Doctor Who: Exterminate! Game review

Dr Who: Exterminate! Warlord Games

Review by Rick Hudson

For game designers and players Dr Who must be a very attractive franchise to buy into: rich fictional universe; colourful characters; and a diverse and eccentric array of allies and adversaries all begging to be made available as miniatures and collected. From a commercial standpoint it must be something of a hypothetical cash cow: think of the potential market; existing sf/f gamers and sf/f fans who haven’t previously taken part in TTGs, but would be drawn into the hobby by a Dr Who game. However, from the perspective of a table-top wargamer, Dr Who has a narrative feature that makes it problematic as a potential wargame. Stories in Dr Who do not centre on fighting; certainly, warfare and combat are often central to the story, but occur on the periphery of the adventure while the Doctor and his friends skirt around the edges of the conflict, runaway from danger and frequently seek non-aggressive solutions to hostile situations. This narrative dynamic can be very easily utilised in an RPG, but is almost impossible to create in table-top games. Table-top wargames work to the logic of two evenly matched forces slugging it out, but Dr Who just doesn’t work like that.  A Dr Who wargame would have to be a wargame in which an adventure took place around the edges of a conflict rather than the conflict itself being the motor of the game. Hmmm, very tricky to design, I’m sure.

Warlord’s Dr Who: Exterminate! Is not a perfect solution to this problem, but it makes a jolly good go of it. And at £35 it is an affordable game for experienced gamers who are looking for a new game, or newbies who want a welcoming entry point to table-top gaming. The boxed set gives you quite a lot for your money: rulebooks, figures, playmat, cardboard terrain features, cards and so on. The figures you get are pretty good – Daleks and Cybermen – and all you need to play the basic game straight from the box. This basic game is essentially just a shoot ‘em up, which is all very fine and entertaining, but does not really address the issues raised above. What Warlord have rather cunningly done is include a second rules booklet in the box which extends the game beyond a gunfight. In this advanced version of the game the Doctor and his companions are introduced and victory is secured by the player who escapes off the table with the most tokens, rather than the player who kills the most opponents. This is a deceptively simple rules mechanic which turns the game on its head, transforming it from a sf wargame into a Dr Who game. The Dr Whoishness is increased further by cards which give characters skills that enable them to collect tokens while avoiding combat.

Dr Who: Exterminate! in terms of mechanics and quality of its components has overall received a positive reception in the larger gaming community; however, the fact that in the boxed set the Doctor is only notable by his absence has raised some eyebrows (Warlord’s Terminator Genisys similarly contained none of the principal characters in the boxed set). For me, this is not so much of an issue. Not including a Doctor figure in the box keeps the cost down and allows you to spend the saved cash on your preferred Doctor from those Warlord have made available. Now here – in the miniatures available – I have a bit of an issue.

We obviously have the most popular: 10th and 11th Doctors, and rightly so. We also have the 12th (ho-hum); 4th and 1st (hurrah! On both counts); and the 5th (yawns). Although the absence of the 6th and 7th Doctors should be celebrated, what about the iconic 2nd and 3rd Doctors? A 3rd Doctor would perhaps be most useful in allowing for more wargaming style sessions of Exterminate! if Alistair Lethbridge Stewart and UNIT troops were around to assist.  With regards to monsters we have a good range available, however there are again some notable absences. We have Tetraps and Vervoids available, obscure choices when we have no Sontarons: strange prioritisation, if you ask me. We also have releases of variant Cybermen ‘for collectors’ which seems a bit superfluous. At the time of writing, Ice Warriors and The Master have been announced as new additions to the range, and are very welcome indeed.

Whovian nit-picking aside, a strong game that is all the better for its simplicity. Warlord no-doubt will fill in the gaps at some future point. I must add that my face broke out in a big 4th Doctor style grin when I saw that Warlord’s range included Ogrons and Draconians.