Tabletop Game Review – Back to the Future: Back in Time

Back to the Future: Back in Time by Funko Games
Price: ~$30.00
2 to 4
~50 minutes
Perfect for:
Families and groups who enjoy multifaceted cooperative games and love the classic time travel movie trilogy.

Back to the Future: Back in Time is a game of love, adventure, and escape! Based upon the first film in the series, players find themselves working together using pooled resources to get back to their time through dice rolls and strategic actions. If the team can meet all their objectives in time—and at the right time—they win! Before discussing the gameplay, here’s a bit more information on the theme from the publisher, Funko Games:

The photo of the McFly family is slowly fading… It’s 1955, and you’re wrapped up in a time paradox with Biff, Lorraine, George, and Doc Brown! Cooperate to move around Hill Valley to get the DeLorean ready, avoid Biff and his gang, help George and Lorraine fall in love, and crank the DeLorean up to 88 MPH — all just in time for the lightning to strike the Clock Tower, sending you back to the future!

To begin Back to the Future: Back in Time, two to four players collect a character sheet and corresponding power tokens. The board (a map of Hilly Valley) is set up with the players starting in the center of town, George and Lorraine at their houses, and the DeLorean at the beginning of its track. Draw piles for “Trouble,” Movement,” “Objectives,” “Items,” and power-ups are placed close by, along with 2 sets of 4 different colored dice. A six-tiled, double-sided photograph of Marty and siblings is arranged, along with a marker indicating the strength of George and Lorraine’s love. And finally, Biff goes onto the board, ready to menace and sabotage well-laid plans.

RELATED: Tabletop Game Review: Jaws

On a turn, the progress marker advances (closer and closer to 10:04 PM), which typically triggers a new trouble card entering the board or a check on the love track. If George and Lorraine are not in love, then one of the six tiles in the photo gets flipped “erasing” the McFly kids from existence (and if all six get flipped, it’s game over for the players). The team then takes action. Using the collected and available power token tiles, players flip as many of them over as they would like to typically either a) move around the board; or b) perform a skill check by rolling the dice indicated on the token. For example, if a player is in a space with a DeLorean part, they can roll green dice to try to collect the item. Players can also assist either other using their power tokens in tandem—but then that ability will be unavailable on their turn. Turns and rounds progress until the three objectives are fulfilled: 1) collect the parts for the DeLorean; 2) make George and Lorraine fall in love and 3) get the DeLorean to the Clock Tower on time. If time expires and these conditions are not met, all players lose.

What works in Back to the Future: Back in Time is a fantastic adaptation of the source material grafted onto various mechanics which keep the game engaging and reminiscent of the joy of the film.  Back in Time is truly a team effort—leveraging the individual power of each character (Marty, Jennifer, Doc, and Einstein) requires coordination and thoughtfulness. All in all, the gameplay legitimately has the feel of the movie as the players contend with multiple variables and scenarios while trying to progress towards a win condition. And while there is some luck involved with the dice-rolling, there are plenty of avenues of tradeoff to counterbalance too much randomness. Finally, the artistic design by Prospero Hall, and attention to detail referencing the game’s cinematic counterpart, make Back to the Future: Back in Time a delightfully robust experience.

Players who prefer games with more direct conflict and competition may not enjoy Back to the Future: Back in Time as much as others. This is truly a human v. board setup. While it is balanced and scalable, some players may miss not having full control over their eventual outcome given the necessitated reliability on others. There is also one other potential oddity that was unclear on how to resolve—it is possible through smart playing and a little bit of luck to have fulfilled all requirements very early on (i.e. before the turn tracker hits 10:04 pm when everything has to be in position). This means that later rounds focus on sustaining the status quo rather than progression. As a result, some may find the last couple of turns a bit more tedious as they wait for time to expire.

Back to the Future: Back in Time fantastically captures the spirit and entertainment of the film, which is not always an easy achievement. The complexity level is in that wonderful sweet spot that players of nearly all ages and skill can pick up the mechanics quickly, but still find them exciting as each dice roll reveals a new development, positive or negative. Highly recommended for BTTF fans and gamers everywhere.

Recommended if you like: Jaws, Horrified, Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons

Final Grade: A+

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Fox Troilo

Fox serves as an entertainment journalist in the Washington, D.C. When not covering cinematic news for LRM, he critiques films as a member of the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association. Fox also has a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Strategy from Indiana University Bloomington.

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