Space, the final frontier. Or at least that's what Kirk, Picard, Janeway and every other commanding officer would have you think. Star Trek is one of those things you either got, or didn't get. I got it. It's an overarching story arc with mini adventures tied into the middle. It came in tonnes of flavours with an eclectic selection of odd characters. Spock with his logic, Worf with his forehead, Seven of Nine with her robot bits and Borg tendencies. The quirkiness made it enjoyable. It was fun for me! Some people really, really got it and went to conventions and such, which is their thing and that's cool too!
Board games is what I really, really get. That's my jam. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn that Chrononauts by Looney Labs comes in a Star Trek flavour! Chrono-Trek! Looney Labs is famous for the Fluxx series and the insanity it is, but Chrononauts wasn't a game I'd heard of until Chrono-Trek. The game is for 2-6 players and plays in approximately 15-45 minutes. (Be warned, there are some quality Star Trek jokes in here!)
Star Trek Chrono-Trek runs on a similar basis of Chrononauts, but set in the Star Trek universe. You've got a timeline and a secret objective to meet. You might need to have certain events in place, ruin certain events, or have specific items in play. The only way to complete your objective is to ruin the timeline by changing things and collecting artefacts. Of course, this must be done in secret to prevent other players from hindering your efforts. Whilst you're struggling against the inevitable march of time, other players also need to complete their own secret objectives.
The game starts with the set up of the timeline in its standard format. This is reflective of the Star Trek chronology (for the most part) and is a standard set-up element. Every player then gets three cards and one identity card which will tell them their secret objectives. Complete your objective to win. Simple! To lose, however, you may be beaten by other players, or everyone might lose. Whilst you all twist and turn the events of history, the DEVRON anomaly might expand and change anchor points on the timeline. These anchor points are events which are crucial to history and have no alternative without dire effects. Everyone loses if you flip every anchor point. Time is fickle.
Although players can’t affect these anchor points, they can change Linchpins. These are points in time that affect others (called ripple points). One event might change several ripple points and alter the future and the past. Ripple Points can be flipped back too so nothing is permanent, but playing with time isn't simple. To alter history is easy, to change it back may not be so easy. Some Ripple Points require two, maybe even three, events to be in effect to change back. These are indicated on the card with AND and their respective years.
On a player's turn in Star Trek Chrono-Trek, they draw a card and play a card. There are seven types of card in the game available to players, each with different effects.
- Players place Artefacts in front of them as items. Some have unique effects but generally they are for objectives.
- Inverters change the timeline. This will involve flipping a Linchpin and then checking the flip conditions for its respective Ripple Points.
- Actions are single use cards. You play it then do it.
- Power Actions are Actions with more oomph!
- Events are played immediately and have terrible consequences, usually affecting an Anchor Point.
- Assignments are tasks to perform. These are optional but can bear great rewards!
- Fractures are cards that override events in time. These literally ruin the timeline! Any card after a fracture is no longer counted towards a victory and so the fracture must be remedied before victory can be claimed.
These cards will both help you win and hinder your oppositions' efforts. You win if you have completed your objective at the start of your turn. But nothing in time is simple, altering an event may result in the extinction of a species, the annihilation of a planet, or worse! But as long as you meet your objectives, that's someone else's problem.
What's It Like to Play?
Star Trek Chrono-Trek very easy to get and understand once your into the meat of it. Don't get me wrong, it's a learning curve with terminology and switching events that affect Ripple Points, but it comes with time. The theme oozes through and you eventually become aware of everything happening at once.
When flipping over Linchpins, there are Ripple Points listed on there by their grid reference. Easy to identify and flip, right? And on each Ripple Point is a condition as to whether it is flipped. That works well too. What doesn't work well is when everyone tries to be too helpful. We found that too many Talaxians spoiled the replicated soup (quality Star Trek joke). It's best to have the active player do the actual flipping and touching of cards. One mistaken flip means more anarchy in the timeline. It's not a game ruined, but it does reduce confusion!
Star Trek Chrono-Trek has a great ability to show how delicate the timeline is. You can work hard to meet an objective and then be forced to acquire a new identity. Suddenly, your efforts are now hindering you and you need to fix multiple Linchpins to amend the timeline. On the subject of identities, there are so many! And they're all so diverse! You've got the simple ones which may entail having a specific artefact and two events in place. Simple right? Well some require certain fractures to be in place, and others may require you to allow the timer to count down and ruin all Anchor Points.
In all honesty, if you get Fluxx you'll get this. It has a lot of elements similar to the Fluxx flavours; changing objectives, cards affecting others, held items for victory... But saying that, some of us had never played Fluxx (unheard of, I know!). However that didn't stop us grasping this game, very quickly too mind you. It's a game that looks tremendously busy, messy and complex. But it isn't, so don't feel overwhelmed. Star Trek Chrono-Trek runs a logical system that a Vulcan would approve of (more quality humour). You play your card, amend the timeline, follow instructions, check for win and repeat.
Final Thoughts on Chrono-Trek
Star Trek Chrono-Trek is a great game, even without the heavy Star Trek theme. It allows players to play with a timeline without risk, and follows the rules of some other pop-culture classics. The most prominent rule being cause and effect. You cause chaos, everyone grumbles! The theme is solidly there and imbued in every card, from flavour text to imagery to events in time, they're all there!
The characters of Star Trek were never afraid to meddle in time, although they knew they shouldn't, and this gives a solid feel as to what can and does happen when you play with clocks. If you're a fan of Fluxx, you'll thoroughly enjoy this. It's not the same, but enables a similar style of take-that play alongside a loose set collection element. If you're a Star Trek fan you'll adore the theme, but the game is fantastic whether you're a Trekkie or not.
So, hail the Klingons, beam down some disposable red shirts and boldly go where no board gamer has gone before!