The men, sitting in a rough circle, clinked glasses together and with a collective sigh of contentment, sipped the dark ruby wine from their glasses.  “An excellent wine for a five hundred year old bottle” said Phil after a moment, his speech slightly slurred.  “Absolute temporality speaking, of course” he added quickly before one of the others could correct him.


The other men around the table, all top scientists from a variety of cultures around the world, nodded in agreement.  Ra, from a tiny chain of islands in southern Polynesia and the most affable of the group, raised his glass and said “a toast, to our latest, and most impressive, accomplishment to date, the Temporal Isolinear Time Splicer.”


With more clinking of glasses and cries of agreement they drank deeply.  Johan, the Scandinavian, scowled a bit and said “Temporal and Time are redundant, you know.”  Labee, a dark skinned man from Djibouti, glared at him.  This was an old argument.  Ra, recognizing the danger signs, quickly spoke up.  “I kind of liked the other bottle better,” waving in the general direction of several now-empty bottles they had filched from different time periods and locations.  The ploy, while transparent, was quickly echoed by others in the group and discussion turned to which had been, indeed, the best of the batch.


Finally, with a lull in the conversation, François, a short, thin Frenchman sighed.  “They are all fine wines, and we should enjoy them while we can.  In fourty hours, the government will witness the successful use of the Time Splicer, build a copy, and while we will still be able to experiment with ours, it will be with constant supervision.   I doubt they will be forgiving of our little forays into the past.”  Francios emphasized the name of the device, carefully avoided using the acronym that everyone other than Labee had grown tired of.


It didn’t work.  “Yes,” said Labee, “but at least there will be two of them, and the world will be a better place with a nice pair of…” 


“Right” interrupted Mike.  He, like Ra, recognized the danger signs, and knew these things tended to end badly.  “Let’s not go there.”  He paused for a moment.  “It is too bad, though.  The govvies are going to make things a lot less interesting.  They won’t trust the stretchy underwear theory.”  Mike was referring to their discovery, quite by accident, that they could cause major affects in the timeline without any relevant changes to the people a generation or two removed.  While inspecting Alexander Bell’s lab during a frozen instance of time, they had moved a glass bottle of acid which, once they restored normal timeflow, had been knocked over by Alexander himself.  This had resulted in the discovery of the telephone by the American scientist years before it would have been perfected by Norman Snodgrass.  In their own time, the group had immediately noticed that their phones, rather than the familiar “honker” symbol, bore the likeness of bell.  This had lead to the theory that, like stretchy underwear, you could change the shape and size of the timeline but still have the same “fabric” covering it.  No one knew exactly how they had come up with this analogy, as it made little sense, but it had been after a different bout of heavy drinking and had stuck.


“You know,” threw in James, “it is too bad.  I still think we should have nudged that guy… what was his name???? Ya, Guttenberg.  With a little help, he could have made Christianity the dominant religion on the planet instead of Zen Buddhism.  I get so tired of those stupid arguments about whether there really is a spoon…”


Labee said “Kind of like the Jabberwock.”  This lead to a short, uncomfortable silence, as no one else had any idea what he meant.  There was a long running argument between the others as to whether Labee was so far ahead of them that his logic was impossible for them to follow, or whether he was so random that he was, for all practical purposes, incomprehensible.


“I’m still thinking keeping that guy Magellan from sinking would have had a bigger effect” said Ra.


James smiled thinly.  “I really don’t think so.  There would be, of course, only one way to know for sure.” 


Mike grinned back.  “Are we taking bets?”  This was met with an even more uncomfortable silence.  This was another type of thing for the group that tended to end badly.  The last time, it had been over a practical joke, making the feathered headdress of Chief Wampum, Grand Leader of the United Tribes of America, jump off his balding cranium in the middle of his televised State Of The Union address with the then newly created Quantum Displacement Device.  An unfortunate math error resulted in displacing it down instead of up, reappearing right around neck level.  The resulting gruesome death forced them to dismantle the device and spend several months proving that such a device was, in fact, impossible.  “Better yet,” he continued, “we could make a little game of it.  See who can advance the technology timeline the fastest.”  His eyes narrowed.  “Of course, there would have to be rules…”  Mike was always very interested in rules.


