Back to the Future: The Card Game Review
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Players: 2-6 (ages 11+)
Playing Time: 20-60 minutes

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Robert Zemeckis’s much-loved time-traveling adventure, Back to the Future, Looney Labs has developed a time-traveling Back to the Future card game—inspired by all three Back to the Future movies and based on their popular Chrononauts card game.

Of course, the team at Looney Labs is filled with former NASA engineers—not Hollywood filmmakers—so the game isn’t quite as brainless and easy-going as the movie…especially not at first. So when you first sit down to play the game, make sure that you have plenty of time to work your way through the massive instruction sheet and figure it all out. As Marty McFly once said, though, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.” And once your brain picks up speed to a full 88 miles per hour, you’ll be ready to jump right in and give it a try.

Game play is a bit tricky to explain in just a few words, but it all revolves around the TimeLine that’s set up in the middle of the playing area. These 20 cards list events that take place in the Back to the Future movies. Using Time Machine cards (and a few other cards in the deck), you can change these events—which, in turn, will often change other events along the way.

It may sound complex (and, well, it is a bit confusing at first). But the object is pretty simple. At the beginning of the game, each player gets an ID card, showing a list of headlines that must appear on the TimeLine in order for you to win the game. Your goal, then, is to change history to match the headlines on your ID card—then un-invent time travel to ensure that these events take place.

Though it might take you a while to figure out all of the rules—and to get a grasp of which cards do what—once you work your way through the rules sheet, you’ll find yourself caught up in the geeky pop culture fun of this lovable time-travel adventure. It all comes together well—just as any game designed by former NASA engineers should. It’s definitely a smart game—and it takes a little bit of planning and concentration—but it’s nicely hidden behind the guise of a campy movie tribute.

Along the way, of course, there will be complications—especially since there’s a pretty good chance that one or more of your opponents will be trying to change certain events, when you need to keep them just as they are. And when you finally go to un-invent time, you may find that mysterious forces prevent you from changing circumstances. It can be maddening at times—but that’s what makes the Back to the Future game fun: it’s anybody’s game. Even when things are looking pretty grim, things can always change. You still have a chance to jump in and win the game.

So don’t let the somewhat overwhelming instructions scare you away. Back to the Future: The Card Game is an addictively brainy card-flipping, time-changing adventure. If you enjoy Looney’s Fluxx games—and you’re ready for something a bit more involved—then you’ll want to make their newest card game a part of your TimeLine. Pair it with a Back to the Future movie marathon, and you’ve got yourself the makings of a perfect Back to the Future tribute weekend.

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