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Subject: [WIP] Iron Game Designers - BSG: Express rss

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Evan Derrick
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Download BSG:Express Rules Here
Download the Game Board Here
Download the Cards Here
Download the Dice Labels and Markers Here


The following Playtester files below are quick and dirty versions of the components. They are so people can easily try the game out without having to spend $$$$$ in ink and materials.

Download the Low-Ink Black & White Playtester File Here
Download the Playtester Rules Here


This is my entry for the Iron Game Designers contest. (Iron Game Designer Challenge)

BSG: Express
3-5 players
45-60 minutes

BSG: Express is inspired by the Sci Fi television series Battlestar Galactica, which in turn was a remake of the 1978 television series of the same name. It is an ‘express’ version of the popular Battlestar Galactica game published by Fantasy Flight Games.

The human race is facing extinction. A robotic civilization called the Cylons has destroyed the human’s home planet and is chasing the survivors through space. External threats, however, aren’t the only dangers facing the humans: any one of them might be a Cylon in disguise, attempting to destroy humanity from within.

Players will roll dice, attempt to overcome crises, perform actions, and generally accuse one another of being a 'frakkin toaster.'






DESIGN NOTES

Having play tested this a few times, so far I'm really pleased with it.

The skill dice have the following faces:
STRONG SKILL DIE - (-2)(-2)(-1)(-1)(+2)(+4)
WEAK SKILL DIE - (-2)(-2)(-1)(-1)(+1)(+3)

Every player has two of each. These are the probabilities of a player rolling ALL negative numbers:

With 4 dice - 20%
With 3 dice - 30%
With 2 dice - 45%
With 1 die - 67%

So it is entirely possible that a human player can roll all negative dice, thereby being forced to submit a negative die to a skill check. The probability of this needs to be high enough that the Cylon players can take advantage of it, but low enough so that every single skill check isn't failed.

The crisis dice include an even spread of difficulty numbers, consequences, and jump symbols. The crisis dice used for a four player game will have marginally higher difficulty numbers for balancing reasons.

So far, the core mechanics of the game seem to work. I anticipate I will need to make adjustments to the crisis dice, the length of the jump track, and the length of the distance track in order to find the perfect balance.
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Well, you'd need to clarify how you hide the rolled dice. Also, are players limited to one die per skill check? If not, that may give things away too.

BTW, nice looking cards. Are the portraits original art or is that something like the 'comic book' filter from GIMP? Either way, I really like how they look. Would rather the real BSG game had used something like that.

Subscribing to this thread. Please keep us posted!
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Evan Derrick
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solclaim wrote:
Well, you'd need to clarify how you hide the rolled dice. Also, are players limited to one die per skill check? If not, that may give things away too.

BTW, nice looking cards. Are the portraits original art or is that something like the 'comic book' filter from GIMP? Either way, I really like how they look. Would rather the real BSG game had used something like that.

Subscribing to this thread. Please keep us posted!


Ideally the players would use dice cups, although player screens would work as well (I'll probably design those for the final version of the game). And yes, players can submit more than one die to a skill check. However, the more dice they submit, the greater the risk they run that they'll be forced to place a negative die into the skill check (good Cylon players can use this probability to their advantage).

The portraits were done with a ton of different, overlapping filters, but the basic one is Photoshop's 'Poster Edges' filter. That gives it the comic book vibe.
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John "Omega" Williams
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I wondered when someone would get around to taking a try at this.

Something to consider with a hidden die element is the likely prospect of rampant tinkering with rolls behind the screens to generate boons or hinderances.

So there needs to be some method of curbing that if the rolls are hidden but one die is bid at the end. This doesnt quote sound like it will work in practice.

One approach might be to have players "donate" die to a cup passed around. More die means more chance to succeed. But you wouldnt know who donated only 1 die or why even. Especially if the dice kept can be applied to other tasks. Though again that hidden element messes with things though not as much. The human player will likely reserve a few die for emergencies while the toasters will only play a few dice in emergencies (when they really have more than they applied.)

The above was an element for a game in design that never saw completion.
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Evan Derrick
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Good thoughts, John. It would probably function like Liars dice. Each player would roll one at a time so all eyes would be on him, making it much more difficult to flip a die surreptitiously. But, it would still rely on the honor of the players.

