After seeing their worlds destroyed by the Cylon robots, the Battlestar Galactica crew and a fleet of surviving lucky spaceships, speed toward the fabled 13th colony, Earth. Galactica Commander Adama and President Laura Roslin face waning supplies, crushed morale, Cylon attacks and the credible threat Cylons aboard the ship, undetectable in the shape of humans.
Now is your turn to survive and bring the fleet to safety… and that won’t be easy!
Being a great fan of the series, I bought this game in the hope it would resemble in any way the same sense of desperation and struggle, both emotional and physical that the series so masterfully brought to the screens. I was hoping the game would bring a deep experience I would want to play again and again and the promise from the official website to offer an “unique gaming experience” set the benchmark very high indeed!
I am keen on cooperative games, like Pandemic or Arkham Horror and the fact this game is played versus the Cylons and not each other player grabbed my attention even more. Some of the best sessions I have had recently have been in those games where the session can become tense and exciting and the cooperation of the players brings a very creative slant to strategy and game development.
However Battlestar Galactica adds yet another level of tension to the game with the chance of one of the players secretly being a Cylon who could play against the other players… or not!
Oh… and then there are the traitors too, who, not being Cylons don’t have access to all the actions Cylons can perform, but can cripple the humans’ progress significantly.
All this sounds all good and proper because it matches the TV series really well, where the main issue the dwindling human population faced was the constant fear, hunger, revolt, political tension and relentless attack by an overpowering enemy.
The game is won by the humans if enough “jumps” to various locations are performed to add up nine points. If any of the four resources counters, morale, population, fuel or food, are brought down to zero by crisis the fleet will have to go through, the humans loose. Humans can also loose if a Cylon virus, or a Cylon attack force infiltrate the Galactica. Oh, Cylons can also attack the Galactica and damage it. If six areas of the ship are damaged, Galactica is destroyed.
This sounds very difficult indeed for the players, but then, it should be. Corey Konieczka, the game designer, has captured the overwhelming situation humans faced in the series to perfection. Humans can win the game, but sacrifices will have to be made and losses will be suffered.
Setting the game is straight forward enough. It must be stressed that the quality of the components is as good as you could expect from Fantasy Flight. From the quality of materials point of view, your money won’t be wasted at all. The board is really sturdy and the seams will easily withstand many years of use. This quad-fold board expands to almost two-foot square and depicts the Galactica, Colonial One, Cylon locations, spaces for the card decks and human ship reserves, and tracking devices for the four human resources. The colours are vivid, the typography is very easy to read, there is plenty of space to have all the game elements on the board without clashing and the counters are very easy to read.
There are ten character sheets with the main characters in the series. Each character with their own supply of skill cards for each round and their unique abilities. Each character affects an element of the game in a particular manner, and each has one ability they can use once per game. Also a token to use on the board for each character.
The tokens are big enough and colourful enough to stand out against the board and there are plenty of tokens there. The fleet, nuclear bombs, cylon infiltration counter and basestars also come with tokens to use during game.
The plastic spaceships are probably the worst bit of the game. That’s not to say they’re bad, quite the contrary, they’re very detailed and well-made models of four of the vessels used by both humans and Cylons. You will have Vipers and Raptors on the side of the humans, and Raiders and Heavy Raiders for the Cylons. My only reservations are with the size and the quality of the plastic. If they had been a little bit bigger and made of sturdier plastic, it would have been a real joy to paint them and add to the game play. As they stand, they serve their purpose perfectly, but they could have added a level of customization that some players would have welcome with open arms.
The various decks of cards are nicely illustrated with frames from the series, giving them a very familiar feel if you spent the hours in front of the box. Also the rules come in a very easy to read and follow A4 sized booklet with plenty of illustrations to help you place yourself and get started with the game.
And that is very good news indeed, because once you’ve laid out the game and each player has chosen a character, starting to play, even if you do it for the first time, takes but minutes.
