I’m very much a Doctor Who fan, although I came into it surprisingly late. I have vague memories of Tom Baker on PBS, but I was young and they are inexorably muddled with my memories of The Tomorrow People. So in reality, I didn’t fully get into Who until the “New Who” era of the show. However, since we are talking about the Classic Doctors Edition of Doctor Who: The Card Game, that’s a story for another day.
My love of Classic Who is rooted in my love of classic science fiction. So when the opportunity to acquire either the modern or Classic version of this game, I jumped at the Classic Edition.
In Doctor Who: The Card Game, players use The Doctor and his Companions to defend all of space and time from the evil forces of the Silurians, Primords, and the Macra, along with larger threats like the Daleks, Cybermen, and The Master. Simultaneously, they are pitting those same evil forces against The Doctor and friends.
On a player’s turn, they will start with five cards and can never have less than three cards in their hand. If they play a Location, they collect Time Points that can be spent to buy additional cards. They can discard cards to gain time points. They can spend time points to draw a new card. They can place cards into, or play cards out of, their Reserve. The Reserve can (usually) only have up to two cards in it, and acts as an extension of the player’s hand that does not need to be played or passed on their turn.
At the end of the players turn they pass their remaining three cards to the player on their RIGHT, then draw two cards. Play then continues with the player to the LEFT, who will pass their remaining three cards back at the end of their turn. This is the only time a player may have less than three cards in their hand.
There are two other actions a player may take on their turn, playing Attackers and Defender cards. These action work in the same but opposite ways. Assuming there is not already another players cards on the Location, a player can play any number of unique Defender cards face down on their own Location. There can only ever be a single Defender of a specific name at the same Location. One Susan, one Mel, and most importantly only one Doctor. All the classic Doctors are included in the game, but they are still the same doctor. Attackers are played in the same way, face down on another player’s Locations, and then marked with a Dalek Token in the attacking player’s colour. Whereas the Defenders on a Location must all be unique, the Attackers must all be the same. You would never have a single Dalek and a Single Cyberman invade a planet together, but they will certainly come with more of their kind. There are a handful of specific Enemy cards that can be combined with other Enemy types and have those exceptions written on their card. For example, the Primords can be combined with Brigade Leader Lethbridge-Stewart and Republican Security Forces, but The Ogrons can be combined with any Enemy.
If a player attacks or defends a Location that has face down cards on it, all cards are turned face up and conflict ensues. All Attacker and Defender cards have a strength value printed in the top-left corner. Add these values up for both sides, and the higher total wins. If the Attackers win, they discard as close to the Defenders’ total strength value, without exceeding it, from the location. The remaining Attacker cards stay face up and that Location is still considered under attack. If the Defenders win, both player’s cards are discarded and a TARDIS token is placed on the Location by the defending player. That Location is now considered under the protection of the Doctor, with the TARDIS token automatically defeating the next attack before being discarded.
The game ends immediately when a player starts their turn with all five of their Dalek or TARDIS tokens in play, otherwise an ‘end game period’ begins when the End of Game card is revealed from the deck. This basically involves playing out any cards in hand (without passing any), until a player cannot take a legal action. Victory points are then awarded to each player for every Location not under attack in front of them, and for any other player’s Location they are attacking.
For as long as the above rules summary is, the game is pretty quick to learn. There are certain cards that have slightly confusing card text on them, but there is a well laid out section explaining most of the cards. If there is even the remotest confusion over a card’s effect, it’s best to check there first.
The art is a mix of what is clearly original art, and what could be painted-over production photos. Many of the cards that reference the Hartnell and Troughton eras are actually done in black and white, which I think is absolutely brilliant. The disappointing exceptions are the actual first and second Doctor cards which are in colour. Interestingly, those cards are two of the best depictions of any of the Doctors, and actually feel like they were black and white images that were later coloured.
There are two versions of this game, the Classic Doctors Edition I’ve discussed here, and the original “New Who” version referencing everything between Eccelston’s ninth Doctor and Smith’s eleventh Doctor, with a twelfth Doctor expansion, and a Second Edition that seems to have new cards right through to Capaldi.