Tabletop Game Review – Back to the Future: Dice Through Time

Back to the Future

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time by Ravensburger Games
Price: ~$30.00
2 to 4
45 to 60 minutes
Perfect for:
Families who enjoy dice-rolling and -drafting games with a soft spot for the classic time travel movie trilogy.

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time is a game of time travel, item retrieval, and ultimately quest completion! Working as a team, players must set things right by combining their powers and abilities to successfully navigate across time and space, putting everything out of order back the way it was…or well, the way it would be best for the heroes. Before discussing the gameplay and mechanics, here’s a bit more on the theme from the publisher, Ravensburger games:

Great Scott! Biff stole the DeLorean and went on a joyride through time, disrupting events and scattering items through space and time! Now it’s up to you to help Doc and Marty repair the space-time continuum before time paradoxes unravel the very fabric of the universe. Jump in your time machine, complete events, return items, and help! The future is in your hands!

Back to the FutureBack to the Future
Michael J. Fox & Christopher Lloyd in Back to the Future (1985)

To begin Back to the Future: Dice Through Time, two to four players collect a character sheet, corresponding DeLorean token, and a set of dice matching their chosen color. The board is set up to include a specified number of item cards that players will need to acquire to win, sorted by the four timelines: 1885, 1955, 1985, and 2015. Furthermore, an event card deck is shuffled and prepared next to the board, and finally four Biff Tannen standees are placed on their starting locations within each timeline.

On a turn, a player reveals three event cards and rolls their dice pool. The events are (typically) cards that go onto the main board that must be resolved (more on that in a moment) in order to unlock item cards. Ultimately, the goal of the players as a team is to retrieve those items. With the dice rolled, the player can use them to either take specific actions or “trade” them in to resolve events or acquire items. Possible actions include moving across the board between timelines or locations, moving Biff off a space (who can impede item collection), leaving a dice on the board for use by another player, or removing paradox tokens which give the players more time to achieve their objectives. If the team can snag all the lost items before the OUTATIME marker reaches the end, the players have restored the timeline and collectively win.

RELATED: Tabletop Game Review – Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons

What works in Back to the Future: Dice Through Time is the simplicity, encouraged cooperation, and the thematic adaptation. There’s a true element of Back to the Future inherent in every nook and cranny, accentuated by the gameboard which is essentially a grid of places and years. Next, given that each player only has four dice at their disposal, it is paramount that individuals work together to optimize movement and actions in order to complete objectives as quickly and efficiently as possible. This means in-depth communication and collective strategizing. And finally, the gameplay is very easy to understand given the iconography and reference cards—dice typically have one of two purposes: a) take the action indicated by the symbol; 2) turn in the dice to complete an event or get an item.

Players who prefer games with less luck and randomness may not enjoy Back to the Future: Dice Through Time as much as others. While teams can certainly work collectively to meet their objectives, at the end of the day, overall success is very much beholden to literally rolls of the dice and how the cards fall. And unlike other games which have deck shuffling mechanics (like Pandemic), there’s no probability measure and thus bad luck can ultimately ruin a game. This could possible frustrate players who felt as though they “did everything right” but still failed. Back to the Future: Dice Through Time does address this issue a bit with: a) lightening symbols on dice acting as wilds; b) collected “Einstein tokens” which can be added to dice pools; and c) any two identical dice can be traded in for a new symbol, but opinions may vary on how well this balances the randomness.

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time is a very simple dice drafting game suitable for all ages. Fans of the iconic franchise will particularly enjoy the nomenclature, references, and art scattered throughout. That said, more experienced gamers might crave a title with a little more complexity as Dice Through Time is highly luck dependent.

Recommended if you like: Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons, Back to the Future: The Card Game; Jungle Cruise
Final Grade: B+

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