Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks
Designed by Andrew Haught | Art by Casey Davies
Published by Gale Force Nine
2-4 Players | 120 Minutes
From the Rulebook:
“In Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks, Davros has infiltrated the Matrix on Gallifrey, mapping out the Doctor’s timeline and devising the best way to wipe him from history.
Players take on the role of the Doctor, traveling throughout time and space, finding new Companions and having adventures to repair the web of time.
Players do this by overcoming challenges. The Doctor can overcome most challenges he encounters, but he always needs his Companions to help give him an edge.
Players must cooperate to stop the Daleks, while trying to get their TARDIS to Gallifrey first to prevent Davros from invading the Matrix in the first place.”
Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks is a semi-cooperative game that primarily relies on successfully matching patterns of dice in order to accomplish missions. Players will attempt to curate their available dice through a series of tools that become available throughout the game. While time is the theme, it is also of the essence as the villainous Davros is ever creeping closer to Gallifrey and the end of time for the Doctor as we know it.
As with nearly any IP-based board game, much of the enjoyment comes from the familiarity and personal experiences shared with your time invested in the characters, location and theme. Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks is no exception. Irregardless of the gameplay, true Doctor Who fans will enjoy the nostalgia and history the game brings to the table. I also want to be clear that having an understanding of the show isn’t a necessity and you can still enjoy the game for the experience it provides.
HOW TO PLAY THE GAME
Players begin the game by choosing one of 4 Doctors available (the first, fourth, eleventh and thirteenth). Players then select their Companion and place them, along with the Doctor mini of their choosing on their player board.
The game takes place over an unspecific number of turns with each turn of the game consisting of each player taking a series of phases followed by the Dalek turn. As I break these down to give you some clarity as to what you may expect from the gameplay, it may come across more complex than it really is. Time of the Daleks isn’t an overly complicated game – it just requires an understanding of the actions and, like most games, is easy to grasp after a single turn or two.
The game’s landscape consists of the Earth and the Web of Time Board which charts the players and Dalek’s progress toward Gallifrey as well as provides 3 earth locations (each in different time periods) that players may travel to during the game. In addition to the earth board, players may discover additional off-planet locations as well as Time Anomaly’s that work against the players.
During the players turn, they prepare their board, travel to a location and participate in an adventure.
In preparing their turn, players may equip their player with Time-Wimey cards they’ve gained throughout the game. These cards provide bonuses and additional support to help the player achieve their adventure goals. Players will also accumulate Companions throughout the game that each provide specific benefits such as additional dice to roll or unique ways to manipulate dice in hand. During the prepare phase, players can dismiss these companions from their board if they don’t see them benefiting their adventures goals this turn or they would like to draw a new Companion and the Companion limit is only 3.
Players then move to the travel phase.
During the travel phase, players will have the opportunity to move their player to a specific location in the play area. Players may move to any of the 3 locations on the earth board, but they may also choose to roll the TARDIS die and risk a move to an alien planet for bigger challenges and bigger rewards.
Each location will require that player to meet a certain criteria of die faces to successfully accomplish that mission. The problem is, you’re always going in a little blind to any location. Each location will tease 1, 2 or 3 specific die faces needed for victory, but they’re also paired with one of 20 different location tiles. The location tile is hidden face down and when revealed present additional dice goals. These tiles provide tons of variety and replay-ability since they are shuffled and blindly placed on the board each game.
So how do you get these dice to achieve these goals? Each Doctor comes equipped with a certain number of dice they can use each turn. As you recruit Companions and power up your Doctor with equipment cards, you’ll have the opportunity to roll more dice as well as change dice to improve your chances.
After the travel phase, players will have the opportunity to recruit additional Companions by trading in Timey-Wimey cards or spending Sonic Charge tokens which serve a bit like currency in the game.
Once Companions have been added, the location tile is flipped and the challenge is revealed.
Each challenge contains unique victory and failure resolutions while others provide limited parameters such as losing a die or limiting how you might be able to manipulate a die face.
Players now gather and determine any changes to their dice. The max number of dice you can have on any challenge is 8 so players will need to discard dice down to 8 if not more (barring unforeseen penalties).
The game plays with 4 different color die. The black die serve as the standard tool, with each face containing 1 of the 6 possible results. Players may also be able to gain a green, blue or red die that will increases your chances of matching specific objectives.
Players then roll their dice and resolve the adventure.
Successful adventures provide positive results while failing an adventure introduces the Dalek markers that will hinder your potential for success in that location on future turns and will eventually end the game if 7 rear their ugly heads.
Additional strategies will allow players to team up in an effort to pair strengths (and dice) together in order to accomplish adventures.
Finally, the Dalek get their turn, moving their ship closer toward Gallifrey. Along the way, the Dalek ship may trigger Time Anomalies. The Time Anomalies will cause trouble for the Doctors, limited their access to certain dice or their effectiveness in certain situations. It’s up to the Doctors to put out these Time Anomaly fires by visiting the Time Anomaly card like a location or meet certain requirements to dispose of it. Either way, they’re a pain and can really derail a Doctor’s plans.
The game ends when the first player reaches the Gallifrey. If the Dalek ship reaches the Gallifrey before anyone else, all the players loose.
