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Brian Franzman
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This weekend I got my first chance to play Battlestar Galactica at a local game convention (DragonFlight). Since I had heard so much about how good the game was, using the cooperative element + the traitor element, I was really excited to see how it would go. Now, I've never seen the new show, though I am a big fan of the original version from back in its heyday (yes, I am a child of the 80's). I figured it would still be familiar enough to be enjoyable; I've seen enough shows set in space, or with conspiracies as a central theme, that I didn't figure it would be that important. I think I was correct in that regard.

We had four players, and after the mandatory rules explanation we got underway. I had selected Apollo, so I spent much of the game flying around in a Viper, though it took us a while after our first jump to even come across more Cylons. That was good, because we were able to use our time trying to figure out who the Cylon in the party was.

To keep this brief, here are my experiences and impressions of the game:

It was repetitive. Draw cards, play a card (or take another action), attempt to thwart a Crisis. Repeat. And repeat again. The Cylon player gets to have a bit more fun in trying to fail Crises and remain hidden, and the humans have a few ways to root out the Cylon. But the game's basic play can become tedious very quickly.

It was long, 4 hours to play. Admittedly we had to go back to the rule book several times, but it still seemed to drag.

Movement in my Viper was annoyingly slow. The "Move or Shoot" restriction for taking an action pretty much kept me in the same section of space, waiting for Cylons to close in. When (or if) they did, I then I played a card to blast as many of them as possible. With the presence of unmanned Vipers to be used as shields, and with the abundance of reroll cards, I never felt there was much of a mortal threat.

The selection of skill cards seemed very small; each skill only has two or three cards for it, with the variation coming from how many "crisis points" they have on them. This seemed a bit restrictive and dry, but did make it easy to get the card I wanted.

The initial hunt for the hidden Cylon turned out to be pointless, due to a bad explanation of how the roles work. Apparently (as in our case), there may not be a Cylon present at all until the second half of the game. That did breed a lot of tension, paranoia, and second-guessing, which is where much of the game's fun came from. However, once the Cylon was unmasked, he then got to hose the humans from his special board locations (especially Caprica). The humans were thoroughly beaten, at least two jumps away from any chance at victory.

Ultimately, though, this game has many of the same problems as the other cooperative board games I've seen. Turns seem rather scripted as there aren't many options to take. The game becomes an exercise in attrition as resources are slowly whittled away without many ways to regain them. And an experienced player may feel obligated (often wrongly) to direct the actions of the inexperienced.

At least in a game like Arkham Horror, players have a variety of options: acquire more spells & weapons, enter gates, team up to fight or trade, take on the horrors wandering the streets, etc. In Battlestar Galactica, there is little of that, partly due to mistrust, but mostly due to the limitations of the game itself. I have my doubts that the upcoming Pegasus expansion will be much of an improvement, but I won't give up hope. That's just what the Cylons want... robot
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Carl Bussema
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Early on in the game's life, you'll find the Cylons win easily because it's easy to capitalize on human mistakes, and there will be plenty. As the humans get more experienced, the game shifts back toward an equilibrium, possibly favoring the humans if they understand how to maximize using Executive Orders and Investigative Committee to minimize attrition, and learn when it is OK just to let a crisis fail without even trying.

It's a hard game to really get a good feel for until you've played it a few times, but the first one or two experiences can really sour you.
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James Carlton
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Odd... I had the exact opposite opinion of Arkham Horror vs BSG.

IMO Arkham Horror is just one long group think, most of the game seems to be spent with one or two people telling everyone else what to do and there are very few oppourtunities for inderpendent though.

BSG for me on the other hand is 2 or 3 hours of non-stop tension, suspense and betrayal and you can't trust anything anyone tells you to do.

One thing I noticed in your review is problems moving and shooting in a viper. Not sure but you might have played that wrong. If you're in a viper you can move, and then either move again or shoot. (and if you're Starbuck you can then move or shoot again).

With piloting skill cards and some good rolls you can really tear through the cylons.
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Chris
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Bokrug wrote:
Movement in my Viper was annoyingly slow. The "Move or Shoot" restriction for taking an action pretty much kept me in the same section of space, waiting for Cylons to close in.


Don't forget, during your move step if you're piloting a viper you can move to an adjacent space area as your movement and then take your action. We missed this rule our first time through, too. So, if you also choose to move as your action as well, your viper can move two spaces in one turn.
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Jason Farris
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While you may have missed a rule on the viper thing. I'm with you on the length of game play vs options. Sadly, I'm the only one at the store I play in that doesn't seem to jump for joy when BSG hits the table. I understand the game, I just find it pretty boring. Oh well.
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Zenjoy
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Jasta wrote:
Odd... I had the exact opposite opinion of Arkham Horror vs BSG.

