back to the future

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 10+
Players: 2-4
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
MSRP: $29.99

As far as classic 80s franchises go, none may be as sacred and universally beloved as the Back to the Future trilogy. The adventurous time-traveling series remains mercifully untouched by modern adaptations, but that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve a proper modern board game – or two!

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time (not to be confused with Back to the Future: Back in Time, another cooperative BTTF board game that released this year), continues Ravensburger’s trend of turning popular film franchises into satisfying, family-friendly tabletop experiences.

88 Miles Per Hour

In Dice Through Time, that pesky villain Biff has run amok in the time-stream, causing major events, timelines, and items from all three films to become mixed up. It’s up to the players to travel through four different time periods, fixing events and returning items, to restore the space-time continuum.

Up to four players play as different versions of the Doc and Marty time-traveling crew, with their own color-coordinated DeLorean mover, player mat, and action dice. The game board resembles a calendar with four time periods (1885, 1855, 1985, and 2015), each with five familiar locations, such as Marty’s House and Hill Valley High School.

Players take turns drawing event cards that represent scenes from all three films, such as Doc inventing the flux capacitor in 1955, Marty skateboarding to school in 1985, and the showdown with Mad Dog Tannen in 1885. Events are placed in their appropriate location, with each requiring certain dice actions to complete.

Players then roll their dice to move around the board and complete events. An arrow can be used to move anywhere along a time line, whereas you’ll need to roll a flux capacitor to time-travel to any time period, arriving at the same location. Leave too many lingering events uncompleted and they’ll add to the “OUTATIME” meter, eventually leading to a game over.

Completing events awards a lost item, such as Marty’s Guitar. Items will need to be returned to different locations and time periods. Players will need to return all the lost items from each time period to win.

We Don’t Need Roads

Dice Through time includes multiple difficulty levels by scaling the number of lost items that need to be returned. A standard game includes three items from each time period, whereas things get harder, and significantly longer, when all five are used.

Likewise more players equals more event cards, and the increasing possibility that players will run into each other and advance the game over meter – a fun nod to the danger of running into yourself from Back to the Future 2.

As a cooperative game, players are encouraged to work together to travel around the board and complete as many events as possible. Players can also help each other by rippling dice – storing dice actions in one location so they can be used on other players in the same spot, or in future time periods – another neat element that emphasizes the time-traveling theme.

Unfortunately Dice Through Time lacks any kind of asymmetry for the players. There are no unique player powers; everyone rolls their version of the same four dice. While it does use the source material well, the board game doesn’t feature any actual still shots from the film, instead relying on comic-like illustrations for the 70+ event cards.

Dice Through Time is also one of the easier co-op games I’ve played, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We never lost a single game on standard difficulty, for example. Harder difficulties focus more on making the game longer rather than adding any new complications or depth.

The Rating

Dice Through Time has a recommended age rating of 10+. Reading is minimal (or even optional) as players draw cards, match the location, and roll dice. Light strategy is required to plan a turn that can involve moving, completing actions, turning in items, and storing dice for future turns or other players.

The Takeaway

Back to the Future: Dice Through Time is easy to teach, easy to play, and fairly easy to win. The game doesn’t try to re-create any of the original movies. Instead it crafts a competent co-op experience from the time-traveling theme and iconic locations, creating a cooperative tabletop experience worthy of the classic movies.

Find Back to the Future: Dice Through Time exclusively at Target.

jungle cruise board game

Disney Jungle Cruise Adventure Game Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 8+
Players: 2-4
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
MSRP: $29.99

While the upcoming Jungle Cruise feature film has been delayed due to the pandemic, Ravensburger has produced a kid-friendly board game inspired by the endearingly cheesy Disneyland attraction. The Disney Jungle Cruise Adventure Game features easy gameplay and low interactivity, making it a great family game.

Welcome to the Jungle

In the Jungle Cruise Adventure Game, each player captains their own riverboat down a perilous river filled with hazards. Players start with a unique skipper specialty and 12 passenger tokens they can place on their personal, oversize boat.

Throughout the game, players roll a dice to move along the river path on the game board, drawing cards as they encounter various jungle events. These hazards and scenes are lifted directly from the park attraction, with monkeys ransacking a campsite, a rhino chasing an explorer up a pole, and the passengers witnessing the mystical backside of a waterfall.

You don’t need to have been on the actual ride to appreciate the context, but the extremely corny jokes on the cards capture the tone of the original ride perfectly.

jungle cruise board game cards

Each navigation card has a danger rating from one to three, and a section of the boat that’s being targeted. Players roll dice to see how many (if any) of their passengers or cargo they lose, while getting a chance to pick up additional passengers or cargo along the way. At the end of the game, players score points based on cargo sets and passenger families that remain on the boat.

Backside of Water

Gameplay mostly boils down to rolling dice to move your boat, and rolling dice to try and avoid losing passengers. Thankfully there is some light strategy in how each player organizes their boat, and which card hazards they choose to encounter.

At the beginning of each turn, players can freely organize the passengers and cargo on their boat. The middle area is generally safe from danger, and a great place to hold full cargo sets or more valuable passengers. I found it worked well to leave one end of the boat completely empty, thereby avoiding any hazards that targeted that side of the boat.

There’s also an interesting scoring system when it comes to the passengers. Each passenger belongs to four different families, though some passengers can belong to two families due to marriage. Each game, one of the families is secretly chosen as the winners of the cruise line, and worth more points at the end.

Throughout the river journey, players can choose to take longer paths to gradually reveal which families aren’t the bonus winners, making it fun to pay attention to the players’ who learn that information, and which passengers they value.

