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Antinomy Kickstarter Preview

Quick Look: Antinomy

Designer: John Baluci
Artist: Narty Cobb
Publisher: Button Shy Games
Year Published: 2019
No. of Players: 2
Ages: 8+
Playing Time: 20-30 minutes

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com

WARNING: This is a preview of Antinomy. All components, art, and rules are prototype and subject to change.


Antinomy Review by Benjamin Kocher, Wallet Game by Button Shy Games, Image by Benjamin Kocher

Button Shy Games has become, to me, one of the leaders in small, quality games. With just 18 cards, they’ve been able to create some fantastic gaming experiences. Last year, I was privileged to review their game Sprawlopolis. This year, I’m excited for the opportunity to review Antinomy, a new 18-card game designed by John Baluci. 

In a nutshell, Antinomy is a battle between two sorcerers who are navigating the space-time continuum, gathering relics and placing them together in the continuum, thus unleashing their power to produce valuable Paradox crystals. It’s a neat concept to begin with, and to be done with only 18 cards is quite impressive. In addition to the 18 cards, 10 coins or other counters laying around are necessary to track gathered crystals, as well as the Codex (more on that later).

I mentioned that it would be quite impressive to pull off a game of this theme with only 18 cards. So, the question is, does Antinomy deliver? Well, as the Tenth Doctor would say,

My Experience
The rule book was easy to read and understand, so when playing my first game, everything made sense. It was easy to teach and set up, which is also a plus. While the game setup itself looks quite linear, there’s a lot of wibbly-wobbley, timey-wimey…stuff that really makes this game shine. 

Throughout the game, players are trying to collect three cards of either the same numeral, color, or symbol, and then replace them in the linear timeline with three other cards. Doing so earns that player a Paradox crystal, of which five are needed to win the game. And, if played right, that player can set himself up for another quick Paradox on the next turn. But that’s where things simply don’t always work the way you want them to.

Because there’s another sorcerer out there trying to accomplish the exact same goal (your doppelgänger, perhaps?), they have this uncanny ability to thwart your next move—without even trying! It’s like they know which card you’re going to next, and either they take it, or create their own paradox, which changes the Codex. The Codex, by the way, shows which colored cards may not be used in a paradox. It’s rather frustrating when you’re on the receiving end, but when you’re the one messing with the other’s plans…it’s glorious.

The sorcerers move according to one card played from that player’s hand. That player can move the exact number of cards either forward or backward in time according to the card’s numeral value, move to the next card of that color, or move to the next card with a matching symbol. Because there are three different ways to move, figuring out how to get from A to B to C can take some special planning. But, as mentioned, chances are you’ll be thwarted on your way to B or C. That’s when a Clash becomes vital to success.

A Clash is when one sorcerer card ends its move at the same card the other sorcerer is at. I’ll explain Clashes a bit more further down, but the winner of the Clash steals a crystal from the loser. So, if one sorcerer is doing too well and closing in on the win, a little Clash here and a little Clash there can be the difference between winning the game or losing it. Of course, if you lose a Clash you initiate, you could very well be the reason why your opponent won, as you just gave up a crystal. This mechanic makes the game wonderfully competitive, and instead of trying to dance around the timeline (which is certainly one strategy), you don’t have to go down without a fight.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first game of Antinomy, and each successive game became better and better. It’s a lot of fun, and while perhaps not the deepest strategy game out there, it certainly has enough to make each game not just interesting, but fiercely competitive.


Antinomy wallet game card game from Button Shy Games; Review by Benjamin Kocher
The symbol at the other end of the timeline is covered by a marker, indicating the starting active Codex.

Setup is a breeze. Each player takes a Sorcerer card, and each player is then dealt three cards. From there, nine Relic cards are placed face-up in a straight line. This is the timeline. At the end of this line, place the remaining Relic card face-down, and use a coin or other marker to cover the symbol that matches the color of the Relic card at the opposite end of the timeline. This will be the Codex, and will dictate which cards may or may not be used when creating paradoxes or engaging in Clashes. 

Now it’s time to be the Hero of Time…and Space!