Every Gale Force Nine production I experienced has been good, and this one is no exception. For starters, the game looks really good on the table. The Earth board and individual location boards each have a unique die-cut shape to them. The individual locations fit nicely into the notches in the game boards. All the cardboard quality used on the boards is pretty good. I did feel the texture took away from some of the images, but it wasn’t that big of deal. There are a number of card decks in the game and the quality is acceptable.
I wouldn’t call this a miniature-driven game, but there are a number of miniatures provided to help bring the game to life. Each of the 4 Doctors has their own, fairly detailed miniature. While they’re not incredibly large, the detail is good and I was pleasantly surprised. The game also comes with 6 Dalek miniatures, 1 Davros marker, a Dalek ship marker and 4 TARDIS markers. Again, these are all done pretty well and Doctor Who fans will be happy to move their own TARDIS around the board.
The game’s dice are colorful and the iconography is clear and clean.
In addition to the play components, the box comes with a pretty great insert that creatively and efficiently stores all the game’s pieces neatly away. This is a bit of a throw-in, but I love how intuitive the insert is… it’s so easy (and satisfying) to pack everything away when the game is over.
Overall, the components get an ‘A’ from me.
There isn’t a ton of artwork in the game as a whole. Most of the imagery is taken directly from the live-action show. I was a little torn here because I know fans of the show will really appreciate the game’s use of the actors and scenes from various episodes… But I couldn’t help but wondering what the game may have looked like with an artist’s interpretation of the actors and show. Maybe is would have created a disconnect. Maybe it would have been something brilliant.
The graphic design and visual communication is pretty solid. It rarely gets in the way of the game’s message and where it does is more out of necessity for the gameplay than any visual miscues.
Due to the limited amount of artwork, I can’t really render a judgement other than to say it accomplishes what it sets out to do: immerse the players in the world and history of Doctor Who.
Doctor Who: Time of the Daleks has the potential to be a very divisive game. As I began to break down the pros and cons, I found that many served up two sides of the same coin. Where certain game mechanics might really work for one group – they could potentially have the complete opposite effect on another. Hopefully these brief observations can help you determine if Time of the Daleks is worth your time.
I mentioned this above, but Gale Force Nine does a great job with this production. The creatively shaped boards and quality components amount to a table presence that does a lot to draw a player in. The insert is really well done and you won’t feel cheated with anything that comes in the box.
This is obviously an IP-based game and your level of love for the Doctor Who franchise will go a long way when it comes to embracing this game. Now being a Doctor Who super fan is not a necessity, but a lot of the game’s enjoyment stems from the familiar characters and environments. Doctor Who fans will find a lot of value here and can look forward to expansions adding additional Doctors and companions.
As far as the mechanics are concerned, this is primarily a dice-driven game. There seem to be 2 types of gamers in this category: fans who love a giant handful of colorful dice with unique icons (which Doctor Who has in spades) and players who hate luck based games. While Doctor Who does an admirable job to provide plenty of opportunity to mitigate those dice rolls, there still lies that randomness that may turn some people off.
For example: In one of my gameplays I sat 2 squares and 1 die face away from victory. I was prepared to re-roll the die 5 times to earn my victory… 5 rolls later and I slouched back into my chair frustrated and defeated… no luck. I ended up being passed by an opponent for the win on the very next turn. Of course there were 2 or 3 rolls in the game where I nailed the dice pattern and cheered in victory.
I did appreciate how challenging the game can be. The Dalek ship is always advancing, constantly putting pressure on the players to bring their A-game. As the Dalek ship passes Time Anomaly cards, new challenges are put into play, providing variety and creating an even taller mountain to climb. For me, it felt a little reminiscent of the game Pandemic. While it’s not nearly as intense, there was always a new challenge attempting to derail the players plans.
The game is quick to setup which is a huge positive and the companion cards and location actions provide a lot of personality. Each challenge provides new limitations, victory conditions and consequences which keep the game interesting. While it’s not a brain-burning experience, you’ll have to think on your toes and utilize your resources (new companions, Timey-Whimey cards and Sonic tokens) to put yourself in the best position to achieve your goals.
The game flow did get a little wonky from time to time. There are many times throughout the game when you’ll have to remember additional bonus or conditions in play based on a companions pairing with a certain Doctor or requirements after a challenge. I found myself forgetting these effects time and time again. On one hand, they kinda cool – providing deeper strategy and rewards – but it was a bummer when I overlooked them for the 3rd time in one game.
There are some minor additional rules that either didn’t make sense or I couldn’t find reference to in the rulebook. They didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game – but I thought it’s fair to point them out. (BTW – the rulebook is pretty well written and easy to understand).
Doctor Who: Time fo the Daleks is a pretty descent attempt for fans of luck-based, dice-driven games… It’s an excellent game for fans of the Doctor Who show. While luck plays a large roll, there are plenty of challenging opportunities to mitigate the dice and put yourself in a better position for victory… but it’s still a dice rolling party.
Fans of the theme are going to find a lot more satisfaction at every turn in the game. While having zero knowledge of the show won’t ruin the game (it’s still very playable) it just won’t achieve it’s intended heights. I love the creative production and a lot of the personality the characters and individual actions bring. Because of its overall accessibility, fans of Doctor Who will appreciate the fact they easily teach and play with family and friends who have less familiarity with the show.