Rarely has a family (dare I say trivia?) game with such a fresh perspective (forgive me) come my way. If the reaction of the people in my game class is any indication, Perspective has all the makings of a big winner.
The Perspective game board is divided into four color-coded regions: Ancient (BC - 477 AD), Middle (477-1589), Modern (1589-1901) and 20th Century. Each region represents a timeline into which players place events. Everyone starts the game with a random assortment of event cards. Each card describes an historical event and offers a small illustration. Sample events include "Grant Wood first exhibits American Gothic," "Thermometer invented by Galileo," "Joan of Arc begins to defend France against England," and "Vesuvius volcano destroys ancient Pompeii." Cards are dealt face-up, because the years of the events are printed on the back. The idea of the game isn't to identify the years these events occurred, but rather when they occurred relative to other events.
Players roll a special die at the start of each turn and follow the resulting instructions. This may mean drawing an extra card, giving a card away to another player, or losing a turn. Play consists of placing a card on the appropriate timeline (cards have colored borders matching their timeline). The idea is to place it in its historically correct position on the timeline— that is, between the events chronologically closest to it in each direction. When a timeline is empty, you can't go wrong. With only one event on a timeline, you've got a fifty-fifty shot. As more events get added, it gets harder to decide where to put an event. Did Amelia Earheart disappear before or after Helen Keller graduated from Radcliffe?
When you place an event, you run the risk of being challenged by any other player who thinks you goofed. When this happens, the challenger points to an event immediately before or after your event on the timeline. Both event cards are flipped over to reveal their dates. If they're not in the correct order, the one just played is discarded and the person who made the challenge gives one of his cards to you. If the cards are in the right order, the challenge fails and you get to give one of your cards to the challenger.
Sometimes you won't catch an incorrectly played card immediately. Something about it might gnaw at you for a while as you turn the event over in your mind until finally you can't stand it any more. Before any player's turn, anyone can "challenge the board" by pointing to two adjacent events. The cards are flipped over and, if not in the correct order, one of them is discarded and the challenger discards one of his own. A failed challenge means the challenger must draw another card from the deck.
Play continues until someone wins by getting rid of all of their cards.
One reason why Perspective is so much fun is because it doesn't require specificity of knowledge. Having a vague sense of when events happened is enough to let you win. And even if you're not sure, a confident bluff can fool opponents into thinking you are.
Perspective also creates an interesting group dynamic. As events get played to the board, players wonder aloud whether or not the event is placed correctly. It's a terrific game for kibbitzers— how delightful to walk into the room, scan the board, announce that you see an error, and walk away!
The cards come in two groups, basic and advanced. You can use whichever set best fits the players, or you can mix them together for a more varied challenge. Advanced cards are marked with a mortarboard symbol to make it easy to separate the groups once they're combined.
Perspective has enjoyed growing success in schools because of its effective mix of entertainment and education. The descriptions of events are very brief (sometimes annoyingly so) and can inspire the curious to investigate more on their own. But even if you're not looking to broaden your horizons, Perspective delivers a healthy dose of fun.