IMO Arkham Horror is just one long group think, most of the game seems to be spent with one or two people telling everyone else what to do and there are very few oppourtunities for independent though.

BSG on the other hand is 2 or 3 hours of non-stop tension, suspense and betrayal and you can't trust anything anyone tells you to do.


I would agree on this. I've played Arkham horror only once and it was one too many for me. Games where its evveryone VS the board can loose its power quickly for players who like to interact - where BSG is focused mainly on the interactions.

While your review is accurate in the actions repeating themselves, (move, act, crisis, repeat) I disagree with your point of there being limited choices. In one turn you can have your character activate one of 8 locations, of which including electing a new president or locking up the Admiral to assign military command elsewhere. Atop that are your action cards (and, if President, your quorum cards). And should combat arise you can choose from 5 other locations to meet the situation. And after you've made a choice, you've got a crisis to deal with (which involve MORE choices to make).

But the main game comes from the choices players make and trying to deduce who is the traitor. Everytime the President or Admiral has a choice to make they often ask for advice from their players - despite they can choose freely (and frequently do). A human has to do what they feel is best for the fleet, while a Cylon needs to act to maintain trust until they can find a successful means of killing the humans off. Did a player activate the FTL early to run, or because they were trying to leave people behind?

As for the Cylon's winning more, I appreciate this. Its a game about the journey, not the victory. I advise you to replay the game and focus more on talking with your playmates over just playing the game. Arkham horror has been reputed to have a similar flaw that if you "just play the game" its dull. BSG is a great interactive game if you play it correctly and focus on what everyone is doing instead of just your own turn.

Jasta wrote:
One thing I noticed in your review is problems moving and shooting in a viper. Not sure but you might have played that wrong. If you're in a viper you can move, and then either move again or shoot. (and if you're Starbuck you can then move or shoot again).


I noticed this too. Piloted Vipers get to move AND attack, while unmanned only offer one or the other. A common mistake (I made it). I do recomend you replay this game as it has been a winner with numerous game groups (must have played it with over 20 different people now). So far only a few have not enjoyed it, or understood it (or, in one case, made it unenjoyable for everyone cause he was too focused on himself and found it "unfair" people weren't doing what he said cause we all thought he was a Cylon - result = angry beard 25yr old man!) but the majority are eagerly asking when the expansion arrives so we can increase the group size to 7.

I invite you to replay the game, especially after you have re-read the rules and focus instead on interacting with players (to spot any suspect activities) over just taking your turn. You may find it to be a very rewarding game. Otherwise it may not just be for you. But I do recomend not to judge a game based on a single play you've experienced.
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Bill Jones
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Of the games in our queue, the vote in our weekly gaming group is that BSG is our favorite game (followed by Agricola, Cosmic Encounter, Race for the Galaxy, and then in no particular order, Duel of Ages, RoboRally, Stone Age, Pandemic, Dominion, and Mystery of the Abbey). The deception, accusatory nature, tension, and finally the betrayal aspects of the game are why it's our favorite. And once the cylons are revealed, it then becomes an excellent team game!

We've only played four times, and amazingly enough, the first game was over in just two hours with the Cylons winning in a 5-player game, where the humans still needed one more jump to reach Kobol, and then of course the final winning jump. The other three games were closer, with the humans finally winning in our last game. The last game which the humans won was a 6-player game where the Sympathizer was a Cylon, but where we adjusted all the dials in the beginning of the game +1 over the standard values to better balance the game for our group. And that adjustment was just about perfect, since several of our dials were down to 1 when the winning jump was made.

We have only played 5 and 6 player games, and both of those are good numbers to play with. I think 4 might be too few. I should add that all of us watched the entire re-imagined BSG first two seasons on DVD (passed around among our group) and the final 3 (or 2.5?) seasons as they broadcast on the Sci-Fi channel. And we all liked it a lot, except perhaps for the last episode, where it just left too many unanswered questions and unfinished story arcs. soblue

Our group generally gets together as guys only, leaving the wives at home, but one of the wives did join us in one game, and she really enjoyed it on the first play - I believe she played Starbuck. That was the one game the humans won, where she was on the human side (along with her hubby), and she was integral in the win. Somehow, maybe it was woman's intuition but I can't really say how, she was able to correctly identify BOTH cylons before they revealed themselves, and played it correctly by putting them in the brig, etc., until they finally revealed themselves. The rest of the humans maybe had one cylon identified, but none of us had both of them nailed like she did. It was just funny, and it definitely helped the human cause.

