Strap yourselves in, this review is going to contain more quotes than my last article that had anything to do with dinosaurs. It's going to get heavy man. Back to the Future was a staple of my youth. As a film trilogy it perfectly fit my young selfs filmatic needs. Of course at that age I was all about the hover board and manure, but I enjoyed all three of the films. Dice Through Time is an attempt to capture that magic in cardboard form, and while it's an admirable effort it doesn't quite hit the heady notes my rose tinted glasses require.
Time travel in board games is always going to be a difficult ask. Anachrony manages it with some complex future self loaning of resources, and it's hard to think of other games that pull it off at all. Dice through Time takes a simplistic approach with works well and is understandable without any bells and whistles. The board is split into four rows, each representing one of four years from the films. The rows are separated into 5 columns each a location in that year, the central one being the clock tower in all four years
You will take your plastic moulded DeLorean and move through the times and locations completing events and then grabbing items to deliver back to their rightful location and year. This is done through dice rolling, and then using the results accordingly. Depending on player count and difficultly players will draw a number of event cards which need to be placed on the relevant location on the relevant timeline. Events reference scenes from the films but refreshingly with new art instead of stills from the movies.
The downside is that these events merely reference the films without attempted to thematically tie them in. An event may move Biff - because every timeline has a version of the series bully - and will have 1 or 2 symbols that must be matched with dice to resolve them. Once resolved you take an item card from that year's supply and then deliver it to the location and year listed. Simples!
It's Your Kids, Marty!
After everybody has rolled their dice to you use them in turn order. Unfortunately there is very little mitigation in Dice through Time, and the turn order is fixed. This means it is a case of doing the best with what you have which is usually straightforward. For new or family gamers this is a good way to introduce concepts, but even them the frustration of bad rolls can be a put off.
Players can leave (called rippling) dice higher up a location (column) so that a player further down the column (in the future) can pick it up, which is a nice touch. But there is no explanation for why you can do this with items that need delivering! Surely if you can hide a dice for your future self you can hide a skateboard? Heck Doc Brown hid a whole DeLorean!
At the end of a round the year with the most unresolved events will cause the outtatime marker to move up and if it reaches the end of the track you lose the game. To win you must deliver all of the items.
“Who's Vice President, Jerry Lewis?”
There are some nice ideas in Dice through Time, but missed opportunities fail to lift it into that special game category. The dice rippling is nice and I like the fact that you actually have to earn the items you must deliver. For gamers, though, this will be hampered by little real decision space and a bog standard time travel mechanic. That being said there are moments of magic if you have the imagination to see them. Driving the DeLorean to the clock tower in order to pick up a needed dice that was left at a past version of the clock tower, while punching Biff clean out on the way is fun and reminiscent of the source material. It just doesn't happen enough for my tastes.
The components and art work deserve high praise though. From the plastic dice and DeLoreans to the abstracty but gorgeous art. In fact some of the art would make for great posters. The only place this is let down is in the clarity of the rules. For such a simple game the rules can be quite cumbersome and not suggestive of the actually way a turn works.
Nobody calls me chicken
Ultimately Dice through Time is a fun distraction as long as lady luck doesn't ruin the day. There are multiple difficulties to play with, although I would suggest it is best suited to fans or a family wanting to learn a co-op style game. If you are looking for meaningful choices and nostalgia, then this isn't the game for it but then 'I guess you guys aren't ready for that yet...'