Brian Stock
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I have played this game with 3,4, and 5 players. I think the 5 player game is perfectly balanced. In the 3 player game, there are two main drawbacks. As the Admiral, I need to give an executive order for someone to do something on the battlestar, but the political leader is busy on Colonial One and the pilot is busy out in space. In the 5 player game, this is rarely a problem. Also, in the 3 player game, the president has enough Arrest Orders to throw everyone in the Brig. So here is a variant that addresses these issues:

3 PLAYER VARIANT
Setup: After you distribute the Title cards in setup, the Admiral picks one remaining support character and one remaining pilot character and puts their character tokens on their start positions on the board. These characters will be called NPCs and do not receive their character sheets. (In this variant, the players cannot choose the support character as a player character (PC).)

NPC Rules:
1. Movement: During the movement step, instead of moving their character, a player may move an NPC. If the NPC moves to Colonial One, or from a Viper in space to a ship, the controlling player pays a card just like normal.
2. Action: During the action step, a player may take an action where an NPC is located. The pilot NPC may man a viper, but does not receive abilities from the character sheet. NPCs cannot take cards, so they cannot use the Research Lab or Press Room.
3. Executive Orders: Executive Orders can only be given to players. However a player who has been given an Executive Order may activate an NPC for movement and action, following the directions on the card.
4. Brig: An NPC can be moved to the Brig. A player character can also control NPCs from the Brig (anyone who has watched the series knows this happens a lot).
5. Sick Bay: NPCs are moved to Sick Bay when required just like a player.
6. Skill Cards: Skill cards can be applied to NPC actions.
7. Special Support Character Rule: The support character can always perform the action on the repair skill card, even though he has no skill cards.
6. Rules Lawyers Only: An NPC cannot be Admiral or President. An NPC cannot be given Quorum cards. NPCs receive no abilities from their character sheets. If this variant doesn't say the NPC can do something, the NPC probably can't.

Example: the Admiral (PC) gives Stabuck (PC) an executive order. Starbuck (PC) is currently piloting a viper in space. She decides to move the Chief (NPC) to Communications and then takes the action. She looks at the backs of two civilian ships and then moves them to an adjacent space.

Other Rules:
In the sleeper agent phase, one of the NPCs gets killed by a secret Cylon. Roll a die. 1-4 your support character is dead. 5-8 your pilot is dead. That player token is removed from the game.


4 Player Variant
After you distribute the Title cards in setup, the Admiral picks one remaining pilot character as an NPC. See NPC rules above. The NPC is not killed in the sleeper agent phase. Deal two destiny cards for skill checks like normal.

Other Small Variants

Here's a few other variants I enjoy using sometimes:

Stronger Vice President: If handed the Vice President card, you bypass the Line of Succession and are next in line for the Presidency. If you become President, immediately hand the Vice President card to another player.

Stronger Admiral: In the above variants, allow the Admiral to also use the once-a-game ability on the Pilot NPC he chooses. Take the pilot's character sheet as a reminder. If the Admiral changes, pass the character sheet to the new Admiral. When used, discard the character sheet from the game.

Weaker President: At the beginning of the game, remove one "Arrest Order" Quorum card and give it to the Admiral for his use. (I mean, look whose picture is on the card.) This way both the President and Admiral have the ability to arrest, leading to an uneasy relationship between the two (and true to the first season of the show). After the Admiral uses the card, it is put in the Quorum discard deck, and the President may draw it thereafter when it is shuffled. (If the Admiral title changes hands because the Admiral is placed in the brig or there is a mutiny, the "Arrest Order" card does not change hands. There are still those who are loyal to the old Admiral. However, the Admiral cannot use the card while in the Brig. If the Admiral is revealed as a Cylon, then discard the "Arrest Order" card.)

Hidden Sympathizer Card: A very simple Sympathizer card variant. Don't add the sympathizer card to the Loyalty Deck until the Sleeper Agent Phase. Then do the following:
A resource is red: Add a "not a cylon" card to the deck instead of a sympathizer. Shuffle and deal.
No resource is red: Add a sympathizer card to the deck. Shuffle and deal. That player is now on the cylon side, but does NOT reveal the sympathizer card. If the sympathizer reveals their card, they become a revealed Cylon player, but do not receive a Super Crisis Card.

Less Luck: Only draw one card from the destiny deck for each skill check.

