Even for people who aren’t fans of the show, the Battlestar Galactica board game provides a very fun and suspenseful gaming experience. It’s a cooperative game revolving around the players trying to escape the robotic Cylons and get the Galactica to Earth. The twist is that some of the players may secretly be Cylons themselves, and they can sabotage the humans’ efforts while attempting to remain hidden, or reveal themselves and take direct action against the humans.
At the start of the game, each player chooses a character from the show, from William Adama to Tom Zarek. Each character has different skills, special abilities, and weaknesses. The most political character becomes the president, and the highest ranking player becomes the admiral, each of which offers a further special ability and some decision-making power. These titles can change hands over the course of the game, and are dangerous to leave in the hands of a Cylon. In addition, each player is dealt a loyalty card (which is kept secret) that tells them if they are a human or a cylon. It’s quite possible that there will be no Cylons at the beginning of the game, but halfway through each player is given another loyalty card, so players who thought they were human might suddenly turn out to be sleeper agents. One player may turn out to be a sympathizer, who either becomes a cylon if the humans are doing well, or just gets put in the brig if the humans are doing poorly.
After setup, players each take turns drawing skill cards (based on their character’s skills), moving about the ship and using actions. These actions can range from using a special ability, playing a skill card, or using the character’s current location, such as launching fighters, firing the Galactica’s guns, or putting characters in the brig.
After each player’s turn, a crisis card is drawn, which will cause negative effects such as the humans losing resources, putting characters in the brig, or encountering a Cylon fleet. These cards might also activate some of the Cylon fleet currently on the board, and/or push the humans closer to being able to “jump” the ship, furthering them towards their destination, and thus the end of the game.
Some actions crisis cards involve skill checks, a mechanic that really makes the game shine. The card or action in question will specify a target number, as well as which skills (colors) may be applied to the check. Each player may then add a number of skill cards face down to a pile, along with two cards randomly drawn from a set of cards put aside earlier. The pile is shuffled (to hide which cards were played by which player), and then all the cards are revealed.
Each skill card has a color and a number, and the goal is to have the total values of the appropriately colored skills add up to greater than the check’s target number, thereby gaining a benefit or avoiding negative consequences. Here’s where the cylon players can really cause problems for the humans, as they can choose to insert cards of the wrong colour, which are subtracted from the check. They have to be careful, though, because if they play too many cards, it may become apparent that there’s a cylon player. It might even be possible to deduce who it is. Cylons who have chosen to reveal themselves may still contribute to skill checks, but are limited to contributing only one card.
The game continues as such until one side or the other achieves their goal. The humans do this by reaching Earth, having jumped the Galactica a certain number of times. The cylons, on the other hand, win by destroying or invading the ship, or by running the humans out of fuel, food, morale, or population.
I’ve played this game only a few times now, but I already feel that it’s one of my favourites. It helps that I’m a fan of the show, but the game is still quite good based on it’s own merits. It takes three to six players, plays in about two hours, and will definitely be on my shelf one day.
Fantasy Flight Games first published Battlestar Galactica in 2008, and also published an expansion in 2009, that adds further complications to the game, such as open Cylon characters (Caprica Six, Cavil, etc.), as well as the Pegasus, and New Caprica. I’ve never played with the expansion, so I can’t quite review it, but the main game definitely stands up perfectly well on it’s own.
[tags]board games, Battlestar Galactica, cooperative[/tags]