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History lessons for all interests

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Combining fun and learning isn’t the easiest of tasks, but it’s one that Timeline – a series of games that spans human history – tackles with admirable simplicity, making players’ brains tick over millennia as they try to work out when in history was the toothbrush invented.

Timeline requires very little explanation. On both sides of a single card there is a picture of an invention or event in recorded history. One side faces up and has a brief description of what the players are looking at. On the face down side is the corresponding year. A player must guess where their dealt cards must be placed in the ever-growing timeline.

Even the biggest history buff can get the dates wrong, especially when some cards are just a year apart

Some cards can be easily placed. In Timeline: Science Museum for example Edison’s lightbulb patent obviously came before the first mobile phone network. The game gets really tricky when you have to compare the first radio signal transmitted across the English Channel and the first medical x-ray. Every card placed gets flipped over to reveal the date, to the player’s victory or loss. Any wrong card gets discarded and the player picks up a new one. The first player to get rid of their hand wins.

There are lots of variations on the game –from inventions, music and cinema to British history and even Star Wars, there’s a historical topic to suit everyone, and although recommended for players aged eight and over, even younger players have a fair chance of winning. Even the biggest history buff can get the dates wrong, especially when some cards are just a year apart. Others are just ridiculously hard: “mapping of the myoglobin molecule”, anyone? Me neither…

Although simple and enjoyable, Timeline does have a shelf life as experienced players start memorising dates – in which case, as an educational tool at least, it’s done its job.

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