This was the first meeting of 2009 and 5 people in attendance. This report has been written in bits and pieces over several days and seems to read OK, but if it does seem disjointed at some points, I gues that's the reason. The game played was Battlestar Galactica by FFG based on the TV series of the same name (that is the current reimagining, rather than the original Star Wars cash in). I have only watched the series up to half way through season 3, when the Sky channels went off Virgin Media and haven't caught up, but the game only references events up to the end of season 1 and don't really see that knowing the series is a prerequisite for enjoying the game.
I had intended to get a copy of this and preordered from Amazon at a ridiculously low price, which as it turned out was somewhat too low, as Amazon claimed they could not get it at that price and cancelled the order, claiming non availability. I got somewhat irritated at the obviously standard e-mails I received in answer to my complaints and resolved after an amicable but fruitless phone conversation that in future I would always buy from elsewhere, when the price was no higher than Amazon. Suffice it to say that Amazon has already lost considerably more in lost orders than they gained by not supplying this game at the original price. This is Dave's copy which he received for Christmas, I suspect the fact that Lisa is an avid BG fan, is no coincidence.
Anyway enough of that, what about the game? The players are characters aboard a fleet of human ships, fleeing after the destruction of the 12 human colonies by the Cylons (a robotic race originally created by the humans as manual labour). They aim to find Earth, the legendary home of humanity and to do this they need to reach Kobol (twice) before making one final jump. So everyone works together to save humanity, well not quite because 1 or more will be Cylons who will do their best to sabotage the human cause, first secretly and maybe later, openly when they can do severe damage. The way the game works (as in the series) is that it is possible a character may be a cylon without even realising it at the beginning.
The action of the game takes place aboard the last remaining human warship, the mighty Battlestar Galactica and also in the space surrounding the Galactica together with Colonial 1, a civilian ship which is the administrative centre and base of the President of the Colonies. The humans will win if they can make one final FTL jump after reaching Kobol for the second time, while the Cylons win if (before this can happen), they can reduce any of Fuel, Morale, Food or Population to zero or by the destruction of Galactica.
Each player plays in turn, first taking skill cards, then moving and performing an action, before finally drawing a crisis card to resolve, which is usually potentially something bad for the humans. These crises and also some player actions may involve the resolution of a skill check, where each player can play cards to help or hinder the human cause, this is a clever mechanism within the game as you can't be sure who played which card, but if there are a large number of negatives (more than 2) you can be sure there is sabotage afoot, suggesting that a Cylon is present, which of course can lead to much paranoia among the players. If you are a Cylon then you will want the humans to fail skill checks, but you need to be careful as if you commit too many overt acts of sabotage, then someone will notice. The sequence just mentioned is potentially modified for special circumstances such as character abilities or revealed Cylon players.
Each character in the game has 3 special abilities, the first of which can be used multiple times, the second is usable once per game maybe requiring an action, while the third is a negative trait, handicapping the character in some way. None of the abilities can be used, once the character is revealed as a Cylon. In our game, I got to pick characters first and went for William Adama, commander of the Galactica (I see from reading certain comments that he is not regarded as that strong a character, ability wise, but I then proceeded to forget about my own abilities for the rest of the game anyway), what I did know was that as the most senior military commander, I would get to be the Admiral and I quite fancied that. The character choice rules do their best to make sure the characters in a game are balanced, so Steve (picking next) was not allowed to pick a Military Leader and went for Tom Zarek, former terrorist and the third ranked Political leader in the game, Mike had to go for a Pilot or Support character and chose a pilot with Sharon "Boomer" Valerii, who those familiar with the series will know is revealed early on to be a Cylon, so the character has a slightly higher chance of being one in the game. All 3 of the main character types had now been picked, so Ben had a free choice and went for Lee "Apollo" Adama, another pilot and the son of my own character. Dave picking last went for the sole support character in the game Chief Galen Tyrol, probably just as well for the human cause as he is a useful man to have around to repair all the damage done by Cylon attacks. As highest in the order of priority Tom Zarek was appointed President and Steve took the Quorum deck and a card from it.
The game started with the Galactica attacked by Cylons as is normal, but 2 (or was it 3?) of the crisis cards drawn ended up adding extra Cylons to the already large numbers (we actually ran out of raiders), we had both pilots out in vipers while I headed to weapon control to take pot-shots at the Cylon Basestar, I followed this up by launching a nuke (which was my prerogative as Admiral) and destroyed a Basestar as there were now 2 of them. I think it was Tyrol who headed over to communications to try and order the unmanned vipers. During this time President Zarek sat in his office issuing orders. Eventually the humans had the chance to jump and took it leaving the carnage behind, even managing to avoid the -3 population, which was a potential result of the early jump, both our pilots were in sickbay at this time, having been heavily outnumbered by the Cylon raiders.
After this there was a quiet period, the crises were not causing too great a problem, possibly due to the series of investigative committees set up by the president that made it very hard for a Cylon to act in secrecy, then the bombshell dropped. Lee Adama, that is Ben, my son for this game was a Cylon and he revealed himself, possibly due to the inconvenience caused by the committees. Things were now in some ways harder, because as a revealed Cylon he could perform powerful actions against the human, such as using Super Crisis cards, but had lost the ability to secretly influence the crises, so we could be on our guard if he should throw a card in.
The fleet made a second jump and reached Kobol for the first time, which meant another round of loyalty cards dealt out, Boomer receiving 2 due to her negative trait, we realised after that she should have also been sent to the brig, but we missed this at the time. Ben was already a revealed Cylon and handed me the new card he received, this is quite a clever mechanism to increase the paranoia, had he given me a Cylon card and therefore I was now the mortal enemy of the human race, or was it a human card, only Ben & I knew the answer, for the moment.
We were soon attacked by another heavy wave of Cylon ships and I nuked another Basestar, reasoning that the Cylons (of which I actually was now one) still had one left in play, the fleet would jump soon anyway and I wanted to get rid of all the nukes so that there would be none left for my successor as Admiral, when I revealed myself. This I did fairly soon after the next jump, following a crisis, that possibly threatened to expose me, i also thought that Dave might be a bit suspicious so off I went to the resurrection ship and drew, what would have been a great super crisis if only there had been a Cylon fleet in play.
I think I only had one remaining turn, in which I pinched a card from Dave, but failed to damage Galactica, using the human fleet location. We had to stop the game early, but I thought that the odds were on a Cylon victory with morale down to 2. This is a long game, but I think should be finishable in a session, without rules explanations and with quicker play, the pace of the game did pick up markedly during the game with more familiarity. We did make some mistakes, such as not throwing Boomer in the brig and me personally totally forgetting about my character abilities (or maybe I subconsciously knew that I was actually a toaster), but despite this I believe everyone enjoyed the experience.
I got to play again on Saturday and again was a Cylon, I hope this does not happen all the time or people may become suspicious. The humans won that one, but it was close with both morale and population running low. Having played again I will say that I think this is a GREAT game and I can't wait to play again.
Battlestar Galactica 150 mins