Doctor who strikes on Christmas day with either a plot heavy nerd-fest or a light fluffy silly piece that make you a bit embarrassed to have gathered the family around the box to watch in what should be a time of peace and entertainment. Now you can take yourself away with the half-finished bottle of sherry and a few mince pies, or perhaps a good cup of tea and a packet of jelly babies and have a go yourself, not just running the show but saving the universe itself. Will you be Tennant’s overly emotional Doctor or Capaldi’s gruff self-assured eyebrow wielding monster. Or maybe your time lord ,or dare I say lady, will be someone else entirely.
Now the first thing I should probably say is that this is easily the most complicated solitaire game I’ve covered to date and perhaps the biggest one on the net. You see the game is broken up into several codex like books with each covering a different area of the game. For unlike other such solo rpg’s it takes a whole book each to cover both the npcs you can encounter, the areas you can run through and the enemies to tackle and yet another for the rules themselves. You see the game has tables for investigating, planning and encountering, pages on combat and conflict. There is even a page to allow you to determine the personality of people you encounter in case they don’t already have one. But despite the fact that you will spend most of your first game flicking back and forth between the pages figuring out how you can do anything. Yet despite this the idea behind the game is actually quite simple.
You start after the great time war adrift in your TARDIS and freshly regenerated. You begin the game by rolling up your character, the Doctor. This is done by assigning points to the three main stats in the game, these being brawn, brain and bravery. You start out with a few points in each to give you an idea; along with the choice of traits such as science, music and running. This may sound complicated but these basically act as a plus one for any such role such as in case you need to distract a Dalek with your recorder playing before running away. Finally you get one piece of equipment out of the locker and you’re off on your first adventure.
Now the game will give you a selection of fairly soft adventures to begin with, giving you a gentler choice of enemies and more chance of enticing someone to come with you for adventures in time and space. However I will talk a bit more about the average game you will be running because like any good RPG you are encouraged to replay the system encountering new adventures against new villains and new stories with the idea that you can level up after each game to give you a better chance. In fact the system is even designed to scale as a new season of Doctor Who would with the option of adding in two-parters and season finales.
Anyway starting in the TARDIS you will check to see if everything is running ship shape (as it always is) via rolling 2D6. From there you will either aim for a specific time period or go where the winds of time may take you both again by rolling 2d6. This will give you a reference number to look up in the adventure booklet, so for instance Earth-2005 is classed as the modern era and filed under A401 in the book. Using this and the “encounter matrix” in the rule book you will first check to see if you bump into anything, this will direct you either to the enemy, events, character and places in the appropriate books. Each of these will require a D6 roll to pick which one you’ve found. In 12 turns you can run around and explore as much as you want with the TARDIS almost always waiting for you in case you decide to depart. However the aim is to figure out the enemy and their plot before besting it before the end of turn 12.
As you progress through these turns on the encounter table the likelihood of you hitting anything will increase though quite nicely it is never guaranteed. This gives a real sense of jeopardy to the game as you race against time to figure out what is going on in time often running around in circles trying to research and plot and plan and this can be the weak point of the game. You see when each game starts you will often be running into people and places with great abandon but as the “episode” levels out and once you have figured out who you are facing and why the trudge of planning and researching comes in. Now of course the game boils down to rolling dice and reading off the results, this isn’t too bad when you have something interesting to read but when you are merely trying to add points to your DM (the defeat modifier which defines when you can beat the bad guys) this ends up becoming a bit of a chore.
Now as I said the game is quite big, though this means that there a lot of places to visit and people to meet and the randomised nature of the game means that you will never just be replaying old t.v episodes. For instance on my second ever instance of playing the game the Doctor had to race across the American old west, on a stallion he found lying around, leading a heard of cavemen to help Kylie Minogue who had found herself locked in a closet she was trying, Scooby doo style, to get out of; whilst a prospector, we had encountered earlier, was trying to get in to avoid the slobbering Werewolf just behind him.
Now the base game covers roughly the time between Christopher Eccleston’s season up to Tennant’s first giving you a nice wide variety but if this isn’t enough Simon Cogan (the man behind the game) along with others have released new books covering the more recent series along with a good selection of some of the old even delving once or twice into the big finish audio productions. Though I suppose you don’t have much choice otherways if you want to play McGann.
Now the game is free but it’s size may put the print cost out of a few peoples price range especially if you’re not sure and are worried that this will be another game you play once or twice and then never touch again. Fortunately the internet has you covered with a wiki that acts like a digital version of the game with hyperlinks between the articles and even an electronic dice roller on the side of the page meaning that you only need to supply the paper to keep track of the game and the tea and jelly babies.
The print version is available from boardgamegeek
With the wiki available from here