Review of Back to the Future the Card Game from Looney Labs
Designer – Andrew Looney
Artist – Derek Ring
note – thanks go to Looney Labs for providing a review copy of this game
I expect that most of you have seen Back to the Future and possibly the 2 sequels. The original film has been a personal favourite and for many of us time travel is quite an intriguing proposition. So when Looney Labs created a card game based on the license, I thought it would be interesting to see what they did with it. Back to the Future, the Card Game, a game for 2-6 players age 11+ won the Best Traditional Card Game award at Origins 2011, so of course it should be something special, eh? Well let’s see…
The cards are typical Looney Labs quality so no problem there. Very colourful, and the artwork is good, and at a glance, there is a lot of similarity to the Fluxx cards I’ve seen, which is, disappointing as I would have hoped to have images from the films. The content has loads of references to the characters and specific objects in the films, so thats good but it all could have been so much better with film images from such an iconic film franchise. I imagine that this was a cost decision but I would think that fans would have been willing to pay a bit more for photos of Michael J. Fox and co.
In Back to the future the Card Game the players are time travellers who are trying to be the first to reset time back to where their personal goal needs it to be and then stop Doc Brown from inventing the Flux Capacitor and the resulting ability to travel in time.
You will note that I mentioned that the cards had a Fluxx look to them which is a core game system for Looney Labs but this is not a Fluxx spin-off although there are some similarities.
The cards are split into 3 piles: Timeline cards, ID cards and Game cards
The Timeline cards are laid on the table in a 4×6 grid in a specific order with their blue or purple sides face up. The Timeline cards are basically the game board where the story/events takes place. Each card has different versions of the same event in the Timeline and are flipped by the players during play which changes history. .
The Game cards (you start with 3) are various actions, items, time machines, and double backs where you can change history twice. These are played from your hand. These allow for a lot of player interaction which can help you put delays into other player’s plans. Basically read what they say and play them accordingly (like in Fluxx).
ID cards are chosen randomly and give each player their game objective of 3 specific Timeline cards and which side they need to be flipped to to win.
The game process is easy (and just like Fluxx)-
Draw 1 card, play 1 card OR draw another card
However, you are essentially trying to play cards for yourself or against other players, ultimately to find a way of flipping the 3 cards noted on your ID card. THEN, also playing cards in order to flip a B-1 card which is the point in the Timeline where you can prevent Doc Brown from inventing Time travel to win the game.
It all plays well and the rules are clear and the interaction is fun. The play is Fluxx-like, but different enough to not have you thinking that its just another Fluxx spin-off. The Timeline is cool and touches on a lot of areas in the film background. The mechanic of flipping the Timeline cards to achieve your goals is clever.
Ironically, there are 2 Time issues which can cause problems. The first is that if there are more than say 3 players, the continuing interaction and take-that stuff lengthens the game to where it can become tedious. So stick to 3 players max.
Second, the B-1 Doc Brown game ending Timeline space actually has 5 shuffled cards which means you have 1 chance in 5 to end the game. This, again can be very frustrating and make the game too long. I suggest just playing with the 1 correct card.
Did it work for me?
While not a bad game, with effective and some clever mechanics, I was disappointed with Back to the Future the Card Game on 2 levels. The game lengthening issues mentioned above are a problem. The game is light and feels like it needs to play fairly quickly but it can easily take too long. Also, the theme, although reasonably played out in the content, just doesn’t really come to life for me. Actual film images would have helped and perhaps special rules for each player other than the objective cards would have been helpful but then it would have been a heavier game than it was meant to be I suppose.
So overall, not bad, but not as great as I’d hoped from a Back to the Future game.
Boardgames in Blighty rating – 5 out of 10
Sure. Should be fine for older kids as indicated by the age range of 11+
For more information go to – http://www.looneylabs.com/