This review for Time of the Daleks comes with a hefty warning: I am and will always be a Doctor Who fan. I mean, I made them open the Longleat Doctor Who exhibition out of season when I was nine. As a board-gamer, you can understand my excitement when I learnt that Gale Force 9 were going to make a game based on the TV show.
The company’s pedigree is good, with Spartacus, Sons of Anarchy and the mighty Firefly held up of examples of good TV show board games, so what could go wrong…
Inside the Box
Upon opening, you realise that the components are a bit of a mixed bag. The dice are nice and colourful. The tokens are very "tokenish" and the main board, or Earth and Web of Time Board as it is snappily titled, is chunky enough to give it a feel of quality. The cards are a little on the thin side, and I recommend sleeving them as they will see a fair bit of wear and tear.
The Tardis console sheet, which is where the player puts equipment, tokens and companions, is a disappointment to put it mildly. It is thin and easy to tear, and, considering that it is integral to the player experience, should have been of a similar quality to the Time Board at least. I laminated mine before first play to make sure that they weren’t ruined- they are that flimsy!
The game comes with miniature Daleks, Davros, Tardis and Doctor figures. They are of a decent standard and paintable if you want to. The Doctors included are the first (William Hartnell), fourth (Tom Baker), 11th (Matt Smith) and 12th (Peter Capaldi). The game was originally going to include the fifth and 10th doctors too, but they were taken out a few months before release to lower the price to make it more accessible.
Gale Force 9 have announced that there will be expansion packs every three months, which will include two doctors and more cards, although their expansion plans for their other games haven’t exactly stuck to schedule. The rule book is reasonably clear, but references cards that I will presume come with the expansions.
Playing Time of the Daleks
The aim of Time of the Daleks is to stop the Daleks invading Gallifrey by completing missions which will advance your Tardis along the track towards the Time Lords home planet to reach it before the Dalek ship does. It is semi-cooperative, meaning that although you and the other players share a common enemy and can assist each other, there will still be a single winner if you are first to reach Gallifrey. When I played it with my group, we just focused on stopping the Daleks and regarded a win as a victory for us all. Everything hinges on the roll of dice and this is where the Elder Sign influence starts to seep into the theme.
Each Doctor’s turn consists of four phases where you prepare, travel, adventure and then clean up. To prepare, you take two sonic charge tokens, which allow you to buy companions, play cards with a cost, buy a new companion and re-roll or change a dice result. You can then travel to a location and have an adventure on Earth or on an alien planet. You have the adventure by rolling the dice to match the symbols that you need to.
Your dice pool is decided by the Doctor you have and you add dice through companions and equipment, which also mean that you can re-roll, change the colour or even results on your dice. If you succeed you can usually move your Tardis forward, the Dalek ship back or gain tokens or timey-wimey cards, which give you bonuses or equipment. If you fail, bad things happen and a Dalek miniature appears on your location, which limits your dice pool.
The Dalek turn takes place after all doctors have been and they move forward one space. If the Dalek ship reaches Gallifrey or all the Dalek miniatures are placed, you lose.
That is Time of the Daleks in a nutshell, as you can tell it is relatively straightforward, quick to set-up and when you get going it boils down to: roll dice, play cards, Dalek impression, repeat. The theme is extremely strong with the game.
When you move to a location and have an adventure, it feels like an episode of the show and when you get Amy and Rory matched with Matt Smith’s Doctor, there is a little thrill. It’s hard to explain, but it feels like the show and if you are a fan, you’ll love it. I even swapped the Daleks for Cybermen from the Warlord exterminate miniatures game to vary it a bit. I can see the expansions adding to the enjoyment with new companions and locations, prolonging the life of the game.
So what if you aren’t a fan of Doctor Who? I’m not sure that this game does anything that Elder Sign or even Yahtzee doesn't. At its heart, the game is about dice rolling and if you aren’t a fan of luck-based games, avoid. The moving from location to location and picking up companions adds variety but there is nothing new here.
Also, as we discovered, if your dice rolls are poor from the start, you end up in a position where you realise that you can’t win long before the end of the game comes. It can be soloed with two Doctors and I enjoyed it more that way than I did when playing with a group. I also think the replay-ability of Time of the Daleks may be heavily dependent on your enjoyment of the show.