The Dalek Invasion of Earth is rightly regarded as one of the greatest stories of the original Doctor Who. The Daleks burst onto the scene in the Doctor's second story and were almost single-handedly(?... Single-plungeredly?) responsible for saving the fledgling show from cancellation. The following season, the Daleks were sent to Earth in an epic and game-changing adventure. I've made no secret of my love for that story and for how it was updated and referenced in modern Doctor Who, and the new board game from Hasbro/USAopoly is a fantastic addition to it.
Based in modern Doctor Who, this special edition of Risk doesn't exactly follow the story from the original serial. To quote the box:
Earth. Early 20th century. The planet has faced many invasions in the past, but never has mankind faced an assault like this, as multiple Dalek armies descend from the skies, seeking to destroy one another and conquer the world.The gameplay is comparable to the classic version of Risk, and veteran players will be comfortable with it. There are some alterations to give it the flavor of Doctor Who, the obvious one being Daleks. You control one of five competing Dalek armies, either classic or New Paradigm (the hugely unpopular candy-coated version). The box says you're supposed to get three armies of the former and two of the latter, but when I opened my box it was the other way around. It would have been neat to have Daleks fighting the human resistance (and maybe some Cybermen or something), but it is understandable why they would opt to just mass produce Daleks in different colours. The contrived story about the ancient weapon - a black hole maker called the Heart of Darkness - is irrelevant. The weapon never comes up in play. It is solely the fig leaf of excuse needed to get a bunch of Daleks together, exterminating each other.
Many years ago, an ancient artefact was hidden somewhere on the planet, an artefact that will enable the Daleks to reign supreme across the universe, defeating any who stand in their way. Such an object is so valuable that even the Daleks cannot agree how best to wield it, and have split into renegade armies, each as cunning and determined as the next...
As you fight for supremacy, the Doctor will do his best to stop you, bringing peace to a different territory each turn, and if your army is not victorious by his eleventh regeneration, then the battle is over and all Daleks must retreat as the Oncoming Storm saves the Earth.
Gameplay is augmented with a small number of "power cards" and "mission cards." The mission cards depict an enemy local to a territory on the map. If you have the card for that territory and you conquer it, you can turn that card in for extra Dalek reinforcements. For example, two of the mission cards are for the Aztecs in Central America and Tergana in Mongolia (from the First Doctor stories The Aztecs and Marco Polo respectively). Power cards can upset the balance of power by granting rerolls, adding 1 to each die roll, and things of that sort. The theme for each card draws from elements of Doctor Who history, such as a UNIT counterstrike lead by Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart or a photo of the Third Doctor with his catch-phrase "Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow." The only problem with these is that there are so few of them and so much rich material from the show to work with.
The real game-changer is the Doctor. At the beginning of each turn, the TARDIS lands at a randomly selected territory, making it impossible to attack, defend or move troops. This has a real effect on the game, as in my first play-through when I was ready to take over Madagascar and the Doctor shows up there, spoiling not only my plan for that turn but changing the course of my whole strategy. The game is also timed according to the Doctor's regenerations. To the side of the board is a "regeneration strip" with photos of the first eleven Doctors and a token of Clara Oswald (recalling when she plunged through the Doctor's time-stream... the season arc of series 7, made obsolete by The Time of the Doctor, because Steven Moffat is not necessarily as clever as he seems to think he might be). As the territory the TARDIS lands in is selected, the Doctor may or may not be forced to regenerate. When he reaches his eleventh incarnation, the game ends.
To give an idea of how this can also affect things, one of my playmates had just swept through North America, taking it over but at the high cost of severely depleting his own troops. Next was my turn, and I was prepared to turn in a bunch of cards and reinforce myself with a nearly insurmountable army of Daleks so I could mop up that continent for myself (just as I had for Europe on my previous turn, because apparently I become Genghis Kahn when playing Risk). Before I could do that, the Doctor regenerated into Matt Smith. This ended the game and my playmate won. Had the game not ended there, it was highly probable that I would have won instead. It's all fun and games, and certainly changes the dynamic of things.
The big advantage of the limited number of turns is that it limits the duration of the game. A regular game of Risk can go for hours. An average game of The Dalek Invasion of Earth goes for about an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Yes the Doctor may have cost me a victory, but shorted games were the only condition by which my wife allowed me to buy it to begin with! Rather than an endless slog for only the most dedicated of players, The Dalek Invasion of Earth is a nice bit of fun for casual gamers who were drawn in by the Doctor Who license.
|And so it begins...|
|Ashley at the ready with her army of Daleks.|
|The Doctor interferes!|
|Me preparing to go Genghis.|
|An hour after we started.|