TIME CLASH: Doctor Who: Starter Set
Game Design: Jeff Tidball
DOCTOR WHO: TIME CLASH
There are many games featuring "the Doctor" and unfortunately many of them are poor representations of the most famous science fiction character to come out of the United Kingdom. Thankfully CUBICLE SEVEN are fighting back to preserve the balance with this fun game designed to be played by all and loved by Doctor Who fans. The artwork, under the direction of Jon Hodgson with help from Paul Bourne, scores brownie points throughout. Whether you like this latest (Peter Capaldi is about to retire) Doctor or whether your favourite Doctor is in the past (or perhaps just about to step into the limelight - I hear that Kris Marshall may get the job; I for one really hope he does) - the game is about the Doctor Who-niverse more than the individual Doctor character.
This game is a Starter-Set for 2-4 players aged 14+ and in all honesty there is a good indication that the gameplay will most likely go right over the heads of most players younger than fourteen years old. This is a strategy game where you really need 2 OR 4 players as three throws it into imbalance. Naturally the designer has added an afterthought rule for three players but in our games we have found it plays much better with even numbers. Each Team has it's own Goal or Goals to reach, trying to play cards to hit their target whilst attempting to prevent each other from reaching their own. Basic play is so simple that it feels at first there is no game as such, but actually the game is in the playing of the cards not in the cards themselves.
Doctor Who: Time Clash has a unique style of play as it sets teams against teams in multi-match games over a predetermined number of challenges, usually the best of either three or five. We have played our most enjoyable and successful games one on one and two on two, each player sitting alternatively round the table, Doctor Who team member, Enemy team member, Doctor Who team member, Enemy team member. Both teams, beginning with the Doctor's choose a Time Arc for the first match, the Doctor's team finally selecting a Companion arc. These "arcs" are third-of-a-circle cards which feature illustrations and text on one side and are blank on the reverse. There is a balancing mechanism to keep the game balanced but you have to look carefully at each of the arc cards to see them because they are small, almost innocuous, icons along one edge; the Doctors icons can just about be recognised as the top half of the TARDIS and the Enemy icon is half a Target - you can see these clearer and get a better description on page 16 of the rules. The suggested arcs for your first game are Enemy-Davros; Skaro-Time and Clara as the Companion giving 5 icons for each side; straight 5 on the Enemy arc, 1 icon on Skaro and 4 on Clara and this is truly the best way to begin, don't just think you know how to play, follow the lead set by the guy who knows the game best - Jeff Tidball. Although referred to throughout as the Enemy we all know who we mean by that - Daleks !!
The Vortex Disc, the blue/red counter is placed Build side up (blue) and the arcs selected for this match are placed around it to complete the circle, markers being placed on the zero of the track on each arc. The rules do need a good read through first as they are a little disjointed - for example on page 6 it says to shuffle each team's deck separately but at this point no mention of decks has been mentioned. Yes there are two decks of cards, one blue backed the other green backed and commonsense should tell you there is one deck for each team but players who have bought this game because they are Doctor Who fans, not truly gamers, should be encouraged to read the rules through (and they aren't).
Players take turns in clockwise, thus team, order to play cards, like spokes on a wheel, face up onto each other so that the top header can be read clearly; these are positioned against the circle creating a discard stack of their own cards as necessary. Instead of playing a card they can discard a card which allows them to move the Doctor. Players must ensure, or at least do their best, that their team doesn't run out of cards. Discards can be reshuffled to form a new deck but if there are no cards in the discard stack and their deck expires their game is over - exterminated !
Instead of Hearts, Clubs etc the suits for these numbered cards are Plan, Quip, Threat and Tech with the numbers being positive for the blue (Doctor's) cards and negative for the green (Enemy) cards; cards without numbers are "Specials". These Special cards have two possible effects but you only get to choose one of them when you play the card. Example; green card "Negate" allows the player to Remove a Quip, or to Counter any blue card as it is played, at least that's how we read it. The actual wording is "Counter any Doctor's card play ..." it could be interpreted that this means you could Counter any Doctor's card but is it a) already in play ? or b) as it is played ? or both ? As I say, we play using option b).
The spoke on which the numbered cards are played depends on the type of card being played - Quips can only be placed on the Companions arc spoke, Threats only on the Enemy arc, Tech not on the Enemy arc and Plans on any stack. Each card has its own effect that can affect the spoke it is placed on. The value markers on each arc's track record the value of the cards in the spoke and are flipped over from the + side to the - side if the value is in the negative. It's all about playing the best cards on the required spoke at the best time. Arcs have abilities that are triggered when the Doctor is on the specific arc but to begin with the Doctor is off the board so it might be highly relevant to get the Doctor into play, though once he has been moved he never moves off again, only round the arcs.
On each player's turn they Draw a card, play (or discard) a card and then check for the Endgame (during the Build Up) or the Doctor's team can attempt a Gambit or the Enemy players can check for a Win. The game goes from Build Up to Endgame but never back. The Enemy automatically triggers the Endgame when the Enemy arc has 1000 negative Threats on it and the Doctor's team triggers it similarly except the total is positive 800 and other conditions are met at the same time; it is up to the players to work together to trigger the Endgame when it best suits their side.
The basic mechanic of drawing a card and playing a card has been around for as many years as I can forget to remember but what makes Doctor Who: Time Clash unique is the three arcs and the possible combinations of their effects and the effects of those possible combinations. Once you have played a few times you will almost certainly have decided which arcs work best for each side. It is best to give the Enemy arcs to the enemy player(s), the Time arcs to one of the Doctor players and the Companion arcs to the other Doctor's player, and then let them secretly select one each. Of course you can allow the Doctor's players to decided on the two arcs, Time and Companion, between them but until the reveal they should not know the choice of the Enemy.
For us this is a game to be played in best of three matches and then set aside for a while because although it is fun it is also repetitious and the cards and effects don't do enough to make it a regular game to often repeat play. I do believe that Cubicle Seven are soon to be releasing expansions for the Doctor Who: Time Clash game which will add to the enjoyment and challenge factors.
The game costs around £18.00-£25.00 online and there's no reason to think that Doctor Who fans who are also games players will not get more than their money's worth from it. I think non-Doctor Who fans will enjoy playing it with Doctor Who fans but are unlikely to then go and purchase their own personal copy. If it is available in larger department store Toy Sections or shops like Toys R Us then it is an ideal Nan/Grandad pick-up for their grandchildren's birthday or Christmas present.