“Sounds like fun” said Ra in his affable way.  Of course, he’d said the same thing with Chief Wampum.


Labee muttered darkly “but, while the probability is very low, there is always the chance of a resonance cascade failure!”  The other men started at him with raised eyebrows and frowns, uncertain how to respond.  “You know… half life… cascade resonance… it’s a joke  oh, just forget it” he finished weakly, scowling.


Phil smiled easily while rubbing his hands together, a combination that the others had privately labeled his “you’re all meat for the grinder” expression.  “What are we talking about?”


Mike pulled out paper and pen.  “I think we can come up with something interesting.”




Timeline is a bidding and tile laying game.  An international group of scientists have perfected a time machine and are going to turn it over to the government in 40 hours.  At a celebration where they’ve all been drinking heavily, they realize they have the potential to change history and end up agreeing to a competition to see who can change the timeline and accelerate technology development the most.  Technology advancements are represented by tiles that have specific rules for placement.  Players attempt to bid on them, modify them to allow placement on the board, and place them using action points called “time splices.”


Installing the game


Download the self-extracting ZIP file Timeline.exe.  It will unzip by default to C:\Timeline.  Ensure you have Java 1.4.1 or better installed on your system (either JDK or JRE).  You can get and install it from JRE 1.4 (if you have no preference, just download the windows version of the JRE from the JRE column under Download J2SE v 1.4.2_01).


The “Timeline” is represented by linking together technology advancements (represented by tiles).  Tiles have characteristics; they have connections (which may be “capped” or “uncapped”) to the south, east, west and north, a level, a group, and a set of associated “output” groups.  A “group” is a set of similar technologies.  Tiles can be linked together if they meet the following criteria:


  • They both have uncapped connections on the sides on which they are joined, or they are both capped where they join
  • An output group of the “innermost” tile is the same as the group of the outermost tile. “Innermost” means closest to the centerline / farthest to the left (West)
  • The tile level increases to the right by no more than 2 and decreases to the left by no more than 2 (and is the same to the north and south)
  • There is at least one connection to another tile on the board


Some tiles are special because they represent the “first of something,” like the first cave drawing.  These tiles are called “wonders” and give you an extra time slice each turn.  Otherwise they are normal tiles.


The game is played in 40 turns.  If the game is not complete after 40 turns, a resonance cascade failure occurs, destroying the Earth, and everyone loses. 


At the start of each turn, each player gets 10 “time splices” (action points).  They can be used for the following:


  • Bumping their priority (the order in which players re-stack or place tiles)
  • Bidding on technology advancement (a tile) to place in their stack
  • Move a tile from their stack to his timeline
  • Move a tile from his timeline back to their stack (restacking)
  • Cap or Uncap a tile on the timeline
  • Improving a tile on his stack:
    • Capping or uncapping a side
    • Adding a group


The costs for these actions vary and are displayed on the game board as you attempt them.  Many of them depend on tile characteristics; for instance, restacking a tile you placed costs 4, while restacking a tile someone else placed costs 8.


The Game Board


The game board is split into four panels, the Status Panel, the Bidding Stack, the Timeline, and the Player Stack. 


The Status Panel shows overall game status, including the players, their current number of time splices, and their current score.  You may select a player by clicking on the associated row in the player status list.  The Status Panel also shows detailed information on any selected tile in any stack and/or on the Timeline.  There is also a Player Order report that you can use to see what the other players did last turn, as well as the “RELOAD” and “SUBMIT” buttons for restarting your turn or sending in your orders respectively.


