‘Timeline’ Gets All Your Dates in a Row

Games GeekMom
Timeline Boxes, Image: Sophie Brown
Timeline Boxes, Image: Sophie Brown

What was discovered first, Halley’s Comet or the Ruins of Pompeii? Was Rebel Without a Cause released before or after Seven Samurai? Did Anakin have a nightmare about his mother before or after Obi-Wan fought Jango Fett on Kamino? Think you know? Then you might enjoy Timeline, a cute card game that’s all about getting your dates in a row.

At a Glance:
Timeline is a card game available in a number of different themes but each with the same basic principal–placing the events or items on the cards into chronological order. The different Timeline sets can be played individually or merged with one another to create customizable games. Some of the currently available sets include:

There are also two Star Wars sets–one for the Prequels and the other for the Original Trilogy–that can be mixed with one another but not with non-Star Wars sets, although sadly for U.S. fans, these are not yet available in the USA. Each Timeline set retails for around $9-15, so even building up a full set won’t break the bank.

Each Timeline tin contains:

  • 110 cards, each depicting an event or item
  • Rulebook

How to Play:
The game is incredibly simple to play, although this doesn’t mean it is easy to win. Each player is dealt four cards, date side down. They then take it in turns to create a timeline in the center of the table by guessing where in the existing line of cards their card will fit. Here’s an example of play from the Science and Discoveries set:

To begin the game, a random card from the deck is placed in the center of the table. In our example, this card is, “The Discovery of Pulsars” (1967).

Timeline, Starter Card, Image: Sophie Brown
Timeline, Starter Card, Image: Sophie Brown

Player One looks at her hand and decides to play “The Calculation of the Length of a Year.” She guesses that this card goes BEFORE 1967 so she places it to the left. She is correct, this card is dated -4236, and so it is added to the timeline.

A Second Card is Added, Image: Sophie Brown
A Second Card is Added, Image: Sophie Brown

Player Two looks at his hand and decides to play “The Discovery of Tobacco (by Europeans).” He guesses this card belongs BETWEEN -4236 and 1967 so he places the card in this location. The date is revealed (1492) and the card is added to the timeline and placed in the middle of the line.

A Third Card is Played, Image: Sophie Brown
A Third Card is Played, Image: Sophie Brown

Player Three looks at her hand and decides to play “The Law of Falling Bodies.” She guesses this belongs BETWEEN -4236 and 1492 and places it in this location. However, when the date is revealed (1590), she was incorrect. This card is discarded back to the box and Player Three takes another card from the pile. This ends the round.

The Fourth Card is Played, Image: Sophie Brown
The Fourth Card is Played, Image: Sophie Brown

Players One and Two now have three cards each, while Player Three still has four cards in her hand. As no player has discarded their final card, a new round begins with Player One guessing the location of another card in their hand.

If a round ends with a single player having discarded their final card, this player becomes the winner. If multiple players discard their final card during the same round, any other players are eliminated and a new round begins. The remaining players each take a single card from the deck and attempt to place it correctly on the timeline. Rounds continue in this sudden death style until only one player is left with no cards at the end of a round.

The Star Wars variant of Timeline is played identically, however, these cards cannot be merged with other Timeline sets, only with one another. The cards in Star Wars timeline are numbered in chronological order related to events in the films, but the numbering is not consecutive and at times seems rather arbitrary with numbers skipped over seemingly at random:

  • The Phantom Menace (105 – 193)
  • Attack of The Clones (195 – 273)
  • Revenge of The Sith (281 – 363)
  • A New Hope (423 – 547)
  • The Empire Strikes Back (549 – 657)
  • The Return of The Jedi (663 -750)

This numbering system may also present problems if future expansions are considered for films such as Rogue One, which needs so sit in the gap between cards 363 and 423, the final Revenge of the Sith card and first New Hope card respectively. This may be easy enough for now, but what happens as more and more films are released?

Building a Star Wars Timeline, Image: Sophie Brown
Building a Star Wars Timeline, Image: Sophie Brown

The beauty of Timeline is that all the different card sets can be combined to create very varied games, or you can choose to stick with a single deck–it’s all up to you and the people you’re playing with. It’s also fast to learn and to play, not to mention having significant educational value; I will certainly be picking up the Historical Events set once my son is old enough for it. It is worth mentioning that some of the oldest dates in the Science & Discoveries set we were sent have to be taken with a pinch of doubt, however, the vast majority were accurate as far as I could tell. The cards are all beautifully illustrated, too, with custom artwork on each side–although the Star Wars editions simply use stills from the films.

PHENOMENALLY HUGE PACKAGING, itty bitty cards! Image: Sophie Brown
PHENOMENALLY HUGE PACKAGING, itty bitty cards! Image: Sophie Brown

We played Timeline with a number of family members and friends over the holidays, and everybody enjoyed it. The Star Wars edition was by far the most popular and proved more difficult that it first appears, especially later on in a game when the timeline has grown and placing a card requires increasingly more precision. One complaint we did have was from some older relatives regarding the size of the cards. The cards in all editions of Timeline are extremely small, measuring just over 1.5″x2.5″. This makes the text on them very small and some people found them difficult to read–glasses were an absolute must. Although this was considered a minor problem, everyone understood why the cards had to be made so small as the line of cards grows very quickly and rapidly took over the table even with these tiny cards. I must say I personally had an issue with the size of the packaging, too, given how tiny the contents is, and would ask Asmodee whether such extensive packaging is really required for such a tiny game?

GeekMom received copies of Timeline for review purposes.

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