Back to the Future: An Adventure Through Time Review


Back to the Future:  An Adventure Through Time is a game by Matt Riddle and Ben Pinchback, published by IDW Games. It is for 2-4 players. In this game, based on the classic 1980’s movie Back to the Future, players will be trying to unravel the space time continuum by completing events involving the main characters from the movie that have been displaced from their proper timeline. They’ll use the Delorean to move back and forth through time, placing characters into their proper year. Each time they do, they’ll score points. The player that scores the most points at the end of the game, will be declared the winner.

To begin, the 3 year tiles (1955, 1985, 2015) should be placed in the center of the play area. The Delorean token is placed on the 1985 tile. Three event cards are randomly selected from each year and placed with their “A” side face up in stacks above the corresponding year tiles. Any unused event cards are returned to the box. The Victory Point tokens are placed face up in descending order next to their corresponding year tile. The Clock Tower tokens are placed in a pile where all players can reach them. The Role Tiles are placed face up where they are easily reached as well. Each player receives a player mat showing the clock tower and a ripple pile token showing the license plate from the Delorean. The character cards are all shuffled together and placed facedown in the center of the play area. Each player is dealt 4 cards each. The first player is chosen and given the start player marker that looks like Marty’s guitar. Play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round, players will take their turn in turn order. Once each player has taken a turn, the round ends and the game is reset for a new round. Each player’s turn consists of 3 phases; select a role, take actions and draw cards. The first phase is to select a role. To do this, the player simply takes one of the available role cards from the center of the play area and places it in front of themself. Each role provides a special ability that is unique to that role and it allows the player to play character cards that match the chosen character. The player may use their role’s special ability at any time during their turn.

The second phase of a player’s turn is to take actions. There are 3 actions that are available for a player to take; time travel with the Delorean, play characters and complete an event. The player is allowed to take actions in any order and as many times as they’re able to. To time travel with the Delorean, the player must discard any combination of character cards that equal 3 power as shown by the Fluxx Capacitor in the bottom right corner of the card. They are then able to move the Delorean token to any year, placing the token on top of the tile. To play characters, the player chooses one of the cards from their hand and places it face up on the side of their player mat that corresponds to the year on the card. However there are a few rules regarding playing characters. First, the player is only allowed to play a character that corresponds to the year that the Delorean is currently on. The player is also only allowed to play a character that matches the role card that they selected earlier. The player must also be able to pay the associated cost for playing the card. To play the card, the player must be able to pay the amount of time shown on the card by discarding other character cards to meet the requirement. They must also pay the Ripple cost by placing another character card facedown in a pile in front of them underneath their Ripple token. It should be noted that each card placed this way will score points at the end of the game equal to the number of victory points at the bottom of the card. The Ripple costs are 0 for playing a character in 2015, 1 for playing one in 1985 and 2 for playing one in 1955. To complete an event, the Delorean must be in the year that the event takes place and the player must have all the characters that are required for the event played in the corresponding year of their player mat as well. They must also have at least one character played in all 3 years as well. Once the event has been completed, the player takes the event card and victory point token from the corresponding stack. The new event and victory point token are now revealed. The 3 characters that were used to fulfill the event are placed in the discard pile.

The final phase is the draw cards. The player will now draw cards based on which year the Delorean token is on. If it’s on 1955, no cards are drawn. If it’s on 1985, 1 card is drawn. 2 cards are drawn if the token is on 2015.

It should be noted that if a player did not play a character or complete an event during their turn, then they are allowed to take a clock tower token from the supply. This token provides the player with several benefits on a future turn. It provides either 3 power, 2 time or 1 victory point at the end of the game. It can be used on the turn it was taken only to move the Delorean. Once all players have completed their turn, the role card are returned to the supply and the start player is given to the next player in turn order.

The game continues until any 2 stacks of the event cards have been emptied. Once this happens the end of the game is triggered. Once the current round has been finished, the game is over. Players add up their victory points from victory point tokens, character cards still in play on their player mat, character cards placed under their ripple pile token and any unspent clock tower tokens. The player that has the most points is the winner. It should be noted that if the draw deck and discard pile are both exhausted, then the game ends immediately.


