Doctor Who and board games make for strange bedfellows. How can you possibly distil the excitement, the complexity and the sheer variety of the institution into six plastic playing pieces moving over cardboard? How can it possibly translate?
It doesn’t, is the short answer. At least not really. There’s a good reason why charity shops are full of Doctor Who board games but not action figures (just as they’re full of New Who DVDs but rarely the Classic Who adventures). They get given away quite a lot, and one of the great mysteries of the world is why we haven’t yet done this. The Time Lord-related board games in our house are clogging the shelves beneath the intellectual (Scrabble) and the not-so-intellectual (Mouse Trap). They sit unplayed, on display but gathering dust, like those classic books that everyone owns but refuses to read.
The first one I got was coincidentally the first post-revival Doctor Who board game produced.
This is the only image I could find, and thus it tells you very little, but suffice to say it’s a derivative of Ludo. You play the Doctor, Martha, K-9 or Jack, and have the objective of getting all four of your pieces home by travelling round the board. The Dalek patrols the inner, shorter route, and players who would choose a faster alternative to the long haul risk it catching up with them. It’s simple enough to play, although not very interesting. Still, the synthetic playing pieces of Martha possess more screen presence than the character herself ever did, as well as being far less irritating, while the prospect of multiple Doctors would presumably have Jack salivating, or worse. And it is at least quite fun.
Then there’s these two.
Both are available from Amazon. I can’t tell you an awful lot about them because we’ve never finished a game of either. They were just too dull, not to mention complicated, with collectible cards and all sorts of back-and-forth trading and giving cards away and getting them back and then pressing the button on top of the TARDIS to get it to make noises. That’s the obvious hook, designed to mask the fact that the game consists of a lot of repetition designed to eke out its length. It’s like a review I read of Aragorn’s Quest, which stated that the developers boasted twenty-odd hours of gameplay, but that eighteen of those would be spent walking from one side of the Shire to the other, carrying mushrooms.
A quick Google tells me that there are alternatives available: derivatives of Risk and Monopoly and Operation (with a Dalek) – presumably Cluedo is on the way (The Professor, in the cavern, with the umbrella). And there’s always chess, a game which always ended well whenever the Doctor played it.
Joshua has recently discovered chess, which I see as an opportunity: it would be nice to get a really good Doctor Who set with wooden or metal pieces, the sort you see in glass cases at Hamleys, expensive but not unaffordable, perhaps with the Master playing the black king and Davros as one of the rooks. But as it stands, the only one available that isn’t a handmade collector’s item is this one.
I’m not even going to link to it. I mean, look at it. It’s rubbish. Insofar as Who-related chess experiences go, it’s the ‘Nightmare in Silver’ edition. Is the provision of a proper, moulded edition too much to ask? Or is it destined to remain on the wishlist of Never Gonna Happen, along with the Abba reunion, the fourth Back To The Future film or the uncut DVD release of Fire Walk With Me?
Anyway, there there is a point to this little ramble, and we shall come to that now. Thomas was off school yesterday because industrial action had closed his classroom for the day. Emily was at a loss for what to do with him, but we found a voluntary homework assignment in his book bag. The task was to use some pre-supplied materials to produce a question-based board game.
“There’s only one topic of choice, really, isn’t there?” said Em to me. And of course, she was right.
So when I got home on Thursday lunchtime, I found they’d done this.
His handwriting’s not bad, but I’ll translate: the rectangular drawings are TARDISes (Or TARDISS, or TARDIS – but let’s not get into that here), and if you land on one you go forward two. The triangles are Daleks, and if you land on one of those you move back two. Land on a Smiler (one is visible to the right of the orange Dalek) and you miss a turn. And then there are the questions, which included but were not limited to these –
And yes, I know the marital status of the Eleventh Doctor is disputed, and the Cybermen aren’t just made of metal. Stop nitpicking. He came up all these himself, you know, along with the general concept. And all this time I assumed that the encyclopaedic accumulation of Doctor Who-related knowledge (not to mention the endless questions) was just for the fun of it. We may not be quite ready for Hasbro, but it passed a morning. I’d call that a win.