Dale Yu: Review of Timeline: Challenge

 

Timeline: Challenge

  • Designers: Frederic Henry and Cyril Demaegd
  • Publisher: Asmodee
  • Players: 2-10
  • Ages: 10+
  • Time: ~30 minutes
  • Times played: 5, with review copy provided by Asmodee

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Timeline: Challenge was a game that slipped by under my radar in the hectic days leading up to Essen 2015.  I had not heard anything about it, and I was pleasantly surprised when my press contact from Asmodee asked me if I was interested in reviewing the game.  I have been a big fan of the Timeline series, and the game promised to breathe new life into the Timeline decks that I already own.  The OG has covered some of the Timeline sets in the past:

https://opinionatedgamers.com/2014/10/13/dale-yu-review-of-timeline-american-history-and-timeline-americana/

https://opinionatedgamers.com/2011/11/08/nathan-beelerreview-timeline-inventions/

In this big box game (30cm box), you get a new set of Timeline cards which appears to be new and specific for this version of the game – however, you can use any set or combination of sets that you have to play the game.  The big difference here is that there is a board!  In the center, there is a spiral path where the player pawns will move.  On the left and the right are different areas to lay out cards for the different challenges.  The top of the board has a timeline which splits up the whole of history into 10 separate sections.

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Each player gets a player board which has 4 wheels on it – each can display a single digit from 0 to 9 inclusive.  The players each take the pawn which matches the symbol on the upper right of their board and places it on the start of the spiral track.  Whichever player makes it first to the center of the 22 space track will win the game.

The flow of the game is fairly simple.  In any given round, you look at the space that the leading player(s) is on.  The colored icon on that space tells you what type of challenge will be played in that given round.  There are 5 different options here:

Green (Timeline 4) – 4 cards are laid out on the green area, one each under the circle, triangle, square and star icon.  Each player then uses their player board to try to correctly place each of the four cards into the right section of the timeline – using the scale printed on the top of the board.  You simply dial up the number where you think each card belongs.  Once everyone has chosen, the cards are revealed and each player moves forward one space for each correct answer – thus, a max of 4 spaces forward.

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Red (The Bet) – a single card is placed on the red section of the board.  Each player then uses his personal board to dial up four guesses at which section of the timeline the card belongs in.  You can repeat the same answer as many times as you like.  Once all players have dialed in their guesses, you reveal, and each player moves forward one space for each correct guess (again, a max of 4 spaces forward).

Blue (the Split) – Two cards are placed on the blue spaces, and players calculate the difference in years between the two cards, and this actual number is dialed up on their board.  The cards and guesses are revealed, and the player who is closest to the actual difference between the dates moves ahead 4 spaces.  No other players move forward.

Yellow (The Right Date) – A single card is displayed on the yellow section of the board.  Players then attempt to guess the exact date on the card.  Once all guesses are made, the card and guesses are revealed, and each player moves forward for each correct digit in the guess (i.e. correct in the thousands place, in the hundreds place, in the tens place, and in the ones place).  A max of 4 spaces can be gained.

Purple (The Combination) – four cards are placed in the purple area.  Players have to try to place the four cards in the correct temporal order – ranking them from 1 (earliest) to 4 (latest).  You can only use the digits 1,2,3,4 once each. Each player will move forward one space for each card placed in the correct order.

At the end of each challenge, players move forward however many spaces that they earned and then the next round is done – again based on the space where the forward-most player is located.  There are two special lines on the board, after the 7th and 14th spot, that trigger a special catch-up round once these lines are crossed by the leader.  There are two special challenges that are open to only the two players furthest back.

After the 7th space, there is a Sudden Death round – which is essentially a round of the original Timeline game.  A card is placed on the table to start, and then in turn, each player draws a card and has to place it to the left, to the right, or in between cards such that all the cards are in correct oldest to newest order on the table.  The player who places a card incorrectly loses, and the other player moves ahead three spaces.

After the 14th space, there is a More or Less challenge – where the leader draws a card and then acts as moderator.  The two players closest to the end take turns trying to guess the exact date on that drawn card.  With each guess, the leader/moderator tells then whether the correct answer is “more” or “less” than the guess.  The first player to say the exact date moves ahead three spaces.

The game ends when the first player reaches the center of the spiral. If multiple players reach the center on the same turn, the rules suggest playing a “Sudden Death” challenge amongst all tied players to settle the game.

Six cards to try your hand at

Six cards to try your hand at

My thoughts on the game

Timeline is a fairly simple game at heart – but one which my family has definitely enjoyed.  We have five or six decks of the base game, and they continue to hit the table with relatively high frequency.  We like the way that each deck can be played on its own or you can combine some/all of them for increased variety and challenge.

This version of the game increases the variety of play by giving you a number of different mini-games to use the cards in.  Each of them allows you to move up to four spaces forward on the board – and four of the five allow all players to move ahead (assuming they have correctly answered the challenge).  This keeps the game flowing as generally people are constantly moving forward along the track.

The mini-games are all challenging in different ways though the yellow challenge (the Right Date) seems a bit contrived.  I like the way that the divided timeline at the top of the board gives you a different way to look at the cards – and perhaps a little bit more leeway when you don’t know the exact date for a given event.

The components are well done, and the vac tray in the box gives you space to store up to three sets of Timeline cards.  If you’re willing to throw out the custom molded vac tray, you could then probably fit all of your Timeline cards in this single 30cm square box.  The rulebook is well written, but it does have an interesting quirk.  The rulebook is 8 pages, but it seems to be missing the cover page.  There is no title on the first page – it starts right up with “Object of the Game”.  Other than that, the rules are well written, with many illustrations and examples to fully explain the game.

Our games thus far generally last about 8 to 10 rounds.  I’d say that a good Timeline player will be able to score at least 2 points on every non-Blue challenge.  The big differentiation comes in winning the Blue challenges (where only one player moves forward 4 spaces) or by doing well on the Red (the Bet) challenges and being able to move ahead the full 4 spaces – though you risk not moving ahead at all if your guess is wrong.  A full game takes 20-30 minutes, and I’ve found that in our sessions thus far, the boys and I usually end up playing two or three games in a row because they move along so quickly.CameraZOOM-20151121133626091

Timeline: Challenge certainly does what it advertises – that is to provide a nice light game to be enjoyed by adults and older children.  While the box states this is for 10+, I would possibly amend this to 12+ or even 14+.  The main reason for this is that you do need a fair amount of general history knowledge in order to be able to make good educated guesses at things, and I don’t know if your average 5th grader is going to know enough to meaningfully play the game.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it. Dale Y
  • Neutral. John P, Craig V.
  • Not for me…

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About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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