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Subject: A Game Review in 30 Centons, or your Money Back. rss

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Ethan Van Vorst
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I have fond memories of Battlestar Galactica growing up. Here was a good vs. evil tale in which the Cylons, ruthless robotic antagonists, sought to destroy the last vestiges of humanity in the known universe. The survivors, led by Commander Adama and the last Battlestar, Galactica, take a fleet of hodge podge space vessels in tow and lead them to the last known human owned location in space. A shining planet, known as Earth.

I still contend that Battlestars are one of the coolest looking spaceships on TV.

Well, that was the premise. I haven't watched much of the newer BSG probably because I've still got my roots in the original series. Here was a show with funny characters, amazingly cool fighters, space battles, a grandfatherly figure that any kid would love in Commander Adama (the late, great Lorne Greene), and a plot line so epic that many of us carried it with us for a very long time, including the writers of the newer version. To be sure there were some campy issues with the show. Clearly 70's hairstyles, spaced out disco music, and scenes of the same Viper fighter getting hit in the top fin as he scoots out from under the sights of an attacking Cylon Raider on his 6.


Ahh...who didn't want to be a Viper pilot?

And then there was Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game. I mean, what kid (even a 36 year old one) wouldn't want to engage first hand in the space battles so often highlighted in the show? What it has to do with the premise of the show I have not a clue. The instructions describe the premise as such:

Quote:
A Cylon Raider - disabled and abandoned - floats defenseless in outer space. As a combat training mission, four new Colonial Viper pilots are each assigned to capture the Raider and bring it to the Battlestar Galactica for inspection. On this mission, the pilots are ordered to simulate actual combat conditions: they are told to use their weapons not to destroy each other, but only to prevent each other from capturing the Raider.


Huh? So there's only one Cylon Raider in the game and it doesn't even fight? Well, this is weird! Let's see what the gameboard looks like.


Image courtesy of Chris D'Andrea/BGG.

Well now, that doesn't look very promising. The board is square and contains 4 quadrants separated in X/Y axis fashion by yellow borderlines. Each quadrant is assigned a color; Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green. The map depicted on the board also has a grid of squares for one to move their Vipers on. There are also Black Holes and Purple Planets.

I know what you're thinking...Purple Planets? I know, I said that too. It immediately brought to mind the excellent PC game Star Control II, which contains Purple Worlds, which, if you're curious, contain a wealth of common elements, but occasionally have a small quantity of Exotics. Land at your own peril! But I digress...

The goal of this game is for each Viper to proceed quickly to the Cylon Raider at the center of the map and capture it, bringing it back to its own specific colored landing bay. These bays are color coded to match a particular Viper and are located on the 4 corners of the board. Each player is given their own set of Command Cards, as well as three Evasive Action cards.


Image courtesy of Chris D'Andrea/BGG. Note the green Command Cards, for use only by the Green Viper, as well as the Evasive Action Cards (center) and the movement spinner board (right).

Players each take a turn spinning on the spinner board (seen in the image above) and moving however many number of squares it dictates. Players can move laterally and horizontally but never diagonally. The goal, as stated before, is to capture the Cylon Raider at the center of the board. In the above image that's the threadbare TIE Bomber looking thing towards the top center of the picture. I know, you'd think they'd make some sort of provision to tie the show in better by putting an actual micro-machine like figure in it, but you'll find the game is filled with disappointments of this type.


Robotic Daggits come automatically programmed to be housebroken. Unlike this game.

It will become readily apparent that getting to the Raider before your adversaries do is going to be pretty tricky. Thus the player has the option of playing one or two Command Cards each turn to sort of screw everyone else over. Here's a short list of these cards and what they do.

Turbo Thrust - Light your own internal BIC lighter afterburner and spin an extra turn on the spinner.

Force Field - Move any opponent to one of the Purple Planets. If they're carrying the Cylon they must leave it where it is and go directly to the Purple Planet. Do not pass Go, do not collect 200 cubits.

Laser Torpedoes - This one is pretty vicious. The player who plays it spins the spinner and whatever number it lands upon is how many times he may fire. He then spins said spinner for each time and whichever color coded quadrant comes up (blue, red, etc) all adversarial Vipers in that quadrant are sent back to their respective landing bays. Sort of like a forced reboot.

In order to defend against such overt attacks from their fellow Viper pilots each player is given 3 "Evasive Action" cards. These cards essentially nullify one such attack apiece. They are a precious commodity and should not be used capriciously. Once they're gone the player is going to have a much harder time bringing that pesky Cylon Raider back to base.


