A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, a Disney executive decided that 2015 would be the year of Star Wars merch. Being the committed grown-up I am, my house is now decked out like Tatooine’s finest gift shop. The only room that isn’t emblazoned with rebel iconography or Stormtrooper masks is my bathroom, and that’s only because my husband is yet to be persuaded as to the essentialness of a Millennium Falcon toilet seat.
So it will probably come as no surprise to anyone that there has been a big push on Star Wars games over the last couple of years. We’ve seen a big ‘ol mix ranging from Loopin’ Chewie (a re-skin of amazing kids’ dexterity game, Loopin’ Louie) to 2016’s eagerly awaited Star Wars: Rebellion (a 3-5 hour game in the vein of Twilight Imperium).
Star Wars Timeline falls somewhere in the lower end of that accessibility spectrum. Timeline is a well (though recently) established trivia game brand, with a good range of easily acquired titles. Star Wars Timeline is suitable for for a wide range of Star Wars fans, placing itself as a perfect introduction for non-gamers.
(Ed. Note: Due to licensing issues, Star Wars Timeline is currently only available in the UK. Or, you know, if you pay big bucks to import it or whatever.)
How It Plays
Setup is a sinch. Shuffle the deck of cards and hand each player four cards. The cards are double-sided: one side shows a movie still along with a description of the action taking place and the reverse has the addition of a number, representing its location in the timeline sequence. It’s important to ensure that players don’t accidentally (or NOT so accidentally) see the side of the card with the number before they play it. Place the rest of the cards in the centre of the table to form a draw pile, flipping the top card (number up) to create the beginning of our Star Wars Timeline.
Each player then takes turns in playing a card from their own deck onto the timeline. Cards can be laid to the left or right or an existing card. The idea is to place the scenes in the chronological order that they appear in the original trilogy. So for example, your first card is Leia Organa exacting the ultimate vengeance against Jabba the Hutt. You know this scene occurs during the Battle over Sarlacc (who could forget those teeth?!). You spot a card depicting Boba Fett sliding helplessly into its toothy maw. You’re 93% sure these two events happen in very quick succession, but is Jabba’s death before or after? So you place your card into the timeline, opting to place it after Boba’s slippery situation. You then flip the card to see if you were right. Congratulations, you’re a galactic genius! If you’re right, then the card stays where it is and play passes on to the next player. If you got it wrong (booooo, hisssss) then you put it in the correct place and draw a new card.
Play continues in a clockwise fashion until one player’s hand is empty. That player is the winner and they get to rub their vast Star Wars knowledge in everyone else’s face. Good work, fellow nerd!
There are ways to make the game easier or harder by changing the number of players’ starting cards, or the number of cards in the initial timeline (the more items in the timeline, the smaller the window for correct answers), but it doesn’t affect the gameplay substantially.
Do or Do Not? (Or try, whatever. I’m not your mother.)
In essence, Star Wars Timeline is a small, light trivia game for fans of the franchise (or at least the original trilogy). It perhaps goes without saying that unless you’re at least pretty well familiar with the content of the movies, you’re not going to have a good time. Someone who hasn’t seen them will have zero chance of winning. I’m going to get this out here right now, it’s a game solely for fans. Don’t try to play this with a group where people haven’t seen the movies multiple times. They simply won’t have fun. That being said, it’s a great way of facing-off against fellow geeks without having to know your extended galactic lore. If this had questions about Clone Wars or any of the written media canon, I would have been utterly flummoxed.
The components here are wonderful. I’m a big fan of flashy packaging, so the gorgeous tin housing was a pleasure to behold. Inside the wonderful tin, is a flocked insert. FLOCKED. Seriously, why do they need to do that? I’ll tell you why. Fancy pants, that’s why. It’s an unnecessary but welcome detail that just serves to make the product feel that little more luxurious. It’s also possibly because outside of a stack of 110 colour cards, there’s not a whole lot of space to show off. The cards themselves are fine. The images are movie stills so there’s no original artwork involved but they’re nice looking and the graphic design is both thematic and clearly followed. The cards are mini euro size, which can be a little fiddly for sausage-fingered friends but that tiny size is essential, given that you’ll end up with a timeline which consists of dozens of cards. They’re well printed and cut, on a nice thick card stock, feeling like they’ll last many a re-shuffle before anyone has ideas about sleeving. For the amount of money you’re paying, you’re undeniably getting a well made product.
The main strength of the trivia lies in its accessibility. Let’s face it, most people are fairly familiar with the content of the original Star Wars trilogy. You’ve only got to have seen the movies once to be able to play and you can probably hold your own if you’ve got a decent recall for stories. It doesn’t require you to know a lot of facts, so you won’t be penalised for not knowing the name of Obi Wan’s childhood Akk Dog. This sets it apart from other Star Wars themed trivia games, in that you’re encouraged to remember the story (which is the fun bit), rather than facts (boo, knowledge).
If you’ve played one Timeline game, this won’t feel much different. The mechanics of the game are as straight-forward as they can be. There is a slight element of strategy in the timing of your guesses. Because you’re allowed to choose which of your cards to place, it’s generally a good idea to get the ones you’re unsure of out of the way early. As a timeline gets more and more full, the windows for correct answers shrink. Your margin for error disappears. It’s usually a good idea to keep the scenes you’re very confident on until the end. The only real difference in the game is that it’s using sequential numbers, rather than historical dates as it does in other versions of timeline. This means that while you can mash up your inventions and movies, it’s not really possible to mix in speeder bikes. The keen eyed amongst us however, may notice that the numbers start above 400, which suggests there’s a ‘prequels’ expansion in the works (no one buy me this please).
I’d certainly consider my plays of this game both fun and competitive, as well as it being tougher than I had expected. If you’ve got a group that enjoys a little friendly competition then this could well work for you, we found that it often devolved into a showdown between two players and got very exciting and tense. Probably more that it should have been! A couple of our games ended in a draw and had to be tie-broken by drawing and placing new cards until one of the two players messed up.
I don’t have a lot of criticism for the game, really. It sort of does what it says on the pleasingly embossed tin. I am a little concerned about its replay value, given that 110 cards soon become quite familiar with regular plays. But it almost sort of doesn’t need to be overly replayable. It’s not really the sort of game you’ll get out that regularly. Regardless of its popularity, there are still a lot of people who aren’t into Star Wars or even Sci Fi in general. It’s a game to buy for a friend who is a fan of the movies, for them to appreciate (seriously, it’s a nice looking thing), play a few times with similarly interested friends, and then consign to a shelf. It sort of takes up a grey area for me, somewhere between game and merchandise. But I love merch. It’s a big reason it’s going to stay in on my game shelves; even though it’s not going to come out very often it feels like a part of a merchandise collection. Lots of people will baulk at this idea but it feels natural to me as an accumulator collector of “fun stuff”.