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Timeline: Inventions - Board Game Box Shot

Timeline: Inventions

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A game about history that’s fun for the whole family, even if you don’t know your history!

go to: Who would enjoy this game?


An educational, history-filled game that doesn’t really favor the historically-minded? How is that possible? Well Timeline accomplishes it, in a fun filler-game package that encourages repeat plays (and expansion purchases). Whether you have 2 players or 8, you’re in for the same experience of trying to guess the correct order of occurrence of random events spanning centuries.

Timeline Inventions Wide

Set Up

Setting up a game is never easier than it is with Timeline. Shuffle the 109 cards that comprise its complete contents, deal six to each player, place the deck in the middle of the table and use the top card to begin the “timeline”. Done and done.


The premise of Timeline is so simple: place a card from your hand into the correct position of cards forming the play area in the center of the table. This central play area grows during the game, but it is merely a line of cards ordered according to the year of occurrence of the event depicted on it.

Each card is two-sided: on one side is the name of an event and a corresponding picture; on the other the exact same picture and name, but with a year on it. Players may only look at the non-yeared side of the cards in their hands. You select where you want to play it in the timeline, then flip it over to see if it’s in the correct position.

Timeline Inventions Cards Front
Timeline Inventions Cards Back

If you were right you do nothing… your hand just got 1 card smaller. If incorrect, the card is discarded and you have to draw a card from the central deck into your hand, which stays the same size.

The first player to run out of cards wins!


There isn’t much to talk about… 109 small cards and that’s it. It’s always easier to shuffle and hold poker-sized cards, but the table would probably get unruly if that was the size used in Timeline. By the time you have 20 cards in a row, even the small cards take most of the table.

Timeline Inventions Contents

The illustrations on the cards are terrific. All 109 contain unique events, so they all have unique illustrations.

Learning Curve

Timeline is almost a no-learning-curve game. The rules are extremely easy to follow, taking around a minute to learn or to teach.

There are a few minor strategies to pick up on – like when you want to play a “sure thing” card, or when you want to risk a wild guess because the top card on the draw deck is a sure thing for you. These things become pretty evident after a few games.

Who would enjoy this game?

Family Gamer {yes}
The player count allows for most families to be able to play Timeline together. The games are light, quick and lively, and allow for some education to sneak in. However, it should be noted that some of the cards depict violence (mostly in the “History” sets, not in Inventions or Music).
Strategy Gamer {no}
Could not be more emphatic here: STAY AWAY!
Casual Gamer {yes}
Anybody can play this game. And play it a dozen times in a row.
Avid Gamer {yes}
Even for a filler game, Timeline is super easy to teach and a snap to get others to play.
Power Gamer {no}
There’s nothing for Power Gamers in Timeline. Well… there are almost enough sets available that you could approach it with a “collect them all!” mentality. Nevermind… that’s ridiculous.

Final Thoughts

Working education into games is tricky. If you’re obvious about it many people won’t play your game. Timeline boldly brandishes it like a badge of honor. And it does so because it knows that it’s a great game regardless of theme. Arrogant little thing.

Games take roughly 5 minutes per player, and it’s fun enough that you could play it over and over again without stopping… but… doing so would definitely cause smarter players to start memorizing the years. At 109 total cards/events, if you play with one set for an hour it’s not that hard to have half of the years memorized for the next play. Memorization will make the game pretty useless until the offending player has time to forget.

Lucky, there are literally a million different Timeline sets (Editor’s Note: there are seven). If you have a few on hand, you simply move to another set before this happens.

For an “educational” game with historical underpinnings, Timeline is pretty reliant on luck. While players who are good with history may be able to pin the invention of the steam engine to a decade, as a game of Timeline wears on you’ll have to pin it to a year… even for your history buff friend, that can be a shot in the dark. And the shuffle makes everything random anyway – you may have to place “the invention of the saxophone” and “the building of the Empire State Building” in a timeline filled up with events in the 1800s and early 1900s, while your opponent gets to place “the taming of fire” and “the invention of the laptop computer”.

And that’s a great thing about Timeline… it’s educational, but if you lose you don’t feel stupid.

About Inventions specifically: the 109 cards span from 2,000,000 BC to 1981 AD – probably the biggest range in the series of games. They focus exclusively on – you guessed it – inventions. However, in spite of the huge range of years, most of the cards fall between 1800 and 1930. Unless you’re extremely historically-minded, this is probably the most “wild guess” set of Timeline, given how difficult it can be to try to place the invention of every-day items we take for granted today like glasses or erasers.

