The Emperor’s Star: A Chrononauts Role-Playing Occurrence
Designed and written by Andrew Plotkin
Home - Prologue - Rules - Characters - Timeline - Resources


The Emperor’s Star is a card game for six players, based on the Chrononauts rules. While not a traditional role-playing game, TES incorporates some role-playing elements. Each player takes the part of a character, and tries to favor his character’s fortunes over the course of the game.

Where classic Chrononauts covers a century of Earth’s history, TES takes place in just three days of crisis, in the ancient and eloquent Empire of Mars. The three days are played in order; each day has its own Timeline, its own Patches, and its own victory conditions. Therefore, a full game of TES comprises three complete Chrononauts games.

However, you will play the same character each day! Each day’s play affects the following day’s timeline, and you retain artifacts and victory points from one day to the next. The story of your rise — or fall — covers all three days; and at the end of the third day, you just might find yourself seated on the Imperial Throne.

Rules of Play

Each day’s game in TES is played according to the standard Chrononauts rules, mostly. The differences:

General changes:

The Timeline:

Winning the games:

The three days each have a few special rules, which apply only to that day. Here are the three days, and an overview of the winning conditions for each day:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3:


Okay, so winning is complicated. Here are the details.

Each day has a primary goal:

However, in addition to the primary goal for the day, you must have a certain number of victory points in order to win that day’s game. For example, on day 1, you need to both:

Both of these conditions must be true at the end of your turn. One is no good without the other. Neither is any good if it’s not your turn.

The exact number of VPs needed to win, and the ways you achieve them, vary from day to day.

Day 1:

Note that since you start the game with three cards in your hand, you have one VP automatically. (You also have one positive and one negative favor token, but these cancel each other out.)

At the end of each day, you get bonus points. These don’t count towards ending a day’s game, but they accumulate towards your final TES score.

Bonus points, end of day 1:

(Note that the player who won the day will certainly get 7 BP. But it is possible for other players to get up to 5.)

Day 2:

(Note that during day 2, Artifacts on the table are not worth any VP. They count towards your Artifact goal instead. Artifacts are also worth bonus points at the end of day 2 — but remember that bonus points do not count towards ending the day’s game; they are computed afterward.)

Bonus points, end of day 2:

  • 2 BP if you were the player that actually ended the day’s game.
  • 2 BP for each Artifact in your possession which is part of your Artifact goal; 1 BP for each other Artifact in your possession.

    Day 3:

    Bonus points, end of day 3:

    The Entire Tournament:

    After the third day, add up the VPs and BPs you got for each of the three days. The total is your final score, and whoever comes out on top is the winner.

    The Trading Phase

    During your turn, you may trade with other players. Trading occurs after you draw your card, but before you play. (Once you play a card, you may no longer trade on that turn.)

    All trades are voluntary, and must be agreed on by both players involved. You may trade any of the following, in any combination in either direction:

    If you receive a card from another player’s hand, it goes into your hand; if you receive an Artifact that was in that player’s possession (on the table), it goes into your possession.

    It is legal to trade something for nothing. Or vice versa.

    Remember that winning conditions are checked at the end of your turn, not after trading. You must play a card (or discard one) after trading, before you can win the game.

    Favor Tokens

    As already described, each player starts each day’s game with two favor tokens. One is worth +1 VP to whoever owns it; the other is worth –1 VP. Since you start with one of each, these effects cancel. But if you gave your negative favor token to another player, your VP total would increase by one, and his would decrease.

    These tokens represent favors. You might trade an Artifact to another player in return for a positive favor token; the token represents his general support, which is why it’s worth a victory point. In a future trade, he might ask you to return the favor — or to do him a favor by accepting a negative favor token also.

    Of course, as stated above, you are not bound by any promise you make, unless you decide to be. In the end, politics is politics, and a token is nothing more than a victory point. One way or the other.

    Favor tokens can only change hands as part of a trade. (They are not Artifacts; they cannot be stolen, trashed, or so on.) Your tokens must be kept visible on the table.

    New and Changed Cards

    A few cards are added to the standard Chrononauts deck for this game. Some are used in all three day-games; others are used only for one day.

    Mutate History: The opposite of Restore History; it lets you invert any black-side-up Linchpin to red.

    Current of Time: This inverter lets you flip any Linchpin in a given range of time. (For example, between 12:00 and 16:00.)

    Discontinuity: Instead of each player passing his entire hand to the next player, you each pass only four cards. You have to choose which cards to pass before you receive any; everybody passes at the same time. If you have fewer than four, pass them all.

    Time Vortex: Instead of distributing the cards evenly, each player gets as many cards as he started with.

    Pre-Emption: Take a card from any other player’s hand, at random. Put in into your own hand.

    Temporal Trace: Name a Patch. If any player has that card in his hand, he must give it to you. If nobody does, too bad for you. You can only use this to find Patches, not any other kind of card. If the Patch is for a Nexus, you must specify whether you want “a”, “b”, or “c”.

    Ahead of the Game: For you, this turn only, the number of victory points needed to win is reduced by two. If the winning condition is your Timeline goal plus five VP, then you could win with only three VP. (But you still need your Timeline or Artifact goal!) This only applies on the turn on which you play it.

    Cooperation and Competition

    At the end of TES, one player will be the winner. But this does not mean that you do not have goals in common. Particularly on the first two days, some players will find themselves working towards similar Timeline states, and may find it valuable to concoct alliances.

    The trading phase, of course, offers much opportunity for mutual gain.

    Remember that you can get victory and bonus points for partial Timeline goals, Artifacts, and other conditions, even if you don’t win a given day’s game. It is even possible for the day’s winner to come up second in the VP tally — and at the end of the third day, only victory points count.

    You may not show another player your hand or your character goal sheet, but you may certainly discuss them. All table talk is legal. Honesty is your own business.

    Mars in the Late Paleocanal Era

    On Mars, all canals flow towards Xi City. Be welcome.

    The Imperial family

    The city, the canals, and the Empire are ruled by:

    Martians everywhere remember and mourn:

    And all make cute googling noises upon meeting the Heir:

    The Players

    Other Personages

    And, of course,

    Home - Prologue - Rules - Characters - Timeline - Resources

    Zarfhome (map) (down)