Back to the Future – the Card Game: First Impressions

Back to the Future Card Game Box Art


Game Info

Publisher: Looney Labs

Year Published: 2010

Number of Players: 2 to 6

Play Time: 20 to 60 minutes

Set-up Time: About 5 minutes

Ages: 11 and up

Table Size: Small or Medium (depends on number of players)


I recently received Back to the Future – the Card Game as a birthday present, and finally had a chance to try it out tonight.  We only had the opportunity to play it once so far, but the general consensus at the table was that it was a fun, creative game with plenty of personality.

This game is based on, and created by the same people who made, the game Chrononauts.  I haven’t played Chrononauts myself, but if you have then you’ll know something of what to expect, even though BttF’s instruction booklet specifically tells Chrononauts players to make sure they read the new rules carefully as it is not precisely the same game.  Namely, there is a new end-game mechanic that Chrononauts doesn’t possess, which actually seems like it would add an additional layer of complexity to the game (more on that mechanic later).

As its name implies BttF is a card game with no additional pieces to worry about.  Each player has a hand of cards which he or she keeps hidden from the rest of the players, and each player has an “Identification Card” which represents a character from the BttF universe.  Each character has his or her own goals for success, which they must achieve before they can un-invent the Time Machine and thus secure their fate.

Play begins with “the person who most recently saw any of the Back to the Future” movies and then passes to that person’s left.  On each turn players draw a card from the draw pile and then either play an action, lay down an item, or choose to draw a second card.  The game “board” is comprised of several different cards, each of which has two sides to them which detail certain events shown in one of the three BttF movies.  As actions are played, these cards will be flipped to reveal the alternate timeline associated with the event on that card.

Certain “linchpin” events will cause multiple cards to be flipped over, having a ripple effect throughout the course of history!  For example, if the linchpin event “George doesn’t confront Biff” is changed to “George punches Biff” then the subsequent event “George gets a job with Biff as his boss” changes to “George gets a story published”.

As a player, your goal is change events on the board so that 3 specific events in the timeline match what are displayed on your Identification Card.  Once the events are in your favor, you need to find a Time Machine card and change the event in which “Doc Brown invents the Flux Capacitor”.  If you manage to unin-vent the Flux Capacitor then you successfully un-invent time travel, which secures your place in history just the way you like it.

The game plays fairly quickly on a turn-by-turn basis, but total time can be extended by other players changing the key events you’re trying to achieve for yourself, using action cards which counter your actions, or stealing your item cards.  Also, each time someone tries to un-invent the Flux Capacitor, there is a chance that “mysterious forces prevent you from performing this action”, which not only wastes your turn but ensures that play continues.  This is the one aspect of the game which really feels unnecessarily punishing; even if you have all of your cards in a row, and even if you’ve managed to un-invent time travel without the other players stopping you, there’s still a chance that you won’t be able to end the game.

After all is said and done though, Back to the Future – the Card Game is a fun diversion which can kill about an hour or so of your time.  We played with 5 players and it certainly took up a good chunk of our evening to learn, set up, and play the game.  It was a fun time though, made even more enjoyable by the game’s definite sense of character; every card in the game represents something that happened in one of the BttF movies and really adds to the nostalgia factor for those who remember the films fondly.

Back to the Future – the Card Game is a great family game that is worth adding to just about any collection.  It isn’t incredibly detailed or difficult to learn, so I think even younger folks could pick it up and understand it, and it certainly doesn’t feel like a cheap licensed cash-grab either.  While not incredibly deep, the gameplay is interesting and entertaining enough to play more than just once or twice, which certainly makes it worth the cost.  Though I wouldn’t consider this a must-have game for everyone, it certainly deserves a spot on the gaming shelf, especially if you’re a Back to the Future fan.


Back to the Future – the Card Game is a fun, family-friendly game with plenty of replay value.  With that in mind, there are some considerations for people playing the game with disabilities.

In-game Text: As a card game, BttF has a lot of in-game text, printed directly on to each individual card.  Some of the text is large, but most of the game’s cards have fine print.  People with visual impairments may need to use a magnifying glass to read their own hand of cards.    Without some sort of large print “cheat sheet” to reference, it may be time consuming since the number of cards you have in hand add up quickly.

Because of the large amount of text on some cards and the detail instructions, it may be difficult to add Braille to them.  It is hard to identify the one or two defining attributes of a given card, which may be of great concern to people with no vision.

Additionally, the event cards and linchpin cards that are placed in the center of the play area are necessary to keep track of, and because your goals are supposed to be kept secret you may give away your goals by asking about specific cards.  As a visually impaired person, I had to ask for a rundown of the entire board (about 24 cards in all) each time I thought I might have had a shot at victory.  Other players can help speed up the descriptive process by saying things like “All events in row A are flipped”, since each “goal event” has a letter-number coordinate listed on it which corresponds to the cards on the board, but it is time consuming and somewhat limiting.

Multiple Colors: Each type of card has its own color scheme, but it is not necessary to memorize which card types match which colors.  The card type is clearly printed in a large font on the top-left corner of each card, and the color simply serves as a visual queue to make it easier to sort between cards in your hand.  In most cases, the background color of the card and the text color printed on them are high contrast, but item cards can be difficult to read if you have a visual impairment, due to the lower contrast color scheme.

Fine Manipulation: As a card game, you will be dealing with large amounts of thin objects which need to be sorted and shuffled about regularly.  The cards are standard playing card sized and hands have no size limit, so you may find yourself with upwards of 12 cards by the end of the game, even though you only start with 3.  Using aids which help you manage a hand of cards may be helpful if you are unable to hold or sort several cards at once.


3.5 / 5 stars