Admiral’s Log: Admiral Saul Tigh - Deep Space - 33 days since the attack. Caprica is lost, according to the reports from our civilian fleet, the other 11 colonies fared no better. The Galactica suffered heavy damage before being ordered to retreat to the rendezvous. We waited as long as we could but no other Battlestars made it, we are alone.
A Quick Overview
Battlestar Galactica is based on the enormously popular (and still relevant) TV series of the same name. BSG, designed by Corey Konieczka, has spawned dozens of semi-cooperative board games each seeking to recapture that spark which Battlestar brought to the table. Someone in here is a traitor… I just don’t know who!
In the game each player takes on the role of a character from the show. On their turn players can move about the board and perform an action. Then a crisis card is drawn and resolved, enemy ships known as Cylons will then move and or attack. Finally the “Jump” token is potentially moved along the Jump Track. If the token reaches the end of the track the Galactica “jumps”. Jumps can be performed before the token reaches the end of the track, but at the risk of losing population.
The game is won if the players can cover a total of 8 distance during the jumps. When a jump occurs the Admiral draws two cards and secretly chooses one. The chosen card will show a certain amount of distance plus some other effect, usually bad. Once the Galactica has covered 8 distance they need to make one final jump to arrive at their destination, Kobol. If they survive that jump, the humans win. If however any of the Galactica's resource dials reach zero, or the Galactica suffers 6 damage then the Cylons win.
At the start of the game all players are dealt a loyalty card. This card will determine if they are human or Cylon. Good guy or bad guy. Halfway through the game the players are dealt a second loyalty card, meaning their allegiance could shift mid game, in this case they turned out to be a sleeper agent who didn’t know they were working for the enemy.
Play continues with players taking actions and drawing a crisis until one side or the other reaches their objective.
Admirals Log: 37 days since the attack. Ex-convict turned President Tom Zarek has taken control of the civilian fleet. I don’t trust him.
Why Choose It?
The answer to this is simple. It was my birthday and I’ll play Battlestar Galactica if I want to. I had played BSG exactly once prior to this session and it was one of the best games I had ever played. It was exciting and tense and I was getting to play out an entire season of one of my favourite TV shows. I wanted to share that feeling with my friends.
Admirals Log: 41 Days since the attack. We are drifting in deep space. It has been a week since the last Cylon attack. Supplies are low but the time is passing rather uneventfully. My CAG, Captain Agathon, has recommended we hold the Chief in the detention block although I have my doubts.
Let's talk about the downside of BSG. There is nothing happy about this game, it’s all misery for 3 straight hours. Sure there’s the occasional dogfight in space where players might whoop and cheer as your pilots run and gun through the Cylon fleet, but for the most part what you’re doing is slowly watching your resource dials tick down as you choose between bad choice or worse choice.
When suspicious abound and accusations fly BSG sings, it’s electric and alive. When the Cylons show up and attack it’s tense and exciting as you rapidly try to mobilise and jump the ship away to freedom.
When it’s quiet though, it’s just boring. Your turns consist of probably drawing some extra skill cards and maybe launching a scouting mission. Then you draw a crisis card, maybe pass a skill check or rotate a dial. Repeat.
You spend your turn hoping that the Cylons will show up and start blasting just to end the monotony. And from that point of view it’s hardly thematic.
The Game Night Guys have now played BSG twice and in both games I would say that at least an hour passed where nothing other than skill checks occurred. Perhaps it was playing with new players but it never even felt like we had a traitor during our second game, which really limited the table talk and so we lost all the suspicion, until the final turns!
Admirals Log: 56 days since the attack. I have declared martial law and taken control of the civilian fleet. Kobol is a less than two days away, with our next jump we shall arrive.
Every single game of Battlestar has stand out moments for me that I still remember. In my first game I became suspicious of our ace pilot Apollo and forcibly sent him to the brig. What I did not realise at the time was I was next in line for the admiralty. I chuckled maniacally as I received the nuke tokens and to some it may have looked like I had seized control for nefarious purposes. In truth I was just excited. Regardless the President, swayed by the Cylon whispering in his ear did not believe me and released Apollo from the brig, who then revealed himself and blew a hole in Galactica before leading the Cylon fleet to us for our ultimate destruction.
Our second game ended with Boomer revealing herself as a Cylon late in the game. The admiral, Saul Tigh, had just enacted martial law to take control of the Quorum cards to perform actions we desperately needed. What we didn’t know was that Boomer was holding an extra Cylon loyalty card, she moved to the Caprica location and passed it off to Saul, the now Admiral and President of the fleet. I myself was outside Galactica, unable to oppose the admiral, while our Chief mechanic languished in the brig, where I had put him and insisted he stay. We were in a bad way but a jump was coming up, with our Admiral now turned Cylon we ended up drifting one jump short of our destination as he jettisoned the last of our fuel into space.
In our last game we never worked out who our traitors were and they were able to stay onboard Galactica until the very end. It all came down to one last jump. Chief Tyrol, now revealed as a Cylon was sitting on a super crisis card that would likely deplete our last remaining fuel or population, we had to jump. Only Starbuck could make it to the controls. We would be jumping early, if she fluffed the roll we would lose our last remaining population and the game. We boosted her roll, she just needed a 4+... It came up a 3! It all came down to a single 50/50 die roll, but man, was it an exciting die roll.
So, that’s what I think of BSG. It’s a long game, a 3 to 4 hour experience which can sometimes be tedious, sometimes just be downright dull and depressing, but in each and every game there are stand out moments. Moments where players will shout and yell and cheer and laugh and even cry.
In every game we’ve played the post match discussion about what everyone was thinking has lasted for at least an hour. The humans would talk about who they suspected while the cylon players would talk about when they thought had tipped their hand.
Admirals Log: 58 Days since the attack. Boomer has revealed herself as a cylon. The chief remains incarcerated. The air group are outside of Galactica facing down a Basestar. I look at myself in the mirror and I no longer see the Saul Tigh I once knew. Instead I see the metal glint of a toaster and the red sweeping eyes of enemy. I am become death, I will see humanity to its end…
It’s not a perfect game and now there are plenty of other games that capture that euphoric traitor moment in a fraction of the time, with a tenth of the rules complexity but I still remember each play of Battlestar Galactica and I can’t say that about many games.
Grab your gun and bring in the cat… So say we all!