Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks Review

Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks Review

WadeMonnig     
 
4.0
1026   1
Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks

Biggest disappointment - the box is the same size on the inside as on the outside.

Gale Force 9 are masters at creating a good game and intertwining it with the theme of an IP. Doctor Who: The Time of the Daleks is no exception, which is surprising as it is fundamentally a dice manipulation game, and these often don't match up with strong subject matter. Players roll dice hoping to get the proper faces to overcome challenges and threats straight from every era of the show. There are a variety of different dice included that tweak the odds of certain types of results. These dice are usually accessed by using The Doctor's Companions, which you pick up along the way. The goal is for the players to stop the Daleks from reaching Gallifrey, so it's a high stakes adventure for the Doctor and his wide cast of companions.

Using companions to "focus" dice is thematically perfect. The Doctor is a madman in a box. He needs his companions to ground him, give him perspective, and to focus his mad genius. In the series, the Sonic Screwdriver has long been maligned as Deus ex Machina. In a neat wink to the series, the game uses it the same way. Need another roll of a die? Spend two sonic charges. Need a specific face of the die showing? Spend 3 Sonic charges and set it to the face that you like. Multi-Doctor episodes are always a special event on the show and those can be found here too. A player can request help from another player for a particularly difficult mission. Another Doctor can't refuse to help- that wouldn't be true to the character- but he can choose the safer alternative of helping from afar (think back to William Hartnell being trapped in a "time eddy" in The Three Doctors). The only thing missing is the snarky patter when the Doctors meet. The end result of all this attention to detail is a terrific sense of immersion in the Doctor Who setting.

Doctor Who: The Time of the Daleks is billed as a semi-cooperative game with a competitive, single winner but you don't have to play it that way and in fact it kind of doesn't make sense for the Doctors to be competing with each other at all. And it also kind of doesn't work conceptually with a competitive angle, with players using Timey Wimey cards that subtly hinder your fellow Doctors. The notion that the first Doctor who makes it to Gallifrey wins does overcome the "alpha player" tendency in many co-ops, but it also creates an oddly selfish tone - but this may appeal to those who don't like cooperative gameplay. Curse my Lizard Brain but this element also makes a significant difference in how much I enjoy the game. Sure, we can work together to defeat the Skaro Degradations, the Horde of Travesties, the Nightmare Child, the Could-Have-Been King with his army of Meanwhiles and Never-Weres but, damn it, I want to do it FIRST.

The struggle of winning Doctor Who: The Time of the Daleks isn't soul-crushingly difficult. You can feel when the game is slowly spiraling out of control. Losing an encounter adds Daleks to the board, which reduces your dice pool for the next time you attempt to resolve a crisis. Failures build on failures just like successes build on successes. You definitely know where the scenario is headed, with no rude "Whoops, you ran out of cards, you lose!" moments or top-deck disappointments. I've won more games than I have lost, but isn't that what you want in a good versus evil science fiction story? Still, I wouldn't mind some additional Time Anomaly cards, preferably with variants to increase or decrease difficulty as desired.

In discussing additional content, it seems that every Doctor Who: The Time of the Daleks review mentions what was advertised as included in the game when it was announced versus what was ultimately delivered. It's true that we are missing all but four Doctors at this point in an effort to control the MSRP, but the game is not broken and it is not incomplete. At least, any more than a game that comes with a 5/6 player expansion post-release ever is. I'm satisfied with the content in the base game, but I am of course looking forward to the announced expansions which will each add two Doctors to the game.

The quantity isn't really the main issue for me - it's the quality. The TARDIS consoles, which act as individual player boards are way too flimsy. I'm not comparing apples to oranges here; the quality is a gross reduction from those found in Gale Force 9's other games like Firefly and Spartacus. The cards are also of suspect quality and come in three different sizes, almost daring you to try to find the right sleeves for all of them. There are also typos, errors, and references to contents that are not in the box.

But there again, the slack quality doesn't interfere with the fun on offer for Whovians. My son plays the game like a true Doctor Who fan. No strategic analysis whatsoever. He picks his favorite available Doctor and pairs them with his favorite companions. He dismisses companions simply because they aren't one of his favorites. It doesn't matter what the rewards are on the planets, he wants to go to Skaro because that's where the Daleks are. He also has the innate ability to roll dice like a god. Granted, when he plays we use the first game set-up, which eliminates some of the more difficult aspects. Still, he usually beats everyone handily in the race to Gallifrey. Luck plays a major part in Doctor Who: The Time of the Daleks, great rolls are generally going to beat great strategy and you'll have to decide how that sits with you.