The only form of real player interaction comes from racing down the river. The first player to reach the end of the river collects bonus points, and so on until all players reach the end (or the bonus point tokens are depleted). Otherwise players don’t directly interact with each other at all during the game, though you can end up with another boat’s passengers by finding any who were previously lost in the jungle.

jungle cruise board game pic

The Rating

Despite the theme of a dangerous jungle cruise, this is a very kid-friendly experience – just like the park ride. Passengers become lost in the jungle, and can be rescued again by anyone. The level of strategy is very light, and gameplay mostly comes down to rolling dice, making it easy for kids.

The Takeaway

Disney Jungle Cruise Adventure Game sits comfortably between a mind-numbing younger kids’ game and a full-on beginner strategy game. The components are extremely high quality, with colorful boat markers, fun character art for the passengers, and punny jokes on all the cards. There are far more engaging games for adults, but for families with kids ready to graduate to something a bit meatier, it’s time for a riverboat adventure.

Find Disney Jungle Cruise Adventure Game at Amazon and other retailers.

Hello Neighbor Sneaks Onto Tabletop with Secret Neighbor Party Game

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The popular Hello Neighbor stealth-horror series from tinyBuild is coming to the physical world. Hello Neighbor: The Secret Neighbor Party Game is a social deduction party game designed by Ariel Rubin and Juliana Patel and Arcane Wonders (Mage Wars), and coming to stores this October.

Your creepy Neighbor has something locked up in their basement, and it’s up to you and your friends to reveal their plot. You’ll need to use Objects you find around the Neighbor’s house to locate three different Keys, but there is one problem: some of your friends are secretly villainous Neighbors in disguise! Trade and cooperate as one of the Kids or steal and lie your way to victory as one of the Neighbors in this thrilling social-mystery card game where you’re never quite sure who’s on your side.

The Secret Neighbor Party Game is designed for 5-10 players ages 8 and up. Players play as the snooping neighbor kids, the evil neighbor, or a treacherous secret neighbor. Gameplay follows classic social deduction games like Werewolf and The Resistance, as players try to uncover the secret traitor.

Hello Neighbor: The Secret Neighbor Party Game will be available this October. Limited advance copies will be available during GenCon, which takes place online July 30 – August 3.

Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons Review

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Publisher: Ravensburger
Age: 10+
Players: 2-5
Game Length: 45-60 minutes
MSRP: $34.99

A little over a decade ago, Pandemic popularized the cooperative board game genre with doctors and researchers matching cards to find cures to multiple diseases before the disease-cubes took over the world.  While I appreciated the then-new concept, I found the theme a bit dry and card-matching too simple.

In 2020, Wonder Woman is here to save the day. Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons is a smart evolution of co-op cube-defense, with the much more exciting theme of defending Themyscira from comic book villains.

No Man’s Land

The Amazon island of Themyscira is gorgeously presented in a large game board with over a dozen different locations, such as the training grounds, the library, and the Temple of Aphrodite. Each player chooses one of five Amazons, including Diana, better known as Wonder Woman from DC Comics. Each Amazon has a unique ability and a bronze miniature figure that contrasts beautifully on the colorful map.

Challenge of the Amazons pits your team of Amazon warriros against one of three different villains: Ares the warlord, Circe the spellcaster, and Cheetah the lycanthrope. Each villain has their own agenda and tactics reflected in their personal card decks, as well as scaling difficulty for the number of players.

Each turn the chosen villain runs around the map deploying cubes and hazards, which could represent blocked roads, wounded amazons, or enemy minions. The players need to balance removing these cubes with chasing down the villain. Both the villain and the island itself have health bars, and if Themyscrica’s defense drops to zero, the Amazons lose.

Goddess of War

The Amazons’ turns are divided into two distinct phases. It’s here where Challenge of the Amazon’s clever game design helps solve one of the biggest problems with co-op games: players ordering each other around.

In the Strategize phase, players can openly discuss their plans for the turn, but only with about half their cards visible, face up in front of them. Enemy obstacles are cleared by playing cards, each of which features multiple numerical emblem symbols. Symbols include Vigor (sword) to defeat minions and Leadership (star) to summon additional warriors. Players can use this public information to plan out where to go and which obstacles to tackle, or combine their might into a big hit on the enemy villain.

Once they’ve finished strategizing, the Battle Plans phase begins. Players pick up the rest of their cards and plan their three actions in secret, without speaking. The flexibility on each card results in a satisfying balance between trying to coordinate with your teammates, while also improvising based on the cards. Sometimes your best laid plans go awry, as in battle, but it still feels thematic and fun.

While the Amazon minis, enemy character sheets, and game board are exceptional components, the same cannot be said of the cards. The hero cards represent abstract adjectives like Experienced, Resourceful, and Bold, and depict images of clouds, trees, and spiderwebs – not exactly a thrilling declaration when battling the forces of Ares. I would’ve much preferred scenes of our Amazon heroines fighting and training, especially as the cover art by comic artist Jenny Frison is so darn good.

The Rating

Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons has a recommended minimum age of 10+. While DC Comics and Wonder Woman have become increasingly kid-friendly, the board game requires advanced tactical planning and coordination, which can be challenging for younger kids.

As a co-op game, Challenge of the Amazons would make an excellent pick for family game night with older kids, teens, and parents.

The Takeaway

With the exception of big-box RPG Gloomhaven, co-op games aren’t usually very popular in my house, but I’m more than happy to make room on the game shelf for the princess of Themyscira. With colorful components and a nice balance of teamwork and solo planning, Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons makes co-op fun again.

Find Wonder Woman: Challenge of the Amazons at Amazon, Target, and other retailers.