Wednesday, January 12, 2011


As you've probably identified from my previous subtle references to comics, computer games, television and movies (which seem to end up primarily being Horror or Science fiction related), I'm an unashamed geek.  I played Dungeons and Dragons back in the eighties (Neutral Chaotic if you must know) and continued to play roleplaying games up until very recently, and have also dabbled in (shudder) Live roleplaying (albeit as a referee, though not as a player, so hopefully this spares me a slight amount of shame). 

My geek quotient, however, reached critical levels last Friday when I received deliveries of both these and the Battlestar Galactica board game.  I swear the UPS and Parcelforce guys handed them over with extendable claws, as to avoid physical contact.  Despite my cats Liliths best attempts to sabotage our attempts to play it by punching the only 8 sided dice in the box so far under the sofa as for it to be irretrievable, my background radiation levels of geekery (of course, said radiation levels are measured on no-lives, not half-lives) meant that I had another 8 sided dice elsewhere in the house.  Naturally.

If either the thought of Battlestar Galactica or board games make you nervously shake like a dog shitting glass, this post is not for you.  Go to the BBC website or something - they'll probably have something good on there; they usually do. 

Still with me?  I'm impressed.

I've sung the praises of the TV remake of Battlestar Galactica in the past.  I still think it's way up there with Band of Brothers and The Walking Dead as being some of the best produced telly I've ever seen, and I've long since contemplated getting the board game since it was released back in 2008, but have only just taken the plunge having found it for quite cheap online.

BSG: The Board game is essentially a co-operative game whereby all the players have to co-operate to win.  There are plenty of ways to lose, either by a cylon boarding party making it all the way into the heart of the ship or by finally running out of any of the dwindling resources of the fleet (food, morale, population or fuel).  Every turn brings a new crisis to resolve which invariably involves either a difficult decision to make on behalf of the President or Admiral or the players combining their efforts to resolve it.

So far, so simple.  The brilliant (and unique, as far as I can tell) mechanic to the game is that at the games beginning loyalty cards are drawn.  Depending on the number of players, between 0 and half the number of players may in fact be Cylon infilitrators whose sole intent is to cause the human players to lose.  All efforts to beat a crisis are hidden, and it's the job of the Cylon to actively (yet secretly) cause the other players to fail to beat the given crisis.

The whole mood of the game is one of paranoia; Every odd or unusual decision made by the players may arouse suspicion that they're a cylon, and within turns accusations are flying.  In a game where of course there may be no cylons at all, depending on the luck of the draw of the loyalty cards.

And to further compound matters at the half way point of the game loyalty cards are drawn again.  A player can't 'unbecome' a cylon but can suddenly find that they're a sleeper agent and find themselves working (in secrecy) for the other side.  So naturally, suspicion kicks off again.

The rules seem complicated but after a few turns they're all quite straightforward and logical.  The only criticism I'd level at the game is that there are turns where you're not really sure what to do, especially if you're not being attacked by the Cylon fleet at the time - the nature of the game is that mankind is constantly outrunnng the Cylons and that you often have periods of the game where they haven't caught up with you yet.

We had our first five player game last Saturday night, which was luckily uninterrupted by dice-punching club-footed killjoy cats.  I was playing Admiral Adama and wasn't a cylon, but the odd behaviour of my wife who seemed insistent on trying to throw me into the brig each turn convinced me that she was one.  However, at the half way point it transpired that I became a cylon but by then it was too late to jeopardise the fleet (who were in a strong position).  One silly move on my part arose suspicion with my friend Tom - who then succesfully convinced the others to throw me in the brig, from which I could do little damage.  It must have been my glowing red cyclopean eye and the fact that I kept saying 'by your command' that gave it away* Victory for humanity - a loss for me, who it transpired was the only cylon in the game.  Bugger.  Stupid fleshy bags of water with their constant paranoia.

Overall, great fun made better by the games hidden cylon rule.  There are already expansions for it, but it strikes me as a game thats better off without them.  It already seems pretty much self-contained and I think anything else will just overcomplicate a simple yet effective ruleset.

Which should resolve normal service for a while.  I'll put the uber-geek hat back into storage, and replace it with the well-worn yet far comfier standard geek one.

* This sentence may not be absolutely true.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love comments. Love 'em. However, abusive or spam or Anonymous ones may well be sent straight to the bin. Thems the rules.