Depending on the number of players, you have to create a “mini-deck” of cards that will determine if there are any Cylons or traitors amongst the players. The more players, the more chances of a traitor, a Cylon or both hidden amongst you.
The traitors and the Cylons don’t have to know each other. They don’t have to work together if they don’t want to and they don’t even have to play against the other players if they don’t want to. Again Corey Konieczka has captured perfectly the atmosphere of the series, where both hidden Cylons and traitors would work for or against the humans depending on how they felt about any given situation. This creates a huge scope for playability. You might play at some point with a character and not be a Cylon and then, the following session, have the same character and be a Cylon, allowing you to play the character in two different ways.
The game starts to get exciting now!
Every turn the player receives a number of skill cards equal to the cards listed in the character sheet. Skill cards are divided in five decks; Politics, Engineering, Leadership, Tactics and Piloting. Each card describes an action that can be performed by the player, and a number that will be added to determine strength checks (more on this later). Skill cards can also be sacrificed to travel to and from Colonial One and no more than ten cards can be held in the hand at any given time.
Once cards have been allocated, the player can move to any part of the Galactica and perform an action. The actions can be those determined in any of the locations described in the Galactica, a piloting action, or any of the actions described in a skill card.
This gives each player an opportunity to affect the game in a unique way, which gives a sense of importance and responsibility to anything you do. Also allows for the start of cooperative game. Doing something that will benefit the following player can be discussed and acted upon at this point. During his/her turn a player can reveal itself as a Cylon, in which case the player will be able to play from any of the five Cylon locations and play against the other players. This also means this player can have more control over the Cylon troupes, when and where they move and when they attack.
Once the action has been performed, a crisis card is drawn from the deck. This will tell you what’s gone wrong today for the humans. Crisis can be sorted in various ways. One is for the players to put on the board, face down, a number of cards or the correct colours. The numbers on the top left corner will determine the strength check. Any colours that appear that’s not the right colour will subtract to the check value. You will have to get anything between nine and sixteen, depending on the crisis. To make matters worse, a random deck of twenty skill cards with all the colours has to be created at the start of the game and every crisis have to use two of these cards, so even if there are not traitors or hidden Cylons amongst the players, you might still get a drawback thanks to fate. Sometimes you will be able to roll the eight sided die that comes with the set to hope the number rolled is what you need to win.
Resolving crises is a very tense moment of the game, as it should be. Pass the crisis and you might get a reward. Fail and you will lose valuable and scarce resources, skill cards, or both.
Crisis cards also have, at the bottom of the card, icons to represent Basestars, Cylon Raiders and Heavy Raiders that can be brought into place and will have a chance to attack either the Vipers or the Galactica itself.
Some of them will also have “jump” icons. This will move the jump counter one space towards preparation for jump for the fleet. At the admiral’s discretion, at some points Galactica can attempt to jump before the counter has reached a full status. As you can imagine, this brings risks. Fleet ships can be lots in the process, and this is more likely than not mean you will also loose people, food, fuel or morale.
Things don’t end there. Depending if Admiral Adama is on play or not, one or two destination cards are drawn from the appropriate deck. This will have, once more, consequences that can be adverse for the fleet, like losing fuel. However, these cards also provide with a crucial number. This number at the bottom of the card will count towards the number of times you must jump in order to reach Cobol, at which point, the humans escape from the Cylons and win the game.
Battlestar Galactica is an incredible game. It is very tense, easy to grasp, very quick and terrific fun to play. Although having seen the series does help understand the tension of the game, even the neophyte will enjoy the game from the moment go. In our last game, someone who has never watched the series joined us and within half an hour she was at the edge of her chair with excitement.
Building on a well-deserved reputation for quality both in product and game design, Fantasy Flight’s designer has hit the nail on the head with this game on every single aspect. I really wish I could find anything I don’t like about this game, but I can’t.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the game is perfect, I just haven’t been able to find the imperfections yet.