Timeline – Inventions, Music & Cinema, & British History

I looked at my card ‘The London Underground Opens’ – let’s see where it goes. Well, 1833 Founding of the Great Western Railway, got to be after that. Then the next cards are 1854, 77, 88, 91, but maybe it’s later than that? They used it during World War II as a shelter, and it must have taken years to build, so maybe late 1800’s?

I hover around ‘The National trust is founded, 1895’. “Oooo, tut, tut, tut!” That’s my Dad, fountain of all knowledge when it comes to games like this. I go a bit earlier, just before the first Wimbledon final, 1877.

“I’m just not sure,” I say, ” So that will have to do.” I flip the card over, 1863. “Yes, get in!” That’s just won me the game… Timeline, a mighty fine way to learn history?

  • Designer: Frédéric Henry
  • Publisher: Asmodee
  • Year Released: 2010; 2013; 2016
  • Players: 2-8
  • Playing Time: 15 minutes
  • Ages: 8+
  • Recommended Retail Price: £13.99

Timeline is a series of history-based games that sees the players placing cards in chronological order… Simple, eh!

What’s in the box… tin?

  • 110 cards (109 in Inventions)
  • Instruction booklet

What's in the ...tin?

The game comes in a fully embossed tin, which pictures a young woman in the centre, surrounded by the swirling evidence of the games subject matter. It is beautiful to look at, as well as feel, and the tin is very well made.

The cards are all Mini American size, have a linen finish, and feature artwork that is descriptive of the subject.

The rules booklet is slightly smaller than the tin itself, and is simple to understand, containing clear examples of play.

Finally there is a lovely inlay, which is felt finish plastic, and it holds the cards nicely in place.

How does it play?

  • If your familiar with the game play, feel free to time travel forward to ‘What do I think?’

Game play is the same for all three of the Timeline games featured here.

The cards are shuffled together; ensure that the dates are face down.

Each player is dealt a number of cards dependent on the number of players*. Increasing the number of cards dealt can alter the difficulty of the game. The cards should be placed date side down in front of the player. Players are not to look at the underside (dated side) of their cards.

*British History rules state four cards, irrespective of the number of players. 

The unused cards are placed at the side of the play area, and act as the draw pile.

The top card of the draw pile is turned over, so that the date is visible, and placed in the centre of the play area.

The youngest player goes first. They choose one of their cards and place it next to the ‘in play’ card. If they believe their card occurred earlier, they place it to the left, and if they believe it occurred later, they place it to the right.

Once the card has been placed, it is then flipped date side up.

If the card has been placed in the correct chronological order, then it is left there. If however, it is in the wrong place, it is removed from the game, and the player draws another card. That is the end of that players turn.

If a card is played, and it has the same date as another card, as long as they are adjacent to one another, it doesn’t matter which way round they are.

Timeline set up
You decide where to place your card on the timeline.

Play continues, seeing each player trying to place one of his or her cards in its correct position along the timeline. Once every player has taken a turn, this is the end of the round, and the next round begins in the same fashion.

When a player places his final card, play continues to the end of that round. If they are then the only player to have placed all their cards, they win the game.

If there were two or more players who placed their final cards in that round, then play continues with just these players. They each draw a card, and play continues until there is only one player in a game round to place their final card.

So, what do I think?

Let me start by saying that the tins are absolutely gorgeous, and they don’t look out of place on a shelf in our sitting room.

They’re not made of really thin metal either, but are nice and sturdy, and the artwork is delightful.

Timeline Lovely tin!
The tins are compelling to look at and feel.

It all screams a quality product, and for the price, it really is a great little package.

The art on the cards is very varied, some are simple renditions of an object whilst others are detailed, and some are even humorous, but all are quality pieces of work. The only downside is that they are quite drab, with lots of greys and browns. The matte finish of the cards doesn’t help either.

Timeline Music & Cinema card example
The art work is good, but could do with more colour.

The game itself is very simple to teach and learn, you’ll be playing your first game within a minute of opening the tin, and you’ll probably never look at the rules again!

Surprisingly, I found that there was quite a lot of player interaction, as everyone has an opinion, and there can be a lot of “Well, I think you should be looking around here.” It can be quite amusing when everyone is wrong!

There isn’t a great deal of strategy to the game; play the cards you’re not sure of early on, whilst there are fewer cards in play, as it can get quite tight towards the end, especially if, like us, any incorrectly placed cards get moved to where they belong, and then left in play.

The British History variant proved to be the favourite in our group, with the Inventions a close second. With the Music And Cinema one, we just found that not everyone had enough knowledge of the subject, which made the game unbalanced.

And here lies it’s problem: You really have to play with people who have the same knowledge base in order to keep the game balanced. Yes you could deal differing amounts of cards to each player, depending on their knowledge of the subject, but even then, a clued up player will win the game.

When playing with different generations at once, the elder members of the family tended to win the game more often, simply because they had had a greater experience of life.

There are also some errors, especially with the dates of some of the inventions. For example – The invention of the Compact Disc 1979; In actuality this was the date of a press conference to show off the CD and it’s audio qualities, the CD was actually ‘invented’ a few years earlier. And of course there’s the invention of Roleplaying Games, 1974. 1974 saw the publication of Dungeons and Dragons, but RPG’s had been in existence since around 1971, when Dave Arneson was running campaigns set in the world of Blackmoor.

Early editions of the game are more prone to having these errors but, unless you’re a complete history buff, you’re not likely to pick up on them. Still, you would expect a game based on history to get it’s facts right!

Play the game with a like minded-group though, and you’ll find the Timeline series highly rewarding. When there are several dates very close to each other, things get very tight, as you really have to have a good idea of the dates on your cards. The game also sparks up a lot of conversations, especially when people remember, or have experience of, some of the things that appear. I really enjoy playing this with the family (though Yasmin refuses to play!), as we all have different things to contribute, and it makes for a good bit of after-dinner entertainment.

Can I play it… all on my own?

Yes, you can play it on your own, in the same way you as you can play Trivial Pursuit on your own – to challenge yourself. But, is it any fun when there’s nobody around to see how clever you are?


It’s an odd one to recommend. If, like my family, and me, you enjoy history, or you like quiz type games, then yes, I can recommend this game to you. It’s simple to learn, sets up in a matter of moments, and is quick to play through. And, being small, it’s easy to take down the pub! Otherwise, I’d probably give it a miss.

Replayability, whilst not a problem initially, can be an issue – If you play the same set often enough, or are blessed with a very good memory, then you’ll soon become familiar with the dates. This can make for very quick games, which quickly become routine. That said, you can mix the different sets together to make it more interesting, but then you have to sort them all out again at the end!

You also have to think about whom you’ll be playing with. It’s not great for children, and I’m probably looking at the under 14’s, maybe older, unless they are playing with their own age group that is. It’s back to the question of balance, and children below a certain age just won’t have come across half of the things on the cards, quickly becoming fed up, as they have no idea of many of the dates.

Children can get something from this game though, as it makes an excellent educational tool, especially in the classroom. For example: In the British History pack, you could play the game using just the Victorian dated cards, giving a timeline of important events occurring through her Reign. You can also create a little bit of competitiveness by playing in teams. It’s amazing the difference that introducing a game like this in a classroom environment has on children, compared to putting it on the table at home!

Timeline – A game, which sees history lovers parade their knowledge at the games table!


Official site – Asmodee

Recommended video review – The Dice Tower

Board Game Geek Page – Inventions; Music & Cinema; British History.

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