If interested in other sets, here are links to micro-reviews which only focus on thematic differences (as there are no gameplay differences):

Micro-review of Timeline: American History

Micro-review of Timeline: Americana

User Reviews (7)

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Critic - Level 5
Professional Advisor
Expert Reviewer
Marquis / Marchioness
33 of 36 gamers found this helpful
“"Gear Up" For an Educational Filler”

I’m a big fan of games that can be taught quickly, play quickly, and can handle a large number of players. Timeline: Inventions not only offers these attributes, but you may learn something in the process. Wrapped together, Timeline: Inventions has become a surprise favorite at my gaming table.

The Cards

Timeline: Inventions is made up of small cards (roughly the size of those in Ticket to Ride, or Fantasy Flight Games’ offerings) showing an invention (or other event) in history. Nice enough pictures accompany the card, with a date showing on the opposite side. The cardstock works fine for me, and thus far I have not felt the need to sleeve them (though frequent readers of my reviews will note I’m not big into sleeving in general).

Game Play

As the name suggests, you’ll be building a timeline throughout the game. You’ll start with a single card in the middle of the table, flipped to show the year. Cards will be played into the timeline, with the goal of a card being placed so it is chronologically correct.

Each player (up to 8!) starts with a number of cards dealt to them, with the invention’s name face up, and the date side facing down. On your turn, you choose any one of your cards, and then select a spot on the timeline (either between two cards, or at one of the ends). If the year of your card is correctly placed on the timeline, it stays, if it isn’t, the card is discarded and a replacement drawn. The first player to empty their hand is the winner.

My Thoughts

Requiring only 1 minute to teach, Timeline: Inventions is an easy game to fit into family gatherings, or out at a restaurant waiting for food. While having a good sense of history (or at least trivia around discoveries and inventions) will aid in winning, it is not necessary. Spanning thousands of years (with most cards falling in the last 2000), there are plenty of items to muse over and learn about.

I like that the cards are relatively small for this game (even though I greatly dislike this size of card for Ticket to Ride). This is because you only have to shuffle at the beginning of the game, and the timeline can become quite long as the game proceeds; larger cards would simply take up too much room. I have yet to play with anyone that has not been able to make out what was on their card, leading me to believe the size choice was correct.

Each time I’ve played, players have expressed concerns about long-term replayability of the game, due to the set dates of inventions. I have not seen this become a problem. I also think it’s worth noting that the game is a filler, not a game that will have a night centered around it, reducing the potential animosity towards someone who memorizes the cards. I wouldn’t recommend sitting at home playing the game solo as a means to allow you to show off your superior knowledge at a game night, but I’m guessing people who do that are going to be blacklisted from gaming for other reasons. It should also be noted that there are a number of expansions already out (and others to be released). For players that really get into the game, replayability will be addressed in that way.

Timeline: Inventions has been a big success with family, and during casual and social game nights. It’s a game that you aren’t really penalized for only paying attention to on your turn. Each player’s turn will take ~10-20 seconds while they think about where to play, allowing them to focus on other things alongside the game.

If you’re looking for a fun game to add to a social situation, Timeline: Inventions could easily fit the bill. You won’t be playing it for hours on end, but don’t be surprised if your opponents request an immediate second playing!

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I play green
29 of 35 gamers found this helpful
“Fantastic, historically themed party game!”

This is an outstanding and cheap party game to add to your collection. If you enjoy party games to play with friends while drinking and/or laughing, or want a neat way to teach historical trivia to a young child, this is a great solution.

The game is quite simple. Give every player a hand of cards, each with an invention on one side and its date of invention on the other. You don’t get to look at the date! Then, place one invention in the center of the table.

The first player must play one invention from his hand and decide whether it was invented before or after the invention in the center. If he’s right, he has one less card. The first player to get rid of all cards wins. If you are wrong, however, you place your card and draw a new one.

Now, the new player must decide which invention to play from his hand and whether it goes before the first invention, after the last one, or between the two. The timeline continues to grow more complex with every play and play continues until one player is out of all cards.

I love history, so this game was an immediate “win” for me. It’s *so* simple to teach and play and we were all laughing and smiling throughout. I would even think the game would be fun if I were a small child just flipping through the cards and guessing.

If you enjoy party games, definitely check this out.

Player Avatar
Book Lover
Novice Reviewer
52 of 66 gamers found this helpful
“Where in time do these things belong?”

