Base Game Review
Play Time (Box): 15mins
Play Time (Goof): 10-15mins
Designer/s: Frederic Henry
I have this weird thing about games which teach you things. I either find them incredibly snoozefest boring; or I fall strangely in love with them. Growing up I had a huge obsession with Word Rescue (although I am still the world’s worst spealer). I think there is something to be said for games which can be both entertaining and educational, and I think there’s a real future in this kind of game.
When we play games, we’re eager to develop strategies and absorb information. It makes sense then that we do our best learning when it’s not even intentional. Think about all those classes you’ve sat through in your life, and now think about when you’ve been playing board games. They don’t even seem comparable. One was usually boring as hell, while the other has been engaging. I learnt more about English and word play through Balderdash then I ever did through Shakespeare.
I should clarify, I think every game teaches you something. Problem solving, logical reasoning. But I’m talking about games which teach spelling, geometry, history. I would love to see the day when these are commonly used in classrooms and truth be told I don’t think it’s very far away. As gaming has become more mainstream, people have also looked to adapt it to various problems, such as how to keep people learning.
But we’re here to talk about Timeline: Inventions. How does this game hold up?
If you want to teach children something, in this case history, simple rules go a long way to keeping a focus on the information over the mechanics. The rules here are incredibly simple. One side of any card has the name and date, and the other just has the name. You have a hand of cards (depending on the amount of players) and then move them to where you think they fit on the timeline and flip them to reveal the date. If you were right, you have one less card. If you were wrong you discard it and grab another. First to empty their hand wins. Timeline is quick and simple.
There’s more of a deductive reasoning aspect to Timeline than is first apparent. You don’t have to be amazing with dates in order to succeed. Was fire created before the wheel, or after? What about glasses? Or whiskey? My strategy is to play the cards I don’t really know first, and save the obvious ones for when things are starting to get specific. This is the aspect of the game I absolutely adore.
The thing with Timeline is, it’s very simple. There’s not a whole lot more to say about it (literally covered all the mechanics in the first paragraph). I’ve read in a couple places how some of the dates might be a little off, which would be disappointing considering it’s the main idea of the game. However, people argue about when things happened in history all the time. People are even arguing if the dates in this game are right or not. In terms of gameplay you can normally get close enough this isn’t really an issue. And if you’re wrong it’s usually because you had no idea, not because the card wasn’t printed to exactly the date you had in mind.
Pros: +Simple Rules, +Deductive Reasoning
I wasn’t initially aware there was some level of storyline for the Timeline series until I went to the website to check out the various versions. As it turns out, you’re repairing the timeline. From what.. don’t know. Why? Don’t know that either. The narrative for Timeline doesn’t seem to really be explored, but that’s okay. There’s more to the theme here than the narrative, and a nonintrusive narrative doesn’t detract from anything.
Arguably the theme is learning about history. And in this sense Timeline works in spades. I’ve never been one to enjoy knowing that the can opener was patented in 1855; and I’ll be damned if I know what years the world wars started. But add the simple mechanics in Timeline and suddenly I’m applying deductive reasoning and eagerly learning about when pottery was a thing.
Playing Timeline again in order to complete the review, there were a few moments where we would engage in conversation about certain cards, like my Dad talking about the origin of blue jeans, or my girlfriend correcting my pronunciation of Les Miserables (Lay…Miser..arb. Or whatever). It creates interesting talking points. And I think this adds to the flavour of the game.
Pros: ++ Makes learning fun, +Creates talking points
Timeline comes with 109 cards. We often play like three or four games in a row and there’s always a couple of repeats, which would seem like it’s somewhat cheating in a trivia based game. But this amount of cards (and the fact none of us are very good at remembering dates) means we just had that little bit of extra information to help with our decision.
The artwork on the game is interesting. I’m not enough of a history buff to tell if each of the pieces are how the inventions looked when they were first created, but I do know we look at the artwork for clues about the era, culture or influences other inventions had on it (it’s hard to make a catapult without the wheel). And it seems to help. Regardless, the artwork is really interesting and pretty.
I’ve never been a big fan of tiny cards. I find them frustrating to hold and almost impossible to shuffle. Even with twenty full sized cards (about what you’d get when you create the timeline in the middle), I don’t think they would have taken up unreasonable room to be a bit larger.
I want to talk about the box for a moment. Goddamn it’s stunning. Timeline games have always been eye catchers for me, because they have that noir feeling to them that is instantly attractive. But I hate tins. I hate tins so much that it’s usually involved in the decision to purchase a game. They don’t stack or store well. And the lids slide off of tins really easily. I know they’re pretty…but no. Please stop.
Pros: +Interesting artwork, +Eye catching box
Cons: -Tiny cards, -Tins
This was the first of the Timeline series I grabbed. But you can grab more and combine your favourite cards, or slam several packs together, or play them separately. With seven younger kids in my sibling group, it’s a great way to educate them. If they don’t know what something is, it starts a talking point.
I was asked recently about which order to purchase these games. And I think the answer is very much “what interests you? Who is your target audience and why are you playing the game?”. If you’re interested in Cinema and Movies then pick up that pack. If you’re looking to teach American History then there you go.
I give Timeline: Inventions:
Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and learn about what the hell a Sextant is.
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