It can be a long game -- our longest was 3.5 hours, and our average is probably almost 3 hours, and there is a 10-15 minute setup. But I disagree with the poster who said that the turns become repetitive. We find that the turns are quite different, because the Crisis cards can be skill checks, events, or attacks, and many have two options. And once there are basestars and raiders on the board, there is a lot of exciting action.

BSG is a great game, mostly because it is unique. And these are the reasons it's unique:

1. It is a hybrid co-op/team game, which starts as a co-op game and eventually becomes a team game. But it is really neither because it is never fully co-op, and the teams are not determined until late in the game. Whatever it is, it's definitely not a cutthroat game, so there is a lot of player interaction, and that is always fun.

2. It is a hybrid strategy/action/combat game. For the same reason it can't be classified as fully co-op or team game, it also can't be classified as a strategy, action, or combat game, because it's all of those, or some of those, depending on whether the Battlestar is under attack.
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Steve Duff
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Bokrug wrote:
To keep this brief, here are my experiences and impressions of the game:

repetitive... tedious... long... drag... slow... restrictive and dry.


Yup, that's BSG.
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Mike Aubuchon
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I also played Battlestar Galactica for the first time last weekend. I have a reasonable amount of experience with Arkham Horror, and while BSG has a lot of elements that felt somewhat similar (starting with the multiple loss-conditions and going from there), it's much easier to compare the experience of the game to that of Shadows over Camelot. The first few times I played that game were a lot of fun, but eventually the novelty of the traitor mechanic sort of wore off.

After one play, it feels like the traitor mechanic is much more fleshed-out in BSG. The Cylon players have a lot more depth to their decision-making than the traitor in Shadows ever did, and the soft-reset of loyalties halfway through the game keeps you questioning the actions of the other players.

Wow. The more I write here, the more this sounds like an anti-recommendation for Shadows over Camelot: "If you didn't like this game, you'll HATE that one!"

I do agree that it felt like play was relatively scripted, in that there was always an obvious best play. Of course, if the player to your left turns out to be a Cylon, using Executive Orders to get him out of the Sick Bay isn't the great play it should be...
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Neil
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What's going on here?? You aren't supposed to dislike a game I like! How will this discord ever be repaired?
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Eric Clason
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Bokrug wrote:
...
It was repetitive. Draw cards, play a card (or take another action), attempt to thwart a Crisis. Repeat. And repeat again. ...

Can't most games be described in a similar manner: On a turn/round do A, do B, ... do N, Repeat. Not saying the BSG doesn't feel repetitive, just that your description doesn't explain why BSG feels repetitive and other games don't.
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Jasta wrote:
Odd... I had the exact opposite opinion of Arkham Horror vs BSG.

IMO Arkham Horror is just one long group think, most of the game seems to be spent with one or two people telling everyone else what to do and there are very few oppourtunities for inderpendent though.

BSG for me on the other hand is 2 or 3 hours of non-stop tension, suspense and betrayal and you can't trust anything anyone tells you to do.

I find this ironic since I think both games have the same underlying weakness. The traitor mechanic makes BSG more interesting. However, apart from that particular mechanic, I think "repetitive" and "limited" is a perfect description of both - they work for you if you are willing to focus on the situation while trying to ignore the sameness of the moves. But neither are particularly clever or deep as games, they are based on endless repetition of a limited set of mini-scenarios (for example, "kill the monster", or "find some item" in Arkham Horror, or "shoot down a raider" and "fend off a card" in BSG) that, by themselves, involve little subtlety and often (especially in Arkham Horror) are a pure dicefest. The length, of course, is a big part of this - if these games were over in an hour one wouldn't notice the endless repetition of those micro-scenarios, but they are not. FFG seems to be making lots of money that way though so I don't expect them to improve - nice components in weak games on well-known franchises are obviously the way to commercial success.
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Arkham Horror = Awesome.
Battlestar Galactica = Awesome.
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Jim Henderson
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Bokrug wrote:
Admittedly we had to go back to the rule book several times, . . .

Perhaps someone should have spent more time reading the rulebook before you started playing!

Bokrug wrote:
The initial hunt for the hidden Cylon turned out to be pointless, due to a bad explanation of how the roles work.

It would seem that you had bad explanations of many of the rules. The incorrect use of move and shoot has already been discussed in previous posts. Did anyone ever use "Executive Orders" or "Investigative Committee" in your game? Which locations were activated in your game other than FTL control? If you played by the wrong rules and didn't take advantage of all of the actions available to you, no wonder you thought the game was repetitive. It appears to me that you were using the Battlestar Galactica components to play a rather different game than the one you originally "heard so much about".

