Game Name: Back to the Future – The Card Game
Publisher: Looney Labs
Designer: Andrew Looney
Artist: Derek Ring
Players: Two to six
Genre: Chaotic set collecting card game
Playing Time: 20-60 Minutes
Back To The Future: The Card Game is a fast, exciting, time travel card game for 2-6 players. Cards are laid out to form a timeline of events, and players use various items and time machines to change circumstances to achieve their personal realities..
Dr. Emmett Brown: Then tell me, “Future Boy”, who’s President in the United States in 1985?
Marty McFly: Ronald Reagan.
Dr. Emmett Brown: Ronald Reagan? The actor?
[chuckles in disbelief]
Dr. Emmett Brown: Then who’s VICE-President? Jerry Lewis?
[rushing out and down a hill toward his laboratory]
Dr. Emmett Brown: I suppose Jane Wyman is the First Lady!
Marty McFly: [following Doc] Whoa! Wait! Doc!
Dr. Emmett Brown: And Jack Benny is Secretary of the Treasury.
Marty McFly: [outside the lab door] Doc, you gotta listen to me.
Dr. Emmett Brown: [opens the door to the lab] I’ve had enough practical jokes for one evening. Good night, Future Boy!
[closes the door leaving Marty outside]
Marty McFly: No, wait! Doc. Doc. The-the-the bruise – the bruise on your head. I know how that happened! You told me the whole story. You were standing on your toilet, and you were hanging a clock, and you fell, and you hit your head on the sink. And that’s when you came up with the idea for the Flux Capacitor…
Marty McFly: Which… is what makes time travel possible.
[Doc opens the door and looks at Marty with a stunned look on his face]
For me, along with many others, Back to the Future is one of the defining movies of my generation. I own a model DeLorean that I picked up at Universal Studios outside the Back to the Future ride when it still existed. So I’ve been looking forward to trying out Back to the Future the Card Games from Looney Labs for a long time now. It is quite similar to Chrononauts, but since I haven’t played that I can’t really compare the two.
I’ve finally gotten my hands on the game and cranked it up to 88 MPH. There are good points and bad points, so let’s take a closer look.
There are 100 cards. They are not very impressive in the way of artwork, but serviceable. I would have preferred some movie stills to enhance the theme. The cards themselves are divided into three types: ID Cards, Timeline Cards, and Game Cards.
ID Cards: These are your character cards. Each player is randomly dealt one ID and if they don’t like it then they can get another one. You have to take the second one though. Your ID card casts you in the role of various relatives of the actual characters from the movies: cousins, ancestors, grandchildren, and so on. I’m not sure why they didn’t use the characters themselves, possibly there were not enough to choose from. There are ten different characters you can play.
Each character has specific goals. They want to arrange the timeline to be of the most benefit to themselves, and then un-invent time travel to lock that timeline in place.
This is accomplished by using the timeline cards. These are arranged in a specific starting sequence in a 6 x 4 card grid on the table. These consist of 9 Linchpin cards and 15 Ripplepoint cards. Actually, the Linchpin card labeled B-1 (Second Row, First Card) has five different cards. This is the card representing Doc Brown inventing the Flux Capacitor and starting the whole time travel shenanigans in the first place. Only one of the cards will read “Doc Brown safely hangs a clock in his bathroom”. If you get the timeline set the way you want, and successfully flip over this card, you win the game. Unfortunately, only one of the five cards in the stack allows this to happen. The others say “Mysterious Forces prevent you from altering the timeline right now”. If you flip one of these over, you discard the card, the game isn’t over and you keep playing until you can try again.
The linchpin cards start the game with their blue or purple side up. By using the cards from your hand you can flip these linchpins over. Doing so causes ripplepoint cards to flip over as well. For example, if George McFly never confronts Biff, then he will never publish his story and will end up working for him.
The third type of card is the play cards. The cards you use to interact with the timeline and with each other. Each player starts with three cards, and each turn you draw one card and play one card. Of course, the cards themselves come in different flavors too. There are Time Machine cards that are the various versions of the DeLorean, and a Time Train too. Some of them require you to provide a power source to activate them, plutonium and the like. Thus we have the item cards as well. These are of many different types and allow different things to occur. They are played face up in front of you and remain there until used, removed, or stolen. You can find a case of plutonium, a bullet proof vest, a metal pie pan, all sorts of things. Some are pretty much useless, except for the cards that allow you to discard an item to do something else.
There are also action cards, playing these can allow you to screw over another player, or help yourself. Someone who is about to win can be stopped by playing a card that cancels their card, or if the player next to you changed the timeline on their turn you can hitch a ride and change a linchpin too. The power action cards the same, only more so.
Each turn, the players will draw and play, trying to flip the linchpins to the side that that need. Each character has from two to four linchpins to flip to set the ripplepoints they need to win. You gather items, try to get a time machine, and stop any progress the other players have made toward their goals.
The game is thematic enough. It would have been better if there were backstories to the various characters. It seems like they would have to exist in order to create the game, but just weren’t included. I think it would add to the experience.
The biggest problem that I ran across in the game is that it can take from five minutes until forever to play. The game length is so unpredictable; you pretty much need to get lucky in order to win. The other plays in my opinion have too many options for screwing you over, so that it can become an exercise in futility flipping a linchpin, just to have it cancelled or flipped back over before your next turn.
Back to the Future can be a fun game, especially for those that are fans of the movies. Personally I would recommend removing all but one of the cards that allow you to cancel another player’s action. I like the game, I just don’t want to play it for an hour and a half. I’d much rather play for 20 minutes, and then play again if I have a mind too.
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