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Fantasy Flight Games: Battlestar Galactica – Review

July 30, 2011

Publisher Fantasy Flight Games
Genre Board Game
Number of Players 3 to 6
Play Time 3 to 4 hours
Initial Review Date 3/29/11
Last Updated 3/29/11
FAQ
Files/Tools
Click here to Play

As the name implies, this game is based on the TV show “Battlestar Galatica”. More specifically it is based on the recent remake of the show. As a result it is highly recommended that you watch at least the first season of this show before playing the game.

While it is possible to play and enjoy the game without having seen the show, there are so many pictorial references to events in the show that you get more out of it if you’ve seen it. Also, there are some spoilers in the game again via the pictorial references.

Game Play

So, the game mirrors the show’s plot pretty closely. In the game you play as the humans trying to escape the cylons. The problem though is that cylons have infiltrated the crew and no one knows who the cylon is. The humans win by making it to their destination and the cylons win by stopping them. There are many ways in which the cylons can stop the humans which is good as the number of human players is generally greater than the number of cylon players in the game.

Each turn a player draws the skill cards listed on their chosen character. Then they can move to a new location of their choice (pending any limitations placed on such movement) and then either play a card or activate a location on the board. The board locations do a verity of things like using the galatic’s weapons, activating the jump drive early, Electing someone president or even throwing a player into the brig.

There are three locations that are not optional, the cyclon resurrection ship, sickbay and the brig. Each of these locations result in a penalty and players only end up in these locations when they are forced there.

After the player has resolved their action then a crisis card is drawn and resolved.

Crisis cards come in three types

  • Space Battle Cards
  • Skill Check Cards
  • Decision cards

Space Battle Cards are pretty straight forward. They will show a diagram of the Galatica and it is indicated where to place enemy and friendly ships. These cards will also initially activate enemy ships that are already on the board prior to placing the new ones. Enemy ships follow a set pattern and so no one controls them, not even cylons who have revealed themselves.

Skill Check cards will list a value and a number of card colors on the side. They will also list a pass result and a fail result.

Each skill card similarly has a color and a number as well as a special action. When these cards are played for their action their number is ignored. When these cards are played for a skill check then their text is ignored.

The colors listed on the crisis card indicate what color skill cards count positively toward the check. There will always be at least one color not shown. This is because colors not show count negative.

After 2 cards are put in from a special “destiny deck” (a collection of randomized skill cards) players place cards into the pile face down. Then the cards are shuffled up and revealed. This is the primary way that cylon players can hurt the human’s efforts without revealing themselves. Because the destiny cards are random the presence of a negative card does not necessarily indicate a cylon sabotage. Unless of course more than 2 negative cards show up as the destiny deck only adds 2 to the pile.

Skill check cards do often allow the ship to move forward and also activate enemy ships that are on the board.

Decision cards will list a choice that either the current player, the president or the admiral must make. While these players may ask for input it is ultimately their decision. Often both choices are negative and so depending if they are a human or a cylon they will want to minimize or maximize how bad the effect is. This is another way the cylon players may sabotage the humans though constantly making “bad choices” will be suspicious.

Cylon or Human

So, at the beginning of the game loyalty cards are passed out to players. These cards will either say “You are a Cylon” or “You are not a Cylon”. Then when the ship travels distance 4 a sleeper agent phase happens where additional loyalty cards are dealt out. A card that says “You are a Cylon” supersedes any cards you have that say “You are Not a Cylon”. In this way you could think you’re a human only to later discover you are a cylon.

Cylon players (and only Cylon players) may reveal themselves during their turn as their action. When they do this they are sent to the cylon portion of the board (which has specialized actions) and they trigger whatever additional effect is listed on their card (it is different for each “you are a cylon card”) these are often things like sending a player to sickbay or damaging the ship.

However, if a cylon is in the brig this effect does not happen. This is why if you know someone is a cylon you want to send them to the brig so that their actions are limited. Though being a human stuck in the brig hurts because you can’t activate other locations on the ship until you escape.

Winning the Game

On the board is a jump drive track. As skill checks happen the ship will move down this track. Once it reaches the end the ship immediately jumps to a new location (clearing the board of enemy ships). Then the admiral draws two destination cards and picks one. Only the admiral sees them and so again it is an opportunity for the cylons to sabotage the humans.

each destination will list a distance and an effect. The higher distance cards have more damaging effects, but in exchange you go farther. Because of how long it can take for jumps to occur a human player will often want the higher distance cards unless of course the associated effect is really bad.

As specified before at distance 4 the sleeper agent phase happens. At distance 8 the humans just need to jump one more time to win.

Cylons win if:

  • One of the galatica’s resources hits 0
  • A cylon troop unit successfully takes over the ship
  • 6 of the galatica’s locations are damaged (thus destroying the ship)

Conclusion

This game is fun and well made. While the humans out number the cylons most of the time the skill checks are hard enough that it doesn’t take much to cause them to fail. Additionally, resources tend to deplete quickly as at best a pass simply means nothing happens.

There are a few problems though. One of the downsides to the game though is that it takes a long time to play. Additionally, it is best played with 5 or 6 players. So, if you can get a bunch of people together to play a 4 hour game it’s well worth it. But if you can’t get very many people or you don’t have that much time to spend on the game. You’ll be best off picking something else.

Finally, in the games I’ve played it is very difficult for a first time player to play a cylon effectively. This is because they are still learning the game and don’t have a grasp yet of what’s important or even what they should be doing and they can’t really even ask for help without opting to just reveal themselves. Ideally, a new player won’t be a cylon but because it is important that everyone’s roles are selected randomly there is no way to guarantee this without disrupting the secrecy of the game.

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