Dr Who The Collectable Card Game

I have sworn off this sort of game but Dr Who was being sold off dirt cheap and I have spent many hours watching various episodes so took the plunge. The cards are pretty decent, rather too similar to Star Trek cards. The design and concept is British, part designed by Eamon Bloomfield who should have known enough about games to do better. There are two drawbacks to the system, it fails to recreate the atmosphere of the series and gameplay has a flaw making it almost impossible to pull back from a losing position.

The game boasts 300 cards with the usual rare and ultra-rare types that will make collecting the set almost impossible. I bought about 780 cards and ended up with a little over 200 different cards. Of the 7 Doctors I got 3 and am missing the serious baddies such as Davros and The Master. Looking at this hit rate while considering a diminishing return on new cards; thousands would be required to get the set. To prompt the system episode cards are required that turn up in about 1 in every 4 booster packs. You donít need a Doctor but one each would be nice, they are perhaps twice as rare as episodes. Those 700+ cards gave me enough to play the game with some useful cards over a fair bit of choice and a brick of unwanted cards. Given the same luck as I had about 600 cards should provide a good range to choose for play. Buying a couple of starter packs will not provide enough episodes (probably none) nor enough special cards to get far. Buying this lot at full price or even wholesale is not an option but thanks to unit sales having crashed and burnt cards were remaindered at about 2p a card.

Gameplay may be flawed but deserves a few words. There are three time zones, not surprisingly past, present and future. The basic unit or fighting cards are coloured for each of these zones, green, red or blue. A card can only be placed in its coloured time zone but there is a possibility of moving cards from their initial zone. White cards are less common and can be placed in any zone, Doctors, Time Lords and famous baddies like Cybermen and Daleks are white. Each fighting card has 3 numbers, you pick a card from 1 of your time zones to attack and the opposition picks one from the same time zone to defend. If both of the 2 initial numbers beat the oppositionís card you win. The losing card is removed. The 3rd number is support and is used to increase either of the other 2 numbers. A cardís support factor limits how many other cards can support it; a 0-support card will get no support. Other cards up to the limit of the fighting cardís support factor can add their support factors to either of the main cardís factors. With both sidesí cards in play it is fairly easy to see who will win before the attacking and defending cards are chosen. As might be expected event (flash) and support (resource) cards tweak the system. These bend the rules in various ways including the possibility of changing the numbers on the cards in play and moving cards to different time zones. The event cards are kept hidden so do add some element of doubt; the resource cards are not so their use in any combat will be pretty obvious. Naturally the better cards are less common with the obvious problem that anyone with a lot of cards to choose from will have a better chance of getting anywhere.

With basic combat only 1 card will be lost in each round although a lucky flash card could make the attacker lose he will not tend to attack unless the cards on display indicate a good chance of winning. This is the game problem area. Cards are played from a hand and 1 or 2 new cards are drawn each turn. If you lose then you will be at a disadvantage in that time zone; the best card has probably just gone down. If that zone is not built up by moving in new units with a resource (like a tardis) or playing new cards in the same zone, the opposition will attack again in that zone and probably win. If no suitable cards are coming up or held in the hand to bulk up that zone it will be attacked every turn. When no cards are available to defend the defender instead loses a time card. At least 1 of these is required for each time zone, the kids and I played with 6 each; 2 per zone. Lose all your time cards and its game over. This is the big minus, once you start losing it is hard to stop.

The limit on play is what cards come up rather than how and when those cards are played. The old system of a pack for each player is not going to work. We tried a pile for each of the three time cards and another for everything else. This seemed fine until 1 time zone became important and both players started to draw from it. The game then changed into a race for the last card in this time zone. Another attempt had a single pile of past, present and future cards and another with everything else. This worked rather better. In both cases there were so many cards available that some cards were removed from play to allow some chance of a good proportion of cards to turn up. If all the available cards are simply piled the game will end before they are all cycled through and some important cards will be missed. Each player starts the game with 7 cards, again these can be drawn randomly from the various piles or some picking allowed. If you happen to have a Doctor each it makes sense to start with 1 Doctor, an assistant, 1 flash, 1 resource and 1 of each coloured time card in the starting hands. This prevents early game disaster and gives both players a chance to try all the card types except episodes.

Talking of episodes these are the real showstoppers and unfortunately are not common. Anyone sticking to the concept of buying a starter pack and playing with just that will be stuffed by an episode collector. Episodes are the only cards that have a top limit to the number that can be used; clearly even the limited foresight of the design team has seen their strength. Some episodes are stronger than others and are probably rarer. They all have a strength, those I have are from 5 to 7, this strength must be equalled by the support factors of cards deployed in that time zone to solve the episode. Alternatively a Doctor and 2 assistants can be used to solve any episode. Either of these options requires some pretty powerful cards to be owned and collected from the draw pile. Some episodes will go a long way towards clearing the zone they are placed in of cards belonging to the player that has to solve the episode.