The communal cup is an interesting idea, and I did think of having specialized die that could perform different actions. My reluctance with that has simply been in the interest of keeping the game as 'express' as possible. The more options you introduce, the longer the game can take, and it really needs to run no more than 60 minutes (which is already pushing the limit of an 'express' style game, although significantly less than the original's 3 hour play time). I'd love for you to read through the rules draft when I post it and make any further suggestions.

I've play tested it twice and both games were exciting, tense affairs. I suspect there are ways to game the system, but those will only come out after more vigorous play testing.
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Kevin Eagles
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Great job on the cards, they look really great. May I ask what you use, program-wise with the art?

Eagles
 
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Evan Derrick
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Eagles wrote:
Great job on the cards, they look really great. May I ask what you use, program-wise with the art?

Eagles


Thanks! I use Photoshop, although I have used GIMP in the past.
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Sean Forrester
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Recently decided to rewatch BSG so I'm extra excited about this one! Love the card art.
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Evan Derrick
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A few more images of the work-in-progress. The first is the different faces of the crisis dice. The center symbol is the crisis itself (Dradis Contact, Basestar assault, and unrest, respectively); the upper left number is the difficulty of the crisis; the lower left number is the number of consequences that happen if you fail; and the symbol in the bottom right is whether or not there is a jump.

The second image is a section of the board. I'm designing the gameboard to resemble a control panel you might find on the Galactica bridge. This is the Dradis display. When you fail a Dradis Contact crisis, you'll randomly pull chits and place them on the Dradis display. The majority of the chits will be raiders, but there will be some vipers and civilian ships. If all spaces on the Dradis display fill up, the human fleet is overrun and the humans lose.


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Evan Derrick
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Here's the board. It's designed to be printed out on 3 letter size sheets. I designed it to look like a console on the Galactica bridge.

The center seal is where players roll their dice and place them (five sections for five players).

The Galactica readout is where you'll place the damage tokens - 6 damage tokens and the humans go boom.

The DRADIS display is where raiders and civilian ships will show up. If all six sections are filled up with radiers, the fleet is overrun and the humans lose.

The FTL and Distance tracks are at the bottom.

I'll add some more bells and whistles later, and I'm certain some of the variables will change after further play testing (more distance needed, more spots on the DRADIS display, less Galactica damage needed, etc.), but for the most part this is complete.

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Evan Derrick
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Updated the rules to accomodate the new board design. Currently working on a low-ink playtesters version of the game so no one has to sacrifice any cartridges to try the game out.
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Martin Muller
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Board looks fantastic, neat design...
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If players are rolling on the BSG seal, how do they hide what they rolled? Tell everyone else to turn around?

That aside, it does look sharp. Look forward to trying it!
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Evan Derrick
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solclaim wrote:
If players are rolling on the BSG seal, how do they hide what they rolled? Tell everyone else to turn around?

That aside, it does look sharp. Look forward to trying it!


The information that remains secret isn't what dice you submitted to a skill check, but what dice you originally rolled (everyone rolls their dice under a cup or behind a screen). You may have rolled all bad numbers and been forced to put forward a negative one. Or, you may have purposefully put a negative number forward in and attempt to sabotage the crisis. In practice the mechanic seems to work quite well, and maintains the paranoid atmosphere of BSG if not the exact same mechanics.
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Evan Derrick
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Playtester versions of the files (easy on the ink cartridges!) can be found at the following links. Full, high rez files to follow soon.

Download the Low-Ink Black & White Playtester File Here
Download the Playtester Rules Here
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todd sanders
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very impressed by the board design. was this all created from scratch?
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Evan Derrick
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dumarest123 wrote:
very impressed by the board design. was this all created from scratch?


Thanks, Todd!

The DRADIS display was done by someone else - it's an exact replica of the display in the show. The Galactica ship schematic was pulled off of a teeny tiny screen cap and vectorized (just the ship). And the center of the seal isn't mine either. Everything else is from scratch.
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Couple of questions.

First, under "6. Jump the Fleet" it says "* All players retrieve their spent skill dice (unless their location is damaged or they are in the brig, "

I don't see anywhere else designating locations for the players. Did I miss it or is this an artifact from a previous version?

