nights of Gaming review sub-site gave EAC a personal rating of 6 and indicated a problem with the new gadget card: "This is not so much a problem in the runaway leader sense as collecting three artifacts still seems the easiest way to win, but it can mean that this player's turn starts to become very complicated and long, increasing downtime for others."[7] Brad Weier posted a comped playtest review of the EAC version at in which he considered its style to be "Classy & Well Done" (4) and its substance to be "Meaty" (4). He also summarized, "Like all of Looney Labs card games, EAC combines simple rules and fairly chaotic play into a fun and humorous package."[13]

Back to the Future got a positive review from Jonathan H. Liu of GeekDad in which he states, "Personally, I’m a fan of a lot of the Looney Labs games, and this one has a similar feel so I enjoyed it." Liu considered that the game is weak with 2 players.[15]

List of awards and nominations
Version Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
First edition Origins Award 2000 Best Traditional Card Game[3] Won
Parents' Choice Spring 2001 Games Silver Honors[5]
Back to the Future Origins Award 2011 Best Traditional Card Game[4] Won


  1. ^ a b c d e f Liu, Jonathan H. (January 5, 2010). "Chrononauts v. 1.4 Plus The Gore Years Expansion". Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g West, Susan. "The Looney Labs Experiment". GAMES. October 2005. Retrieved June 16, 2015.
  3. ^ a b c Jackson, Micah (July 7, 2001). "Origins Awards Announced: Pyramid Wins Best Magazine". Pyramid Magazine. Steve Jackson Games. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "2011 Origins Award Winners". ICv2. June 27, 2011. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c "Parents' Choice Award-Winning Company: Looney Labs". Parents' Choice Foundation. Retrieved June 24, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c d "History of Looney Labs". Looney Looney Labs. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
  7. ^ a b c d "Early American Chrononauts". 1001 Nights of Gaming. Spotlight on Games. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d Kidwell, Tim (October 1, 2010). "Back to the Future: The Card Game from Looney Labs". Model Retailer. Kalmbach Publishing Co. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "'Back to the Future: The Card Game'". ICv2. September 11, 2010. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  10. ^ Kaufeld, John (October 21, 2013). "2013 Alliance Open House features seminars, product reveals and more". Model Retailer. Kalmbach Publishing Co. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d Mastrangeli, Tony (July 30, 2013). "Chrononauts Review". Board Game Quest. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  12. ^ "Chrononauts". Looney Labs. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Weier, Brad (January 12, 2005). "Review of Early American Chrononauts". RPGnet. Skotos Tech, Inc. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  14. ^ "ÜberChrononauts". Looney Labs. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  15. ^ a b c Liu, Jonathan H. (October 1, 2010). "Looney Labs Takes Card Games Back to the Future". Geek Dad. Retrieved March 24, 2016.
  16. ^ a b "Chrononauts". Meoples Magazine. August 22, 2010. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  17. ^ a b "Chrononauts". BoardGameGeek, LLC. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  18. ^ a b "Early American Chrononauts". BoardGameGeek, LLC. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  19. ^ "Chrononauts: Lost Identities". BoardGameGeek, LLC. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  20. ^ "Chrononauts: The Gore Years". BoardGameGeek, LLC. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  21. ^ "Back to the Future: The Card Game)". BoardGameGeek, LLC. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  22. ^ Hite, Kenneth (February 18, 2001). "Live, From San Ramon, California: DunDraCon Report". Gamerati: Out of the Box. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  23. ^ a b "Chrononauts". 1001 Nights of Gaming. Spotlight on Games. Retrieved March 22, 2016.
  24. ^ Clements, Brian Thomas. "Chrononauts: The Gore Years [Review]". Gamerati. Retrieved March 22, 2016.

External links[edit]