How to Play
To begin the game, each player takes one card which starts their timeline. One player will then start the game by drawing one of the cards. In the 2008 Fundex Games version you can either randomly pick a card or pick a card from one of the four categories. The player reads the information from the card except for the date. The player to their left then decides whether they think the event happened before or after their card. If they guess correctly they get to take the card and add it to their timeline. If they guess incorrectly the player to their left gets to guess based on their cards. This continues until either one player guesses correctly or everyone guesses incorrectly and the card is removed from the game.
Once a player has acquired their second card, the game becomes a little more difficult. The next time the player gets to guess they will have more choices to select from. If for example a player has a 1900 card and a 1950 card, the player has three choices. They can guess that the event happened before 1900, between 1900 and 1950, or after 1950. If the player is correct they add the card to their timeline. If they are incorrect the player to their left gets an opportunity to guess. As the game progresses the players get more cards which makes it harder to correctly guess where events would fit on the timeline.
In a situation where the date on the card that is being guessed exactly matches a card already in a players’ timeline, the player gets the card if they picked any range that includes the card that has the same date. For example if the player has a 1970, 1980, and 1990 card; if the current card’s date is 1980 the player will get the card if they pick 1970-1980 or 1980-1990.
The game ends when one player has acquired enough cards in their timeline. In the Fundex Games edition, players only need to acquire five cards. The 1996 Great American Puzzle Factory and I believe the 2012 Buffalo Games version of the game require getting ten cards to win the game.
Do you like the idea behind trivia games but are frustrated by their difficulty? Are you sick of having to be an expert on a topic in order to have a chance to do well in a trivia game? I wouldn’t consider myself to be a big fan of trivia games for these two reasons. If you are like me and don’t particularly care for trivia games because they are too hard, Chronology may be perfect for you since it is the best trivia game I have ever played.
So what makes Chronology so good? Simply put the game does a great job making the game accessible to everyone. While in most trivia games like Trivial Pursuit you pretty much need to be an expert on the topic in order to get a lot of the questions right. Since there is only one correct answer to the question, there really isn’t any wiggle room so you need to know your stuff or you won’t progress. This is not the case in Chronology because of the main mechanic in the game. Instead of only having one possible answer, Chronology works by using ranges.
In Chronology you have to place various historical events in order within a timeline. Players acquire cards throughout the game and the players need to try and place each new event in the right place in time. In Trivial Pursuit you can always guess but unless you know quite a bit about the topic you are not likely to guess the right answer. In Chronology you can always guess and win the card. If you know a little bit about the event you can actually make a pretty good educated guess.
I will give you an example of why this format works so much better than Trivial Pursuit. For example one of the cards in Chronology is “The first year the World Almanac is published.” If this was a question in Trivial Pursuit the player would likely need to know the exact date which I doubt many people would know. In Chronology the player only needs to know within a range of when it occurred. The player may currently have an 1800 card, 1850, 1910, and a 1960 card. In Chronology the player would only need to know between which of those two years the event occurred. For those of you playing at home it was 1868 so the correct answer in the example would be between 1850 and 1910.
Adding to this simple mechanic is the fact that the game is quite accessible. The rules are pretty much only one page long and a player should fully understand the game in only a couple minutes. The Fundex version of the game has a recommended age of 8+ which is probably accurate. Younger kids would probably understand how to play the game by they probably don’t know enough history in order to be successful.
Speaking of children, a lot of people are going to wonder if Chronology is an educational game. I would say yes and no. The game is educational since it will teach you about important events in history. This could help teach younger children about history. Chronology is not a typical educational game though. While it will teach you things, that is not the main focus of the game. The game’s main focus is to be fun and if you learn something that is just icing on the cake.
So what if you don’t really like history? If you absolutely hate history you probably won’t like Chronology since the gameplay does rely on history. People who don’t particularly care for history can still enjoy the game. Chronology has some great game mechanics and is really fun to play so it overcomes the “boring” factor most people associate with history.
Being a trivia game, Chronology doesn’t have a lot of strategy in it. How much strategy can you really add to a trivia game? Chronology does have two areas where a player can play strategically though. If a player doesn’t have a good idea when an event occurred they can always just guess the largest gap in their timeline. Also if players are paying attention to other players incorrect guesses, they can eliminate some possibilities for their own guess. For example if a player guessed between 1800-1850 and was wrong, the next player obviously shouldn’t pick an range between 1800 and 1850. If several people have already guessed on a card, a player who has yet to guess can gather quite a bit of information just by listening to the other players’ guesses.
Another mechanic I really like is that the game gets progressively harder after each card that is earned. The more cards you have in your possession means you have smaller gaps between your cards and you have more options to pick from. Therefore it is harder to place a card in the right spot. Since the game gets harder for the player in first, this gives a player that is struggling or is having worse luck (more on this later) an opportunity to catch up.
Over the years Chronology has been made by three different publishers. The game was first made by the Great American Puzzle Factory. Then the game was picked up by Fundex games in 2008 which is the version of the game pictured in this review. Finally in 2012 Buffalo Games picked up the game. Of the three versions of the game I have played the Great American Puzzle Factory version as well as the Fundex version so this review is actually a compilation of those two versions. The only two differences between the different versions is a slight rule difference and the quantity of the card provided.
