When playing co-op games, especially boardgames, they need to have a certain level of risk and individual choice to make the game interesting. Otherwise, experienced players can take control and make the whole game feel more solitaire than multiplayer. I personally find this to be the biggest problem with cooperative board games, and yet Back To The Future: Back In Time does a really great job of encouraging cooperative conversation while still leaving a lot to individual choice and impact.
The game has three main objectives: have Marty’s parents fall in love, obtain the missing parts of the DeLorean, and bring the DeLorean to the Clocktower. All these objectives need to be done before a turn tracker reaches the end, which gives a good sense of urgency but is well paced enough to never force players to try and plan three or four turns in advance. The game naturally encourages players to plan a little bit ahead, but so many things change each turn that players mostly just need to focus on completing small amounts of objectives every turn instead of worrying and planning every moment until the end of the game.
In order to complete these three tasks, players must initiate and complete various different challenges using certain colored dice. Other opportunities to gain items and powers can also be completed with these colored dice. Fighting off Biff or tackling trouble cards is also done with these colored dice. So everything revolves around using these different dice on a player’s turn in order to try and complete objectives or reach certain goals. This simple level of risk and reward makes the game feel far more active because players are constantly choosing how many dice to use, which dice to re-roll, and which of these objectives to complete at the moment (or attempt to complete). This makes the player’s choices very impactful and yet leaves room to ask for suggestions on what would be the next best play. That in turn means that experienced players can make good and welcome suggestions to new players while never being overbearing or using their experience to take over the creativity and ideas of the newcomers.
Another really great part of the game is the overall design and physical/visual appearance. Each of the different pieces, dice, and power cards all feel very smooth and look clean, crisp, and colorful while still being easily definable amongst the various different pieces and moving parts of the game. I also found that the Back To The Future franchise was well used, throwing the players into the past and story of the movie with ease. It was fun to see basically every moment, item, and major character utilized in some way throughout the game, allowing players to feel like they were enjoying key parts of the film. And yet, it never felt like you were just playing through the movie, players felt like active influences in the film and story.
There are only two issues to address in the game. I felt like there might have been a few too many pieces and moving parts, and a defined shortlist of turn options to put on the board would have been welcome. For example, the Town Square space on the game board has very little purpose except to be moved through, and listing the various different challenges and turn order would have been helpful if placed there. The other minor issue with the game is that it felt very easy. It was never boring, because players could always try to do certain things or slightly improve their situation every turn. However, I felt that the difficulty could’ve been a little higher or other options of higher difficulties would’ve been very welcome. Neither of these issues ruins the game, but they might hold it back from really strong longevity or replayability.
Out of all the cooperative games that I’ve played, which has been a lot, I felt like this was easily one of the best at making players feel like their choices as individuals helped the group win. This game isn’t a massively challenging or groundbreaking game, but for those who enjoy the Back To The Future franchise and are interested in a more risk/reward cooperative experience, Back To The Future: Back In Time may be a pretty great choice for you.