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Subject: Am I playing it wrong or do I simply not "get" this game? rss

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Pieter
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I bought "Doctor Who: The Card Game" because my daughter loves the TV series, and I have a great respect for Wallace. I have played it twice now, and I am really disappointed. I don't see a reason to play most of the game's actions. I am really wondering whether I am doing something wrong.

Let me clarify.

Location cards: if you play a location, you get some time points. You should probably defend it, but it seems impossible to hold any location. I mean, you can put a big defense in place, but if an opponent attacks even with one lousy enemy, all your defenders are removed. Sure, you get a TARDIS counter on your location, but then the opponent attacks with another lousy enemy, and that TARDIS encounter is gone too. After which the opponent places one big enemy, and holds the location. So, in exchange for a few measly time points you give away a lot of points to your opponents. So why would you play any locations?

Defender cards: you can try to defend locations, but as I explained above, it is useless to put up a strong defense, because all the cards are removed even when one low-level enemy attacks.

Enemy cards: now lets look at it from the point of view of the enemies. If another player is so stupid that he places a location, you can attack him to gain some points. Maybe even launch a big attack! What about two 6-point Daleks combined with a 5-point Master? You hold that location for sure! No you won't. The reason is that the defending player needs only 8 points to defeat your 17-point attack. He plays one Rory, and while you defeat that Rory, you have to remove one of your big attackers. He then plays a second Rory, and you have to remove another one of your big attackers. And then he plays 6 points in defenders, and defeats your last enemy card, and gets to place a TARDIS. The best thing to do is place one big enemy card, and hope that the player you took the location from never gets enough defenders in hand (or one of the few cards that just remove an enemy) to retake the location. [EDIT: I played defeating enemy cards incorrectly, as the discussion below shows. But that does not change the overall opinion on the game.]

In summary, it seems useless to me to place locations as you are giving away points, it seems useless to place defenders as they get removed even after a tiny enemy attacks, and it seems useless to place attackers as they can easily get whittled down by a few small defenders. The first 80% of the game seems to be just placing cards that you know you will have lost again by the time your next turn comes around. So what is the point of playing those cards?

One big problem of this game is that you can play as many actions as you want on your turn, and you can even repeat actions. That means that if you hold several defenders, you can retake a heavily attacked location by playing them one at a time. And if you hold several attackers, you can take any location where there are no attackers yet, by playing a small one first, and then a big one after that. So the game seems to be about trying to collect several attackers or several defenders in your hand. But it is not. Because you can only retain two of your cards until your next turn, so you can plan very little. And even if you manage to get a good attacking or defending hand, in the first 80% of the game attacking or defending is just pointless.

Does that mean the game is about building up a strong endgame position? Well, there is only one thing you really can do for that, and that is collecting time points to be able to acquire a few extra cards during the end game. But that's just about luck. Good cards are scarce, and the game seems prone to you drawing stuff that you do not need.

All in all, the game seems to me a pointless playing of cards for the first 50 minutes, after which you get 10 minutes of "who draws a lucky card?" The only thing I really like about the game is the movement of cards around the table. That's original and has the potential for forcing you to make tough decisions. But in a game where most decisions don't seem to matter, it is a wasted mechanism.

I am still wondering whether I simply misunderstand this game, because I cannot imagine Wallace delivering a game that is so pointless. Has he gone the Knizia route?
 
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Flyboy Connor wrote:


Enemy cards: now lets look at it from the point of view of the enemies. If another player is so stupid that he places a location, you can attack him to gain some points. Maybe even launch a big attack! What about two 6-point Daleks combined with a 5-point Master? You hold that location for sure! No you won't. The reason is that the defending player needs only 8 points to defeat your 17-point attack. He plays one Rory, and while you defeat that Rory, you have to remove one of your big attackers. He then plays a second Rory, and you have to remove another one of your big attackers. And then he plays 6 points in defenders, and defeats your last enemy card, and gets to place a TARDIS. The best thing to do is place one big enemy card, and hope that the player you took the location from never gets enough defenders in hand (or one of the few cards that just remove an enemy) to retake the location.

That's not how it works. You need to read the rules for conflicts more closely. On his own Rory would remove exactly none of the 6, 6 and 5 strength attackers. The defenders need to have at least strength 5 to force you to remove one of those attackers (in this case the strength 5 one).
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Pieter
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The rulebook is indeed written in a very confusing way. I read that passage several times, and still got it wrong. So, yes, you seem to be right. But that only means that attackers are even a lot stronger than defenders, and it is hardly possible to remove a combination of two strong attackers at all. Especially since defenders are always removed. It now seems to be an even worse choice to play a location card, as you will have to play the role of defender for it. You are just handing out points to your opponents and for what? At most three time points. That's just stupid.

So, playing attack cards is not pointless, though just having them in your hand is pointless if there is no location to attack. And since nobody actually wants to place locations, the game's design has made them pointless once everybody understands that you should not play any locations.
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Pieter
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This really is a very confusing part of the rulebook. Here's the passage:

If the defender’s total strength is less than that of the attacker then the defender’s have, temporarily, lost. If the defender already had a Rory card on the Location when it was attacked then he retrieves it and places it back in his hand. All of the remaining defending cards are discarded. If the attack consisted of more than one Enemy card then the attacker may also be forced to discard some cards. The attacker must discard one or more Enemy cards whose total strength is equal to or less than the total strength of the defender.

