Against all odds, Biff just hijacked the DeLorean and is tearing through time, stealing items and scattering them all about. From the sports almanac to Lorraine's prom dress, important items from past, present, and future are all being mixed and mingled. Now the stability of reality as you know it is in trouble, you're getting tangled up in problems everywhere (and every when) you go, and you're almost OUTATIME. You've said it before, and you'll say it again: This is heavy! And it's what Back To The Future: Dice Through Time, a cooperative dice-rolling game from Ravensburger, is all about.
In Back To The Future: Dice Through Time players work together to attempt to untangle the mess that Biff's made as he blusters his way through time. To do so, players (each playing a role of a differently-colored DeLorean) must complete events, find all of the items of importance Biff brought to wrong timelines, move those items back to where they belong, and keep control of paradoxes before they overwhelm the board.
The game board itself consists of four different years (1885, 1955, 1985, and 2015) each with five different well-known locations from the film franchise. Cards are flipped revealing events which need to be solved, and solving each event will produce an item card. If the players can deliver all the item cards where they need to go (both year and location) before the OUTATIME marker reaches the end, they win. Otherwise, the time-space continuum is thrown into chaos and the players lose.
The core mechanic of the game hinges on rolling of 4 colored die. Each turn, players roll and can use the actions as described in any order. These actions include: moving up and down the board through time, moving left and right on the board to various locations in any given year, re-rolling unspent dice, removing dangerous paradox tokens that crop up, punching Biff out of the way (he acts as a block against completing missions), and easing mission completion.
The rules of the game are clean, clear, and instantly easy to understand. You move your DeLorean, try to match symbols on your dice to the symbols on event cards, and then try to move items as quickly as possible. When working together with your teammates, there's a sort of balance and excitement that comes from great coordination. But this is a dice rolling game, so sometimes your best-laid plans don't work because you rolled all the wrong symbols. And because time is so tight in this game, and every action truly counts, knowing when to adjust your dice with special tokens adds a nice level of decision-making and complexity. But one of the dice faces, the 're-roll any unspent dice' face, should be the most crucial dice face you roll, but it doesn't quite hit the mark. To use that die, you have to spend it, taking it out of play for the turn and then you can reroll the 3 other dice. That's usually not enough dice to make a difference in your plans, and what could be a thrilling push your luck moment rarely feels worth it.
The difficulty of this game is not to be taken lightly. Don't let the colorful components and recognizable IP fool you, this is a damn hard game to win. Time is always against you, and as complications and paradoxes rise on the board, you may find yourself out of time before the game's really even begun to rev its plutonium-powered motors. In our playtest, we found playing with two players to be the most difficult. Even though less problems arise, the lack of actions available to the group as a whole make it an incredibly difficult feat to beat the game.
As you play your first few turns, before problems begin compounding on themselves, you may think to yourself "is this really it? This is going to be a breeze!" Cut to 5 minutes later, with a board full of problems and your timer quickly making its way toward defeat. It's completely disarming, and that's part of the brilliance of Dice Through Time. It seems like an easy dice-roller with characters and events you remember from the movies, but it reveals itself to be much tighter, and to demand much more from the player.
This game sits in a strange middle-ground. It's not as overly tactical as some of the heaviest cooperative games on the market, and it's not as easy as some of the more introductory games. It feels closest in difficulty and approachability to the Forbidden Island series of games, and would serve as a great introduction to the coop genre for players who aren't afraid to lose over and over again. I also absolutely love the minimalist graphic design and artwork, which relies heavily on easy-to-reference symbols and abstracts all characters to faceless figures. Whether you're a fan of the original films or not, there's a lot to enjoy in this game (as long as you don't mind getting your lights knocked out a few times in the process).
Get This Game If:
- You're an '80s kid who needs everything BTTF they can get their hands on
- You enjoy a tense, every-action-counts kind of game
- You've always wanted to punch Biff clear across town
Avoid This Game If:
- You're looking for an easier cooperative experience
- Everybody calls you a chicken
Back To The Future: Dice Through Time is available in stores now.
The copy of Back To The Future: Dice Through Time used for this review was provided by Ravensburger.