On Starbuck's card, it says "Once on your turn..." Does that mean 'once per game and only during her turn' or does it mean 'only one time during her turn, but potentially every turn'?

And I assume that W. Adama's ability means 'instead of doing a regular action, he can...'

For Baltar's ability, is it 'any time during the game he decides to look, even in the middle of a roll or something else' or are there some restrictions?

Also, under the DRADIS contact section, there's the statement "(if there is more than one Colonial ship and a choice must be made, the active player chooses which ship is destroyed)". It doesn't seem to matter which ship is destroyed, does it? On the current pieces you've got, the ships don't indicate anything special. Another artifact from previous revision?

Also, seems like there's a lot of unnecessary, though visually attractive, space on the board. Three sheets seems like a lot of space for just a few spaces. Could it be cut down to 2 pages without major impact? It's a lot of ink.

Lastly, I guess it's theoretically possible that everyone ended up in the brig. If that happens, who gets the admiral token? You've got 5 brig tokens listed.

 
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Evan Derrick
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Great questions, solclaim. It's nice to have a new set of eyes on this.

solclaim wrote:
Couple of questions.

First, under "6. Jump the Fleet" it says "* All players retrieve their spent skill dice (unless their location is damaged or they are in the brig, "

I don't see anywhere else designating locations for the players. Did I miss it or is this an artifact from a previous version?


Yup, an artifact. It should instead read "unless they are demoralized or they are in the brig.."

Quote:
On Starbuck's card, it says "Once on your turn..." Does that mean 'once per game and only during her turn' or does it mean 'only one time during her turn, but potentially every turn'?


Only once on her turn, but potentially every time she has a turn. That wording is there in case Starbuck calls a vote as her action. She shouldn't be able to reclaim all of her skill dice on the vote as well as on the crisis on her turn.

Quote:
And I assume that W. Adama's ability means 'instead of doing a regular action, he can...'


Yes, that's correct.

Quote:
For Baltar's ability, is it 'any time during the game he decides to look, even in the middle of a roll or something else' or are there some restrictions?


The word 'ACTION' should be in front of that text on Baltar's card. So yes, it's only once per game, and he can only perform it on his turn during his action phase.

Quote:
Also, under the DRADIS contact section, there's the statement "(if there is more than one Colonial ship and a choice must be made, the active player chooses which ship is destroyed)". It doesn't seem to matter which ship is destroyed, does it? On the current pieces you've got, the ships don't indicate anything special. Another artifact from previous revision?


Yup, another artifact. It won't matter which ship you destroy.

Quote:
Also, seems like there's a lot of unnecessary, though visually attractive, space on the board. Three sheets seems like a lot of space for just a few spaces. Could it be cut down to 2 pages without major impact? It's a lot of ink.


Right again. While designing the board, I realized that a lot of your effort comes from figuring out how to make the board as functional as possible and NOT the actual design work. I ran out of time and just went with this design, but I agree... there's a lot of extra dead space. I'll have to see if there is a way to incorporate the DRADIS, FTL track, distance track, and Galactica readout into a single display panel on one page.


Quote:
Lastly, I guess it's theoretically possible that everyone ended up in the brig. If that happens, who gets the admiral token? You've got 5 brig tokens listed.


I'll have to check and see what the regular Battlestar game does in this case.

Thanks for your comments! Very, very helpful and I'll update the rules and components file later today based on them.
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Well, got a game in with me and the missus and the oldest kid (11, but reasonably bright and been playing games for years). Wife and I are fans of the show (except for the ending, could they have wussed out any more with that ending?) though the kid, understandably, didn't have any background with it.

Kid - Lee Adama (picked for ability)
Wife - Kara Thrace (picked cuz she likes the character)
Me - Gaius Baltar (random drew from what was left)

First few rounds were a bit slow, actually, as nothing really happened. We didn't bother taking any actions so we had plenty of dice to beat the crises but we kept not getting any jump markers. Took us all going three times before we got to FTL 3. Wife was falling asleep, kid was wondering when the game started, and I was feeling a bit disappointed myself. Note, we've never played BSG the board game, so maybe that's not unusual. Still, felt like it was bogging down in a hurry. Roll, pass the dice, roll, ho hum.

