Michel Boucher
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(A slightly different version of this review was posted to Ottawa Wargamers discussion group on Yahoo!)

The game is an odd bird for a cooperative game inasmuch as no one knows who among the players is a Cylon. For those of you who have never watched the series, Cylons were created by humans (or were they?) and come in two flavours: toasters and skin-jobs. The toasters are Centurions from the old series with the trolling red light and simple statements like (cue mechanical voice): By your command. Skin jobs are Cylons that look like humans. Humans however were unaware of this until the beginning of the series when Admiral Adama spent some time on a space station with Leoben Conoy. Then, the audience knew quite a bit more about Cylons than the humans did. However, those that were imbedded in the fleet were unaware they were Cylons until events triggered their knowledge. At the end of season 1, seven models were revealed, at the end of season 3 another four Cylons (individuals, it would seem), and in episode eleven of season 4, we may have learned who the last hidden Cylon was.

The game has both types of Cylons, but only skin-jobs are the hidden ones who could be any character. The toasters are the raiders, heavy raiders and centurions who may board Galactica. Basestars (like carriers) are controlled by Hybrids in the tv series, human looking computers who are also oracles in Cassandra mode. Hybrids are not part of the BSG game although basestars are very much in the game.

Components

The components are mostly good (the map has warped slightly which means it has to be put under a weight for some time), thick cardboard counters with plastic stands for the characters, two sets of cards (one large, one small), plastic pieces for the combatant units (except for the basestars). The rules are clear and easy to follow and a more than cursory reading should be sufficient to undertake a game.

Play

So, during setup, characters are chosen with cards upon which are attributes which players can use to pick skill cards on their turn, and special abilities which can be used once, as well as a handsome photograph of the actor playing the character, unsuitable for framing.



In game turn order, characters are chosen, allegiance cards are distributed (see below), the board is setup, and the game starts with the first player being the last to draw from the skill cards decks. Each time a character has his or her turn, the player draws skill cards equal to each skill s/he possesses unless prevented by other events. There are five different skills: politics, leadership, tactics, piloting and engineering.



These cards are useful. They provide skills points which are added together to pass tests on the board or handed out by crisis cards. They can also be used to perform specific functions: modify die rolls in favour of the humans, reduce the need for points, pass the action to another player, peek at the destination deck, etc. As tests require that cards from certain decks be played, the Cylon player can sabotage the humans' chance of success by playing cards from other decks, whose points are subtracted from those played. All skill card play is secret and the cards are shuffled before being counted to avoid knowing who put which card in the pile.

The function of each area on the board is clearly written and easy to follow; three require a skill test, the rest do not. For example, Admiral Adama moves to weapons control and uses his action that turn to fire a salvo at a Cylon base star. The player rolls a 1d8 and if his result is within a certain range, the base star is damaged and a chit is drawn to determine the extent of the damage (which can result in: no launches, no weapons, two hits or structural damage reducing combat effectiveness). For hits on Galactica, a chit is drawn which either shows loss of resources or damage to an area; that area is out of commission until a character uses an engineering card to repair it. Some areas are less crucial than others. A hit to the armory, for example, makes it impossible to attack the centurions that have boarded Galactica, so the sooner it is repaired, the better it is. Same with Weapons, FTL control, and Command.



Each type of attack (attacker/defender) has a different range for their to hit roll.

(Link to firing table removed as file no longer exists)

At the end of his turn, the player draws a crisis card (see below) and it is acted upon by the player designated by the card, which can be the active player, the President or the Admiral. It most often involves a skill test which must be passed in order to satisfy the least damaging condition. At times, we decided to not act upon it and take the hit. There are other advantages/disadvantages to crisis cards. They may cause the FTL spool up to advance one level, bringing the ship closer to a jump, and/or activate Cylon raiders or heavy raiders, the effect of which may be minimal or very damaging.



Allegiance cards must remain secret.



They are distributed to players, and one or more (depending on the number of players) will receive a You are a Cylon card at some point in the game. It could be at the beginning or at the mid-way point, in which case a character who has believed himself to be human will discover he is a Cylon and start acting accordingly.

The Cylons are dedicated to destroying humanity but humanity is not standing still and is dedicated to reaching Kobol, the home of the thirteenth colony, through a series of "jumps" (activated by crisis card draws). Destination cards drawn indicate which distance has been travelled, the important numbers being 4 (at least) and 8 (at least). Upon reaching 4, the remainder of the allegiance cards are distributed and more hidden Cylons could be among the players. Reaching 8 means this is the penultimate jump, the next one automatically winning the game for the humans.



So, each turn follows the same pattern, each player starts by taking his skill cards (which are used mostly to resolve crisis situations) and then the character can move and perform one action. Actions are largely determined by the location which the character occupies (white areas on Galactica and Colonial One).



The fleet of vipers is used to protect the civilian fleet.



