Friday, January 3, 2014

Desperation and paranoia

Battlestar Galactica: the Board Game is a cooperative game in which players take on the roles of the crew and passengers of the beleaguered Galactica, struggling to excape the Cylons and get the last survivors of the human race to a safe haven.

There are four types of characters: military leaders, political leaders, pilots, and support personnel, and the game setup forces the players to choose a balance of the four types. An Admiral, responsible for directing the fleet's movement, is chosen from among the military leaders, and a President is chosen from the political leaders and given access to a special deck of cards that can help the fleet by boosting morale and increasing other resources that dwindle over the course of the game.

Players work together to defend against the Cylons get the fleet to safety. But there's a catch: one or two of the players (depending on the total number playing) are secretly Cylons, working against the fleet towards their own victory conditions. And even the catch has a catch: the Cylon players may not even know they're Cylons until halfway through the game.

Viewed simply as a cooperative survival game, Battlestar Galactica has some great mechanics for fighting off waves of Cylon Raiders and struggling to hold on to valuable resources like food, fuel and population. But the addition of the "who's a Cylon?" twist is what makes the game brilliant, and is also why it reflects the desperation and paranoia of the television series so well.

Our game had five players. The characters chosen were William Adama (military leader), Gaius Baltar, Tory Foster (both political leaders), Sam Anders (pilot), and Galen Tyrol (support). Adama was given the Admiral title, and Baltar the dubious honor of being President. The Admiral and the President both have a tremendous amount of power in the game, with the Admiral able to control how quickly the fleet reaches its destination (victory for the human players) and the President able to manipulate the fleet's resources. So if either one ends up being a Cylon, the fleet is in serious trouble.

Naturally, in our game both the President and the Admiral were Cylons.

Neither player would tell the rest of us whether they were Cylons from the beginning or the mid-game point, but they both played their roles so subtly that we never really knew for sure until close to the end. We even locked poor Sam Anders in the brig for a while, suspecting that he might be a Cylon, which left us without a pilot to help fight off the constantly attacking raiders.

Our game was pretty hopeless: we were down to either running out of population, or having Cylon Centurions overrun Galactica, and having an Admiral stalling our fleet's progress and a President not doing anything to help, we didn't stand much of a chance. Most people who play this game will agree that it is much harder to win as the humans, but that's one of the things that makes it exciting, and so much like the television series.

Rating: 5 (out of 5) The only reason we don't play Battlestar Galactica all the time is that it really needs 5-6 players for a satisfying game.

Date played: December 7, 2013

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