Monday, 6 May 2013

Playing Battlestar Galactica Board Game

It was time to talk about this game, I didn't have an opportunity to do so earlier. I have played it just a couple of times, but it's a real experience! Any fan of the series will enjoy it.

Hours of tension and enjoyment inside a box
If you haven't seen the series, though, you won't understand a thing. Hey, if you haven't seen the series, the best thing you can do right now is closing this blog and going now for it!
Hmmm... for this game purposes, long story short, human race is on the brink of extinction because an attack driven by Cylons, a robotic race. But there are some Cylon infiltrators between human survivors, which can't be recognized, as they are perfect human copies.
So some players will act as Humans (trying to survive) and some as undercover Cylons (sabotaging and doing evil without anyone noticing). But nobody knows what the other players are. Paranoia!
So, let's get into details...

First of all, there are some minis inside. And, of course, if there are minis, they need to be painted. You already know, I don't suffer unpainted pieces of plastic.

Cylon Raiders and Heavy Raiders
Scale comparison pic, next to my index finger

The characters, unfortunately, are represented by card pieces. Don't be afraid, I pretend to solve that. I have a plan... But that will be another day...
The board depicts the Battlestar Galactica and the Colonial One. That's where characters will act during the game. Both ships have different locations, in which players will have the chance to do special actions.

Looks easy to play? Well, it isn't!
Each character has two or three of these different skills: politics, leadership, tactics, piloting or engineering. It's recommended to choose carefully the characters, as this is a cooperative game and skills/character type must coordinate. We did so in our previous games, but everyone has his own favourite character from the series and we were becoming predictable. So this time we just randomized it. For this game we had Gaius Baltar, Saul Tigh, Karl Agathon 'Helo', Sharon Valerii 'Boomer' and Galen Tyrol:

Right back you can see the youngest player in our group
 Gaius Baltar acted as President and Saul Tigh as Admiral. At the beginning of the game each player gets a 'Loyalty Card' (i.e., what tells you if you are Human or Cylon), but no one can know each other, remember... The game begins with the Galactica under attack, as you can see in the above pic. So Tigh, from Command, activated two Vipers and Boomer launched herself on another one.

Ugly card, I know, I know...
Chief Tyrol, from Weapons Control, inflicted some damage to the Cylon Basestar and Baltar moved to the Colonial One to try to get some 'Quorum Cards', a special feature due to his presidential condition. These cards provide different special actions wich help Humans to survive. Helo didn't act during first round as he begins the game out of the board (stuck in Caprica, in fact. You need to see the series to fully understand how cool this game is in terms of following the story).

I'll need some 3D Cylon Basestars too...
The turn goes this way: Each player plays his own round, dragging proper skill cards. The player can make a move to any playable area. Then the character can use an action: one from the skill cards, the action from the area in which he or she stands, or a character action (as described in the correspondant character card). Once this is resolved, the character has to take a card from a 'Crisis' deck. This is when things usually go ugly. Every card will represent a challenging event, in which players will have to cooperate to endure (or to secretly harm everyone if you are a Cylon...).
The most usual thing will be some kind of skill check. The players will have to add some of their skill cards to a common deck. Proper skills (determined by colour codes) will help and add points to pass the test, but wrong skills will take points away. So humans are interested in doing it good, but Cylons must do everything in their hand to make the group fail the test. As players put their cards secretly (and two random cards are added from another deck), you cannot be sure of who has added which card. I told you: Paranoia!

You have overcome this crisis. Let's see next one...
As the game goes on, these crisis can put Humans in a tight spot, because sooner or later they will have an effect on these markers:

Fuel, Food, Morale and Population. If any of these goes down to '0', game over!
The 'Crisis' cards also have some other effects. They can determine Cylon ships actions and can also make the FLT marker move. This sets the Galactica ready for a jump to other location. As a matter of fact, that's essential for Humans: after a number of jumps they will reach the planet Kobol and will win the game. But things are not gonna be easy...

Some 'Crisis' cards can deploy even more Cylon ships. This happened in this game:

'Surrounded'. Deploy all that and the current player panickes, discarding three skill cards
Keep calm and kill toasters
The Crisis cards determine Cylon ships actions, i.e., Basestars shooting/ releasing Raiders, Raiders acting... The Raiders targets will be civilian ships (those markers behind the Galactica)

Unguarded civilian ships...
Destroying civil ships will inmediately affect Human population and sometimes morale, so they need to be defended at all costs. Some actions allow you to move civil ships to other quadrants on the board (we did so), but you have to shoot Raiders down from Galactica's Weapons Control or use Vipers for that.
Heavy Raiders will have another mission, they have to board Galactica. We'll get into that later...

Despair, Humans, this is just Turn 1...

