(Although I'm not much of a gamer anymore, I'm still an active collector, and have recently added the new Doctor Who game to the Library. I welcome your comments on this - I used to do reviews for a local fanzine back in my player days, but that was a while back. This is wordier than I would have liked, and by a wide margin, so feel free to tell me where you might feel that it's rambled. Thanks!)
Doctor Who - Adventures in Time and Space is the third roleplaying game to be set in the Doctor Who universe, and the first after the revival of the series (that I am aware of). It's a glossy, full-color production, comprised of a pair of rulebooks (one for the players and one for the gamemaster) and some supplemental materials, including dice, all contained in a nice (but perhaps somewhat smallish) box.
The standard conceit of the game is that the players will be portraying the Doctor and some number of companions, although it's not required that you use this exact setup, as some other options, such as a group of UNIT soldiers, are given. Character sheets or given for the ninth Doctor and a number of companions, including Sarah Jane Smith, K9 (likely making them the only characters to appear in all three games), Rose, Captain Jack, Mickey and a few others. You're also given a number of character templates, with some of the basics filled in, listed by profession, such as Medical Doctor, UNIT soldier or Journalist. Or, if you'd rather, the players and/or GM can create new characters using the simple system given in the rules.
Put simply, characters are defined by their scores in six Attributes and a dozen Skills, and perhaps rounded out with a handful of Traits. Experienced gamers should have no trouble understanding the roles of the various Attributes, and the Skills are also fairly self-explanatory. Given the fact that there are only twelve of them, they are also very broad, and players are encouraged to use optional Areas of Expertise as a way of differentiating their characters, as well as tailoring them to their backgrounds. The Traits are the wild cards, and their purpose is to set the characters apart, both from each other, and the common denizens of the game's settings. Traits may be Good or Bad, and range from Minor, to Major to Special. While Minor Traits are often simple things, like being Attractive, having "Resourceful Pockets" or having a Phobia, the Special Traits can get into the realm of low-level superpowers, including being Immortal or being able to travel the Vortex unaided.
The game's basic mechanic is a simple one, expressed as: roll 2d6 and add in the relevant Attribute + relevant Skill + any modifier from a relevant Trait, and try to equal or exceed the Difficulty of the given Task, which will generally be a number from 3 to 30. Of course, the higher the Difficulty, the more challenging the Task, and at the upper end of the scale are some pretty impressive and improbable feats. Like most games, Doctor Who has a somewhat more detailed system for combat than it does for doing other things, but it's also pretty simple and straightforward. One nice touch is the phase system in which characters act depending on what action they're taking - Talking comes first, followed by Moving, Doing and finally Fighting, giving characters a good chance to pre-empt combat, and putting insistent gun-bunnies at something of a disadvantage. But this being Doctor Who, the Fight Club mentality that pervades many games is clearly frowned upon, so it's expected that the combat rules won't get much of a workout. In cases where relying on chance isn't going to cut it, or the players need a little divine intervention to help them puzzle things out, Doctor Who has Story Points, which players may spend to help things along, or lessen the effects of mishaps or malicious dice. They also allow players to exert some level of authorship over the game, bending events to aid them or simply for dramatic effect. It's worth noting that Story Points are "owned" by the players, rather than the characters - so a player may retire a character and simply roll their Story Points over into their replacement.
Again, this being Doctor Who, it's not really about stuff, so there isn't much in the way of gear for the player characters to lug around. They're assumed to start with a certain amount of general Equipment appropriate to their professions and home settings. Gadgets, on the other hand, are the cool signature bits of tech that characters don't leave home without. They have Traits of their own, and therefore may be able to add to a character's dice rolls under the proper circumstances. The down side is that the reduce a player's Story Point pool.
Of course, the game isn't all mechanics - it also includes a brief overview of the universe of Doctor Who and some of its denizens. It presupposes that one is quite familiar with the current Doctor Who series, and therefore is focused more on presenting things in mechanical terms rather than presenting detailed background information, although it does list other materials for gamemasters to use to familiarize themselves with the show's background and settings.
Wrapping up, the game presents a pair of fleshed-out adventures for beginners, and a number of adventure seeds that gamemasters can nurture into full-fledged scenarios.
Overall, the game is simple enough that novice players should have little difficulty with it. Whether it presents enough options for hardcore old-timers to be fully satisfied with depends on the type of gamer in question. But overall, Doctor Who, as might be expected for a game based on a rather eccentric British television show, is more about storytelling than working out just the right die modifiers to stop the Daleks in their tracks. The rather conventional design of the mechanics is something of a pity, as a system more specifically designed to support a "drama-first" style of play would likely make it easier to tame players who bring in munchkin tendencies from other systems. Given the overall aversion of the setting to combat, it seems odd to, like most games, make fighting the single most detailed part of the system. The game spends a fair bit of page space dealing with the question of "Who plays the Doctor?" which is going to be of some importance. The Doctor, as a player character, has a somewhat privileged position vis-a-vis the other characters, not only because of an overall superiority in statistics, but because the Doctor tends to be quite a bit more knowledgeable about the universe as a whole than the other characters would be expected to be.
The overall presentation of the game is rather nice - full color, and liberally illustrated with stills from the show. But this comes at a price. 59.99 USD to be precise, which seems rather steep. But for the money, the game comes with a short How to Play pamphlet that does can be used to give new players the basics they need to know, a Player's Guide, a Gamemaster's Guide, an Adventure Book, character sheets (for series characters, generic characters and some blanks), a series of Gadget cards (with blanks), a significant number of Story Point tokens, and 6d6. The Story Point tokens were something of a pain, as they were very well perforated, and once I took them out of the box, they weren't going back in as a single sheet again, and once I'd put them all in a plastic bag, it wouldn't lie flat enough to close the box. (Giving the box a little more volume to accommodate this would have been nice.)
If you're into Old-School Doctoring, you're going to be at a bit of a loss for starters. The game assumes that you're playing in the timeframe of the Ninth Doctor, and doesn't have much in the way of immediate support for anything outside of that timeframe. But if you have one of the older games, I don't think that it would be too difficult to work up a conversion.
Not having had the chance to actually play it yet, or go into a detailed analysis of the mechanics and systems, I'm going to hold off on actually making a recommendation one way or the other. But I will say that it looks quite good, although it is somewhat spendy.
RZ-007lc. Side of Republic.