I'm a sucker for trivia games.
I'm not so great at history, but I like it. So I was intrigued by Timeline Challenge.
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 the other Timeline games.
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 like 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.
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.
Since my original review, however, I played with my social studies teacher mother-in-law who took issue with lots of the dates. And she definitely knows better than I do, so you might want to keep that in mind.
Other reviewers' opinions
Brooke from The Board Game Family said Timeline Challenge is a lot more fun than the basic Timeline games because it does so much more.
Nick from Board Game Brawl praised the look of the game. He said Timeline Challenge adds a lot of meat to the game. He hated the Over/Under Challenge because it doesn't work that well. He said it's fun and sometimes surprising. He thought it was important to add two or three more sets to give the game enough variety.
Absolutely, once the kids have just a bit of history under their belts and can understand the concept of years. (My 5-year-old is obviously too young, but a few years from now, she'll probably crush me at this game.)
What my husband wants to do the game
He wanted to get more cards, and he wanted the cards to be more accurate. But overall he thought it was solid.
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.
Much of this review originally appeared at News for Shoppers, where I wrote it.