The Great American Puzzle Factory version has 480 cards, the Buffalo Games version has 429 cards but they are double sided so there is essentially 858 cards, while the Fundex version only has 200 cards. Since the versions are so similar you can actually use cards from every version together in order to add cards to the game. The Great American Puzzle Factory also made a junior version, a sports version and a best of Chronology version so there are plenty of opportunities to add additional cards to your game.
The slight rule difference comes into play with the Fundex version of the game. In the original Great American Puzzle Factory version and I believe the Buffalo Games version, a player needs to get ten cards in order to win the game. For some reason the Fundex version requires you only to get five cards. Simply put this rule is stupid. Only having to get five cards is way too easy. In my most recent game it probably only took five to ten minutes at max for one player to get five cards. Anyone who has the Fundex version of the game should disregard this rule immediately.
Generally you are going to want to play requiring at least ten cards to win the game. What is really great about Chronology is that you can always adjust the game to make it harder/longer by adjusting how many cards you need to win the game. For my group ten cards is usually too easy so we have actually played where you need to get twenty cards in order to win. While it started to get somewhat hard towards the end, the game was still manageable and I would recommend that people try it out.
While Chronology is a great game that is really fun to play, it does have two pretty big issues that kind of bug me and keeps the game from being a fantastic game.
Despite being a trivia game that should rely pretty heavily on your knowledge, Chronology has quite a bit more luck to it than you would expect. The luck of the draw can have a pretty big impact on the game. If you keep getting topics you know nothing about, you are likely going to fall behind the other players. For example in my most recent game I got a lot of questions about when various books were written. I wouldn’t call myself a book connoisseur and since all of the books were written in the mid 1800s-1900s it was pretty hard to correctly place these events especially since I already had several cards in those eras.
Luck plays a bigger role in the distribution of your dates. When playing the game you want to have the biggest possible distribution of dates as possible. Specifically you want as many really early dates as you can get since most of the cards tend to take place in the 1900s. For example it is much easier to place cards in the right time periods when you have a 0 AD card, a 500 AD card, a 1900 AD card and a 2000 AD card. On the other hand you could have a distribution which includes a 1890, 1900, 1910, and 1920 card. With the first card distribution there are large gaps which should make guessing pretty easy. In the second situation there are large gaps before 1890 and after 1920 but there are small gaps between the cards. Since a majority of the cards seem to be from the 1900s, the second player is at a disadvantage over the first player due to no fault of their own.
Now let’s look at a situation involving the different timelines I mentioned. The next card is from an event that is very likely to be from the late 1800s or early 1900s. The first player with the large gaps in time has a very easy choice, either before 1900 which covers 1,400 years or after 1900 which covers over 100 years. Meanwhile the second player has a much harder choice since they could pick before 1890, between 1890 and 1900, between 1900 and 1910, between 1910 and 1920, or after 1920. The first player has two choices while the second player has five choices. This shows that luck could have an impact on who ends up winning the game.
The other issue that hurts Chronology is what I would like to call the seating problem. The seating problem refers to an issue where whoever sits left of the worst player has a distinct advantage over the player who sits to the left of the best player. If all of the players are at about the same skill level this issue won’t present itself but if some players are considerably better or worse at the game than other players this problem could have a significant impact on the game.
The seating problem comes about because of players being able to steal cards from other players who guess incorrectly. While I don’t hate the mechanic it feels cheap at times. If one player is easily the worst at the game, the player that has to read to that player is at a disadvantage since they won’t have an opportunity to steal cards that player misses. Whoever sits to the left of the player worst at the game has an advantage since they will get a shot at getting a lot more cards since they could steal a lot of cards from that player. The problem works the other way as well. If you sit to the left of the best player you are at a disadvantage since you will get less opportunities to steal cards than the other players get.
Although I have yet to test it, I came up with a way to possibly mitigate this issue. My idea is that after everyone has gotten their turn in a round, play order switches to counterclockwise and vice versa. I think this might solve this problem since all of the players will then benefit from players that miss a lot of cards as well as all players being punished by players that get a lot of cards correct.
These two problems would ruin most games. Chronology overcomes these issues though due to all of the positives I have already mentioned. These two issues keep Chronology as a good to great game instead of a great to fantastic game.
I have ended up playing several games of Chronology in the past and I have enjoyed every single game. While the game relies a little too much on luck and there are problems if one player is worse at the game than the other players, Chronology is just too much fun that those issues are kind of easy to overlook. While trivia/history buffs will enjoy the game more, as long as you don’t hate trivia games I think you will enjoy Chronology. If normal trivia games frustrate you due to their difficulty, Chronology is right up your alley since you only need to know a little about each subject in order to have a chance at winning the game.
If you don’t hate trivia/history I would recommend picking up Chronology. With there being three different versions of the game I would recommend the versions in the following order. The Fundex version of the game is worth picking up but it would be my last choice since it has the least amount of cards and it has the stupid five card rule (which you could obviously just ignore). The Buffalo Games and the Great American Puzzle Factory versions seem pretty similar and have a lot more cards than the Fundex version so I would probably recommend one of those two versions.