Continuing my certainly not annoying habit of starting features and then using Lamarck's theory to kill them, I will be talking in the next several days about a number of new boardgames I have tried this holiday season. It's a fairly eclectic mix, but I there are some darn good games out there now. One, in particular will make Ken happy (although I haven't played that game yet, so I reserve judgement for now.)
Let's start off with one I got to play over the weekend – Battlestar Galactica
This is a cooperative game (mostly) with players taking on the characters from the show. Each player's turn ends with a crisis that the players as a whole must overcome and lead the Galactica to Kobol. Oh, one other little problem, one (or more) of the other players might be a cylon. In fact, you might be a sleeper cylon, and not realize it until late in the game.
The basic gist of each turn is that your character draws skill cards (which are used to beat skill checks) based on their abilities, moves, takes one action (usually drawing more cards, but not always), and then reads the top crisis card. The crisis usually presents either a tough choice one player must make or a skill check.
Skill checks are based on the colors of the cards (there are 5.) All the colors on the card count positive and any colors not on the card count negative. All cards are played face down and shuffled, so you have no idea who put in which card and two random cards are added from a closed deck to further muddy the waters. It's a great mechanism that makes each skill check into a potential witch hunt. Trying to figure out who played those negative cards into the mix.
Another neat aspect of the game are the titles of Admiral and President. These confer certain powers on the wielders, but can also be moved to other players. It's especially bad if a cylon has the title Admiral, since the Admiral chooses where the fleet jumps to (and can really put you in a bad way..) In larger games, the internecine warfare for titles can be a fun metagame.
So, how do you know if you are a cylon? At the beginning of the game a pool of loyalty cards is created depending on how many players are in the game. Everyone is dealt one to start with. There may be no cylons to start (as was the case in our game) and things go swimmingly. However, once the game is half over, the Sleeper Phase begins, and everyone is dealt another card. So, you might not realize you are a cylon until the game is half over (as happened in our game..) Another great game mechanic.
And, unlike games like Shadows Over Camelot, there is a lot for the Cylon to do. First off, you might not reveal yourself (in fact, I think it's better to stay unrevealed for longer) and try to subtly mess things up.) Second, once revealed there are a bunch of different actions the Cylon player can take, and they still can play one card into every skill check, which can really hurt..)
The game ends when the Galactica reaches Kobol (the only way the humans win), or any supply reaches 0, the Galactica is damaged 6 times, a cylon boarding party reaches the bridge or the fleet is destroyed. It's pretty harrowing all the way through.
The game drips theme. The characters, cards, art, and tone of the game all follow the show and the gameplay has a lot of the dark tone and paranoia of the show. It's definitely the best part of the game. The materials are nice, and the game looks good on the table. The gameplay is top notch, especially with a skilled and sneaky cylon player.
There are a few downsides. It's a long game. We played with 3 players and it was a 2 hour game. More players will definitely increase that. It also has a lot of bits, and can be a little fiddley. I think if you don't like the show, the game might not be a great fit for you either, since the theme is such a part of the game. The big drawback, for me, is that it definitely is better the more players you have involved. The 3 player game was not as challenging or as fun once the cylon was revealed. So, play with at least 4.
So, should you get this game? Well, it's something of a cross between Knizia's Lord of the Rings game, Shadows over Camelot and Werewolf. It's also a fun imagining of a really interesting world. If you are a fan of games (and don't mind the longer ones) and the TV show, this is a no-brainer. Especially if you have 3 other folks you know can play. I really enjoyed it, and look forward to it hitting the table again soon.
Next time: Bring the chopsticks for my next review!
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