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Editor rating

(Updated: May 29, 2018)
WadeMonnig
Rating 
 
4.0

Summary

Game Name
Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks

Biggest disappointment - the box is the same size on the inside as on the outside


Wade MonnigSubscrive to Wade Monnig Follow Wade Monnig Message Wade Monnig

Board Game Reviewer

In west Saint Louis born and raised
Playing video games is where I spent most of my days
Strafing, Dashing, Adventuring and Looting
Writing reviews between all the Shooting
When a couple of guys reminded me what was so good
About playing games with cardboard and Wood,
Collecting Victory Points and those Miniatures with Flair
It’s not as easy as you think to rhyme with Bel Air.

Wade is the former editor in chief for Silicon Magazine and former senior editor for Gamearefun.com. He currently enjoys his games in the non-video variety, where the odds of a 14 year old questioning the legitimacy of your bloodline is drastically reduced.

“I’ll stop playing as Black when they invent a darker color.”

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Posted: 29 May 2018 23:09 by san il defanso #274266
san il defanso's Avatar
The semi-coop aspect is just so goofy. It really doesn't work thematically, but the game is not really challenging enough to work as a straight coop either. I just kind of play it as written at this point, which an emphasis placed on SOMEone winning, and then if that's in hand we can play around with who can get there first. It's clumsy no matter what you do.

I love how this game works with companions though. It just nails all of those relationships, and the upheaval that a new regeneration causes. That's really where the lack of content hurts it, in the regeneration process.
Posted: 29 May 2018 23:56 by WadeMonnig #274268
WadeMonnig's Avatar
san il defanso wrote:
The semi-coop aspect is just so goofy. It really doesn't work thematically, but the game is not really challenging enough to work as a straight coop either.

For me, it adds something that "normal" co-ops don't have with the race aspect. And, I think it holds up thematically. Take, for instance, this exchange in The Five Doctors as the Doctors have been working their way into the Dark Tower.
DOCTOR 1: Ah, there you are at last, dear fellow. What kept you?
DOCTOR 3: What kept me? Of all the confounded arrogance.
DOCTOR 1: Never mind, never mind, you can tell me later. Come and take a look at this.

The Doctor, in all incarnations, has at least a bit of ego. I could see it being a race to save time and space itself.

And, if you choose to play it as a straight up co-op, it is only a few cards in the Timey Wimey deck that hinder the other doctors. We just house ruled that those should be exchanged for companions if they are drawn.

Thanks for taking the time to read the review and comment!
Posted: 30 May 2018 11:16 by ubarose #274291
ubarose's Avatar
I feel like Gale Force 9 stumbled a bit with this one. I agree that they capture the IP with the companions and items. And, if you are a fan of the older seasons, there is some fun to be had when you recognize the episodes from the pictures on the cards and planets. I don’t even mind the semi-coop, race to be first, thing; or that it only comes with four Doctors.

It is simply too long and too repetitive. I feel like it’s underdeveloped, and has a couple of band-aids slapped on to fix issues discovered when play testing.
Posted: 30 May 2018 14:53 by WadeMonnig #274303
WadeMonnig's Avatar
ubarose wrote:
It is simply too long and too repetitive. I feel like it’s underdeveloped, and has a couple of band-aids slapped on to fix issues discovered when play testing.

It can, as they say, overstay it's welcome at the table. I'm curious, do you feel that Firefly:TBG and Spartacus are also too long? I enjoy both of those but usually use the alternate rules for shorter games in both cases. Maybe GF9 equates epic with longer game time? Game length is literally why I haven't delved into Star Trek: Ascendancy.
Posted: 30 May 2018 15:13 by ubarose #274304
ubarose's Avatar
WadeMonnig wrote:
ubarose wrote:
It is simply too long and too repetitive. I feel like it’s underdeveloped, and has a couple of band-aids slapped on to fix issues discovered when play testing.

It can, as they say, overstay it's welcome at the table. I'm curious, do you feel that Firefly:TBG and Spartacus are also too long? I enjoy both of those but usually use the alternate rules for shorter games in both cases. Maybe GF9 equates epic with longer game time? Game length is literally why I haven't delved into Star Trek: Ascendancy.

I don’t feel like either Firefly or Spartacus are too long. Both develop over the course of the game, so there is a beginning, a middle and an end. Doctor Who kind of meanders along, and you repeatedly get thrown back to square one by either having to switch doctors, or losing your companion. After about 45 minutes to an hour of dice chucking and card fishing I’m feeling done with it.