Doctor Who the Card Game
Designers – Martin Wallace
Number of Players – 3 to 4
Publisher – Cubicle 7 and Treefrog Games
Straight to the point A solid enough game with gorgeous artwork, but just seems a bit too long for what feels like a filler game.
Grab your sonic screwdriver and tune up the Tardis, it’s the Doctor Who the Card Game! Published by Cubicle 7 and Treefrog Games and licensed from the BBC, the DrWhoCG has a lot to live up to. Just in time for the Christmas special, lets get to it Whovians!
First thing you’ll see when you crack open the box is the quality of both the artwork and the components. Each image is bright and vivid and printed on good quality card stock. The images themselves feature all the favourites from the Matt Smith era, with the man himself, Amy Pond, Rory and River Song, plus a slew of iconic gadgets and baddies to keep the avid fan-bod most pleased! The art is in a weird kind of ‘oil painting’ style, which I can’t figure out; it’s either incredibly good brush work or cleverly computer-fiddled photos. It doesn’t matter because it works, and certainly gives the game excellent visual appeal.
But great artwork does not make a great game. A quick dive into the rulebook and all seemed well at first. But after a few play throughs a few cracks began to show. First, a brief look at the rules.
The game features four types of cards: Defenders, Enemies, Support and Location. Locations are played down in front of the player, giving both ‘Time points’ (explained later) and will score points based on the number of disks in the top right corner; you score these points only if you control the Location however (more on this below). Support cards have a one off function (for example, the sonic screwdriver lets you look at what face-down enemy cards are attacking a Location). Finally, the Enemies and Defenders are used to take control of opponents’ Locations and to protect your own respectively.
During the course of a turn, a player has a list of available Actions they can perform, including play a card, place Defender cards next to one of their Locations, play Enemy cards against an opposing Location or draw extra cards by spending those Time Points I mentioned earlier. Defenders and Enemies are always placed facedown. A player can keep taking as many Actions as they like, with only one stipulation; the player must have three cards left in hand by the end of the turn. These are then passed to the player BEFORE them in the turn order (i.e. you pass the cards backwards!), then draw two new cards and play passes to the next player.
The other side of the game is the Combat. When a Location has both Defenders and Enemies a showdown ensues! Players reveal all the cards on both sides, then compare the scores in the top left; the side with the highest score wins! If it’s the Defenders, all the cards in the combat are discarded and the owning player places a Tardis counter on the Location (the Tardis acts like a shield, automatically defeating the next Enemy card played against this Location). If the Enemies win, the player who sent them gets to place a Dalek counter on the Location; they now control it and score victory points for it at the end of the game. However, this doesn’t stop the Defender playing more cards in later turns to try and turf the Enemies out, so all is not lost!
To win the game, you count up the Victory points on all Locations you control, both those in front of you or held by Enemy cards you have played against opponents. The player with the most wins!
Initially, the passing cards backwards was very confusing but made perfect sense after a few turns as it prevented a player having too few cards in hand when their turn came round, and meant players had fresh cards each turn. That said, even with this refresh there were several turns where I felt I had no real options; my Defenders weren’t strong enough to turn away the Enemies on my Locations, or I didn’t have enough of a certain type of card to make playing them worthwhile; this wasn’t helped by the rule that states you can’t use more than one of the same Defender card at a Location, but you can use multiples of the same Enemy. In the end, unless you drew a certain Support card or defended the same Location over multiple turns, it was incredibly difficult to regain control of lost Locations.
Something else I wasn’t keen on was that the card rules weren’t actually on the cards. Several require looking up for clarification or expansion. This is only a minor concern and certainly isn’t enough to stop play, since it does show the designer has gone to lengths to keep the game clear, but can slow things down unless you know the extra rules text by heart.
I also encountered some confusion during the End Game process. It is clear in the rulebook what needs to happen, but I don’t think I could ever puzzle my way through this without re-reading the rulebook every time. There’s also a way to effectively repeat an Action every turn, so in theory the game could last forever. A minor rules niggle, but enough to make me scratch my head and wonder how this was missed during playtesting.
All in all, the experience could be best described as ‘meh’. I enjoyed it for a while, but quickly found I had less and less to do each turn as I ran out of powerful enough cards and was passed terrible hands from the next player. With a game length of just over an hour for four players, the overall feeling was a filler game stretched into a full one. If the play time could be shortened to between 30-45 minutes, I’d be much more tempted to pick this up again.