I suggest that you try playing again using the right rules and with more experienced players. I think you will find that the real Battlestar Galactica is a much deeper and richer experience than the messed up variant you experienced at DragonFlight.


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Jon W
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Bokrug wrote:
Turns seem rather scripted as there aren't many options to take.

I like the game, but I agree with this. Pegasus will improve this aspect somewhat, but the base game felt truncated in terms of player options, esp. when the fleet is not under attack. It's a tough line: FFG is in it to make money, so do they hold back good ideas or options from the base game to improve the appeal of an expansion? I don't know, but several of their game lines leave this impression, and I'm getting the same sense from early reports on Middle-Earth Quest.
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Brian Franzman
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The game was a recent purchase by another player in the group, who (supposedly) had played it before. It wasn't until the second deal of role cards went around that he explained that there might not have been a Cylon at all in the first half of the game, which was admittedly pretty frustrating. And, in reading the prior posts, am I to believe that there can be TWO Cylons in the game??

As for the Viper rules, I actually had questioned the "move or shoot" rule, because it seemed so extremely limiting. But the game's owner looked up the rule and assured me that's how it was played. *sigh*

Now, I'm not saying BSG is a terrible game. I'm not saying it's not on par with other co-op games out there, either, or that co-op games are all bad. I just felt BSG was too long, and because I didn't see a lot of options for play it seemed very repetitive to me. Sit around in a Viper waiting for Cylons to come my way... Play Executive Order on other players so they could try to blow up Base Stars or what have you... (Yes, for a while we were even playing those cards incorrectly... playing them back and forth to stack actions, even though the cards clearly state you can't do that. Doh!)

I'm more than willing to give it another go, probably after reading the rules for myself! I will add that the President and Admiral were not Cylons, so removing them from office would have only made things worse, Crisis-wise. The President spent much of the game in the Brig as it was!

We never had raiders enter the Galactica. We never used the Communications room to move the civilian ships (we figured it was a delaying tactic at best). When things were slow, it seemed like the best option I had was to pick up an extra Engineering card. And when space segments were filled with little plastic Cylon ships, my best option was always to shoot at them. Maybe I feel that the game was tedious because I didn't know what all of my options were? AND, if anyone had actually been attempting to sabotage the crises in the first half, then we all would have been much more focused on a Cylon hunt...
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Brian Franzman
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ejclason wrote:
Bokrug wrote:
...
It was repetitive. Draw cards, play a card (or take another action), attempt to thwart a Crisis. Repeat. And repeat again. ...

Can't most games be described in a similar manner: On a turn/round do A, do B, ... do N, Repeat. Not saying the BSG doesn't feel repetitive, just that your description doesn't explain why BSG feels repetitive and other games don't.


Battlestar Galactica is supposed to be an immersive game rich in theme and deep with player interaction. But when I played it, I found a distinct lack of play options and a simple, highly repetitive turn sequence. I felt the game board provided only one or two locations of any worth to me during my turns, and the variety of skill cards was extremely limited. Thus, my feeling that I spent most of the game drawing cards, playing a card (occasionally), and then helping to pass a crisis.

(Yes, there were times when we deemed it better to make a die roll (when given the option), or to purposely fail a crisis, in order to conserve cards.)

In other games, I often feel that there are a lot of valid play options that will help me advance my position, or a variety of different strategies that I can try. I really didn't feel like that was the case with Battlestar Galactica.
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Sean McCarthy
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Bokrug wrote:
(Yes, for a while we were even playing those cards incorrectly... playing them back and forth to stack actions, even though the cards clearly state you can't do that. Doh!)


Wow, you must have been playing it really wrong - the cards actually don't state that!

(It's errata though.)
 
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SevenSpirits wrote:
Bokrug wrote:
(Yes, for a while we were even playing those cards incorrectly... playing them back and forth to stack actions, even though the cards clearly state you can't do that. Doh!)


Wow, you must have been playing it really wrong - the cards actually don't state that!

(It's errata though.)


Don't they say, "Only one of this card may be played each turn", or something to that effect?
 
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James Palmer
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Although I've loved every BSG game I've played, I specifically don't choose pilots because I honestly think they have the most boring job to do in the game.

I can also see this game not being fun with the wrong group. The fun comes mostly from the metagaming, rather than from the actual game mechanics, and those that are not too willing to have a bit of "role-playing" fun might not enjoy this game very much.
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This review seems fair and accurate in that I know several BSG fans who would agree with all of it, with only one catch.

