Thursday, July 17, 2014

Daleks conquer and destroy!


Hasbro has breathed new life (or at least, new sales) into its stable of Parker Brothers classics like Monopoly, Clue and Risk by making them into fill-in-the-blanks licensing vehicles. The first one I can remember seeing was Star Wars Monopoly, although there may have been others before that. I always liked that Marvel Comics Monopoly replaced the properties with important comic book issues.There's no denying that Lord of the Rings Risk was a good fit, and I'm intrigued by the 24 edition of Clue, although I've never had a chance to play it.

Doctor Who Risk seems like an unlikely choice, at least until you get to the subtitle: The Dalek Invasion of Earth. In the 1964 Doctor Who episode of the same name, the villainous Daleks do indeed conquer the Earth (they manage it again in 1972's Day of the Daleks and 2008's The Stolen Earth), and the game draws on that basic idea to justify its existence. The stroke of brilliance is that all the players play as the Daleks, with each player taking command of different warring Dalek factions.

That's all fine and good, but isn't it still just Risk with Dalek figurines? Well, yes, and that's really the point. It's not meant to be a new game, it's meant to allow Doctor Who fans an opportunity to play the classic game, with a theme that might be a bit more relatable than the original Risk's Napoleonic wars. And Doctor Who Risk actually does the game one better, in the way it gets the show's star character into the game.

The fundamental problem with Risk is that the game only ends when one player has knocked all the other players out of the game. Apart from creating a situation where you have eliminated players sitting around waiting for the game to finish, it means that it often takes a really long time to play. In Doctor Who Risk, the Doctor is represented by a time track along the edge of the board. At various random points in the game the Doctor "regenerates," moving the counter down the time track until it eventually reaches the Eleventh Doctor, which ends the game. This creates a much needed time limit, but not an exact one, so players still don't know exactly when the game will end, only roughly.

The game adds a few other elements which cleverly work in more content from the TV series. Mission Cards are dealt out to the players at the start of the game and give them a specific goal with a reward, usually involving defeating a classic Doctor Who monster by taking over a certain area on the board. Power Cards give one-time strategic advantages, but since players only get a few during the game they must be used sparingly. Perhaps the most thematic element is that every round the Doctor appears in a random area on the board, and no combat is allowed between players in that area while he's there.

Weirdly, this re-themed game of armies and world domination is one of the first Doctor Who board games I've come across that seems really true to the spirit of Doctor Who.

Rating: 3 (out of 5) The Doctor Who theme and the addition of mission cards and especially a time limit make Risk a much more interesting, playable game.

Doctor Who Risk official website
Doctor Who Risk on BoardGameGeek.com

Date played: May 27, 2014

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