A to Z Gaming: Doctor Who Time of the Daleks

We took on the role of the Doctor trying to keep the universe’s chaos at bay while the Daleks move in on Gallifrey in Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks, the latest in our A-Z game shelf play-through.

Basic Info: Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks
Players: 2-4
Time: 2 hours
Designer: Andrew Haught
Artist: Casey Davies
Publisher: Gale Force Nine

 

 

In Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks players take on the role of the Doctor running around through time and space to solve crises while keeping the Daleks at bay.  Each player starts with a TARDIS, a Doctor, and a companion tied to that particular Doctor. They are racing each other and the Daleks on a time track toward Gallifrey. The game is semi-cooperative game — all of the Doctors can lose if they let the Daleks advance too far or take over too many planets, but one Doctor alone can win by reaching Gallifrey first.

At the start of the game, each player’s TARDIS marker starts on Earth on the time track spiral toward Gallifrey, with the Daleks on Skaro just two spaces behind the TARDIS. The goal of the game is to get your TARDIS to Gallifrey before the Dalek ship gets there. Along the way there are some “Time anomalies” that will be triggered by the Daleks, just to make the trip more difficult.

On a player’s turn, they “prepare” for their trip – grabbing some sonic charges, discarding and/or installing equipment, and optionally dismissing a companion. Then they travel – sometimes to a place they intend to go, and sometimes to a place of the TARDIS’s choosing. Finally, they attempt to solve a Dilemma at their location.  If they succeed, they get a reward – moving their TARDIS on the time track, gaining sonic charges, or drawing Timey-Wimey cards (which can be equipment for the TARDIS and one-time benefits). If they fail, they suffer penalties – possibly moving the Dalek ship, losing Companions, or Regenerating – and add a Dalek to their location. Daleks on locations make solving Dilemmas harder AND if all Daleks are deployed when another is needed, the Doctors lose the game.

Dilemmas are solved with dice – the location’s Time Zone and the particular Dilemma define the roll that is required to solve the Dilemma. The dice come in four colors – black, red, blue, and green. The black dice have one face for each of six different symbols, while the other dice specialize in just three of the symbols. The player’s dice pool is determined by their Doctor, any Companions, and equipment in their TARDIS. Players also have the option of “focusing” dice, which means changing out black dice for one of the colors, based on the abilities of their Companions.

In addition to focusing dice, players have the opportunity to re-roll dice and turn dice to specific die-facings, if they have Companions or equipment that allow them to do so. (And, assuming there isn’t a Dilemma condition the prevents it.)

The trick is that if the player can’t get the die-facings they need in a single roll, they have to discard a black die and start over. And, each re-roll and die-face change ability can only be used once per turn, so they need to be used judiciously.

After all players have taken a turn, the Daleks get a turn – they move along the time track. If the Dalek ship passes a Time Anomaly token, then a special (really bad) location comes into play. These can lock up all of a single color of die, they can limit the Doctor’s dice pools, and generally are hard to get rid of.

If, at the end of the Dalek’s turn, at least one TARDIS is on Gallifrey, then that Doctor (or those Doctors) win. If the Dalek ship is at Gallifrey, then all of the Doctors lose.

Andrew picked this game up earlier this year at a small local Doctor Who convention. Apparently he got a deal where he will be sent the planned expansions as they come out with additional Doctors and Companions. We both love Doctor Who, so it seemed a great addition to our collection, even though we tend not to buy games many games with Intellectual Property.

I like the push-pull of the semi-cooperative element of the game – there are times that you need to do something about the Dalek ship without moving your own TARDIS forward on the time track. At the same time, you can’t concentrate fully on that, or the other Doctors will blaze past you and win.

The game is also very thematic – you can recruit companions either at random from a deck of Earth Companions or Alien Companions (depending on where you currently are), or you can recruit someone who is connected to either your Doctor, another Companion, or your location. In this way, you have some choice, if you need someone with specific skills. For example, there might be a color of die that you are weak on, so you’ll want to find a companion who can add that to your die pool.

In addition, there are Companions and Equipment that work together thematically. There is a Scarf that benefits every Doctor, but gives and extra bonus to the Fourth Doctor.

So far we have only played with the two of us, and our games have been about two hours. I fear that adding additional players will only increase that time. I suppose that as we get more used to the game play, the game will go faster, but not *that* much faster. And, there is only one Dalek turn each round, so adding more players means that the Daleks move even slower. It would be hard/impossible to win if the Daleks moved faster – at least in the 2-player game – but, we have already talked about ways to shorten the game with higher player-counts.

How is it as a 2-player game? I think it’s fine as a 2-player game. In fact, I fear that at higher player counts, the game length will get out of hand. As it is, the game lasts about an hour and a half with just the two of us. The Daleks move just once per round (unless things go badly with a Dilemma, of course), so the game simply gets longer and longer the more players that you add. I suppose there are more chances for things to go wrong with more players, though – more Daleks could get added to the board and the Dalek ship could move due to a failed Dilemma, which could end the game quickly. However, there are also more opportunities to mitigate those things, as players can go to Earth to attempt to move the Dalek ship back.

Anyway, the upshot is that I like it as a 2-player game. With additional players, I think I would try to truncate the game a bit by starting the TARDISes and Dalek ship further down the time track.

How about the art and component quality? The components are generally quite good – the Locations and Dilemmas are a heavy cardboard, and the way the Dilemmas fit into a “notch” in each location is a neat feature. The custom dice are nice, too, with easy-to-read symbols and a good “roll”. Then there are the Doctor and Dalek miniatures – each Doctor is unique and fairly easy to tell which Doctor is which.

My one complaint with the components would be the TARDIS player boards. After going all out on the miniatures, Locations, Dilemmas, dice,  and cards, these are just a flimsy cardstock. I fear that they will get destroyed quickly.

The art is comprised entirely of stills from the various series, which I like. And the iconography is clear and understandable (especially after you’ve played a round or two).

Will this stay in my collection? Oh yeah. Of course it will. Plus, Andrew bought it on a special where he should be getting the 2 or 3 planned expansions as they come out over the coming year or two. So, there will be more Doctors, more cards, Locations, and Dilemmas to keep the game interesting.

One Reply to “A to Z Gaming: Doctor Who Time of the Daleks”

  1. I took “Time of the Daleks” to a Doctor Who-themed boardgame meetup this past weekend, and one person noted that the equipment and character cards show a good knowledge of the show’s details; for example, if you have River Song as a companion, she makes you discard the fez and other hats (like the Fourth Doctor’s poet hat).

    I also really like the stills used from the various eras of the show, and find it a lot of fun to imagine the TARDIS crew I’ve assembled. Once I had Kate Lethbridge-Stewart and her father the Brigadier, for example, which is a striking combination. I’m really looking forward to getting the expansions and having massive decks of locations, equipment, and companions.

    “Elder Sign” is a comparable game that also has the idea of rolling dice to meet challenges, and I think it’s the better game — “Elder Sign” moves quickly while “Time of the Daleks” feels slow and ponderous. I wonder if it would help if they sold extra dice sets so that each player could have their own set of dice and could ready their pool before their turn. (You could also use an app, but that’s much less satisfying than flinging dice.)

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