Mike Amos
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This review is a part of a series that I am attempting in which I review my top fifty ranked games from 2013. To see the rankings check out this geeklist.

Battlestar Galactica seemed like the game that anyone who was anyone was playing a few years back. Eventually Shadows Over Camelot tried to steal some of its thunder but BSG is still the one I hear the most talked about, it's also the one that seems to be getting yet another expansion. I bought it a couple years back based on the hype but only got it to the table once, I just didn't have the right people. Since then I've found a group that makes an event out of each play and we've played it three or four times. If my group makes it such a big deal, what's it doing so far down my list?

First, I should state for the record. I don't care one bit about the show. I liked the old version slightly better than the new one and neither held my attention for an entire season. All indications to me are that if you love BSG then don't waste your time on reviews, buy the game.

BSG basically simulates the show to the best of its abilities, your trying to find Kobol, you have limited resources to get there and bad things seem to always happen to those resources. It plays like most coops seem to, you take a turn then you play the game's turn. In BSG you have about a dozen options to take on your turn, one or two of them generally seem to be relevant to what your doing at any time.

There are two core mechanics in BSG that I think hamstring it. First, the game's turn. This is the bit where you draw a card and do what it says, which is usually bad. These cards are the most important thing in the entire game. They determine the pace of the game because they not only tell you how aggressive the enemy is but they are how you, the humans, get closer to your jump which is how you may win the game. It's the later randomizer that really bugs me. There are time where you're just loitering in space, waiting for the right cards to come out. It certainly seems like you would use those opportunities to improve your lot in life, but that's not really an option.

The second mechanic that rubs me a bit the wrong way are he cards you hold as a player. Each card has a color, a number and an action. The color and number determine the value of the card in completing tasks. A couple random cards are throw in the blind you to anyone who might be undermining the groups efforts. It seems like the actions on these cards is almost always worse that the voting value except the cases where the cards can just adjust the difficulty of the task, sometimes by as much as the card is worth in the first place, making the points useless. Also, these cards have been how I have spotted the Cylon in multiple games. I'm sure conscientious play prevents this, but I'm playing with gamers and they're making these mistakes.

After two long paragraphs of grumbling and nitpicking does this even get a place in my top 50. Well, my group. If it wasn't for my group, I'd never be interested in playing. We play at work, over lunch. This game takes a week to play, five days of BSG. Each day we start shooting around emails openly accusing each other of Cylon activities. Once the Cylon is revealed he or she will often trash talk a bit. That is why I find this game worth playing.

Despite being a clunky, long game, with the right group, this game is immersive unlike anything I can think of. It is because of my group that this is number 46 on this list.

PS: Please feel free to feedback with agreement and disagreement or thoughts on my writing in general.
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Henrik Havighorst
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I agree that the games walks or falls depending on who you play it with, because with BSG, the trashtalking, throwing suspicions around etc. really makes this come alive. Myself, I never watchted the show and still enjoy the game, so I dont think that is a game breaker. I like randomness in games, personally, some people dont, so that is not a hamstring for me.
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Mike Taylor
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I think the randomness is necessary for the game to work. This is a game all about uncertainty. The randomness forces the crew to react to unexpected circumstances.

The effects aren't that bad, especially when everyone is acting human. Even if you don't get jump icons, there's lots to do (build up cards, fix damage, etc.) Moreover, between scouting and certain special abilities you can put things in your favor.

Remember that it's expected that as time goes on you'll gradually wear down. Thematically, this is appropriate. It's really a race to make it to Kobol before things get too bad.
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Robert Stewart
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The skill cards are one of the core elements of the game's mechanics - the skill checks provide a way for hidden Cylons to attempt undetected sabotage, while some of the staple cards provide key abilities - Executive Order, in particular, is worth far more played as an action than as a 1 or 2 point skill check contribution. Consolidate Power may not be worth the action, but Launch Scout definitely is (and, short of being Laura Roslin or Boomer, is the best way around the problem of not drawing jump icons that the base game offers). Repair is situational, but when it's useful, it's essential; and the Piloting cards are great to play when they're relevant, making up for them being so rarely useful in skill checks...

Particularly in the base game, Investigative Committee will usually save you more than its face value in card strength by letting you avoid overplaying (or, worse, only just underplaying), Declare Emergency is borderline - if the check is probably passing anyway, then hanging onto it is almost as good a way to make sure it does pass as playing it for its (always higher) value. Strategic Planning is good for key die rolls, but also very good for skill checks. Maximum Firepower speaks for itself. A well-timed Scientific Research turns an impossible check into an easy one, or can be used in a skill check if Engineering happens to be positive.

The only base-game skill card I'd regard as skill-check fodder is Consolidate Power, and only because moving to the Press Room is generally better unless you need a specific colour of card.


On the other hand, I am sympathetic to your other point - the "doldrums" - long jump cycles where nothing much happens - are a definite weakness of the base game, though it's not true that there's nothing helpful you can do during such stretches - the Press Room to fill your hand with often-useful cards, the President's Office to fill the Quorum hand (or raise Food/Morale), or Scouting to dig for better Destinations and more Jump Icons. And each expansion does something to reduce the effect of the doldrums.