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Brian Stock
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Reasoning

This is for those interested on the reasoning behind these rules. My goal is to make the three and four player game more like the five player game.


Executive Orders: I didn't want people to be able to give EOs to NPCs because that would mean they could take two turns all the time. The fear of EOs is that the player you give it to may be a cylon who will waste the turns or do something terrible. This way you still have to trust the player you give the EO.

Killing an NPC in the 3 Player Game: In the four and five player game, there's usually 2 cylons, so someone stops being useful by around half-way through the game. This just simulates that, as the Sympathizer is usually revealed in the sleeper agent step.

Support NPC can always repair: I find repairing is usually more difficult in the three player game because less repair cards are being drawn. If someone was playing Chief in the five player game, chances are he has a spare repair card to use. I find this is only a problem in the three player game (given that people choose wisely in the four player game). However, he may be killed in this 3 player variant. (You can add 2 to this die roll with play of the strategic planning skill card, making it more likely that the pilot dies. How do you plan this? Um...we'll say you've assigned a security team to the Chief.)

Controlling NPCs from Brig: this weakens the President a little bit, who is mightily powerful in the five player game and ungodly in the three player game. Why? She gets turns more frequently, and there's only two other players and she has 2 "arrest order" quorum cards. She can put everyone in the Brig but her. Not a bad strategy as a human or cylon. I 'm also always weary of game designs that prevent players from taking turns for long periods of time. This way, players can still participate, but don't get to choose Crisis cards. This makes the game more like the five player game, where the President has to carefully weigh her actions against what four other players might do.

Putting NPCs in the Brig: If the Cylon player is controling NPCs from the Brig, the NPCs are obviously Cylon sympathizers and should be put in the Brig to stop this. ;)


 
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Matt Smith
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Troy
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I think there is a fundamental flaw in your logic about the destiny deck. In a 3-player game, each player only has to wait for two turns before it's his turn again. So, your hand of cards must last through a maximum of three skill checks (assuming no Administration/Brig action). In a 5-player game, your hand of cards must last through a maximum of five skill checks. This means each player can play more cards on each skill check in a 3-player game vs. a 5-player game.

Another way to think about it is by looking at averages. Let's say an average skill check is 10. The average skill card is worth 2 (rounded down). That means it will take a minimum of five player cards to pass the skill check, if you assume the two destiny cards cancel each other out. In a 3-player game, that means three skill checks will consume 15 player cards, or five per player, before you get to draw again. In a 5-player game, 5 skill checks will consume 25 cards, or five per player, before you get to draw again. Therefore, the effect of the destiny deck is exactly the same in a 3 and 5-player game.

What you should focus on in 3-player games is the mix of skill cards available to the players. It's best to pick characters that have access to at least 3 skills, so you have better overlap within the group. That way you'll have a better chance to have the cards you need for each skill check.
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Brian Stock
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Hmmm, good point. Another way to put it is that the ratio of destiny cards to player cards should be the same in terms of luck. It should be 6 to 15 or 10 to 25, which is a ratio of 2:5.

Maybe I just had very bad luck with my 3 player games. In any case, I'll reedit the variant and leave it as an optional variant, but you have convinced me that drawing 2 destiny cards should have the same luck regardless of players. My variant would alter the luck ratio from 2:5 to 1:5.

Well, one of the bonuses of putting this online is the great feedback. Thanks Matthew.
 
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Tyler Stratton
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California
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I like this idea a lot, especially because you get to feel like more characters are in the game.

My one concern is that it makes things easier for the humans, because basically they don't have to discard as many cards to move from ship to ship (cuz they can just use the NPC's on Galactica, or the ones in space). And you can get a better use of your executive orders by spacing out your NPC's on useful locations.

However I can see the counter argument that a Cylon can take advantage of these things too, but it seems that there are less nasty things one can do with it.

Still a three player game can be rather dull compared to a 5 player so I will give this a try!
 
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Brian Stock
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Thanks...if you have any suggestions after trying it, let me know.
 
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Paul Newsham
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Thanks for this variant. We played three player last night and it was very enjoyable. The sleeper phase death even played into the Cylon's reveal: the pilot was killed, he was the only other pilot, and he revealed just as we were depending on him to clear a zone of Raiders.

One player was new to the game, and seemed surprised when I told him this wasn't the "official" 3-player mode.
 
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