Timeline (Asmodee) is a popular game where, in its basic form, you are taking cards and placing them in chronological order. The core game has spawned numerous expansions (additional card sets) covering the history of various individual countries and regions, and a broad range of topics including discoveries, inventions and film. Music shares an expansion with film in Timeline: Music & Cinema but popular music fans haven't been particularly well served by the Timeline series.
Hitster fills the gap. It's essentially a Timeline variant where players are competing to correctly position music cards (specific songs) relative to one another in chronological order. The winner is the first player to achieve a timeline of 10 correctly ordered songs. In place of the often dubious artwork of the Timeline cards, the music cards in Hitster just display the name of the song, artist and year, but the game's USP is that each card also sports a QR code. The idea here is that you play this game using your smartphone - using a QR code reader app to scan the QR code in order to trigger Spotify to play that tune. You are supposed to keep the music cards face down at all times and set your phone in place so that you can scan the QR codes with the phone camera without anyone looking at either the card or the phone's screen.
Spotify plays the song and, in the basic game, the player whose turn it is just has to indicate where the song fits in their timeline. Players each start off with three Hitster cards that can be spent to pass on a song (you get a shot at the next card instead) or you can use a Hitster card to challenge an opponent who you think has identified the wrong position for their music card. If your challenge is correct, you take the music card. If on your turn you can correctly identify the song title and artist as well as where it goes in your timeline, you will earn yourself an extra Hitster card. And at any time you can trade three Hitster cards for a free music card. Saving your Hitster cards for this action can prove to be a game win snatching strategy.
It can be initially fiddly setting up a QR code reader app so that it automatically triggers Spotify to play the song: you'll probably need to download the specific (free) QR code app that's recommended in the rules/instructions. Ideally, you'll want to synch your phone so that plays the music through remote speakers. And of course you'll need a Spotify account. Again there'll be a free version available for your smartphone. The instructions suggest you may be able to play Hitster using other music streaming services but we didn't have much success setting up an alternative that would run automatically. And you do need it all to run automatically if the 'DJ' is going to compete in the game. If the 'DJ' has to handle the card or phone, there's a high probability they'll see the details displayed. That's fine if they're happy just to act as games master but not if they are competing in the game. You can substantially reduce the risk of accidentally glimpsing the music cards by sliding the active card into an opaque sleeve that just leaves the top free to display the QR code. We made a simple loose fitting envelope for our Board's Eye View plays that did the trick. This also made it easier to avoid sneak peeks when players were deciding where to place the card in their timeline. Perhaps the designers will add something similar to the game when it hits Kickstarter later next week but, if not, it's a doddle to fold your own.
With its access to real music, Hitster makes an ideal party game. It can be played with two but there really is no upper limit to the number of players provided you organise the participants into teams. We'd recommend the DJ taking on a non-participant games master role when playing as a team game. Often word games like Codenames (CGE) are categorised as 'party games' but they are far too cerebral to be played at actual parties. Not so, Hitster. Here you have a game and a soundtrack for your party in one. The Hitster box comes with 300 music cards covering songs and artists from the 1920s thro' to last year, so you've a lot of replayability. And if you are acting as a DJ games master for a team game at a real party, you can curate the cards to play with so that you also end up with a decent party play list.
And if you're playing with gamers who seek greater challenge and a somewhat longer game, you can play Hitster using 'Pro' rules where you only get to place a card in your timeline after you've correctly identified the song and artist, or even 'Expert' mode, where you also have to name the precise date on the card. If you're expert enough to manage that, you probably ought to be auditioning for a TV quiz show where you can cash in on your expertise.
Hitster has certainly proved a hit with the Board's Eye View team!