The first player takes the first move (as is obvious by the term “first player”). That player chooses one of the three cards in their hand and plays it face-up. That player then announces how they will use that card to move their sorcerer card. Movement can be forward or backward along the timeline, but it may never wrap around. Cards give players three movement options:
  1. Numeral: Move your sorcerer card the exact number of spaces (i.e. cards in the timeline) as indicated by the card’s number.
  2. Color: Move your sorcerer card to the next card in the timeline that matches the color of the card just played.
  3. Symbol: Move your sorcerer card to the next card in the timeline whose symbol matches that of the card just played.
Replace whichever card you end up on with the card you played. Then, you may create a Paradox if you have one of the following sets:
  1. Three cards of the same numeral
  2. Three cards of the same color
  3. Three cards of the same symbol
If you are able to create a Paradox, collect a Paradox crystal from the supply, and move the Codex marker clockwise one symbol on the Codex card at the end of the timeline. Then, with your completed Paradox (i.e. matching set of three cards), shuffle them up a bit and replace them with either the three cards immediately forward or behind your sorcerer’s card. Take these new cards into your hand. Note that if your sorcerer card is close to the edge of the timeline, and only has one or two cards next to it in one direction, then you must replace your Paradox cards with the cards on the other side of your sorcerer card. Note also that Paradoxes cannot be created using cards whose colors match that of the current active Codex (the one covered by the marker).

If your sorcerer card’s movement lands you along the same card of the other sorcerer, a Clash takes place. In a Clash, both players simply reveal their hands, and the player with the highest numerical total wins the Clash. The winner of the Clash takes a Paradox crystal from the opponent—not from the supply. When this crystal is stolen, move the Codex marker clockwise one symbol on the Codex card.

Did your sorcerer's staff end up on the same Relic as the opponent sorcerer? Time to rock the casbah. 

If the values on the cards are equal between players, the players shuffle their hands, place their cards face-down, and reveal the top card. The highest value wins. Keep this up until one player comes out victorious. Essentially, the tie breaker here is like the classic card game of War.

The catch in a Clash is that players may not use cards that match the color of the covered Codex (the same rule as in creating a Paradox).

The first player to gain five Paradox crystals wins immediately.

Theme and Mechanics:
The theme is that of time travel and creating paradoxes. To be honest, I think any theme could be placed in its stead and it would still work. That said, I like the theme, because I can pretend to be a Time Lord whenever I play it.

The mechanics are silky smooth hand management and set collection, with a touch of “take-that” thrown into the mix for good measure. A lot of folks aren’t particularly fond of take-that mechanics in games, but I found that it’s minimal here, and while someone may steal your crystal, you can always steal one right back (assuming you’ve amassed the cards for the job). There are plenty of games where only one or two Clashes take place, and some where no Clashes happen at all. Rest assured, the hint of “take-that” in Antinomy is minimal.

Artwork and Components:
The art is done by Marty Cobb, and it looks great. I’ll admit it’s nothing fancy, but what’s there is quality and really does help set the tone of the game. After all, you’re looking for artifacts, and the art does a great job of making these items look like genuine artifacts.

The components are cards, pure and simple. Because this is a pre-Kickstarter prototype, I can’t speak on the actual quality of the cards. That said, I have other Button Shy games that are the final product, and the card quality on them feels just fine.

There’s also the bit about markers used as Paradox crystals. I’m unsure as to whether or not tokens will be included in the Kickstarter version, but really, anything will work. Coins, Smarties (the good Canadian chocolate kind, not the questionable powdery substance seen in the United States), and anything else you can get your hands on.

The Good:
  • Simple setup
  • Easy-to-learn rules
  • Fast gameplay
  • Fits in your pocket!
  • Good depth without becoming too burdensome or too fluffy
  • Solo play available
The Not Necessarily Bad but May be a Turnoff for Some (I Guess):
The “take-that” mechanic might not be for everyone, but again, it’s minimal in terms of gameplay, and the games go by fast enough that even if you do end up losing, a rematch is bound to happen.

Final Thoughts:

Antinomy Review Card Game Wallet Game by Button Shy Games, Review and Image by Benjamin Kocher

Translating time travel and paradoxes into a game with 18 cards would be impossible for me to accomplish—which is one of the reasons I’ve never tried. However, John Baluci did a fantastic job of bringing that concept to the table in a rich and simple manner. The games play quickly, which make for good best-of-three or best-of-five (and so on and so forth) competitions. The mechanics are such that each game is engaging and competitive. There is also a solo expansion, which I’m always a fan of. Unfortunately, it came to me as a print-and-play version (upon my request), and then when I got it, I realized we still haven’t found our printer from our recent move (three months is recent, okay?). So I haven’t played it. I have, however, read the rules for solo play, and it looks super solid.

Players Who Like:
If you’re a fan of Button Shy Games to begin with, or other wallet-type games, Antinomy is one for the ages. If you’re looking for a small game to slip in your pocket on your way out the door—or one with a good set collection mechanic—give Antinomy a look. If you’re a solo gamer, consider checking out Antinomy as well.

Check out Antinomy on:


On KICKSTARTER now. Campaign ends February 23, 2019.

Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin's reviews HERE.

Antinomy Kickstarter Preview Antinomy Kickstarter Preview Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on February 14, 2019 Rating: 5

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