Well, we played Tim’s new Board Game last night – actually an expansion to an older game. Battlestar Galactica with the Pegasus Expansion. For those of you who care, but do not know Battlestar Galactica the Board game is a very interesting game that offers both cooperative and competitive play and follows the first season of the recent Battlestar Galactica TV series. The Pegasus expansion add a number of new rules and generally continues the plot of the game into the second season.
The most tense aspect of the game mirrors that in the show – who is and is not a cylon and how will they move against the humans.
Our game last night showed both the strengths and weaknesses of the board game. Most of us chose to play the role of characters introduced in the expansion. Tim played Leoben – a cylon leader, but he had a decent chance of being sympathetic to the humans. I played Ellen Tigh and acted as president. Paul played Admiral Cain. Rob played Lt. Dualla, Troy Boomer, and Dano Starbuck. Oddly, because we generally wanted to pick new folks, we all ended up with female characters except Tim. Not that it impacts the way the game is played.
There were two ‘You are a cylon’ cards in the loyalty deck. This meant that there were potentially three cylons (Tim’s leader plus two cylons disguised as humans) vs. three humans.
Right off the bat things went very well for the humans, we accomplished an early jump and completed a quarter of the game within the first 20 minutes. We did not take any significant losses and it was possible there were no hidden cylons yet.
The second jump was hairier. We ended up with two basestars, we used a nuke, there was a heavy raider on the way, but the jump was successful. Most intriguing in this part of the game, we knew that one of our pilots – either Boomer or Starbuck was a cylon, but they both behaved heroically during during the attack. Accusations were flying fast and furious. Leoben set foot on the Battlestar and we promptly threw him in the brig. The human resources started to dwindle, but there were no big problems.
We managed again to travel two distance during the jump and thus reach the 1/3 mark of the game. I think that during the preparation for the second jump was the sweet spot. Everyone was having a good deal of fun.
The remaining loyalty cards were distributed and we could be fairly sure that we now faced three cylons. Sure enough, on his first turn Troy revealed that Boomer was a Cylon! We now knew which of our pilots was causing us trouble. But there were a couple more surprises – a turn later Starbuck was also revealed to be a cylon. We had no pilots and Dan and Troy were cackling with glee. But Tim’s Leoben was definitely acting in opposition to his cylon buddies and he human team (me, Rob and Paul) began to rely on him as a human sympathizer.
The game started to show flaws at this point though. Through simple luck, the Battle star was not attacked by Cylon Raiders effectively. The cards were just going in our favor. Also, Paul, Rob and I all drew green cards and got large numbers of ‘Executive Orders’. It was quite common for us to essentially get three net actions (instead of one in a turn). For instance, I’d executive order Paul on my turn giving him two immediate actions. He’d use one and then executive order me again giving me another two. We were getting a lot done. Meanwhile, the revealed cylons were not finding it easy to effect us. There were no cylon fleets for them to direct on the board. So their only valid choice (after playing a super crisis each) was just to cause a crisis every turn. Finally, it also started to drag a little…
The humans completed the next two jumps and reached New Caprica. Our resources were quite depleted now though and three area of Galactica were damaged and most of our vipers out of service. As an engineer Dualla isn’t as effective as the chief and she wasn’t using her core abilities because there were no enemy fleets to oppose.
We now got into the last third of the game. A completely new set of rules to deal with the occupation of New Caprica. It was getting late and everyone was tired. The game really slowed down as Tim had to explain the new rules and we all needed to try and figure out what needed to happen. The cylons were frustrated in the end of the previous third. And as we started new Caprica everything the humans did seemed to work easily and we were able to both advance our requirements (saving civillian ships) and stymy the Cylons plans in a single move.
But the game became very close. The cylons were not making big gains, but the humans didn’t have much wriggle room left. Each little item chipped away at us. And then we two of us were tossed into the brig and had a bit of trouble getting back out.
The end of the game was touch and go! Galactica reappeared and the civillian fleet was mostly rescued. Our morale and population resources were very low though. Rob and I had both managed to get out of the brig. But when Galactica reappeared so did two basestars and 6 enemy raiders. A quick card doubled the number of raiders out there! With 12 raiders firing on Galactica, we would quickly take too much damage to survive. Although it was 4 humans/human sympathizers to 2 cylons, suddenly we didn’t have enough actions. Leoben was trying the rescue ships, Cain was launching the last nuke at the basestars, I was playing quorum cards to destroy raiders and Dualla was trying to repair Galactica. The cylons were set back by some horrible dice rolling. They had 24 attempts to roll 3 8s on an 8 sided die. They only got two.
There were only two civillian ships left. Two human player actions was all we needed to win or one action with some lucky chaining of executive actions. But the Cylons instead got another chance to shoot their raiders. They had fewer now, but only needed one hit.
We blew up and the humans lost.
The new expansion worked incredibly well. It added a lot of options to the game and the New Caprica change was very neat. The flaws of the game were what they always were – it is overly long, very complex (made worse because we introduced new rules) and the first half, before the cylons are revealed, is more fun than the second half. New Caprica should help the end game by making it switch gears and not seem so mechanical, but last night because it was late and we were tired, because we also had to introduce the rules and because New Caprica started off looking like an assured win for the humans those benefits were easily apparent. But it still ended up producing a very tense endgame that could have gone either way. I look forward to my next game!