Players: 2 - 4
Time to set up: 2 minutes
Time to play: 45 - 60 minutes
Average price: $30 / £25
Back to the Future: Dice Through Time has finally given us an explanation as to why 2020 is so awful - and it's all Biff Tannen's fault. After hijacking the DeLorean, he's stolen a boot full of items and dumped them across time and space like the good-for-nothing hooligan he is. If they're not put back in their correct place, all of history is doomed and the space-time continuum will explode. Or implode. Or something. Either way, it's bad. Great Scott indeed.
We have to go back
As is only right for a board game based on these movies, the process is unique and just a little discombobulating. Rather than using a traditional board where you move along a predetermined path to the finish, Back to the Future: Dice Through Time has you hopping between eras to secure and return all the items Biff has filched. Like Doc Brown himself said, "you're gonna see some serious sh**"... but in the best possible way.
Designed for two to four players, Back to the Future: Dice Through Time's board has four horizontal time streams - 1885, 1955, 1985, and 2015. Every item Biff has stolen will be spread between them, but iconic events from the movie (such as Marty and Biff's skateboard chase) must be cleared before you can collect each one. You do this by matching dice rolls to the symbols for each event. So far, so simple.
Will it stay that way? Like hell it will. Unfortunately, you're fighting against the clock. You'll be forced to contend with an 'Outatime' tracker during your adventure, and this spells game over if it's ever completely filled.
That's all too easy. The number of spaces it advances is dictated by the timestream with the most events in it, which then creates Paradox tokens that make things even worse. As a result, you've got to juggle returning items with clearing events if you don't want to lose. It's an intense yet fun experience that demands good communication between you and your teammates; every decision has to count. This means it's a contender for the best cooperative board games.
"I am your density"
However, that's not the cool bit. Instead, certain dice rolls allow you to jump between time-streams. You can also 'ripple' dice across time. This means that you can leave dice you don't need for someone in another era to use when clearing events.
This time travel element is where the game shines. It's really rather clever; it hangs mechanics on the franchise's more abstract ideas to maximum effect.
That's true in more ways than one. Back to the Future: Dice Through Time embraces time travel complications and makes smart use of them in gameplay. For example, you cannot land on a space with another player - your past or future 'self' - because it creates an anomaly and advances the Outatime marker straight away. Seeing as you may have to share a space with players if you want to return all those items, it's a good way of upping the stakes.
The same is true of rippling dice. It's a tradeoff; you may help players in other eras, but you then have less dice to roll for yourself in future turns.
This makes Back to the Future: Dice Through Time complex enough to keep you engaged, but not overly complicated - you'll learn your way around quickly enough. In fact, the only criticism I had was that it ended up being a bit harder than expected.
Dice Through Time has a laser-focus on unique concepts that have been polished to perfection, and I can wholeheartedly recommend it as a result. There are other Back to the Future board games hitting shelves this year, but this one stands out for all the right reasons.