Damaged vipers can be repaired as an action, using a skill card, but destroyed vipers can only rarely be brought back. Cylons are endless in number.



A word here about resources. Resources are in limited supply and are important. The players keep track of them on wheels affixed to the board. Resources must be protected, but it is sometimes necessary to choose between outcomes of crisis cards which result in the loss of one (or two). Also, every time Galactica jumps (the admiral chooses secretly between two destination cards) the chance of losing one or two fuel is almost certain (only one card in the destination deck does not have that outcome). Whenever any resource is reduced to 0, the humans lose the game. Consequently, if the admiral is a cylon, he will choose the worst outcome for the humans and bring them closer to their doom.



Back to combat. The vipers protect the fleet which contains civilian ships which carry resources (food, fuel, population). When we played, we were not enough people to man all the important combat stations during a game so we usually relied on bad Cylon rolls to protect the vipers which in turn protected the fleet. The fourth resource, morale, is almost exclusively affected by crisis cards.

Another effect of crisis cards is to setup Cylon ambushes which include base stars and raiders/heavy raiders. At some point, the humans may take the risk before the spool has reached completion to jump to a new destination, and roll to determine whether there is a loss of population.

If there are too many Cylons, the risk may be worth taking once the spool has reached the -3 box. Once the ship has jumped, the Cylons that were surrounding Galactica are removed and the board is cleared (all humans must be either on Galactica or on Colonial One). The players may have a turn or two without stress to be able to fix things and build up card hands, but inevitably, the Cylons will return.

There are many other aspects to the game, but by and large it is fairly linear for each player. However, once a Cylon has revealed himself, that player has a different set of rules. Up to that point, s/he was playing to sabotage some skill checks, but once revealed, a whole new series of locations and actions are open to that player.

The rules are surprisingly well written for FF rules (my experience has been patchy in this area) and the short errata/FAQ resolves some of the more important questions that can come up.

http://new.fantasyflightgames.com/ffg_content/Battlestar_Gal...

http://new.fantasyflightgames.com/ffg_content/Battlestar_Gal...

A final word on quorum cards.



They are useful to replenish disappearing resources and interfere with Cylon plans, unless of course the president IS a Cylon. We did not pay enough attention to these cards, I believe, and could perhaps have avoided our fate out in the depths of space where no one can hear you hum Bob Dylan songs.

NOTE: Had we had more than four players, we could have distributed the duties more equitably.

Evaluation

Overall, the game plays smoothly, it remains tense and exciting throughout and delivers even when it fails to bring the humans to safe harbour.
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Joshua O'Connor
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After the first review stressed how hard this game was to learn, your review brings back hope. I hope the rules are as well written as your review!

One question: Can you decide to be a Cylon who works on the side of the humans? Like some characters in the series?
 
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Michel Boucher
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baradifi wrote:
After the first review stressed how hard this game was to learn, your review brings back hope. I hope the rules are as well written as your review!


Thanks.

Quote:
One question: Can you decide to be a Cylon who works on the side of the humans? Like some characters in the series?


I don't think so, although nothing prevents a player who knows s/he is a Cylon, but not yet revealed as one, from playing in favour of the humans. In fact, s/he should do that at least part of the time to avoid being detected.

Once revealed, however, the rules impose a different behaviour on the Cylon so that no benefit will be gained by avoiding this change or playing against it.

There are no victory points in this game. Victory is a simple either/or proposition. Either the humans win or the Cylons win.

Given that FF has the expansion bug for most of its games, I wouldn't be surprised if future rules introduced some variants.

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Joshua O'Connor
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Good for newbies?
I know a bunch of non-gamers who want to play this game because they're fans of the series. How hard is this for newbies to grasp? My experience is newbies get bored if they can't grasp the concept and make some meaningful choices prettymuch off the bat. I don't want to screw up this chance to convert some buddies, any suggestions or caveats?
 
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Cameron McKenzie
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baradifi wrote:

One question: Can you decide to be a Cylon who works on the side of the humans? Like some characters in the series?


The loyalty cards you get determine how you win the game.

Since humanoid cylons are practically the same thing as humans, there would no mechanical difference between playing as a human or playing as a sympathetic cylon.

If all you get are "You Are Not a Cylon" cards, all it means is that you win if the humans survive. If you want to "roleplay" a cylon, that's your prerogative. =)

Incidentally, Sharon has a trait that sends her to the brig halfway through the game. This happens even if she is "not a cylon," even though thematically the only reason she is put there is because she is. This further highlights my point that you should treat loyalty cards as your GOAL, not your IDENTITY.

The game uses the word cylons to describe the whole team that is opposed to the humans. It's basically humans vs cylons. Considering they want the game to be accessible even to people who aren't fans of the show, it's probably best to keep this simple. There are mechanics in the game that nod at the notion that players on the human team may not necessarily be human. Gameplay-wise they are human because they are on that "team."
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Joshua O'Connor
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Thanks for the explanation!
 
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