Today I was going to write up a battle report about the session of Battlestar Galactica that my wife, and a friend and I played today, but then I realised that since a lot of people here haven’t played this little beauty of a game, it wouldn’t mean much to them. “Hmm!” I thought. “What if I explain the game as I go?” Good idea. Except (spoilers!!!) I had planned to cover BSG as one of my last boardgames in my boardgame retrospective entries. “You’ll steal your own thunder!” I thought. Then I thought: “What the hell.”
The thing of it is that Battlestar Galactica is probably the best board game I’ve ever played. It’s not perfect by any means, and if things go wrong then in rare instances it can be boring and dull. For the most part, though, it’s full of tension, excitement, trickery, double dealing, heroism, derring-do and betrayal.
The game is based on a TV series. That TV series was based on another TV series from the late seventies. The abridged storyline is thus: Man creates robots called Cylons to serve. The Cylons rebel. They nuke all of the human worlds and humanity must go on the run. There are only a few thousand people left all together in this fleet, let by the last Battlestar (a big ass warship) called Galactica. They are constantly on the run from the Cylons, who doggedly pursue them in an attempt to complete their genocide.
The big twist? Cylons have found a way to make themselves look exactly like us.
If you’ve played Arkham Horror, or any other co-operative type board game before, the initial setup will be familiar to you. You pick a character, who has a bunch of skills and abilities, then the game starts to throw stuff at you. If you’re a pilot, you can get out in a fighter and blow up the Cylons from your ship. If you’re a politician, you can attempt to keep up the moral of the fleet with rousing speeches. If you’re a technician, you repair parts of the ship that get blown up. If you’re the Admiral, you can launch nukes. :D
Here’s a look at the board…
So you’re all working together. You’re all fulfilling your roles and backing each other up, fighting against the Cylon threat and trying to save humanity. We’re all in this together, right?
Wrong. Because one or more of you is a Cylon.
Depending on the number of players, one or two of you will be an enemy agent planted in the fleet, covertly working against the other players and trying to doom humanity. At the start of the game, a pool of loyalty cards is constructed, and one is dealt to each player. Not only that, but half way through the game, there is a “sleeper phase” and another sets of cards are dealt out, representing the fact that some Cylons didn’t initially know that they weren’t human. These cards are kept secret, and most of them simply say “You are not a Cylon” there are a couple, however, that say exactly the opposite.
If you’re a Cylon, your task is to carefully work against the human fleet. Sowing discord, deceit and sabotage, you’ve also got to be careful not to get too obvious with your evil, otherwise you might find yourself shoved in the brig. Better to plant suspicions on a human player and get them put in jail.
If you’re human, you’re trying to escape the Cylon fleet. But you know that somewhere among your fellow players a traitor is lurking. As resources dwindle and the Cylon ships close around Galactica, tension and paranoia flare up. Accusations and counter accusations fly back and forth. The Admiral might declare martial law and take the President’s power from her, or the President might use her political contacts to get the Admiral thrown in his own brig. Who’s the Cylon? It’s almost impossible to know for sure until they choose to reveal themselves.
That delicious tension is what makes this a fantastic game.
In a three player game like the one we had today, you get one Cylon. For most of the game, I was utterly convinced it was my friend. We had been trading insults and accusations all game. Turns out that my wife had been biding her time all along. We got to a really difficult and very important skill check (these are done as a group) right near the end of the game.
Me: “Aww wow. Tough one here. Jacks can you help out?”
Friend: “Not really, it’s outta my skill set.”
Me: “Yeah fair enough. Well I can throw in a bit to help… good job it needs piloting skill though, right Holly?”
Wife (playing a pilot character):”I’m not contributing to this skill check.”
Me: “Uhh… it needs piloting and engineering… you have those skills!”
Wife: (I could hear this face over the mic) ^_____________^
Me & Friend: ……fuuuuuuuu
Needless to say my friend (the President) then used an arrest order to throw my wife in the brig. By this time though we were utterly boned. All of our fighters were damaged, and the person good at repairing them was now in the brig and laughing at us. The ship was surrounded by enemies, who were picking off the rest of the fleet bit by bit. It was only be a real fluke of card draws and some lucky shooting that Jacks and I managed to finally jump the fleet away and win by the skin of our teeth.
Great fun was had by all.
BSG is easy to learn, quick to play, and a total blast. It has caused me to call in to question everything my wife has ever said but that’s a small price to pay for a couple hours of fun. ;)