The Bidding Stack shows tiles that are currently up for grabs.  You may select and bid on a tile (selected tiles are bordered in red) by clicking on it, filling in your bid in the Bid Text Box, and pushing the Bid Button.  The highest bid wins, but only pays one more than the next highest bid (Ebay rules).


The Player Stack shows tiles that have been won by the selected player (selected by clicking on a player in the player status list; by default this is you when you start the game).  Tiles in the Player Stack can be selected by clicking on them (a selected tile is highlighted in red).  You may modify tiles in your Player Stack by right clicking.  Possible options are displayed in a drop down menu.


The Timeline shows the current layout of the placed timeline tiles.  It is described in more detail later.









Tiles are the cornerstone of the game.  They indicated their level, what sides are capped or uncapped, their group, and their associated output groups, all central to where they can be placed on the Timeline.  The also have a tile number that is used in game reports, such as who bid on what tile.  You may select tiles by clicking on them.  Left clicking selects the tile and displays detailed information on it in the Tile Detail Text Box on the status panel.  Right clicking shows possible game orders for the tile. 


If you have a tile selected in the Bidding Stack, possible placement locations are shown on the Timeline with a red border.  If you have a tile selected in your Player Stack, possible placement locations are displayed as well, as well as the cost for placing the time.  If you click on the Timeline, the selected Tile will be placed there, unless it violates a placement rule or rules (in which case the reasons will be displayed)








The Timeline


The timeline is where tiles are placed for scoring victory points.  Tiles are bordered by the color of the player that placed them.  The Timeline will also show you possible locations for placing selected tiles (bordered in red).  If you select a tile in the Bidding Stack or in a Player Stack, locations where they can be placed are indicated by an empty red border and a cost on the Timeline.  The cost is for the owner of the Tile to play it.  Since the Bidding stack are unowned tiles, the cost for placing them (other than to the starting tile) is always 5.  For your and other players tiles, the cost will be 2 if the tile connects to another placed tile owned by the same player.  Tiles on the Timeline can also be modified (capped or uncapped) and restacked (taken off the Timeline and placed in your Player Stack). 


If you select a Tile in your Player Stack, and click on a valid placement location on the Timeline, the tile will be placed there.  Placement rules are indicated in the diagram below, along with rules for determining the longest path.








Player order


You may not play a tile that is connected to a tile stacked or restack by other players higher than you in the priority queue (as shown, highest priority to lowest, in the Player List on the Status Panel).  Priority order rotates every turn.  Since you will not know whether someone else has placed or restacked a tile on a location you are interested in until the turn runs, check the turn results in order to determine if someone “beat you to the punch.”   You may bump your priority by spending time splices.  Two splices tie the next highest player (in which case selection is random between the two players).


Bidding on tiles in the bidding stack


Tiles in the bidding stack can be bid on at any time, in any order, although you will not be able to bid more time splices than you have.  However, you can “overbid” in an attempt to win one of a set of tiles, since losing one bid will leave you with splices to win another bid.  The order in which tile bids are resolved is random, however, and if you have bid more than you own you are automatically disqualified from the bidding.


You win bids by bidding the most, but you only have to pay 1 more than the second highest bidder (Ebay rules).


Ending the game


The game ends when the Temporal Isolinear Time Splicer is re-invented.  This is a level 18 tile.  If this doesn’t occur by turn 40, a resonant cascade failure results in a rupture in the space-time continuum, destroying the Earth in the process.  This means everyone loses.


Victory Points


Final victory points are awarded as follows:


You receive one victory point for every placed tile at the end of each turn.  If you have restacked and then placed a tile from another player, you will receive the victory points from the restacked tile.


You receive victory points equal to the tile’s level when you place it.  Note that if a tile is restacked and replayed, these victory points are not awarded (that is, it is only on first placement of the tile).


At the end of the game, all tiles on the longest path are reevaluated and the value of their level is added to the placing player’s score.  The longest path is represented by a red line on the game board.  The path will always travel vertically first, then horizontally.