Which is that the tension, suspicion, paranoia, accustations/rebuttals, and gleeful sowing of misinformation outweigh the tedious and repetitive mechanics. I know people who've played this 50+ times, who play double/triple headers, who play several times a week, etc., and I don't think any of them think all that highly of the game's underlying mechanics. To them, those are just the bare minimum needed to create the game's atmosphere, which pretty much is the game, as far as they're concerned.
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Justin Alexander
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M St wrote:
But neither are particularly clever or deep as games, they are based on endless repetition of a limited set of mini-scenarios (for example, "kill the monster", or "find some item" in Arkham Horror, or "shoot down a raider" and "fend off a card" in BSG) that, by themselves, involve little subtlety and often (especially in Arkham Horror) are a pure dicefest.


But that's like saying that Chess is nothing more than an endless repetition of "moving pieces".

Both Arkham Horror and BSG do create mini-scenarios. But these mini-scenarios do not exist in isolation from each other: They combine in dynamic ways, creating unique tactical situations. And that ignores the larger strategic picture.

There was a game of Arkham Horror I played where the rest of the table didn't have any conception of the larger strategy of the game. Because they had no end-game scenario, the game dragged and dragged and dragged as they dealt with one tactical problem after another. That was pretty painful. So I suppose if you're myopically incapable of seeing the larger strategies of the game, they would be pretty dire. (Particularly BSG, where the entire dynamic of the game is based around two hidden teams manipulating long-term strategies.)
 
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Bill Jones
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Bokrug wrote:
And, in reading the prior posts, am I to believe that there can be TWO Cylons in the game??


I'm more than willing to give it another go, probably after reading the rules for myself!


Yes, reading the rules would be recommended!

I mean, you need to know that for a 5-6 player game, there WILL be TWO cylons*, and for 3-4 player, there WILL be ONE cylon. You guys were basically flying blind if you didn't realize the basics like that, so no wonder you didn't get it.


* there will be two Cylon loyalty cards dealt. It is possible, though unlikely, that one player could get both, meaning only one cylon. However, in a 6 player game, this would almost guarantee the Sympathizer will side with the cylons.
 
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On rereading it I think two of the biggest problems you had were:

1. You haven't watched the show.

2. You weren't playing with people you know (I think).

Both these two things are quite important and have a huge influence on how you play the game IMO - even if it's not really mentioned in the rules.

Knowing the characters and backstory helps people get into character a bit - and frankly if you're not trying to be an ace pilot, a shrewd politician or a scheming cylon you're just playing cards and rolling dice. BSG is pretty complicated as far as sci-fi goes. It's not just another Star Trek clone.

Playing with friends just trebles the amount of intrigue and suspicion. Knowing a little about the other players mannerisms and habits gives you a lot more to work with - and makes it twice as shocking when you get it horribly wrong (or manage to completely befuddle your best mate).
 
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Mark Thomason
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wjones14 wrote:
Bokrug wrote:
And, in reading the prior posts, am I to believe that there can be TWO Cylons in the game??
I'm more than willing to give it another go, probably after reading the rules for myself!


* there will be two Cylon loyalty cards dealt. It is possible, though unlikely, that one player could get both, meaning only one cylon. However, in a 6 player game, this would almost guarantee the Sympathizer will side with the cylons.


Actually, this too is a misinterpretation. In a 5 or 6 player game, there will be 2 Cylon cards dealt. If one player receives both, once he reveals he can hand his other (still hidden) loyalty card to one of the human players, (using Resurrection Ship) thereby creating a teammate for himself. This is an effective tactic in part because the Cylon player can do this with a Human Loyalty card too, thereby making the humans question their teammate's actions, even though the second Cylon might be one of the other players.

All the psychological games one plays like this is what makes the game anything but repetitive - if you get players who aren't interested in subterfuge playing Cylons, it pretty much kills a lot of the value of the game.

That said, the OP did miss a few of the rules, and a Cylon victory often points to missed opportunities on the humans' part; for instance using effective Scouting tactics and using the powers of the Presidency and Admiral effectively will not only give the humans a boost, but also provide for many more possible actions and strategies.

And incidentally, use of Communications is sometimes unnecessary, but I've seen it be a game changer more often than I've seen it go unused; the thing about delaying tactics is the entire human goal is delaying tactics - delaying the loss of resources while racing towards the next jump and towards Kobol. Shooting Cylon Raiders is a delaying tactic too - until you jump to safety they just keep coming back anyway. It's not like you can win by taking out the Cylon Basestars or Raiders completely - they're effectively infinite.

 
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