Clearly this system as it stands does not provide much of a game, even with the kids. Basically we get a set of cards with 3 numbers on each, random event cards and various other effect cards. These cards could be used with the definitely better Blood Wars system (remaindered about a year ago). It would not be too hard to sort out a set of rules that are no worse than those provided. Unfortunately there is another problem with the system; it does not capture the flavour of Dr Who. An example from a game illustrates this, having taken damage from a daughter in one time zone I used the tardis to bus in some new cards. In hopped the Doctor an assistant and a Zygon to beef up the threatened time zone. Zygons are red rubber suited guys that I last remember trying to destroy London with the Loch Ness monster, they are not the types likely to hitch a lift in the tardis and help out the Doctor.

I am typing on the fly here with my theory for a better system using the same cards. The cards are divided into good, bad and neutral according to their behaviour in BBC land. The various Doctors are definitely good, the assistants are usually a bit less committed and take to screaming and hiding in cupboards at crucial moments however for the sake of gameplay they can be good. Unit personnel and policemen can be good as well, note these last two only appear in the present which will hamper the Doctor a little. Certain other cards are obviously bad; these are Cybermen, the Daleks and almost everyone in a dodgy rubber suit. This leaves quite a few other cards representing human like beings that are classified as neutral, Watchers are neutral as well. Neutral cards can be used in attacks by bad or good cards and may lead an attack in which case the player must declare them as good or bad for the purpose of that single attack. Flash cards can be played on a neutral attack after combat has been declared but before the results are applied. A flash card will cause a neutral supporting card to move to the flash card playerís side of the time zone. It may then be used to support his attack if possible or stand out of the combat. If the opposition plays a flash card then the defection is cancelled. If the targeted card is rated as unique 2 flash cards are required to change sides and prevent the same. In all cases where a flash card is used during combat to influence a neutral card the written effects of the flash card do not apply. The flash card could instead be used for its written effect but cannot be used for both. This rule beefs up the use of flash cards especially those with otherwise limited effects. There are plenty of flash cards to be had so a lot of this stealing of neutral cards will be cancelled out. Naturally the flash cards are discarded when used for this or any other purpose.

Taking a leaf from the John Carter game a player controls cards of all three alignments and must try to win with his good while using his bad types to prevent the other playerís bad hand from winning. Combat can remain as before except that the defender can play any resource card before the attacker attacks both players can still play flash cards whenever they like. In this new approach good cannot attack good or bad attack bad, neutral cards can ally with either faction. When a player attacks he must attack in the alignment of his leading (supported) card, cards of both players in the chosen time zone do not take part in combat or suffer its effects. To spice up the results the loser must lose the at least value of cards equal to the difference in scores. If you are beaten by 3, then a value of 3 cards must go. The value of each card is its support rating except that a creature that has 0 support or a special support rating is classed as value 1. When there is an excess that cannot be lost a time card is destroyed only if a bad card let the winning side. The bad side wins by destroying all the opposing time cards as in a regular game.

The rules so far are tweaked but pretty close to the original; they deal with a bad player destroying time, the universe and so on before the Doctor can stop him. The role of the good cards, apart from fighting evil is to overcome the episode cards. The episodes can be played as usual with each player having 3 episode cards of the same total strength. They can no longer be simply removed by a Doctor and 2 assistants but must be removed by support values as in the standard rules. The final game win is thus achieved by solving all three of the oppositionís episodes before your own six time cards are lost and before the opposition beats you to it.

As before the way that the game goes will depend on what cards are issued and how they are drawn. This in turn depends on what cards you have bought in the 1st place. I suggest each player stating with a hand of 7 seven cards that includes 1 Doctor or not too icky looking white card and 1 baddy. Choose another 100 cards from the vast number available, 20 past, 20 present, 20 future, 20 flash and 20 resource makes a good mix. Shuffle all these into 1 big deck and deal 5 to each player. When new cards are drawn take from the combined deck. Give each player 3 episode cards that add up to the same value. These are not placed in the draw deck but bought, a maximum of 1 per round from the playerís own pile in any round except the 1st. Episode cards can be bought by permanently discarding 1 time card. When episode cards are solved they are removed from play. This gives some choice in the play of episodes, if you use them you slow up the opposition but also increase his chance of winning.

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