Battlestar Galactica's Board Game Is For Hating Your Friends

Most of the board games I play with my crew are fairly recent, but on the weekend we dove into our pile of shame and played our first round of Battlestar Galactica. It either went very badly or very well, depending on how much hate and mistrust you like in your board games.

The board game doesn't stick to canon, so ANYONE can be a Cylon.

First released in 2008, it's a game where players assume the role of one of the main characters in the show, then work together to overcome a constant stream of crisis and challenges, some of them direct (like Cylon ships attacking the Galactica), others internal (like a water shortage).

These problems are usually pretty easy to overcome. External threats can be dealt with by engaging with Vipers or firing from the Galactica, and they're resolved with some dice rolling. The other challenges, which arise from drawing "crisis cards", are handled by players getting together and spending various cards in their hand to meet a points total.

See, easy?

Oh, except at least one of you is usually a Cylon. And is working in secret to undermine everything you do.

For the human players, every crisis is a choice between spending enough of your cards as a team to pass the test's criteria and keeping hold of the cards for future use. You need to pass these tests, because failing them will deplete your supplies of fuel, food, water and people, but you need the cards to perform actions like repairing sections of the Galactica if they're damaged.

It's a delicate balance. One that's continually thrown off by the Cylons. Crisis cards are played as a team, and they're played face down, before being shuffled and resolved. So while human players are trying to save everyone's life, Cylon players -- protected by their anonymity and the shuffling -- are probably playing the wrong kind of card, either burning ones necessary for Galactica actions or ones that will stop everyone else from passing a crisis test.

For the video game players in the house, imagine FTL, only if one of your crew was a Cylon. That's pretty much this game.

Happier times, before the hangar blew up and we couldn't launch Vipers.

It does exactly what it was setting out to do: replicate the personal tensions present in the TV show, where a desperate band of survivors not only have to worry about everything going wrong around them, but about the people closest to them potentially working for the enemy and having a hand in those disasters.

In the show, this leads to a lot of punching, shouting, explosions and sex. In our game, it led to lots of furtive glances at people's faces during crucial moments, lots of "are you a Cylon no come on really are you" questions and some dangerously false accusations. Similar, then, just on a smaller scale.

I knew I was a good guy. As for everyone else...

Our game began well. We shot up some Raiders, made a few jumps, passed a few crisis tests. It all seemed easy. Then the Cylon agent went to work. We failed some seemingly simple crisis tests, and suddenly things were going very badly. An explosion in the hangar bay meant we couldn't scramble Vipers. President Roslin was accused of being a Cylon, locked in the brig and stripped of her title.

Only she was innocent. Turns out that player was just not very good at the game, and our attention should have been focused on Admiral Bill Adama himself, who had quietly been working against us and now -- through a combination of bad jumps and dwindling supplies -- had Galactica on the ropes.

So we locked him up, made Starbuck Admiral, realised that halfway through the game a second Cylon sleeper agent had woken up to maintain the pressure, ran out of food then watched the Galactica explode. Welp.

When life imitates art.

It was an exhilarating, hateful experience. The former because it's genuinely exciting playing like this, every turn a gambit, never knowing who is actually on your side and who is not. The latter because once the Cylons start fucking up your game, you start to get angry.

I've played plenty of games where player allegiances are hidden like this. Bang! being maybe the most common. But that's a fun little casual thing. This is a relatively lengthy campaign-like experience (we clocked in at over three hours), and the more it drags on, and the more you suffer at the hands of someone you used to call a "friend", the more you sympathise with everyone on the TV show who wanted to put a bullet in every Cylon they came across.

Like I said, the game's not new but was updated through to 2014 with expansions adding more ships that you can hop between to complete missions (the main game only has Galactica and Colonial One. Later expansions added ships like the Pegasus and Demetrius) and more characters to choose from.

I don't know if it's something that will become a permanent part of our board game roster, but I certainly had fun and will definitely reach for it in the future whenever I think my friends have become too friendly, and need somebody shouting at them across the room (probably inaccurately) that they're a tincan piece of traitorous shit.


Comments

    This is a game that my friends and I play often, as well as Civ The boardgame and Star Trek: Attack wing. We do enjoy it a lot but also enjoy that length of game. The other part of this is I am quite a gullible person and therefore hillarious to play this type of game with.

    I have really got to organize a board game night with this as a feature. So much fun the last time I played through a couple of campaigns with a few mates.

    This sounds quite a bit of fun, especially if you are the cylon....

    I don't know anyone that watched the show though, so I'm not sure if they would enjoy it as much.

      I have never watched the show but consider the game absolutely phenominal. As it says in the article you spend so long trying to stay alive that you get emotionally invested in the success and failure of the team (ive never been a cylon) and everyone ive played the game with has had the same passion.

      You end up in heated emotional discussions of what you should do, who could potentially be a cylon and what you should do when you have no choice but to hope that one person who has been a little bit weird doesnt betray you at a crucial moment.

      Thr game is amazing and i strongly recommend it to all board gamers.