Then in one jump we got 4 distance. Ok, round 2 of the loyalty cards. Nuts, I'm still human. Wife is slowly waking up. Kid looks at me fiendishly and says 'Dad must be the Cylon, I'm sure of it.' What? I haven't even had a turn yet! Very next action, Kid leads a vote and sends me to the brig. We burn up so many dice between them voting against me and me fighting to avoid it (I missed by 1, almost avoided it) that we fail miserably with the next two crises.

We've now gone from 'everything's fine' to 4 damage on the BSG. My turn, I'm determined to expose the traitor, so even though I'm in jail, I bust out my Cylon detector on the Kid and say 'Ha... wait a sec...' Turns out he's human, too, he just has an ingrained reaction to assume I'm the enemy after all these years of playing games with me as his main opponent. At this point, Wife can't help giggling and gives herself away. (The only reason she played was so she could have the chance to be a Cylon; guess she'll play again).

Kid and I toss her in the brig, but again burn so many dice that we get hit by another pair of crises. I succeed with one repair but we're up to 5 damage, 3 demoralized folks including both me and Kid (was just 1 base star and a 2-hit unrest, then Wife 'tried' to boost morale for the third since she hadn't actually declared). I do a repair, Kid tries to boost morale and fails and then it's Wife's turn again. We've got 1 on jump, distance 4, DRADIS is clear, 4 damage and 4 demoralized crew members.

We cringe as she rolls the crisis dice and comes up with, oddly enough, our first DRADIS contact. No worries, we're still in the game. It's only a 6 skill roll, but Kid and I only have one die each. I roll a +1; Kid can't possibly succeed. We start drawing DRADIS contacts. Raider, civilian, raider. I remember that 2 raiders kills a civilian ship and then it's something bad, but what was it... Pause while I look it up again. Ok, that's one damage to the BSG or... Ah, nuts.

Wife chuckles as she leaves the table, still tickled with herself for having destroyed the human race through us simply losing the will to fight. Evil woman.

So, what'd I think?

Like I said, to start it seemed rather slow. I think I'd recommend actually beginning with maybe 1 damage and 1 raider on DRADIS, at least, so there's something to do the first round. Possibly just add an extra block on either/both the damage track or DRADIS track so that you're not making it overall harder? As it is, if someone draws a toaster card to start with, it could be a while before they can actually do anything underhanded without being immediately obvious. I suppose purposely picking hard crisis rolls and then turning in a couple of bad skill checks is possible, but otherwise it's 'roll crisis, beat crisis, roll crisis' until you get to distance 4, then you know there's a Cylon and the witch hunt begins. And if the Cylon player keeps getting 'easy' crisis rolls, they're really out of luck for a while.

Tension level after we figured out who was who definitely ratcheted up quickly; Kid and I were counting every die carefully for the second half of the game.

Play time was about 40 minutes, with another 10 for rules explanation.

Overall, I think we all had a decent time with it. Kid seemed to think positively of it; wife maybe closer to neutral. As for me, I'm undecided. I may have to run through a solo exercise to see how else it might play out to get a better feel for it. There was an awful lot of dice rolling before we really felt like we were in the game. Of course some pretty playing pieces would help everyone get involved in the theme, too (hint, hint)...

Also, one clarifying question: if you're in the brig, you only get one die back; if you're demoralized, you only get one die back, so what if you're in the brig and demoralized? We played it as still one die; was that right?

Edit: one more question, way above in the description you say the weak dice have 4 -2 results, a +1 and a +3. I believe the files have that as 2 -2s, 2 -1s, a +1 and a +3. I'm assuming the latter is what's intended?
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Evan Derrick
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First of all, thanks for rolling the game out and giving it a go! External feedback like this is invaluable, and I'm glad that (except for a few hiccups) the game was mostly a success. Also, it's pretty cool to know that someone else played a game you designed.

In my own playtests, the beginning of the game was also a bit slow. That's a problem that the original Battlestar Game also shares: if there isn't a Cylon in the original draw, the game can get dull. Having DRADIS contacts as one of the crisis checks was an attempt to help out with that a little (my original design had population instead of DRADIS contacts, which was just another track to deplete). However, only one DRADIS crisis has a jump icon with it, meaning it will be chosen less often. I think I need to alter that, ensuring that those crises are chosen more often.

