The premise in Charlie Bink's cleverly designed easy-to-play game is that the 2-4 players are time tourists. You have access to a time machine and you are embarking on a three-day tour through human history, visiting key moments from the dawn of civilisation to the late 20th Century. You'll spend time (literally) at each location you visit, and you'll collect various categories of experience tokens which you'll use to fill out your daily itinerary to score points.
Each turn you'll pick a history card from the six on display. Each card shows a date and you'll mostly want to pick a card with a date that's later than but as close as possible to the last history card you took as the card will then add to the length of your 'trek'. You'll score points for the length of your trek provided you preserve chronological order. If and when you take a history card that's earlier than the top card in your trek, you put that trek aside (you'll score for its length at the end of the game) and you start off a new trek. If you manage to get 10 cards in your trek (collecting 10 cards in ascending chronological order), it'll score a massive 30 points.
The cards in the display are randomised so as the game progresses there's every chance that there will be no cards open to you that will be a (chrono)logical choice; either because they are all lower than the top card in your existing trek or because they all make too great a jump in time. You can always tho' choose to 'visit your ancestors' - taking a card with no date on it. In doing so, you'll be hoping to have a more attractive choice of options by the time your next turn comes along. The 'visit your ancestors' cards add to the length of your trek without advancing the date of your previous history card.
But if it was just dates on the cards then this wouldn't be much of a game - you'd just always automatically choose the card with the lowest date that followed the last card in your trek. The cards also tho' give you experience tokens, both those printed on the card and a token for the position the card is in in the display. You'll be trying to collect those various categories of tokens to score, mostly for rows and columns, on your itinerary.
The other key detail on each card is the amount of time you are spending to visit that location. In each of the game's three days (rounds) you move your pocket watch token around the clockface by the number of units indicated on the card. The round ends for you when you reach or pass 12 o'clock; so history cards that expend 4 or 5 'hours' will advance you much more quickly and so give you fewer turns than cards that advance just 1 or 2. Taking your time (ie: getting in more turns) will mean the opportunity to collect more history cards and to reach the higher scoring experience token spots on your day's itinerary; which, by the way, you'll have to discard at the end of the day... In addition to experience tokens, some cards and one of the positions on the display give you a time crystal. Unused crystals are worth a point in end-game scoring but you'll usually get better value out of them by spending them in game to reduce by one hour the amount of time taken to visit a history location. Players' relative position on the clock also determines turn order (turns are always taken by the player bringing up the rear), so if you move round the clock more slowly than other players you can even find yourself benefiting from being able to take two turns in succession. If you've collected time crystals, you might want particularly to spend them so that you can take two consecutive turns where there's another card in the display that you especially want to add to your trek and itinerary. You might also want to use a time crystal to help you land precisely on the 12 rather than crash through it: ending a day precisely on the 12 earns you a 3-point 'punctuality' bonus.
Trekking Through History plays briskly: even with a full complement of four players, we usually got through our three-day time tour in around 45 minutes. It's easy to teach and learn, so very playable as a family game, yet it offers enough choices to hold the attention of time-worn gamers, seeking to balance the point-scoring potential of their chronological run against the pressure to collect the various types of experience tokens needed to max out scores on their itinerary. And as a bonus, the game even has an educational element: you're sure to learn a little bit of history as you play.
Underdog Games have done a great job with the production of Trekking Through History. There's a distinctive charm to Eric Hibbeler's artwork and we especially liked the chunky pocket watch time markers and the plastic experience tokens that are so much more satisfying to use than the more commonly found cardboard chits. A neoprene mat is included for the time card display and our copy also had rules for solo play and a sealed packet concealing a 'time warp' mini-expansion.
If you're out of time finding a copy of Trekking Through History at your local game store, you may be able to order the game direct from Amazon. Click here to order it on the Amazon.com site. There's no time to lose!
(Review by Selwyn Ward)