      Just beware that when you lose as the humans its brital and almost physically painful lol.

      You don't need to be a fan of the show to enjoy this game, its just a bonus. It stands alone as an excellent traitor game that I've described to others as pure paranoia distilled into board game form.

      My friends and I have played this and enjoyed it to the point where Cylon is a byword for traitor in any game we play. Its long, its ugly, tense, and entropy is a tireless foe you will never EVER beat as the humans. I don't think we've ever seen a human win where at least three resources weren't deep into the red zone.

      Its not perfect though, I've got three complaints with it.
      1. Cost. This is a game that really benefits from the expansions, especially Daybreak. The Pegasus and Exodus expansions are pretty much a pair, as either alone makes the game noticeably easier for the Humans or the Toasters

      2. The expansions themselves. While the expansions do add a lot (the Pursuit board, Pegasus, Demetrius, Mutiny and the Treachery deck), there's also a lot of drek. The New Caprica endgame system in Pegasus is absolutely turgid, and the Ionian Nebula endgame system in Exodus is overly long and complex. Cylon Leaders barely function (in either variant).

      3. Character balance. Most of the Pilots suck, badly, and Doc Cottle is also close to useless. Political Zarek requires you to use the Mutiny deck, meaning he can only see play with the Mutiny system in use (although he's amazing fun then). When my friends and I play, we also remove Admiral Caine (her Blind Jump is a golden snitch for either side), Tory Foster (her card draw is just ridiculous, best president ever), and Cally (her ability to shoot people kills the 'soft reveal' option for Cylons and is terrible for new players). Also be aware that while Laura Roslin is top of the succession order for Presidency, she's actually one of the worst possible characters to have as president.

      I played it having never watched the show. It was a hoot. The key to being a Cylon is playing just well enough to be believable, while playing as inefficiently as possible. It also helps if you can lie with a straight face...lol.

        Key tactic: endorse other players' bad ideas.
        I had one game where I managed, with help, to keep another player in the brig for over half the game while I slowly white-anted everything. He made the mistake of trying a couple of low-percentage actions at the start of the game, which allowed everyone to view his actions through that lens of "well, he might be a Cylon. Better keep him in the brig".
        All my best stories from BSG are as a Cylon. I managed, in a four player game, to have all three other players in the Brig when I revealed myself as a Cylon. The first was left in for a few turns on suspicion, a crisis sent the second one in and, playing as president, I convinced the third to play Executive Orders to give me two actions so "I could play Presidential Pardon to get the second player out" - I played Arrest Order instead and used my second action to damage Galactica and bugger off, leaving everyone else in the brig.

      You can explain the show in 30 seconds (to people who "get" sci-fi) up to the point where people will enjoy the game.
      Okay, so in BSG, people created robots. The robots - Cylons - gained sentience and rebelled, nuked the human homeworlds and are pursuing the rest of humanity across the galaxy. The Humans need to constantly FTL jump away until they figure out how to get to their "promised land". The Cylons have developed models that look just like humans, some of which even think that they're human, and planted them as sleeper agents in the fleet.
      Then explain where the game mechanics fit that.

    I was given this as a gift a couple of years ago, but I still haven't managed to convince any of my family or friends to play it with me. I need better friends.

    Love this game! Though one time I mixed up the loyalty deck with the discards leading to...
    Human: How many Cylons do we have on this ship, anyway?
    Everyone Else: Yo!
    Human: I knew it. I'm surrounded by Cylons!

    I've got this game, had it since it came out, I've only been able to play it twice, first time was people who hadn't seen the show and so they had no idea what was going on, even though they enjoy board games. The second time was with people who had seen the show, but not so much into board games, it went better, but not great.
    And since then it's been on the shelf, because no one wants to play it.

    This is a great game, we played many hours of it until it finally fell off our board game rotation. Balance generally felt pretty good, although we did some tweaks along the way - 4 players is the trickiest number with the "sympathiser" loyalty card being like a low power cylon (which is totally not fun to play). We often only added another cylon at half way if all the resources were still in good order.
    Bill Adama as the cylon though. I drew that once and the Galactica only survived one jump. Stayed pretty quiet, picked the worse of my two options on the first jump, only spiked the deck a couple of times (when I was sure I could get away with it). Then we had a seriously bad crisis which was going to trigger a jump - I spiked the deck for the crisis, then jumped us into really bad not good situation which dropped one of the resources to 0. No one even thought there was a cylon in play.

      Political Zarek as the Cylon can be similar. People know that the Mutiny deck is a choice of damnations 90% of the time, so you can hand people absolute horror and nobody will ever suspect you.

    It follows the same design as Shadows over Camelot. Thats not to say its bad, but it requires at least somewhat cooperative friends to make the game work and not instantly collapse.

    One of my friends bought this and they decided to have a game of it. I don't know what happened that night but 2 months later they've only just started talking to each other again.

    Ah Battlestar Galactica. The only game I can remember ending early by popular vote due to no one having a good time.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now