Timeline is a beautifully designed game. The rules are simple–you can easily have the game out of its tin and in play in less than five minutes. The play time of 20 minutes is pretty accurate for an average game length regardless of the number of players (may be a bit more or less depending on how well the cards play out), and because of how easy it is to learn those players can fall in a wide age range. It’s also a very portable game: the tin is small, and you can play it pretty much anywhere you can find a reasonably flat, clear surface.

This is an excellent family game, and a wonderful way to get people interested in history. Most of the cards in this set are inventions, but there are a few cards from other categories as well (the cards have different colours on the back around the date, indicating which broad category they fall under; inventions are blue).

There is going to be a point where the replay value on this game drops for many people. After a while you start remembering cards and their associated dates, and that has the potential to remove some or all of the guesswork element of the game. It will still be fun, but it’s a different type of fun.

Player Avatar
Went to Gen Con 2012
Sentinels of the Multiverse fan
20 of 26 gamers found this helpful
“A History/Science Teachers Best Friend”

Recently I got the opportunity to demonstrate this game for several teachers. They were very excited about using the game in the classroom. Everyone was dealt five cards – that they were suppose to place in order.

The instructions were covered in under 3 minutes and the card play began.

The trick is to place the ones you are guessing first, you have a better chance of being correct if the time line isn’t very full. After all everyone knows that the invention of penicillin happens after cave man painting.

Another feature of this game is that it can be played by as few as two people.

There are however a few drawbacks to the game in my opinion. First the cards are small. They are a bit smaller than the original Ticket to Ride cards. If you play the game in a classroom, you would have to be sure to count the cards after each playing.

The second problem is the early timeline cards. I did have a couple of people offended by some of the dates on the early timeline cards. If you think someone will be offended due to religious reasons, you might want to remove some of the earliest cards.

I can’t wait to see some of the expansions. Should add for even more fun. Grab a friend and pull some cards…wait when was the elevator invented?

Player Avatar
18 of 27 gamers found this helpful | Medals x 1
“Impulse Buy Goes Right!!”

I picked this up yesterday at a local bookshop (although for more than the MSRP I see here!!) yesterday and my wife and I had a blast playing it! We blasted through 8 or 9 games last night!

It’s kind of like a pub quiz without the bill. Images challenge you to place them in context with their time and the time of every other card on the table. I really like the general knowledge aspect of the game and the potential to hone or learn new historical facts. The greatest fun came in when we were so completely wrong it was borderline embarrassing. I can see a larger group really having a good time with this, ribbing each other and mild heckling.

The downside is going to be the eventual replay value. At $15 (or in my case $18), it’s a good buy, but with just above 100 cards you will get to the point where you start memorizing things and then it will become a pretty mundane exercise.

If you’re looking for something fun right now that utilizes those old history classes you slept through, Timeline is a great addition to the shelf, even if you re-gift it next year;)

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Lion Clan - Legend of the Five Rings
12 of 34 gamers found this helpful
“This is the game we play in between other games”

This game is so simple to learn the rules for, it literally takes 2 minutes. You create a timeline with the cards as you go. You are dealt 5 cards at the beginning of the game. You cant look at the times on them until you guess. The first person to run out of cards first wins! If you guess wrong, you discard the card, and draw another one. If two or more people run out of cards on the same turn, those people keep going until someone guesses wrong and only 1 person is out of cards. It is amazing how you can forget when something was created or happened when you just saw it a few minutes earlier.

Player Avatar
9 of 29 gamers found this helpful
“Los anales de la historia / Annals of history”

— Español/Spanish
Aquí viene la Historia!

En este juego cada jugador debe ir poniendo, por turnos, en orden cronológico sus cartas (las hay de varios tipos: descubrimientos, inventos, arte…) dentro de una línea temporal en el centro de la mesa que se va haciendo más y más grande. El primero que se quede sin cartas ganará.

Este es un gran juego para ordenar el conocimiento (y aprehender un monton mientrastanto). La pendiente de la curva de dificultad es ridícula. El juego en si mismo, sus componentes, están bien terminados con unas imágenes decentes. Recomendado.

— Inglés/English
Here comes the History!

In this game, each player may put , in turns, chronological, their cards (there are many types of cards: Discoveries, Invents, art…) inside of a time-line at the center of the desk, making it grow and grow. The firs player who finish his hand, wins.

This is great game to tidy up all your knowledge (and learn a lot meanwhile). The slope of the learning curve is ridiculous. The game itself, the components, are well finished with good pictures. Recommended.


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