Causality in history: Chrononauts

„Chrononauts is a fascinating, whimsical exploration of time travel, causality, and possibility covering many fascinating and significant events of the last century or so.“

– Andrew Looney

„Chrononauts“ by Anrew Looney (2000) is a card-based game where the players play time travellers able to alter historical events by flipping specific cards, linchpins of the timeline. Those altered events may cause a ripple effect by altering follow-up events, some quite obvious, some funny and nifty: Why would the New York World Fair 1939 have German Cake in an alternate timeline?

Looney Labs "Chrononauts"

The 36 cards thus represent a simplified, but nicely recherched sequence of causal relationsships between historic events. The use for a different approach to an educative history lesson would be the „what if…“ fascination for the players: How would our history look like if certain events had or hadn’t happened? Recalling the dates of ‚real‘ historic events may be a byproduct; and even if the conclusions by the author of the game may be drawn to be also surprising and entertaining, the ‚fragility‘ of our history may be made clear, and thus also of our future.

The author also provides a lesson plan to integrate the game in a reflective setting about history.

Since there’ve also been follow-up card sets, e.g. early US-American history, this suggest there may be national ‚localised‘ versions up to be created by seminars or classes as a project.

Of course this could also be turned into a much more intimate look at one’s life: What where the lynchpin events in a person’s life, how could it hacve changed? In the roleplaying game „Magna Veritas / In Nomine Satanis“, a common mission is for players to be sent out as angels or demons to influence a person’s timeline to be either meeting a cruel fate, or to reach a higher destiny. The „Chrononauts“-mechanics¬† may provide the base for a game of psychological mini-profiling: What events would have sent a person into drug abuse, violence, depression; and what to wisdom, love and inner peace?

Here’s a video describing game and gameplay.