Time Is Running Out – Doctor Who: The Time Wars review

Always, and I repeat this, ALWAYS be careful when you pull a game off the shelf that doesn’t have a person’s name on the cover.

This isn’t me being snooty, by the way. Sometimes you may be lucky and find something a bit special – a lot of quality early designer board games didn’t credit the person who came up with them, which is a bit of a shame. However, in recent times, the trend has been to actually let players know who came up with the game that sits before them so we can praise (or bemoan) them. A new game, let’s say anything released past 2000, that doesn’t say who’s responsible though? Caveat emptor – in other words… buyer beware.

If you’ve been reading The Little Metal Dog Show since the beginning, you may remember I outed myself as a Doctor Who fan from Day One after reviewing the rather splendid Adventures In Time and Space RPG. It was wonderful, steeped in the mythos of the Whoniverse, and really showed that the developers (the guys at Cubicle 7) cared about their subject matter. Recently though, I played another Doctor Who game that has had a little less care and attention paid to it. It was called Doctor Who: The Time Wars Family Board Game and… well, to be frank, it stinks. I’ve been told by a fair few readers that I’m perhaps a little too positive in my reviews. Looking back, I kind of agree, but I plead the following – I’ve only felt compelled to write about games I enjoy playing. Hopefully this one will balance out the positivity of the last year because this game really deserves a kicking. Let the beasting begin!

Bow ties are cool.

I was initially excited – after all, it’s a trivia game about Doctor Who! I know loads about Doctor Who! Well, actually, it’s only about the latest season of the show (which saw the introduction of Matt Smith as the Doctor and Karen Gillan as his assistant Amy Pond), so Mystery Designer X has limited themselves from the start there. At the start of the game, players are assigned a target amount of monsters to collect by taking a card – this will be a combination of Weeping Angels, Silurians and Daleks. Answering a question correctly will win you one, two or three monster cards which (hopefully) will have the monsters you’re looking for – collect the set and you’re a winner. The main selling point of the game is the ‘innovative’ board which flips over. It’s a bit tricky to describe, so I’d suggest checking out this picture.

The flippy board. Which flips. A lot.

It’s a little like a hardback book with a single page that turns back and forth. Spaces all over the board are linked by little bridges with a few special areas which are the only places you can answer the game’s questions. If you’re on the correct side of the board (with the flippy overlay), these spaces are separated by little walls, but the question spots are accessible – on the opposite side, they will have walls around them that are impenetrable. You’ll have to wait until the overlay comes to your side.

So far, so inoffensive. But then you start to play it and everything falls over, because this game is terrible. It’s packed with problems on many levels. Let’s start with the gameplay, because surely if that’s good, certain things can be forgiven? Well, no. The Time Wars is a dog – it’s slow and dull and… just poor. You move pieces around the board trying to get to the few spots that allow you to answer a question – even then you may not be allowed to because the board has flipped, locking you out of the space you wanted to head into. You can also be trapped in a question space if the board doesn’t play nicely – one person I was playing with was stuck for four turns in a row, an incredibly frustrating experience. Also, despite being billed as a Doctor Who trivia game, a fair few of the questions aren’t about the show. There’s many that just make no sense whatsoever and seem to have been thrown into the game to serve as filler. For a game that is aimed at families, much of the trivia is going to be far too hard for kids to play. Churchill’s middle name anyone?

Gratuitous pictures of Amy Pond will make everything better.

The production quality also falls flat. The board itself looks nice enough, but the flippy overlay refuses to lay flat no matter what side it’s laid on. Perhaps with extended plays it may be better, but it’s annoying. The various monster and question cards are printed up on some of the cheapest stock I’ve ever seen in a game, reminiscent of the football stickers I collected as a child. They’re possibly the flimsiest cards I’ve even seen in a board game, just showing how little care has been put into it. There’s this constant nagging feeling that it’s just been chucked together in a couple of hours. There are printing errors, spelling mistakes, stuff that’s incorrect – Starship UK (from the episode ‘The Beast Below’) is referred to as Spaceship UK throughout, for example – and (worst of all) it has absolutely nothing to do with The Time Wars. They’ve barely been covered in the show itself, so why this game is using the name I have no idea. This is a terrible game, a lazy cash-in that will be played once and passed to the nearest charity shop. Avoid like the Altarian Plague.

Doctor Who: The Time Wars Family Board Game was released in 2010 by Imagination Games – no designer has been credited, surprisingly. Between two and six can play, and it’ll cost you between £15 and £20 (which is much better spent on something like Doctor Who Uno, which is at least vaguely entertaining and comes in a Dalek shaped box).  There’s also the excellent Unofficial Collectible Card Game which I really recommend – it’s a labour of love and great fun to play.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “Time Is Running Out – Doctor Who: The Time Wars review

  1. pinkbatgirl

    I agree completely. I couldn’t believe that some of the answers to the questions were even wrong!! I won’t be asking to play this one again which is a real shame as it looked promising before we got it out the box

  2. rachel

    to be fair, we were all shattered and possibly overthinking
    it a bit when we played… much of the comments are very true, but
    still my non-boardgame-liking non-dr who-fan family actually really
    enjoyed it. perhaps it’s cos they didn’t notice the mistakes n we
    didn’t really play with the questions, or perhaps it’s cos they
    don’t know any better (and wouldn’t go near a decent/more involved
    boardgame if i tried) but either way it certainly won’t be going to
    the charity shop just yet. the random board flipping may annoy
    players who like to be strategic, but no more than the randomness
    in something like fluxx? on the other hand, last year’s doctor who
    rip off of Frustration with an enemy Dalek piece, really was awful,
    so I guess this is at least a step in the right direction.

    • idlemichael

      That’s the problem though – it felt like it hadn’t been tested. If you’re going to spend £20 on a game you expect it to work properly and for there to be no mistakes. It has an air of “that’ll do” which annoyed me! It’s almost as if Imagination (who aren’t exactly famed for their high quality productions) didn’t want to put any thought into it and were just after people’s money…

      Oh! [slaps forehead]

      Still, as you say, it’s a bit more complex than Frustration. Maybe we’ll get a decent Who game by Christmas 2013? 😉

      • Jonnyalpha

        Michael, Michael, Michael. You poor optimistic fool! I saw this game stacked up with the piles of Twilight games in HMV and I think it was probably in good (or bad) company. Be honest with yourself, deep down you knew it was a stinker before you even opened the box. I had a sense of foreboding just looking at it.

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