The strange thing is that you would think it is logical that the attacker would have to discard so many points that he can defeat the defender's value. But it is actually the opposite: he has to discard LESS points than needed to defeat the defender's value, or at most an EQUAL number of points. This is counter to any and all expectations. The example that the rulebook gives is a source of even more confusion, as they discard an equal number of points there, while they actually could play less, and give as argument that that is "closest to the value played by the defender". But the rules don't say that you have to play something close, only that it has to be equal or less.

So, is the actual rule that the attacker has to discard as many points as he can, up to and including, but not more than the value that the defender played? Why doesn't the rulebook say that, then?

*Shakes head*
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M King
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I played it once and really didn't like it. I won only bècause I kept drawing location cards. It didn't seem thematic or fun or anything but a grind.
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Pieter
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I just looked over the rules summary, and the rule that the attacker has to discard cards with a value as close as possible to the defender's value, but not more than that, is actually in the summary. Though it is really missing from the rulebook. The summary, however, gets the Rory card wrong.

But there is one thing that I still do not get: why oh why would you ever want to play any location cards? The few time points they give you do not weigh up against the fact that you are just giving a lot of points to your opponents. It is virtually impossible to hold a location, and you cannot attack your own locations. I looked at some gameplay videos, and while in the ones I saw the players all had a line of locations in front of them, at the game's end almost all of those were captured by enemies! Of course, if nobody plays any locations, then there is hardly anything to do and the game just sucks.

So, is there a good reason to play a location? I seriously don't see it.
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Jason Rupp
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I've only played once so I'm not an expert...

If you're worried about people taking over your time locations, you can play cards to your reserve until you're ready to play a location and have it well defended. If you save a doctor card for when you're ready to place a location, you'll likely defend it (and get a tardis for extra protection in the future). Keep in mind, you only lose a card in battle if they exceed it, so the doctor typically doesn't get killed (especially if he has support) unless it's a major attack.

I agree that it's difficult to hold locations though. You need to be careful about how many locations you put out.
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Pieter
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That's incorrect. The rulebook says:

If the defender’s total strength is equal or greater than the attacker’s total then the defender wins. All defending and attacking cards are placed on the discard pile.

So it does not matter if you place all four defenders on a location: even if the attacker attacks with one measly Slitheen for 2 points, all defenders are discarded. So it is not really sensible to put up a strong defense.
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Jason Rupp
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
That's incorrect. The rulebook says:

If the defender’s total strength is equal or greater than the attacker’s total then the defender wins. All defending and attacking cards are placed on the discard pile.

So it does not matter if you place all four defenders on a location: even if the attacker attacks with one measly Slitheen for 2 points, all defenders are discarded. So it is not really sensible to put up a strong defense.


I guess we played that incorrectly. Personally, I hate variants but I think it would play better by handling attack and defense the exact same way (I.E the way we handled it). Otherwise it's kind of stupid because you can have a full support team destroyed by a weak enemy card.

If you prefer to still play by the rules as written, it would likely be best to play a new location card and defend it with Rory. Then, when you get attacked, you'll know which enemy attacked you at least. If you have a doctor saved up in your reserve you can defend it on your next turn which will then earn you a tardis token meaning it will be harder for the enemy to beat it (2-3 attacks). Since you only used a single action to take it, you'll come out ahead in the long run.
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Pieter
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Oh, there are so many ways to make this game better. Handling defenders just like attackers is one. Limiting the number of attacks per turn is another. Making cards cheaper is another. Giving the players more TARDIS counters, and leaving them on a location once they are placed, as extra defense points is yet another. Making a pool of locations that are player-independent is, again, another. But yeah, that makes it a completely different game. And probably still not a very good one.
 
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Pieter
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Here's a variant that might work:

Instead of getting time points for playing a location, you get time points for having them on the table in front of you: if you have a location in from of you that is not under attack, you get its time points at the start of your turn. If it is under attack, you get half its time points (rounded down) at the start of your turn.

That would make it a good thing to play locations, as it would give you time points, which you can use to buy new cards. However, this comes at the cost of giving points to your opponents, and as the total number of time points is still limited, you can't just hoard them (and the rules already say that opponents can steal your time points when they have run out). A second big advantage of such a variant is that the game gets quite a bit shorter.

I don't know if this is balanced, of course.
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Flyboy Connor wrote:
Here's a variant that might work:

Instead of getting time points for playing a location, you get time points for having them on the table in front of you: if you have a location in from of you that is not under attack, you get its time points at the start of your turn. If it is under attack, you get half its time points (rounded down) at the start of your turn.

That would make it a good thing to play locations, as it would give you time points, which you can use to buy new cards. However, this comes at the cost of giving points to your opponents, and as the total number of time points is still limited, you can't just hoard them (and the rules already say that opponents can steal your time points when they have run out). A second big advantage of such a variant is that the game gets quite a bit shorter.

I don't know if this is balanced, of course.


I'm not sure if it would be balanced to still get time points if it's under attack. I think it would be enough to get extra time points if you control it (full points might be a bit much... you'd have to see how it plays with testing).
 
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I think it is at least partly a bit of 'group think' approach to the game regarding locations.

You say that it is both impossible to attack and impossible to defend - it can't really be both. If it's impossible to defend then it must be possible to attack, and 'vice versa'.

This is not an in-depth space empire building game, it is a lite and thematically frothy back and forth game of thrust and counter-thrust. Yes, to an extent, you are manoeuvering for the end game, trying to make sure that none of your locations are so heavily attacked that they can't be retaken with a good defence card held in reserve - trying to make sure that you have maintained a few strongish attacks that will deter retaking attempts (although nothing is guaranteed). And all the while looking for the chance for a coup-de-main by placing all 5 Daleks or Tardis' and ensuring no else does.



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