Boomer moves to attack...

And uses a 'maximum firepower' skill card

Two Raiders down! Not that it has made a difference...

However, she's taken down too and moved to the Sickbay

The Crisis card not only made Cylon Raiders to attack, but also allowed the FLT marker to move a tile. As you can see in the pic below, it's impossible to jump if you are on the first or second tile. If the marker is on the third or fourth tile, however, the jump is technically possible, but not all the fleet is ready, so there is a high risk of losing population if you try to force the jump.

Second tile now.
Another round, another movement. Marker on third tile. What can humans do? Try to resist an overwhelming foe or just run? Decisions, decisions! At this point, Tigh run to the FLT Control to try to force a jump. The other players objected, 'Just wait, we can probably make a safe jump in a couple of rounds, maybe three!' But Tigh responded that it was just too risky, we needed to get out of there, and Helo seconded the idea. So, amongst the screams (and occasional insults) of the rest of the players, Galactica jumped out of there, losing 3 Population points in the process.

Clear board, temporary peace
So markers were this way after a few rounds:

Losing everything but fuel, we found reserves of tilium
We got another Crisis card. 'Cylon Virus'. We had to pass a test, assembling 13 points in blue/purple cards (engineering/tactics). Failure would mean that everyone on the FLT Control must be sent to the Sickbay and a 'Centurion' marker must be set on the Boarding marker.
We didn't pass the test. Just bad luck or is there a Cylon on board...?

I said temporary peace. Peace does not exist in this game

Moods were heating up. New Crisis Card, a tricky one: The Admiral forced the President to make a decision: resigning or going to the brig. The choice was clear for Gaius Baltar:

I use to have this face every time I am imprisioned
With this sort of Coup d'État, we all were on the brink of exhaustion and paranoia, with crossed accusations of being a Cylon agent (that part of the fun depends totally on the personal relationships between the players, it's a really interesting group dynamic). Due to more Crisis cards (and subsequent failed checks), Morale was drowning at an alarming rate.

This begins to look bad...
To make things even more complicated, Saul Tigh moved to the Colonial One and, from the Administration, claimed a skill check to appoint a new President of the Colonies:

'Administration. Choose a character and pass this skill check to give him the President title'
Failed check. Baltar would keep the title for the moment. Buuut... no time to sleep in, new Crisis card!
'Tactical offensive'. All that and two Vipers in the Hangar Deck are damaged

This game is getting frakkin' difficult
Helo didn't hesitated and went immediately for the FLT Control. Again, all the players strongly objected with colourful adjetives about him being out of his brains and so.

Trust me, I'm a pro. I'm the handsome guy in the series
The jump was effective, but... as we all were afraid, we lose 3 Population Points. The Population Marker went down to 6. We had lost half our people.
After insulting Helo a little bit more, the turn went on again. Different Crisis took place; Baltar didn't manage to get out of the Brig, and Boomer ended up there, making him company. But a few rounds later... new Crisis Card and... 'Surrounded'! Aaargh!

Gods of Kobol, what are you doing us?
If you are a fan of the series, now you have the OST drums in your head
The Admiral shot a Nuke:
You only have two for all the game, so be careful of when you want to use them
Severe damage indeed
Helo did it again. Regardless the shouts and insults (some of them worthy of a longshoreman), activated the FLT control, making Galactica jump again and losing Population. The marker was down on 2 points by now. Two miserable points. Humans were truly on the brink of extinction.

With that jump some things occured. Special rules. We had achieved a total of 4 jump points (8 are needed to win); at this moment, every player has to take another Loyalty Card. If you were not a Cylon and now you get a Cylon card, that would represent that you were a sleeping agent that now comes into active status. You might even not know before that you were a Cylon! (I told you, this game is accurate to the extreme). If you already were a Cylon and now you get a non-Cylon card, nothing happens, you still keep on your original role.
That makes you not even being sure of what you previously thought. When you thought that Player X was a human, now he or she might not be. In a previous game, for example, it happened that during the first part of the game no one was a Cylon and suddenly we got one in the group. What would happen today...?

Chaos. Absolute Chaos. Baltar finally passed his check (with the help of other players), was set free and of course, he wanted revenge, so he used a Quorum Card (Presidential Privilege):

'Warrant of arrest' Choose a Character and send him to the Brig
And sent Tigh to the Brig, this having another effect: when the Admiral is sent to the Brig, he automatically loses his title, which must go to the next one in the chain of command... who was Helo in this case (the game provides the proper list for this purpose).

Buuut Tight was also a revengeful guy indeed, and declared Martial Law (character special action, only one per game), taking presidential title from the bearer and appointing the Admiral. As far as I could see, no rule avoids a character using his or her own special action from the Brig. So in a glimpse, Helo suddenly was the President and the Admiral!

