Published on May 31st, 2013 | by Gregg Miller
You Might Be a Toaster If…
Gregg Explains: Battlestar Galactica
First off, I’m just going to make this very clear. I’m not a Cylon. Even though that’s exactly what a Cylon would say. This was just the base game, with no expansions.
Battlestar Galactica is an A Team vs. B Team style game. One side are humans and the other side are cunningly disguised robots. The game is filled with lies, cunning, pleas for mercy, and uncertain orders. You can never be sure if the person you just asked to save the human race won’t be the one grinning at the end as the ship and its crew die in obscurity. There’s a lot of enforced secrecy that helps make everyone unsure of just who’s on which side, and if their hindrance is the sign of a traitor, or just the ill results of fate.
The game starts out where everyone assumes they’re all on “Team Human”. Starting with one player, and continuing around the table, everyone picks a character from one of four roles. Every character is either in Command, Politics, Piloting or Support. Command characters can get others to perform better; Political characters can rally the people and get resources restored to the crew. Pilots are the lone characters who can fight off the raiders, heavy raiders, and base stars, and the engineer is the most efficient at getting the ship back in working order. This game went as follows:
- Gregg “The Explainer”: Laura Roslin
- Travis “Buuut Anyway”: Kara “Starbuck” Thrace
- Chelsea “Mrs. Waifu”: Galen “Chief” Tyrol
- Matt “The Favorite”: Saul Tigh
- Dave “You’re on Maps”: Gaius Baltar
- Derek “Why Don’t You?”: Lee “Apollo” Adama
Every character has three additional traits that can be described as the Advantage, “God Mode”, and Disadvantage. Pretty much, every character has some sort of perk that makes them a great addition to either side of the conflict. Every character has a second ability that can only be used once per game, which can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, or vise-versa. Finally, there’s a drawback for each character. Some hindrance that makes them a liability, or the prime suspect for being a dirty Cylon.
Once roles are settled and figured out, Loyalty Cards are distributed, and each player is then able to secretly look over which team you’re on. You’re either Not A Cylon, or You’re a Cylon. Team Human wins if they can reach a total Distance of eight or more, then make a final jump to the planet Kobol. The Cylons win if any of the four resources (Population, Food, Fuel, Moral) reaches zero or if the ship, Galactica, sustains too much damage.
With loyalties figured out, it’s time to have two important roles determined. The Admiral and President are selected based on a list within the rules. The Admiral has a special task of having control of two nuclear warheads that are incredibly potent in clearing out base stars and enemy ships. The trouble is, you’ve only got the two, and it’s possible to be overwhelmed by space battle Crisis Card. The President gains a second hand from the Quorum Deck, that allows political advantages. In addition, there are certain Crisis cards that demand that the current President or Admiral have to make certain decisions. Should the Admiral end up in The Brig, their position is passed to the next person in the line of succession. Should the President get re-elected, or lose their position in some other way, the Quorum hand is passed to the current President.
Turns progress with a player Moving, if they want to, and then performing an Action from either a card from their hand, or printed on a location they are on. Different locations have various uses such as: starting up the command to throw people into or out of The Brig, hitting “The Button” to start the FTL Drive, commanding the viper ships to shoot down raiders, or doing some R&D to expand your teams options. Once that is resolved, a Crisis is drawn from the Crisis deck. These will contain skill challenges, where those trying to pass the challenge try to bid enough resources to have the challenge succeed, while the Cylon team tries to directly, or indirectly cause the Humans to fail. There are also cards where the fate of the ship is decided entirely by the President or Admiral, or the current player who drew the card. Finally, there’s space combat where the Cylon fleet has caught up, or sprung a surprise attack, and it’s time to scramble the fighter ships.
At the half-way point of the game, people may have figured out a few loyalties. A Cylon may have slipped up, the humans may have been incredibly lucky and had no Cylons in the first half (Just horrible bickering and accusations). Regardless, half way through the game an additional partial loyalty card is added to the remaining Loyalty deck, and the final cards are distributed. If all four of the Galactica resources are “in the blue” the Cylon Sympathizer is added to the deck. If at least one of the resources is “in the red” then an additional You’re not a Cylon card is added. If the Sympathizer is drawn, that player immediately reveals that Loyalty, and is sent to The Brig. Their winning condition now matches the Cylon team.
Our game was a much sought after full six player game, where we could enjoy all the intrigue and back stabbing the game can supply. After everything was done, we asked who was which loyalty, and when they became that way. From the first half of the game, Travis drew the Cylon loyalty card, and tried to play the long game strategy. In the second half, Matt drew the second Cylon card, and revealed himself when it was convenient. In the first half of the game, I had managed to deduce three possible suspects of who the Cylon was, but was never able to fully pin down who it was.
In the end, the fate of the game was reduced to victory decided by a single die roll. With a 50/50 chance of either side winning. Our resources were dangerously low, the Cylons had time as their advantage and the human team was forced to go for a desperate early jump option to try and reach Kobol. The Cylons won, as not enough of the population arrived at the destination of the jump. One observation I’ve made in the various plays I’ve participated in, if a Pilot ends up being a Cylon, they tend to have an easier time masking their identity, due to the fact their primary resource they can bring to a skill challenge isn’t used often enough, so we tend to give that player slack, regardless of the side they’re on. The game we played was also one of the rare games where one of the two characters with the highest odds of being on the Cylon team ended up being on the Human team.
Overall, Battlestar Galactica is an incredibly fun game, and is great to play with regular friends. Trying to read everyone and figure out optimal strategies for having your side win over the other is great.