Timeline is a party game for two to eight players and is a reprint of the Asmodee edition, released here in the UK by Esdevium Games and incorporating cards from several different expansions from the original releases. Whilst the 220 cards included in the game largely keep their original artwork, which is perfectly presentable (and sometimes amusing) it should noted that the new packaging is far from inspiring. Whilst the original editions came in attractive tins decked out with a pretty steampunk aesthetic, here the thin cardboard box has a fairly bland cover and holds a crudely moulded plastic tray. Meanwhile the cards themselves are covered by the addition of the CD ROM version of the game included as a welcome added extra, but which makes the packaging far bigger than it needs to be. As this is a game you will likely be taking to house parties and BBQs in your bag, it’s a good idea to chuck the box and use something more portable.
The inevitable heat death of the universe could well be coming in an expansion
Like all the best party games Timeline is light on rules, as the purpose of the game is to provide an opportunity for social interaction. It’s a fantastic, quick ice breaker to get a group of people who don’t know one another to start talking, because unlike arguably better party games such as Dixit and Apples to Apples, you don’t require any knowledge of the inner workings of the other players’ minds to make the game more enjoyable. Basically each player starts with four cards face up in front of them, each one depicting an event in world or human history from the creation of the earth to the invention of the portable computer (this was the most recent card I found, though the inevitable heat death of the universe could well be coming in an expansion). On a turn a player must select a card and place it somewhere in the timeline (one card is picked at random to start things off) and then flips it to see if they are right (the back of the card is identical except for the addition of the date). If they are it stays there, if not the player discards the card and draws another. The first player to lose all of their cards wins.
As you can see from this description, beyond an innate level of historical knowledge there isn’t a lot of strategy that can be brought to bear, except for maybe playing cards you are less sure about first whilst the gaps between one event and another are wider. Also the first player to act gets a distinct advantage, particularly in a game with a high player count, as by the time it gets around to player eight’s turn things have already started to get very tricky.
Sure it might be obvious that the creation of gunpowder came before the first supermarket, but when the timeline has swollen to 20 cards where does the creation of the teddy bear go in a crowded twentieth century? But this isn’t really a gamers’ game, so thinking about it terms of strategies and mechanics isn’t really the point. Rather it is about the narrative that you construct as you put down the cards and the banter and showboating that the game generates.
It’s an odd decision to include a CD ROM of the game rather than a code for the iPad version, especially as it’s clear that this is a rough port of the iPad version as the instructions constantly refer to a touch interface. The disc contains two different single player challenge modes, one of which is timed, which are a nice test of your wits, but this game is at its best when played with seven other slightly drunk people.
Designer: Frédéric Henry
Publisher: Esdevium Games
Mechanic: Party game, general knowledge
Number of Players: 2-8 (Best with 8)
Length of Game: 15-30mins
Complexity: Very light