Your idea of having some raiders out on the game board at the start of the game is a good one. In fact, that's how the original game works (duh, should have thought of that). I'll definitely implement that so players have something to do right off the bat.

And yes, if you're in the brig and demoralized, you don't incur any additional penalties. You just have to rectify both of those situations before you can pull all your dice when you retrieve them.

And yes, that was a typo in my original description... I've modified it (but, actually, I think I'll just pull those rules down since they're in the document and they're going to change fairly often).

Finally, no worries on the upgraded art. That should be coming down the pike later today.


Here are a few more questions for you, solclaim.
- Did you feel that the penalty for failing to boost morale when you take that action was too strict? It's pretty easy for a Cylon to just fail to boost morale, putting the humans deep in the hole as a result. I like that it's risky, and I think it would be dangerous for a Cylon to purposefully throw that action (it would paint a target on them), but it may be too overpowered.

- Did you feel the humans had a chance to win? It sounds like you guys were hampered by your poor decisions to throw other humans in the brig, which burned your dice up and made it more difficult to pass crises. If you had spotted your wife as the Cylon early on, do you think you would have been able to win?

- Did the player abilities feel useful and balanced? Did anyone ever say, "Ugh, Kara's ability isn't very useful, is it?"
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Actually, Kara's ability was one of the things that ended up hurting us. Wife wasn't shy about throwing in 3-4 dice on her turn because she could just reclaim them afterward; that made her as a Cylon much more dangerous.

Baltar, also, was very useful in the 3-player game because at least one player knows who the Cylon is. Only helpful if the other human will believe you, of course.

Lee's ability didn't get much use, but the couple of times Kid remembered he could use it, he generally put up some good dice.

Didn't play with Roslin or W. Adama but it seems like both of those could be useful for the humans. However, I don't see how either action could be used by an undeclared Cylon other than to try convincing people they're human. Lee and Kara's abilities can be used much more aggressively.

You're right that our odds would have been better if we hadn't had the fight over the brig. I'm not sure we would have gotten much further anyway, though. Once a Cylon is in the mix, you can pretty much write off them putting forward a jump marker so you're down to something around 50% odds (at a guess) that you'll get even a single jump marker in a round. Takes a long time to get up to three that way. Not saying it was inevitable that we would fail, but it sure felt like our odds went down in a hurry.

Boosting morale I actually liked as that's where a Cylon can best fake helping. However, it felt like a bit of a death spiral once we started getting demoralized. Fewer dice being reclaimed led to worse and worse odds of being able to improve it with the negative effect growing for each failure. Seems like that would be the most likely way people would lose, actually.

Before toning down the negative side, though, I'd look to introduce some other ways the Cylon can hurt things, even clandestinely, to keep them from feeling like they're just along for the ride. If someone is demoralized, an undeclared toaster can try to 'help' and make things worse (though last night, Wife tried that once and actually got stuck undemoralizing someone. She was irritated with that ) but there isn't another similar mechanic they can use with damage or DRADIS. Then they're stuck basically just picking the harder crisis.

Also on DRADIS, I think I'd lean toward putting a jump marker on 2 of them and maybe 2 jumps on the hardest one. That might be overkill, but if at least 2 of them have jump markers I think you'll see it more often.

Regarding visual design, please make sure you include some visual cue as to which is the strong/weak die since typically folks will reclaim the strong one. I put a couple of red stripes on the strong one just to speed that process up. Unless you don't want it to be obvious on the board when someone leaves a strong die in favor of the weak one? I would think you'll gain more in speed of play than you'd lose in clandestine behavior.

Overall, I think I liked it even more after thinking back on the game a bit today. Wife, however, said she thought it was too slow and random (that was after my post last night about it). Kid still says he had fun. I'll try to get another round of it in this evening with at least one raider on DRADIS and maybe one damage, too. That should give some more interesting decisions up front. Will let you know how it goes.

Keep up the great work!
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Well, sort of got the 2d play in tonight. Wife was busy, so it was me, Kid, and my split personality (who I shall refer to as Myself).

Set up included 1 raider on DRADIS and 1 damage on BSG.
Kid - Lee Adama (picked cuz he liked him last time)
Me - Will Adama (cuz I thought his skill would be handy)
Myself - Kara Thrace (cuz I thought Wife was going to play. )

Will Adama drew Cylon on the second loyalty card. Cylon win again by demoralization.

