Timeline Challenge Deserves A Spot On Your Family’s Game Shelf

Timeline Challenge is a history trivia game for two to players ages 10 and up. It plays in about a half-hour. The game, which is designed by Frédéric Henry and Cyril Demaegd, stands on its own and is compatible with all seven Timeline games.

The game is scheduled to be in stores Friday. It has a suggested price of $39.99, with preorders available for about $28 from several online retailers.

The original Timeline games have two-sided cards. Each have the same event. The top side leaves the date of the event blank, and the face-down side has a date. Players are dealt cards, and on their turn, they try to put a card either before, after, or between cards with dates already revealed. Getting a date wrong means drawing another card. The first person out of cards wins.

Timeline Challenge adds another deck of cards, a board, and a whole new experience.

How it works:

Players each choose a token and put it on the start space on the board. They also get a dial with four digits where they’ll program their answers, along with a card that explains the five trials and two challenges in the game.

After the first trial, the leading player’s token will determine which trial players do.

Each trial uses the cards but deals with them a bit differently.

In the Timeline 4 trial, players guess in which period each of four cards falls on the timeline on the board. They move ahead one space for each right answer.

In The Bet, players decide which period one card falls on the timeline. They have four votes, so they can hedge their bets, choosing several periods, or vote for one period more than once. Again, each right answer moves the player on the board.

In The Split, players guess the difference in years between two cards. The player closest to the right answer moves four spaces.

In The Combination, players try to put four cards in the correct order. They move one space for each correct answer.

In The Right Date, players try to guess the exact year of the event on the card. They get one space for each correct digit.

Twice during the game there will be challenges between the last and next-to-last players. If there are ties, all the players in the tie participate.

In Sudden Death, players essentially play a quick round of the original Timeline game described above, except that a mistake means player elimination. The last player standing moves up to three spaces, but can’t move past the leader.

Except in a two-player game, there is a More or Less challenge. The leading player takes a card and looks at the date. The player in last place says a date, and the leading player says “more” if their guess is earlier than the date or “less” if their guess is later than the date. The first player to guess the exact date moves three spaces. In a two-player game, this challenge is replaced with a Sudden Death challenge. The player in the lead doesn’t get to move ahead if he or she wins.

The first player to the final space on the board wins.

Why you might buy Timeline Challenge:

If you’re already a fan of Timeline, this game has obvious selling points. You can combine all your cards with a new set, meaning even if you know your deck, you’ll have a new one to compare with. Plus the game lets you do new things that will make it harder for you to remember the exact date of every card you see.

This is a nice, quick trivia game. Unlike Trivial Pursuit where the last half-hour or so is spent waiting for someone to grab their last piece of pie, Timeline Challenge will be over before you tire of it.

This is a fantastic family game. It’s educational, but it has a game-show feel to keep everyone engaged.

When you have to guess which came first, the invention of the shield or the invention of plastic, you’ll feel smart. But you’ll likely be surprised to learn that the invention of the jukebox was in 1889.

Some of the trials are much easier than others, so even players who aren’t history buffs will find lots of success.

Why you might not buy Timeline Challenge:

Eventually you’ll learn all the cards. That’s the trouble with any trivia game. Asmodee will likely keep publishing more sets of cards, but you’ll have to keep buying them to make the game feel fresh.

If you hate history, you might not like Timeline Challenge.

Adults have an advantage over younger players, especially when dealing with events in their lifetime.

The dials are really cool, but they’re a bit loose. You’re supposed to put your answers in and then lay it face down. I found that my answers changed when I did that, so I just held it facing away from the other players.

My conclusions:

It’s been a long time since I’ve played a trivia game that felt like it evened the playing field for people who just aren’t into trivia. Some of the references in Timeline Challenge obscure enough that no one will probably know them, and others are common enough for everyone. That makes the game fun.

The way this game presents history is interesting. You learn the context, but subtly, as you try to guess events’ relationships in time.

I’m not generally a fan of games with lots of expansions to keep them going, but this one will likely sucker me into buying all of the Timeline games. And since it’s educational, I can justify the price.

Full disclosure: I received a review copy of Timeline Challenge from Asmodee Editions. I was not required to write a positive review. These are my honest opinions.

Consumer Expert Teresa Jackson

I'm a journalist living in Central Oregon. I have two little kids, which for me has meant staying home. And playing board games.

Lots of board games.

I'm also an avid reader and a theology nerd.

You can follow all of my interests and personal quirks on Twitter @teresawjackson and at www.tablebyteresa.com.