8 Sep 2013

First Time Playing: Battlestar Galactica

Because I had parents visiting, there was no table top group this week, however, last weekend I had a game night with some of my friends and got introduced to a new game there, namely Battlestar Galactica - The Board Game. Basically it's mostly a co-operative game with us playing as the crew of Galactica working to escape the cylon fleet without depleting any of the ship's slowly decreasing resources. However, some of the players will play as cylons, looking to sabotage the ship from within the crew. Now, the game might heavily base itself on the television show, but there really is no need to be up to date or even familiar with it in order to enjoy this game.

The game starts out with every player choosing a character to play. Each character belongs to a specific function on the ship, there's military leader, political leader, pilot and engineer/support. Only one of each function may be chosen unless there are more than four players, then each of the four functions has to be filled before any player can choose a character within an already occupied function. Each character also have special abilities and character traits specified on their character card.

Once all players have chosen their character, they receive loyalty cards, which states whether they are a cylon, not a cylon or one of the five (whether the character was a cylon or not in the show is completely irrelevant to the game, here any character may turn out to be a cylon). Halfway through the game, they will receive another loyalty card, which may change the nature of their character (not cylons may become cylons, etc). During the first half of the game, the cylons (if any) operate in complete secret, sabotage without drawing suspicion. During the second half, the cylon may choose to reveal their alignment and shoot themselves in order to wake up on the cylon resurrection ship to continue their sabotage from there.

During each player's turn, they draw skill cards matching the colours shown on their character card (five in total), then they may play one movement, and one action (either an action from a card on their hand, or one of the locations onboard the ship). Once that is done, a crisis card is drawn, revealing what kind of crisis is upon the ship. This could be a danger that needs to be defeated (using skill cards of specific colours to either help along or sabotage the mission - all in secret unless a specific card has been played to force characters to play their cards openly), approaching cylon ships, and/or making a tough choice between two different sacrifices (either personal or the ship's resources).

The way the game progresses is by having Galactica jump through space, some crisis cards will include symbols for the jump track, once that track has filled up, the ship will jump in space and the military leader in the game chooses between two destination cards (usually resulting in one bad thing or another). Once the ship has jumped the equivalent of four times (some cards may speed up the jumping progress), you are halfway through the game. To win, the crew must manage to get Galactica through 8+ jumps (meaning it has to make it to the equivalent of eight jumps, then jump one more time) without depleting any of the resources (fuel, food, population and morale) in the process.

The cylons, however, may win the game in several different ways. This could be destroying Galactica, sabotaging the ship's progress so that one of the resources are depleted, or managing to land all non-cylon characters in the brig and essentially take over the ship.

Now, this is a very fun and engaging game, but I recommend any newcomers to learn the game through playing with already experienced players, as it takes a while to really understand it. It seems very overwhelming, but if a couple of the other players are in control of how the game can be played, then it's very doable to learn it through playing (I was the only new player in a group of five). However, I do recommend having all players familiarising themselves with each of the different loyalty cards before the game, so that no matter what loyalty they have, they will know how to play without accidentally revealing themselves.

Gameplay itself is kind of a mixture of gaming elements. The concept of character alignment and sabotage are similar to what you find in games like The Resistance or Panic Station. Character specialisations and crisis cards are common elements in co-operative games like Pandemic. Having experience with some of the other games will definitely help you truly get into the game, but the most important thing remains to play this game with players who are already familiar with it.

I especially recommend having experience with games involving character loyalty and sabotage, as part of the game is trying to avoid suspicion by casting suspicion on someone else (if you're not a cylon, you want to direct suspicion towards players you believe are most likely the cylon to eliminate the threat - if you're the cylon you want to direct suspicion towards players you think aren't cylons to limit their gameplay abilities) and it helps to have some practise in that area.

The co-operative elements of the game are easy enough to learn, as you can seek advice from the other players on what is considered a good or bad move (of course, if you are a cylon, you need to manage to do this without drawing suspicion towards yourself).

To sum it up, I think the game is fun, but a newcomer definitely will depend on experienced players in order to learn their way around it, also it's a very time-consuming game, so be sure to put aside several hours whenever you play it.


  1. In addition, you played with elements from the Exodus expansion. The core rules are somewhat less extensive.


    1. I still stand by that it's better to play with people who know it, because it's easier to learn from the other players' actions than having the entire group stumbling through it.