Back to the Future: Dice Through Time, Ravensburger, 2020

The Back to the Future films are three of the most iconic movies ever made, rightly beloved as classics even now – 35 years after the first movie debuted. They’re all full of quotable dialogue, incredibly memorable scenes, brilliant character beats and wonderfully knotty timey wimey shenanigans.

It’s a wonder, then, that it’s taken so long for a board game to come along and properly do it justice. It’s no surprise that Ravensburger have been responsible for getting it to the tabletop though, given their current track record of licensing iconic movies and treating them very well indeed; their games are no mere cash grabs, being brilliantly satisfyingly thematic designs that are full of references to the classic properties they’re based on.

Dice Through Time definitely doesn’t buck that trend, thankfully. Like Jaws, Jurassic Park: Danger and Horrified before it, the designers have a clearly love for – and knowledge of – the source material. It really does shine through, even from the moment you open the box – to be greeted by a letter from Doc Brown himself, printed on the underside of the board, explaining the premise of the game. It’s a beautiful touch and only the first of many that you’ll notice and appreciate as you play the game.

The game itself is pretty simple to learn, with the aim being to collect temporally displaced items and return them to their proper place in their original time period. The four time periods – 1885, 1955, 1985 and 2015 – each have locations and time specific events that reference scenes from the movies, with players ensuring that major events are ‘repaired’ before collecting the items that need to be delivered.

It’s a co-operative game, with 2-4 players each having their own set of dice that they’ll use to ensure that fix events, collect items, move between time periods, remove paradoxes and displace the various Biffs (and Buford ‘Mad Dog’ Tannen in 1885) before the ‘Outatime’ meter reaches 12. There’s some really clever mechanics at play here – one of my favourite being the ability to leave a die (or multiple dice) in a location that can then be used by players who find themselves in the same place in a future year. Meeting your past or future selves – ie moving into the same place as another player – also causes issues with the timeline in another thematic touch, moving the Outatime marker two spaces towards certain doom.

There are various difficulty levels too – in a co-op game, there’s not usually too many ways to vary the difficulty and quite often the challenge level is pitched very high to ensure that players don’t get bored with repeatedly winning – however, much like Horrified, the difficulty level in Dice Through Time is easily adjustable if needed.

The components are generally of a very high quality – as is to be expected from Ravensburger – but I did have an issue with how thin the event and item cards were; they do seem a little flimsy. I may be nitpicking here, but I also found an issue with the plastic stands used for the Biff characters and the Outatime marker – a few of them are a little loose, which saw them having to be reattached quite often.

However, neither of these issues detracts from the game at all – which is a wonderfully designed, beautifully illustrated and brilliantly thematic game that’s infused with such a great deal of care and attention in even the smallest of details. It plays quickly, is easy to teach and has a great deal of player interaction that’s a good change from the more antagonistic interaction seen in competitive, rather than co-operative, games. I can’t stress enough how much more accessible it’s made with the inclusion of a themed player aid and turn summary for everyone who’s taking part too.

For Back to the Future fans, this is nigh on unmissable. Absolutely wonderful – and another triumph for Ravensburger.

Many thanks to Ravensburger for providing me with a copy of Back to the Future: Dice Through Time for review purposes.

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