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Back to the Future: Dice Through Time

Having already given us Jurassic Park: Danger! and Jaws, Ravensburger seem to be working their way through Steven Spielberg's back catalogue of movies, tho' on the Back to the Future movies, Spielberg was the producer rather than the director. This game is based, ambitiously, on all three Back to the Future movies.

The premise is that Biff has stolen Doc Brown's time-travelling DeLorean and has caused disruption to the timeline by scattering items in the wrong place and time. In this fully cooperative game, 2–4 players each represent versions of Doc Brown and Marty from different time zones. You'll all need to work together to deal with disruptive events, recover misplaced items and restore them to their proper place and time. And you're working against the clock because you need to complete your collective task before the advancing Outatime marker reaches the end of its track.

As the name of the game suggests, this is a dice game. At the start of each round, players will each roll their four custom six-sided dice and they have to use the icons these generate, tho' the lightning icon allows you to re-roll any of your dice. You'll need a flux capacitor icon to move to the same location in another time zone. You have to match the icons on all the event cards at that location to resolve the events and collect an item, and if the Biff standee for the time zone is in the same location as the event cards you are trying to resolve, you'll need first to have used the fist icon to biff him to another location. Players all roll their dice for each round simultaneously, so you have an idea of what other players can do on their turn, but you have to follow strict turn order. You can, however, leave an unspent die for another player to use. It's deemed to ripple through time, so other players can use it either at the location you place it or at the same location in a later (but not earlier) time zone. There can be up to three events at any time and location, and if you have three events to resolve you'll almost certainly need a rippled die or two from another player.

Designers Ken Franklin, Chris Leder and Kevin Rodgers have come up with a game that looks easy but can catch players out if they suffer unlucky dice rolls and/or unlucky card draws. If players' DeLoreans ever share the same time and space, the Outatime marker advances by two, and with paradox tokens added to the board where there are unresolved events you can find the Outatime marker shooting ahead distressingly close to the end of the track in a single round. The game scales well for each player count (with two players, only three events are placed out each round, going up to eight events per round in a four-player game) and you can set the difficulty level by selecting different numbers of items to recover. Two items per time zone is 'easy': certainly suitable for playing as a very light family game. Three items per time zone is considered 'standard'; Four is 'hard'. The rules classify five items per zone as 'insane'. We're not saying the game is impossible at this setting but you'd need to benefit from some very lucky dice rolls. And to tempt you to try, the designers taunt players with the movies' 'Nobody Calls Me Chicken!'...

With illustrations by Matt Taylor and Pilot, Ravensburger have done their usual grand job on the production of Back to the Future: Dice Through Time and the film trilogy's legion of fans will get an extra kick out of the game, even tho' play reflects rather than relives the movies. Inevitably there's a high luck factor which some would begrudge in a longer game but you can expect to play Back to the Future: Dice Through Time in around 45 minutes. Fully cooperative games like this usually lend themselves very well to a solitaire option so we were surprised to see no solo rules in the box. However, it wouldn't be difficult to devise your own solo variant; or of course you could always play with two iterations of Doc Brown and Marty. Great Scott!

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