The Pegasus expansion gives access to the Engine Room - discard two cards to make the next Crisis act as though it has a Jump Icon whether it actually does or not.

Exodus offers the Cylon Fleet Board (you don't jump any sooner, but you get plenty of Cylon ships to shoot down while you wait) and Allies (more things to while waiting for something to happen)

Daybreak includes the Demetrius, letting players draw even more skill cards with the Captain's Cabin or perform Missions - like tougher Super Crises, but with a positive effect if passed - though playing with the Demetrius and Missions means you're going two extra distance to reach Earth. It also offers Mutiny as Quorum-like cards that anyone can end up with, which generally have unpleasant side-effects, and, if you don't manage them carefully, start sending people to the Brig - again, offering something else to do on your turn.



Ultimately, if you don't like skill checks, you may be better off looking for a different game to introduce your group to - if you have enough people, I suggest Resistance: Avalon which is the paranoia and Cylon accusations of BSG in a half-hour (okay, maybe an hour, depending on how much arguing there is) package.
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Kārlis Jēriņš
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amosmj wrote:
It seems like the actions on these cards is almost always worse that the voting value except the cases where the cards can just adjust the difficulty of the task, sometimes by as much as the card is worth in the first place, making the points useless.

Yeah, no, that's absolutely not the case. 99% of the time Investigative Committees are played for their effect (making all cards in the skill check face-up is priceless!), and playing a Executive Order in a skill check is a Cylon-only move unless you have more than one. Strategic Planning is also often better used for its ability than for a skill check.

amosmj wrote:
In BSG you have about a dozen options to take on your turn, one or two of them generally seem to be relevant to what your doing at any time.

Are we even playing the same game? Because I always want to do so many things on my turn.
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amosmj wrote:

Eventually Shadows Over Camelot tried to steal some of its thunder but BSG is still the one I hear the most talked about..


I think Shadows over Camelot came out in 2005, and BSG in 2009? So BSG stole the thunder and kept it?

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Ian Allen
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There isn't a single game I can think of with so many relevant choices each round. When played properly by a skilled group of players, the game can hang in the balance on one or two single decisions by a player.
I have played it over 60 times now I think and all but 2 or 3 of those games came down to the wire and were very tense and fun.

Every now and then I feel like I have a turn where the game doesn't hinge on what I do that turn - in those situations I try to do something to help bulk up a little for my next turn when things are sure to be burning down around me.

We play with all 3 expansions, but pick and choose the good parts from all 3.

In the base game, you can play a pilot or support person like the Chief, an feel like there is nothing to do while you are waiting for a Cylon Fleet card to show up and some fighting to happen.

With the expansion Cylon Fleet board, you don't go for very long without enemy ships in the picture, so that removes the problem from the base set of shuffling all the Fleet cards into the bottom half of the deck.

There are a lot and I mean a LOT of subtleties that you learn about when playing this game repeatedly. I have written a list of things a hidden Cylon player can do on his turn before that number about 50 items - anywhere from overt stuff like Cally using her power to blow away Cain before Cain can help the humans by using her extra jump ability to super subtle things like not offering useful suggestions or playing too many cards of the right kind into a skill check so that you can't help on the next one.

To create a game with such an incredible depth of choices on each turn, that should literally come down to a nail-biter of an ending at every session is an amazing acomplishment.

This game is my favorite of all time for those reasons - but you do need to skip some things out of the expansions like the New Caprica board which adds 30 minutes or more to the game time but doesn't increase the fun at all - or the special goal cards like Final Five or whatever that make it harder for the humans (its skewed in favor of the Cylons enough as it is) or the Ionian Nebula part .....

It takes a while to figure out what the best way to adjust the game is so that your group gets the maximum fun out of it, but when you get it just right you are good for a long while and no 2 sessions are ever alike.
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David Williams
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I really like this game. I disagree with much of what you wrote, especially that the first BSG show it better than the second. So that's all I have to say about that. I'm going to work on your second request, pull out my red pen, and work on your grammar and related problems.

amosmj wrote:
This review is a part of a series that I am attempting in which I review my top fifty ranked games from 2013. To see the rankings check out this geeklist. (No link provided.)

Battlestar Galactica seemed like the game that anyone who was anyone cliché that does not apply was playing a few years back. Eventually Shadows Over Camelot tried to steal some of its thunder as pointed out a chronological error but BSG is still the one I hear the most talked about, it's also the one that seems to be getting yet another expansion. I bought it a couple years back based on the hype but only got to the table once, I just didn't have the right people. Since then I've found a group that makes an event out of each play and we've played it three or four times. If my group makes it such a big deal, what's it doing so far down my list?

First, I should state for the record. I don't care one bit about the show. I liked the old version slightly better than the new one and though neither held my attention for an entire season. All indications to me are that if you love BSG then don't waste your time on reviews, buy the game.