I feel lucky today...
This was not going to last, as a new Crisis Card made its appearance and... dun dun dunn...

We had to pass this skill check. If we did so, there would be no effect. If we get 6-10 points, we'll lose 1 Population point. If we get under 6 points, the President resigns and gives the title to another player. We tried to assemble every card we could, but it wasn't enough. The President left the chair and now Boomer (next in the sucession line) became the President of the bunch of people who still called themselves 'the Colonies'.

Yup, Helo gave me the Title.  More than good friends? What are you implying?
At this moment all the markers were under minimums:

You say that EU is through a crisis? Ha!
We finally got 8 FLT points! Phew! That means that we just needed another FLT jump and Humans would win the game!! Right, let's go for it! But... What's that?

Engaged in a new battle, nothing was yet decided. Cylons inflicted some damage to the Galactica, to Weapons Control:

Frakkin' toasters!
The fight was fierce. Just a couple of rounds more and most probably (with lucky cards) we could make the last jump. We just had to resist. Resist... Resist!

Raiders thought otherwise
Finally a Cylon Raiders flight managed to reach a civilian ship and obliterated it. With that, the Population counter went down to 0. Mankind was exterminated!!

At that moment, the Cylon players revealed themselves! Helo was a Cylon from the beginning!!!! And Baltar discovered himself being a Cylon for the second half of the game!!!!
Our Presidents and Admiral were Cylon!! Oh my! We even got a Cylon dictator when Helo got the President & Admiral titles at the same time!
That explained some of the erratic actions that Helo was taking, when forcing FLT jumps, for example. Or some misteriously failed skill checks, when Baltar begun to add wrong cards and nobody noticed it!

Well, this is an example of the game. As you can see, it is quite complete (and kinda complex until you get the basic concepts; once you are familiar with them, everything goes quite fast). It keeps tension along all the game (what you have seen here took us four hours). Having five players looks fine to me. Every time I have played, we were five, and that ensures fun enough. Probably less players means less fun, as the keystone for this is uncertainty, not knowing who might be a Cylon.
It's absolutely respectful with the series, with tons of tiny details everywhere. It's tremendously fun as you never know what kind of misfortune is coming next (but it's coming for sure!) and the skill checks add a co-op aspect with a flavour of mistrust everywhere. As you can see, it's just a matter of time to make players come against each other, so you never know if any other player is a Cylon or is acting just on personal agendas! Believe me, it's pure fun.
Last time I played, Humans won, and this time almost did. Being a Cylon is not easy, as you have to play wisely if you want to act undercover, sabotaging skill checks or so (as happened in this game). I have not had the opportunity to show you some other special rules: if a Cylon is uncovered (or chooses to reveal himself), the player must leave Galactica and has some other special actions, tending to harm Humans with open hostilities.

Did you like the game on the whole?

What I am planning to do is replacing the character tokens with minis. Hasslefree actually has some of the characters (Adama and Tigh, which I already have). Any ideas on which minis should I use for the rest?


  1. Aaaagh! I need to play that!

    Excellent report, man. And playing with painted pieces is a must!

  2. I want to buy this just for the fighters. :D

  3. I love your painted ships, especially the Vipers.
    I think you should give an opportunity to FC.
    You have a lovely tablecloth :D

  4. I AM NOT A CYLON! Cracking game, just avoid the expansion it really makes the game drag

  5. Haha, thank you all!
    The fighters are wonderfully sculpted, they add flavour and make the game come to life. I plan to replace card pieces for minis (at least some of them)...
    I'm glad you like it. The game is great and, as I told you, the more the merrier!
    I haven't played the Pegasus expansion, I note your comment down, Jason :)

    For everyone who hasn't played the game: strongly, strongly recommended

  6. Since you spend it!

    I like so much the diversification of games which you have entered, and all that I would like to have the time and the aptitude to enjoy it, since you or Keyan.

    1. Haha, thanks, pal! Playing different things has been really fresh air for me, makes me enjoy every and each game with new eyes :)

  7. Me encatanta esta serie (lástima que se acabara tan abruptamente), y el juego tiene muy buena pinta. Quizá haya que empezar a planear una astuta campaña de cara a los Reyes...

    Por cierto, a ver que te parece:

  8. El juego es terriblemente fiel a la serie, sorprende hasta qué punto. Requiere un grupo de al menos cuatro o cinco personas que sepan de qué va esto (para no asustarse cuando empiecen las acusaciones mutuas de quién es un amante de tostadoras XD) y unas cuantas horas por delante. La partida que cuento aquí la jugamos un fin de semana que nos escapamos a una casa rural; para una cosa de este estilo es verdaderamente ideal :)
    ¡Gracias por el enlace!