Short(ish) version: We got the first jump pretty quickly, moved 3. Had 2 damage, a civilian on DRADIS, and Roslin was demoralized. Second jump came a couple of rounds later, got to 6. Same status except Thrace was also demoralized.

When I saw my card come up, I knew I'd have to act quickly. I went first, screwed up a morale boost (drew Kid) then posted the 7/1/0 base star. By the time it got back to me for the crisis, I only had to throw one bad die on it to fail, so I did. I only had one die left so it was understandable I didn't try again. I was lucky Kid didn't realize that was the first time I hadn't used W. Adama's ability.

Kid's turn, he posts the 6/2/1 unrest. Myself only has 1 die and is demoralized, so passed. I passed since I still only had one die (and I thought it'd go through). Kid rolls and gets a +3 and +4. Nuts, we're only 2 jump markers away from me losing.

Myself (Thrace) tries to morale boost and rolls all negatives with her three dice. Kid gets suspicious (actually, Thrace had pretty lousy rolls the whole time, even before I switched sides). Thrace posts another basestar (think it was the 7/2/1). I throw in a -2 (actually, all my dice were negative, but I picked the worst), Kid has no dice, Thrace can't make it so withholds.

My turn, I reveal with the 'demoralize one character' card, flip Lee Adama and again humanity dies because they lost heart.

We were, I think, 1 point away from a human victory. Had I not had the demoralize Cylon card I don't know if I could have stopped it. The 'can't kill humanity with one bad speech' rule definitely makes sense there. Had I had any other card, I probably would have tried for an unrest and just dumped all my dice into tanking the roll.

One thing I'm noticing, at least when the Cylon isn't dealt til the second loyalty round, is that they don't have much time. On the up side, there's not much time for everyone else to get suspicious, but there's also not much time to ruin things. I think we only had 2 rounds at that point.

I would have liked to try for a Cylon win by something other than morale but, as before, DRADIS only got played once and the humans repaired the damage to BSG too fast for me to throw another basestar at them.

On the whole, I think you definitely need more jump markers for DRADIS and another way for the Cylon to sabotage. As it is, their best bet is to demoralize as much as possible and hope for an unrest roll to finish things off.

Oh, play time was maybe 30 minutes.
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Evan Derrick
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Awesome, solclaim, so glad you got another game in. So far, it seems that demoralization is the way that most games will end. Hopefully adjusting some of the crisis dice and (like you suggested) tossing in some other options for the Cylon player to wreak havoc will balance that out.

I also uploaded the new, pretty files and the new rules. I have players starting out with two Raiders on the board - hopefully that gives people something to do. Also, I added another jump symbol to one of the DRADIS crisis dies and adjusted a few of the numbers.

And yup, I gave a blue border to the strong skill dice and a red border to the weak skill dice so people can spot the differences quickly.

It's interesting what you say about the Cylons not having a lot of time after the second set of loyalty cards are handed out. I wonder if extending the distance track to 7 might help with that? I just don't want to tack on game time. As you've seen, a 3 player game can run up to 40 minutes, so a 5 player game will obviously run a bit longer.
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Evan Derrick
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Hey all, here are some rule changes that were suggested in another thread (wish I had thought of these BEFORE I officially submitted to the contest... but oh well). The point was made that there is really no reason for a brigged Cylon to reveal themselves, as they essentially function the same way in both situations. So here are a few rule changes:

1) Brigged players do not roll the crisis dice on their turn (much like in the normal game).

2) Instead of rolling the two crisis dice and choosing one, a Cylon player can select which crisis the players will have to face: unrest, basestar attack, or DRADIS contact. In this case the difficulty is 4, the consequence is 1, and there is no jump symbol.



I think these rules do a few things. First, if anyone is brigged, they won't get to select a crisis die - fewer crises means less chances to destroy the humans (hence why a Cylon player might want to reveal). Also, being able to choose which crisis the humans will face poses an interesting decision for the Cylon player: do they roll the dice, hoping for a steeper difficulty number or a steeper consequence number but risking the possibility of a jump symbol? Or do they go with the manual choice, presenting a relatively easy difficulty number but giving them control over which area gets damaged (and also preventing a jump symbol)?

Feel free to try these rules out if you give the game a go.
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