Have you ever wondered what happens to all that alien tech the Doctor encounters in his travels? If so, wonder no more but come round to a very secret location under the Tower of London and find out! Collected by UNIT, it is studied and tested and, where appropriate, put to use. And, of course, it can feature in your games too.
After a brief Introduction, the book dives straight in with the Advanced Operations Manual, the first of nine chapters. This is all about UNIT itself and provides everything you need to include them in your game right up to running a party of UNIT operatives. Despite being organised on military lines, they employ a lot more than soldiers: there are achivists, operatives, wheelmen, and xenobiologists (X-Docs) as well. They also apparently have an equal opportunities programme of unparalleled extent - they also hire aliens. Details for creating failed Cybermen, Fish People and Zygons are here, and it's relatively straightforward to use information on other races published elsewhere in this game line. There's also a scheme for unusual human beings who have the potential to develop psychic abilities. Plenty to have fun with. In terms of game mechanics, as well as the alien material there are many new Traits and areas of expertise that should prove helpful in building UNIT characters. Finally there are archetype UNIT staff if you need one in a hurry, and a selection of notable UNIT personnel who may turn up.
Next up, The Black Archive itself. In this chapter, we read the history of the Black Archive (or at least, as much as is known of it) as well as the security measures taken to protect it and its subsiduary locations around the world. Much of this needs to be read in conjuction with The UNIT Sourcebook - to make the most of this book, and certainly if you want to make it central to your game, I'd recommend getting hold of a copy. The discussion moves on to look at the primary roles of the Archive and its personnel: just reading through them presents ideas that could develop into adventures... then the discussion on finding buried treasure comes replete with more ideas! Next a whole bunch of adversaries and rivals - often wanting to get their hands on the same alien stuff the Archive is after - are presented.
The following chapters look more closely at specific aspects of the Archive beginning with the Athenaeum, which is the main information gathering and research area. As various facets are explained, Plot Seeds are provided from which entire adventures can be developed. Rules for developing artefacts are provided, primarily as a selection of good and bad Traits that each artefact may have. Moving on, the Armoury talks about a selection of exotic weapons, defensive systems and the like - plenty of examples complete with associated Plot Seeds; then the Motor Pool chapter delivers similar material with respect to means of transportation.
Next up, the Cabinet of Curiousities contains a wide range of artefacts deemed safe to be loaned out to UNIT agents as the need arises, some even become almost routine equipment for particular individuals. A wide range of items is presented, along with their Plot Seeds of course. There is also a comprehensive Hospital which can investigate and treat (if necessary) a wide range of lifeforms. Loads of medical devices and the tales you can tell with them are to be found here.
The final two chapters, Omega Locker and Enigma Vault, deal with those artefacts that are not understood suffiently - or are plain too dangerous - to let any agent use them. The Omega Locker is for the dangerous stuff, the Enigma Vault for the items that still baffle the best minds UNIT can bring to bear. They need to be used with caution, but could make for some very intersting adventures...
You could build an entire campaign around the Black Archive, or have items pop up in the course of other adventures. There's a lot to play with here... if UNIT will let you! If you like artefact-based adventures or even have a fondness for the strange items that turn up on the TV show this is a book worth having, likewise if you fancy running an organised group that is making good use of time/space travel to expand knowledge.
[5 of 5 Stars!]