BACK to the FUTURE: Dice Through Time A Card and Dice game for 2-4 Players Aged 10+ Taking 45-60 minutes to play
Designed by: Chris Leder, Ken Franklin & Kevin Rodgers Developed by: Steve Warner
Illustrated by: Matt Taylor & Pilot Graphic Design: Sam Dawson
Billed and subtitled as 'Dice Through Time' one can be forgiven for thinking this was simply another dice game that was fortunate enough to be themed around the fantastic Back to the Future™ franchised series. Instead it is a cooperative strategy game in which the players really do have the chance to work together despite not actually being able to be in the same location at the same time as each other (it can/does happen but it causes unwanted paradox problems) and thus not able to pass items between them.
The game is set up by a letter from Doc Emmett Brown who informs us that Biff Tannen stole the Time Machine [DeLorean] and went on a chaotic ride through four different time zones, 1885, 1955, 1985 and 2015, devilishly removing items from each and dropping them off in locations where they do not belong in a year where they do not belong. As we, well I'm not quite sure who we, the players are, appear to be the only ones who can help restore the temporal balance, that is our joint mission - find the items and take them back to when and where they belong before ... well it's too incredible to think of the consequences of failure.
Each player has their own DeLorean Time Machine coloured to identify with the Time in which it originates. I assume this means that whoever plays the Brown DeLorean comes from 1885, the Blue DeLorean 1955, Orange DeLorean 1985 and the Pink DeLorean from 2015. How we all met up to begin this mission is vague but probably inconsequential; we are a group split over time with the ability to visit times that are not ours. There is also a Biff in each time zone but he never leaves the zone he is tied to. Biff is the nuisance value that prevents you from completing your task if he is at the location your Event is at.
Apart from having a DeLorean in their chosen colour - it matters not which car you start with - players also have 4 dice in that colour, all dice having the same six sides, and a reference card that also matches the colour of their car and dice; this card shows the Play Order per Round, the Actions the dice sides represent and the date where their car starts (same date as the colour band on the board) - all cars start at the Clock Tower in their colour-coded year.
Down the left side of the main board are spaces for the 72 Event card deck and the 4 small stacks of item cards. There are 5 of each item card for each year but it is best to play (at least for your first few games) with a maximum of three (random) cards per deck otherwise you will find the game too hard to complete. You are up against a timer and have only 12 steps for the OUTATIME token to travel over; it begins on zero and the game ends immediately if it reaches 12.
Without just running over the rules, the booklet that accompanies the game is brief and well designed - the basics of the game are that the players travel around the board and from time zone to time zone and location to location using the results of their dice rolls. Events occur randomly every round and must be cleaned up as quickly as possible otherwise they create paradoxes and move the OUTATIME marker onwards towards Game End. Events are completed by a DeLorean being on the location with them and its player 'spending' dice results that equate to the icons on the Event card. If more than one Event card is on the location then all Events must be completed at the same time, you cannot just clean up one and leave the other/s for another Round.
Clearing a location of Events gives you the reward of collecting an Item from the Item stack for that time period. These item cards are attached to your player reference board at one of the two spaces provided - Deoreans can only carry 2 Items and you cannot collect any more until you have delivered at least one of the two you hold. Also you may not drop items for other players to pick up nor can you pass them to another player.
When you return an item you get to turn back time (move the Outatime marker one space towards zero) plus you can pick up a random Einstein token. Einstein tokens have one of the dice sides on their flip side and these are saved collectively for use by any player who needs them, though they are only one use so it is better to use dice results if you can.
Although you cannot actually pass anything to other players you can 'ripple time' by leaving an unused/unspent die on your DeLorean's location at the end of your turn. You can pick it back up at the second phase of the turn (Roll Dice) if it hasn't been used before then by another player or it is unlikely to be of any use in this new turn. Any player in the same location in the Future can use a rippled die left behind by themselves or another player. Rippled dice cannot be used by someone in the Past (as it hasn't been placed yet) - this is a clever tactic that should be used often, generally after player discussions.
You win or lose the game as a group, there are no individual goals. You win if you return all the items to their correct time zones and locations; you lose if the Outatime marker reaches 12.
Thoughts: Okay and Questionable
Superb theme; everyone loves Back to the Future
You do not have to have knowledge of the Back to the Future films but it does help with the mindset.
This is a fun family game, possibly too family oriented for a group of core gamers, though using all five Item cards per Time Zone will send it into the hardest possible difficulty level that [possibly] only core gamers can manage.
Unfortunately you do not play or control any characters from the films.
It is a lot easier to move the Outatime marker forward than backward so working together is essential.
Even more unfortunately there is no mechanic whereby you have to reach 88mph at any time. It is mentioned in the Event cards but it is a little disappointing that the most famous part of the movie isn't elaborated upon. It doesn't spoil the game in any way, it's just a memory thing.
At around £25.00 there is more than enough quality, game play and components, to make this a good value purchase.
Checkout the GGO video here