BSG basically simulates the show to the best of its abilities, your you're trying to find Kobol, you have limited resources to get there and bad things seem to always happen to those resources. It plays like most co-ops seem to, you take a turn then you play the game's turn. In BSG you have about a dozen options to take on your turn, one or two of them generally seem to be relevant to what your you're doing at any time.

There are two core mechanics in BSG that I think hamstring it. First, the game's turn. This is the bit where you draw a card and do what it says, which is usually bad. These cards are the most important thing in the entire game. They determine the pace of the game because they not only tell you how aggressive the enemy is but they are how you, the humans, get closer to your jump which is how you may win the game. (Just a plain mess of a sentence.) It's the later randomizer that really bugs me. There are times where you're just loitering in space, waiting for the right cards to come out. It certainly seems like you would use those opportunities to improve your lot in life, but that's not really an option.

The second mechanic that rubs me a bit the wrong way are the cards you hold as a player. Each card has a color, a number and an action. The color and number determine the value of the card in completing tasks. A couple random cards are throw in the blind you to anyone who might be undermining the groups efforts. It seems like the actions on these cards is almost always worse that the voting value except the cases where the cards can just adjust the difficulty of the task, sometimes by as much as the card is worth in the first place, making the points useless. (Another mess of a sentence.)Also, these cards have been how I have spotted the Cylons in multiple games. I'm sure conscientious play prevents this, but I'm playing with gamers and they're making these mistakes.

After two long paragraphs of grumbling and nitpicking does this even get a place in my top 50. Well, my group. (As we used to say--This sentence no verb.) If it wasn't weren't for my group, I'd never be interested in playing. We play at work, delete comma over lunch. This game way takes a full week to play, five days of BSG. Each day we start shooting around emails openly accusing each other of Cylon activities. Once the Cylon is revealed he or she will often trash talk a bit. That is why I find this game worth playing.

Despite being a clunky, long game, with the right group, this game is immersive unlike anything I can think of. It is because of my group that this is number 46 on this list.

PS: Please feel free to feedback with agreement and disagreement or thoughts on my writing in general.
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Robert Stewart
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The Old Man wrote:
I'm going to work on your second request, pull out my red pen, and work on your grammar and related problems.

amosmj wrote:
After two long paragraphs of grumbling and nitpicking does this even get a place in my top 50. Well, my group. (As we used to say--This sentence no verb.) If it wasn't weren't for my group, I'd never be interested in playing.


These two corrections are debatable (or flat wrong):

In the first case, sentence fragments used for rhetorical effect are perfectly acceptable in less formal contexts. Of course, to make sense, the errors in the preceding sentence should be corrected: there's a word missing before "does" (either "how" or "why") and the sentence should end with a question mark not a full stop.

For the second correction, while "weren't" would indeed be correct in this context (as an unreal hypothetical) it is recognised as a declining usage, and "wasn't" is acceptable.

For anyone who cares about the distinction between "was" and "were" when discussing conditionals, if I say one of:

"If it was raining last night, the ground would still be wet"
"If it were raining last night, the ground would still be wet"

then the latter tells you that I know it didn't rain last night, and suggests that the ground is dry (and either that that's how I know it didn't rain, or how I mean to convince you that it didn't). The former suggests, but only weakly, that I don't know whether it rained last night or not.

The rule is that "were" can be used when you know that the scenario you hypothesise didn't happen.
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Ian Allen
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You guys are cracking me up with this grammar war.

hahaha...
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Robert
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Thanks for the interesting little grammar lesson.
 
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David Williams
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rmsgrey wrote:
The Old Man wrote:
I'm going to work on your second request, pull out my red pen, and work on your grammar and related problems.

amosmj wrote:
After two long paragraphs of grumbling and nitpicking does this even get a place in my top 50. Well, my group. (As we used to say--This sentence no verb.) If it wasn't weren't for my group, I'd never be interested in playing.


These two corrections are debatable (or flat wrong):

In the first case, sentence fragments used for rhetorical effect are perfectly acceptable in less formal contexts. Of course, to make sense, the errors in the preceding sentence should be corrected: there's a word missing before "does" (either "how" or "why") and the sentence should end with a question mark not a full stop.

For the second correction, while "weren't" would indeed be correct in this context (as an unreal hypothetical) it is recognised as a declining usage, and "wasn't" is acceptable.

For anyone who cares about the distinction between "was" and "were" when discussing conditionals, if I say one of:

"If it was raining last night, the ground would still be wet"
"If it were raining last night, the ground would still be wet"

then the latter tells you that I know it didn't rain last night, and suggests that the ground is dry (and either that that's how I know it didn't rain, or how I mean to convince you that it didn't). The former suggests, but only weakly, that I don't know whether it rained last night or not.

The rule is that "were" can be used when you know that the scenario you hypothesise didn't happen.

Excellent, though I do think the fragment was purely a mistake on the OP's part.
 
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David Williams
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glookose wrote:
You guys are cracking me up with this grammar war.

hahaha...

No war, just two high IQ posters thinking things out.
 
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