Doctor Who: Adventures in Space and Time (Cubicle 7)
The box set comes with a Player's Guide, Gamemaster's Guide and a small adventure book. And a few d6s and other paraphenalia.
It's Doctor Who and it's spin-offs. While it's noticeably set in the new series, it nevertheless references older stories occasionally.
The core system is simple but actually works. Take two stats, add them to 2d6. Three degress of success of failure depending on how far from the difficulty number (or opposed roll Suggested difficulties are in multiples of 3, so bypassing the "I get 10, I must get it" brain quirk. The 2d6 means you get a nice bell curve.
On top of this, you get Story Points which are another twist on a common theme. These allow you to reduce your level of failure (including when dodging), defy death, get clues and, of course, to achieve the impossible. Getting them is a little less clear, but the maxim is plain: give lots. This sort-of gives the whole "Sacrifice story points for freebies" trait a degree of cheapness, but maybe the ST will allow for that.
There is the much vaunted, "Talk, Run, Do, Fight" order of combat. What that doesn't tell you is that actually "Well hold on a sec" statements actually have some mechanics behind them. Luckily, since it's normally the PCs who will be invoking them, it sort-of works.
The stats... actually they mostly work for Doctor Who. They certainly have a "I can convert this character" to stats feel which is crucial for this sort of enterprise. There is only two parts I really object to: Prescence is a poor stat, since it's rarely going to be used with the Persuasion skill; and there are too many situations where you roll Attribute+Attribute not Attribute+Skill, which is mainly confusing above everything else.
Ah. It looks very pretty and shiny and the screenshots are much better than, say, the lousy art in the original B5 rpg. They are, however, all of the 10th Doctor and companions (not surprising, they were shot on film and then all the TARDIS crew spent hours having publicity shots taken). Unfortunately, this means we get huge numbers of pictures of David Tennant and co posing for the camera. Some variety would be nice.
My bigger complaint is that the layout is over-spaced, so there is a lot less text for your money.
It's got a solid system and they largely capture the Doctor Who philosophy very well. The section on time travel ("A big ball of Timey-Wimey stuff") in the ST (er Gamemaster's) Guide is well written and avoids any significant unnecessary repetition of explanations from the series. The Gamemastering section is simplified, as is rewards for experience (although vague, it has good ideas) and it even has a section on player archetypes.
However, I must call out the adventure book. It only has two adventures and they are quite sketchy, leaving large amounts of work to the ST. However, it is a 32 page book and most of that is packed full of story seeds (two to a page). It is comparable to the Night Horror books from nWoD - fleshy concepts that can leave lots of room and ideas for adaption - but with slightly less meat per story. Each one feels like it could genuinely be a Doctor Who story, and some of them include suggestions of getting non-TARDIS-ed teams involved.The Bad
Let's start with the most striking: pretty much all of the Player's Guide is found in the beginning of the Gamemaster's Guide, in a less meandering fashion. What a waste.
The game also doesn't quite know who it is written for. Actually it does, the Player's Guide is clearly written at novice roleplayers who have watched a lot of Doctor Who and need everything made Very Easy. The GM Guide, on the other hand, is clearly aimed at the most intelligent of this novice group as it stops faffing around. Apart from the duplication. The Adventures then are aimed at someone else entirely since they are less specific than Cthulhu adventures. They expect the storyteller - a novice remember - to flesh out a lot of detail themselves; the personalities - probably the hardest part for a novice to get their head around - are sketched over very quickly. Perhaps they assume that novices won't notice that the NPCs act like bad bit-parts in a Timelord procedural.The Ugly
Actually, this game is pretty much black and white for me. It's worth noting that the Gamesmaster needs to be sufficiently familiar with the Whoniverse; for younger groups, s/he probably needs enough to know more than the rest; for older players s/he needs a good amount to run the game but doesn't need to be the complete fanatic.Overall
It's been a long time since I was a beginner, so I have no idea how well this product will suit them. I can tell you that as an experience player I would hate to pay full price for this (I didn't, I think it was half price). It has pretty solid mechanics for a mostly sensible game - but fairly thin for its cost (you are clearly paying for the name). I would have preferred they developed a 'beginner's guide' separate to the main guide so veterans could pay for a more efficient product.Execution: 6
(Mainly the adventure book, but also a system that enables Who-ish games).