I have to tell you, I always had a thing for Athena, even as a kid. Maren Jensen convinced me that brunettes were superior.

Now, there is an element of ship to ship combat included in the game, but it defines the word "anti-climactic". If a Viper comes close enough to the Viper currently carrying the Raider (specifically within one of the eight squares surrounding it's space), the Viper may perform an attack, which the instructions refer to as an "Interstellar Battle". Actually it's more like an Interstellar Spinoff. Each player spins the spinner and whoever spins higher gets the Raider, while the loser goes to a Purple Planet. The Cylon never moves from it's position and the winner (if they already had it in their possession) proceeds to wherever they're going, or (in the case of a Viper who has successfully beaten the player who was holding the Raider) takes said Raider into their possession and goes on to wherever they want to go.


Count Iblis (Patrick McNee) was definitely one of the best opponents the crew of the Galactica had to go up against. "The War of the Gods" was probably the finest episode released for the series, in my humble opinion.

Black Holes and Purple Planets have thus far been barely mentioned, so I'll go over the particulars for each now. They come into play a great deal. A player may position his Viper on any Black Hole in the game and emerge on any other Black Hole on the board, although they are not allowed to move from that Black Hole until the next turn. Using these little transits can sometimes place a player closer to the Viper with the Cylon.

Purple Planets are strange little worlds that Vipers get sent off to after combat. Each quadrant has 1 Black Hole and 1 Purple Planet in it. The instructions specify that a Viper, after ship to ship combat or use of the Force Field Command Card, can force an opposing player to go to any Purple Planet. It doesn't really say who does the selecting of which Purple Planet the opposing player is being sent to, or how that selection is made. Typically I'll let the person who pulls the Force Field card or wins the ship to ship combat choose which PP the defeated Viper goes to.

Strategies

I find that saving all your Evasive Action cards for the end is best. If you have the Raider in your possession and are reasonably close to your landing bay it's a sure bet that the others are going to be launching Command Card attacks on you at every opportunity. Having those 3 EA cards may just let you win the game, if you play them right.

The Laser Torpedoes Attack card is very powerful, able to potentially clear the board of all enemy players in one fell swoop. They are surprisingly plentiful and will be played by all players at some point throughout the game. They're not a sure-fire success so sometimes you may want to play two at a time, again, if you have the Raider and are close to your home port.

Conclusions

To be perfectly frank, I'm not sure that this game really began as a BSG game. One could change the names and theme around and it would be perfectly able to fit whatever genre you wanted it to. This leads me to believe this is a game design that Parker Brothers had in storage in case something came up that it needed a boardgame for in a hurry so that it could capitalize on it. BSG blends a hi-tech version of "Steal the Bacon" with a large quantity of Sorry!. On paper this should work, but for some reason here it doesn't. This isn't to say the game is totally unfun. It has frenetic moments when everyone is slamming down various Command Cards to avert the win of another player, but what does that really have to do with the theme? This is supposed to be a game based upon the original Battlestar Galactica, and it just doesn't feel that way. There's any number of ways they could have produced a game which would have been more thematic, and undoubtedly more fun. Here's a few...

-Based upon the episode "The Gun on Ice Planet Zero": Move the Colonial fleet in a straight line past the planet. The other player fires the titular gun each turn in the hopes of landing hits on each ship as it goes by. A small inset on the board could depict the characters from the show (Starbuck, Apollo, Boomer, and the gang) as they proceed on a separate tack to try and destroy the gun. One could even use Battleship pegs to simulate hits on the larger ships, with X number of peg hits assigned to each ship.

- A Battlestar vs. Basestar battle, with little Vipers and Cylon Raiders going back and forth over and empty patch of gridded gameboard as they try to land hits on the opposing motherships.

- A Viper vs. Raider space combat game, in the vein of Screaming Eagles, would have probably worked very well.

I just thought of those off the top of my head. Why wasn't Parker Brothers able to think up the same thing? Why did they decide to go with this format? Heck, Baltar could have thought of a better game than this. I'm sure he's kind of miffed about not being included!


"I agree with this review. Signed Count Baltar."

The game works, and isn't really broken. It's just not very close to the theme of the show, and that in turn hurts it's fun factor directly. I have to give BSG: The Boardgame a 3.5. It works, but so does a Ford Festiva, and how many of us want to drive one of those?









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Simon Crowe
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Hmm... I wonder if anyone else, like me, started reading this review and got quite confused when it wasn't the Battlestar Galactica game they were expecting.
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Marc Holding
United Kingdom
Chester
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Well wonder no more Simon - I did exactly the same!
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