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Card Game Review: ‘Star Trek: Chrono-Trek’ from Looney Labs

Star Trek: Chrono-Trek from Looney Labs gives players the chance to delve into one of the most important aspects of science fiction: time travel. Figures in the Star Trek universe have been traveling through time since the fourth episode of the original series and through all manner of antimatter, warps, alien devices, solar slingshots, and more. But as meta movies are quick to show, time travel becomes very complicated very fast. Through its use of a Timeline deck, Chrono-Trek keeps things straightforward and fun while players save whales, navigate intragalactic politics, or wipe out all reality.

The core mechanics are similar to Looney Labs’ classic Chrononauts. Players first prepare the Timeline by laying out 36 cards in a chronological grid, showing significant events, from “Life on Earth Begins” to after the return of long-lost Voyager in AD 2394. Those not familiar with every corner of Star Trek will want to spend some time familiarizing themselves with events to get an idea of what happened when. Fortunately, all of the cards are linked with images and references to the others, keeping the game flowing smoothly instead of forcing players to stop to see when Zefram Cochrane developed Earth’s first warp drive.

Once the Timeline is built, players choose characters. Each character has a goal that will serve as that player’s secret win condition, such as alternate events in the Timeline or holding specific items. Some players are more difficult to play than others, marked with an greater number of pips. Easier characters include Jean-Luc Picard, who wants some Earl Grey in a universe where he took command of the Enterprise. More difficult characters include Quark, who is after 1,000 bars of gold-pressed latinum in a timeline where he becomes the Grand Nagus, and the evil Spock from the alternate timeline of the original series’s “Mirror Mirror.” Advanced characters include whole alien races and Q himself, all bent on eliminating life on Earth.

With their characters’ goals in mind, players take turns drawing a card and playing a card for their turn. Many cards are inverters, which will flip over cards on the Timeline, causing different ripple effects and other cards to be flipped over. Other cards are actions such as stealing cards or reshuffling the deck, or Artifacts that can contribute to win conditions. The most powerful are Fracture cards, which cause major impacts on the Timeline, such as Earth beginning its Terran Empire or being assimilated by the Borg. The first player to have their conditions met at the beginning of their turn wins the game.

Chrono-Trek is a card game for two to six players aged 11 and up. It’s a fairly quick play, ranging from 15 to 45 minutes. Players choosing characters with more pips will have a tougher time achieving their complex goals, meaning it will likely be a longer game. The attention to detail in charting out the Star Trek chronology is spectacular, making it a must-play for trekkers of all kind. With its easy symbol-recognition and fun, Chrono-Trek also serves as a great addition to the collection of any gamer who enjoys conditional games with plenty of social competition to undo the time-tinkering of their opponents.

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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