Timeline: American History and Timeline: Americana
- Designer: Frederic Henry
- Publisher: Asmodee
- Players: 2-8
- Ages: 8+ on box,(I would go a little older)
- Time: 15 mins
- Times played: 3 each with review copies provided by Asmodee
Timeline is a simple yet compelling game that takes a simple idea and pairs it with nearly limitless expansions – a perfect game idea! Players compete with each other to be the first one to rid themselves of all their cards.
Each of the cards has a historical event on them, one side with a title and a picture while the reverse side has that information as well as the actual year that it happened. Cards are dealt so that all players can only see the picture/event. One card is dealt face up to the table (and flipped over so that everyone can see the date) and each player receives 4 cards in their hand – though they really just remain on the table in front of them. Make sure that nobody peeks at the dates on the back!
On your turn, you take one of the cards from your hand and you slide it into the timeline wherever you think it will fit. On the first turn, you will put it to the left of the starting card if you think your card happened before the start card, and you will put it to the right if you think your card comes later in history. Once you decide where you want to put it, you flip it over and see if you are right. If you are correct, the card stays in its new place in the timeline. If you are wrong, the card is discarded to the box and you draw a new card from the draw pile.
The end of the game is reminiscent of a spelling bee. At the end of any round (i.e. when all players have had the same number of turns), you check and see if anyone has played all of their cards. If there is only one person, then that person wins. If there are more than one player, all non-tied people are eliminated and all the tied players draw a single card to play. Another round is played, and you again check to see if there is only one person to successfully play their card.
This year, there are new versions out – the first is American History – and this one includes all sorts of facts from the discovery of the New World to the election of President Obama. Lots of wars, treaties, Presidents and whatnot.
Here is an (somewhat morbid) example of four cards from the American History set – can you put them in order?
The other new set is Americana – which is a bit more eclectic. While the American History one pretty much sticks to dry historical facts, the Americana set has a lot more “pop culture” things like movies, TV shows, music, sports, etc.
Here is an example set from Americana…
The great thing is that all of the Timeline sets can be combined – the color of the dates on the back is different for each set, so you can easily re-sort them when you’re done. Having played the American History set three times in a row with the kids, I feel fairly confident that I remember most of the dates of the cards in the set… (well, compounded with the fact that I am a History Major from college). So, I’d recommend leaving some time between plays – or mixing all your Timeline cards into a huge set where you’re unlikely to come up with repeat cards that often.
The only other comment that I have about Timeline right now is that I don’t think that the 8+ age on the box is a true age floor. While it’s true that probably a 4-year-old can understand the mechanics of pick a card, put it in place and see if it’s right, there’s a certain amount of raw knowledge/trivia that you need to play this game. Look at the two examples I have provided in this review – do you really think an 8 year old can know those events? Heck, I’m not sure there are some 8th graders that could…
The games come in a nice square tin box, about 4.5 inches per side. It is quite compact, and we have often brought previous versions of this game with us on road trips or soccer weekends to break out in the car is the weather goes bad. There are now seven of these Timeline sets available (I have three of them), and as I mentioned earlier, they can be mixed with each other for more varied card sets.
Timeline is an enjoyable game for families or to use as a filler/closer. It’s also a sneaky way to educate your children about some history without them realizing what you’re doing! My wife and I took a bit of time with the cards that the kids didn’t know about (for instance, the Great Depression or the assassination of Malcolm X) to explain some of the events surrounding the time – to help explain why it was memorable.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor
And… here are your answers!