This is a really great looking game. To begin with, the artwork throughout the game has a very comic book style look and feel to it. I like that they chose to go this route instead of doing what I would have expected, which is to use stock photos from the movies. This is what I wish IDW had done for the Orphan Black card game. The year tiles, Delorean tracker, clock tower tokens, victor point tokens, ripple pile tokens, start player marker and role tiles are all made from thick cardboard. They have a really good weight and finish to them. The designs are all great. I especially like the different looks of Hill Valley in the 3 separate year tiles. The Delorean looks great on it’s tile with some fire behind the wheels and electricity in front of the car. The cards are all really nice as well, again comic book style art. I love how great the different designs are, especially on the character cards. About the only negative thing I have to say about the components would be the player mats. While I really like the look of the clock tower and think it’s a really cool design, I feel that they should have been thick cardboard like the role tiles instead of the really thin cardstock material. Thankfully they are only used to place your cards around and not that big of a deal. It should also be noted that there are a few mistakes on several of the components including the Biff and Jennifer role tiles as well as the B side of some of the events. From what I understand these will be revised and updated with the correct wording and clarification soon. In any event, the look and feel of the game is great and the quality is fairly good too. Overall though, I’m fine with the results.
7 out of 10

The rulebook for this game looks really nice. I love the cover designs for both the front and the back. There are plenty of pictures and examples throughout the book, including a really great setup page. All of the different phases of a player’s turn are laid out really well and covered in great detail. The book also explains how the B side of the event cards work, as well as a really great detailed description of how each role card works. Overall the look and feel of the rules are really nice. Even though the book looks good though, there are actually quite a few problems with the rulebook. As a matter of fact, I’ve gotten a fairly lengthy email from the company with errata for what is wrong with the components as well as the rulebook. These things should be updated and an errata file posted soon. That file should make things a bit easier to understand. I will say that the book isn’t that long so it’s not all that difficult to read through but the errata will help a good bit. In any event, while the book looks good there are still some problems here. Just hope that later printings will correct the mistakes and rectify the problems here. For now, I can deal with what I’ve got.
6 out of 10

Let me start by saying that I absolutely LOVE the Back to the Future movies. They are wonderful films that I have enjoyed watching over and over again. I’ve even shared them with my kids, who also love them. That said, I find this game to be fun. While it’s not exactly all the game that I hoped and wanted it to be, it’s at least enjoyable enough that I can still find some fun with it. I think that a lot of people will probably not be happy that they can’t play as one of the characters from the film, instead the game feels more like you’re playing the role of fate or time or whatever cosmic entity you want to think of yourself as. You’re trying to line up certain people in certain time frames so that you can fulfill certain events, but then you’ve got to have a character in each of the other 2 times as well. So there seems to be quite a lot of work just to get 1 event completed. However if someone completes it before you, then you’re just out of luck. Sometimes the game feels more luck oriented than anything in that aspect. There seems to be quite a lot of things to keep up with as well. It’s like, ok I can only play the character cards that match my role card but they can only be played in the year that the Delorean is in. Oh and don’t forget that you have to pay the time cost. Oh and then there’s that ripple effect cause I played a card in 1955. It’s like, holy cow you’re mind will be spinning from all the stuff. It can easily become overwhelming. That’s not to say that this is in any way a bad game. Don’t get me wrong. Like I said, I like the game, just not as much as I wanted to. It’s pretty average for me. I think fans of the movies might enjoy it on average like I do. Otherwise for most people I think this would be a pass. As it is, it’s fun enough for me.
7 out of 10

Back to the Future:  An Adventure Through Time is a card game based on the widely popular movie franchise. The game looks really nice. I really like the comic book style artwork on the different components. However, the player mats are a bit too thin for my liking. There are also a couple of different mistakes on some of the pieces but it’s nothing too major. The same is true of the rulebook. While the book looks really nice, there are several mistakes throughout the book. Hopefully all these issues will be resolved in future printings of the game. Even with the problems that the game seems to be plagued by, it’s still fun. It’s just not as much fun as I wanted or expected it to be. That’s not to say that this is a bad game. Just something to be aware of. There does seem to be quite a bit of things to keep up with and lots of aggravation as well. Luck seems to be a major issue with the game. In my opinion, this game may only appeal to die hard fans of the movies like myself. Others may find all the issues that have been previously listed to be a bit too much and decide that it’s just not for them. As it is, I liked it well enough I guess. That said, anyone interested should probably play it first. That would be my recommendation anyway. For now, I’ll probably keep it around. At least it looks cool.
7 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out  IDW Games at their site.

About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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