10 October 2013

How many Cylons are there on this ship?!

This weekend I brought Battlestar Galactica down to the club and we managed to play a 5-player session. It had been a while since I played this game, but it is every bit as good as I remembered it to be. And of all sessions we have played this was perhaps one of the most exciting and on the knife playthroughs of BSG we've played to date.

Two of the guys had not played BSG before so there was some explaining of the rules. The characters in our session were:

Gaius Baltar (President) played by me
Tom Zarek played by Magnus
Sharon Valeri played by Patrik
William Adama (Admiral) played by Anders
Galen Tyrol played by Daniel

Having picked Baltar I knew it was a gamble, drawing 2 loyalty cards at the start of the game increases the chance of turning out to be a Cylon from the start. But I love that crazy ass character, and he has a very powerful ability to check look at one loyalty card belonging to another player.

Fortunately for the crew, president Baltar did not turn out to be a Cylon - and I immediately used my special ability to ensure that the admiral of the fleet was a human. As it turned out Adama was a human as well, the two most important position were safe.

Since this was the first time we played with the guys participating it was a bit hard to get a good read on who was or wasn't a Cylon. I spent probably the first hour jokingly throwing around accusations and acting out to see if anyone would tense up.

Durign the first half I pretty much ruled out Sharon "Boomer" Valeri being a Cylon, Tom Zarek was acting a bit strange with his reluctance and inability to help out during crisis card checks - that made me suspicious. But there was not much to really indicate whether or not that character was a Cylon either. Then we had Galen Tyrol, played by Daniel, who we all picked on because he has been a Cylon in all but one session of BSG if memory serves me correct.

Daniel seemed a bit uncomfortable, but then it could have been the barrage of Cylon jokes that I kept pouring over him ("that's what a Cylon would do" being a running gag). The human fleet was making good progress with the jumps, and most important of all - the Fuel resource type which is always barely able to cover the journey was actually boosted two times in a row. Never before had I seen fuel be up around 8 when the fleet had traveled halfway to Kobol before. And the crisis cards that had come up until now had been averted, and nothing really indicated that a Cylon was actively attempting to sabotage anything.

This changed when we hit the halfway through the game mark (travel distance 4). Having all resources above red saw Admiral Adama turn into a Cylon sympathizer and instantly leave the ship to resurrect in the Cylon locations! And drawing my third loyalty card I came up with a "You are a Cylon" card (and probably the best Cylon infiltrator card in the deck). I decided to play it cool and attempt to stick with the human fleet for as long as possible.

There was now a wonderfully paranoid discussion on who may be a Cylon among the remaining 4 characters aboard Galactica. Both Gaius Baltar and Sharon "Boomer" Valeri had each 3 loyalty cards. But nothing indicated who else was a Cylon beside the already revealed Adama character. I had been playing very safe, only bidding with the correct cards in each crisis phase - but making sure to only add low numbers and discarding all high numbered cards. On a few occasions I helped out by pointing out the best decisions that would favor the human fleet.

Resources were being drained painfully slow though, and the human fleet was advancing towards their final destination. This saw Tyrol Galen reveal himself as a Cylon, Daniel wanted to take a more active part in the game he said and laughed as he jumped ship. This prompted a discussion around the probability of Daniel having received both Cylon cards since things were otherwise appearing to run smoothly. I had a hard time keeping my poker face during that discussion.

And so the game continued, two Cylon players actively attacking Galactica from the outside, while I was sabotaging from within. I almost felt bad for the two remaining humans, but was also increasingly worried that the humans would make it to Kobol - there were very few Cylon fleet deployment cards coming up. Kobol was now just 2 jump points away, when a Cylon fleet attacked and started shooting up Galactica. The two revealed Cylon players were actively commanding the Cylon ships and even managed to board Galactica with heavy raiders.

Furthermore, the humans had a hard time countering the Cylon attack, as their die rolls were really bad. Galactica made an emergency jump and didn't even lose any population. The new Admiral (Sharon "Boomer" Valeri" revealed that the human fleet had traveled 8 points in total - meaning that the humans were one last jump away from victory. I still kept my cool and remained a "human", still hoping for a critical moment where I could screw the human fleet over. Another Cylon fleet arrived, and shot up Galactica's FTL drive. What was even better was that the Cylon fleet deployment card was followed by  two cards without any jump symbols, so the jump track stayed locked in place. The humans now managed to nuke the Cylon base star, evening out the odds, and the track jumped one space forward.

Realizing that the Cylons needed more active help, I now revealed myself as a Cylon and detonated two charges aboard Galactica (which had unfortunately been repaired a bit so it didn't blow up). Heavily damaged, the human fleet then drew a massive Cylon deployment - two new Cylon base stars appeared and started bombing the shit out of Galactica and the human escort fighters. The last round of player turns was incredibly tense. The Galactica was pretty much done for, but the jump track was just one space away from allowing the humans to jump to safety.

In the end the odds were stacked in favor of the 3 Cylon players, who were able to repeatedly activate the base stars - and I destroyed Galactica during my turn with one last roll of the dice. It was the first game we've played where Galactica had been destroyed.

A super tense game, and one of the better board game sessions I've played this year.

7 comments:

  1. I'm keen to give this game a try, great report! How long does a session last?

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    1. Also, I had to answer a Captcha 'Prove you are not a robot' question for this blog comment. Deliciously ironic!

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    2. A session lasts around 3 hours, it can probably go faster or slower depending on the crowd you are playing with, how much thinking each player does on his turn etc. You can probably enforce a limit of 1 minute/decision to speed things up if you like. Though the game is centered around reading people, social interaction and secret plotting so you should not try to eliminate that factor simply to save a few minutes.

      There are expansions, but I've read that they are a hit/miss. And since I really think the core game is flawless I have refused to buy any of the expansion out of fear that the balance and the way things play would be messed up.

      I have an old review of BSG here on the blog if you are interested to learn more about the game:

      http://anatolisgameroom.blogspot.se/2010/11/battlestar-galactica-part-1-boardgame.html

      http://anatolisgameroom.blogspot.se/2010/11/battlestar-galactica-part-2-boardgame.html

      @ Your second comment LOL! :-D

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  2. Great report. Thanks, Anatoli.

    Although I think the game isn't my cup of tea, the report was very interesting.

    Cheers
    Stefan

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  3. Heh is it possible for ALL the players to be Cylon aligned?

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    Replies
    1. No there is always a limit depending on how many players you play.
      In a 5 player game there are only 2 "You are a Cylon" cards and one "You are a sympathizer" card. It is of course possible for one player to be dealt both Cylon cards in one game, but that is very rare so you really have to keep a watchful eye on everybody, and especially during the mid game event when everyone is dealt another set of loyalty cards.

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