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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Friday (1/2/09) 1:40pm - ... wherein Peter plays the BSG board game.

Yesterday I played the Battlestar Galactica board game for the first time with majcher, firth, wackyengineer, Drey, and Stephen.  I thought I'd list some quick impressions...



There have actually been lots of board games based on TV and film properties.  I only know this because as a wee tyke I collected lots and lots of board games.  (I think I actually owned this one at some point.)  And I recall that most board games just nab a few superficial bits of the property, throw together some sort of game mechanic, and foist the product on unsuspecting and undiscerning fans.

This game manages to sidestep that problem, aiming straight for gaming types instead of Toys R Us shelves, and it does a really top-flight job of capturing the *feel* of the show.  And it's not just on the level of the art design (although they do a conscientious job of cutting off the corners of the rectangular bits) or the myriad small nods to the show (say, the character quotes on many of the cards).  They get things right on a deeper, "That's how the show is put together" level.

It's a collaborative game -- the players are characters aboard the Galactica, trying to keep the ship together with chewing gum and baling wire through enough jumps to get to Earth.  However, all the players are assigned "loyalty cards" which all but ensure that one or more of them are Cylons, secretly working against that effort.  This of course leads to insane accusations all around, and one or more characters getting thrown in the brig.  Just like the show.

Also, nearly every turn has the hapless humans draw a card from the "crisis deck".  The card shows you what crisis the Galactica is facing this time.  Most of those cards present the player with a choice between one awful, harrowing scenario and another awful, harrowing scenario.  There are a few cards that *don't* present you with an awful dilemma -- those are what I call the "holy crap a frakload of Cylons just showed up" cards.  All together now:  "just like the show".

There are some drawbacks.  The game's pretty damn rulesy, and the rules are riddled with self-contradictions and ambiguities that are only sorted out in online FAQs and errata.  (IIRC, the rule book even has a "Frequently Overlooked Rules" section.)  They do a good job of offloading lots of the complexity out of the basic game mechanics and into the typically-self-explanatory cards.  (Mind you, the basic game mechanics are still pretty complicated -- I'm just saying that there are loads and loads more complexity quietly socked away in those cards.)

I also had the same problem with the BSG game that I do with any collaborative-game-with-traitors -- if I'm the bad guy, there are long stretches where I wind up sitting around for twenty minutes while all the good guys have a drawn-out argument about whether to move a counter left or right.  (Meanwhile, I'm thinking, "Okay, whatever.  On my next turn I'll just play my 'F***ing Snail' card[1] on their best fighter.)

Other minor problems:  can't play Doc Cottle; can't airlock characters; does not come with a copy of the TV soundtrack.

So there are things to be querulous about, but all in all it's a solid and entertaining game.  Our game actually went for six hours (!), and the outcome was in doubt until the very last minute.  The Galactica needed only one more jump to reach Earth, and a last-second round of incoming Cylon nukes left the ship dead in the water with insufficient fuel.

Very exciting stuff.  And, once again, just like the show.

__________
[1] judovitch's brother had a long-standing joke about how he wanted to create a Magic:  The Gathering card called "The F***ing Snail".  Its text would read "IT'S THE F***ING SNAIL!  IT F***ING KILLS YOU!  YOU F***ING DIE!"

Side note: this review of the BSG game is interesting.

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Mood: [mood icon] contemplative · Music: none
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From:happywaffle
Date:Friday (1/2/09) 11:02pm
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Awesome. Invite me along next time, I'm in. (Or I'm always looking for Settlers of Catan players...)

If they let you play Doc Cottle, the player should be required to chain-smoke through the entire game. Yes I *know* it would annoy the entire table.
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From:hujhax
Date:Saturday (1/3/09) 4:21pm

~ will do ~

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"Special abilities:  may get any player out of sickbay on a roll of 6 or better, accompanied by a suitably captious insult."
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From:britbrizat
Date:Saturday (1/3/09) 5:20pm
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That sounds like a lot of fun!
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From:hujhax
Date:Saturday (1/3/09) 5:23pm
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*adds britbrizat to the List of Folks Showing Interest in the Game*
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From:riverbrady
Date:Wednesday (1/7/09) 1:00pm
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Nifty. Will have to check that one out.
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From:hujhax
Date:Monday (2/23/09) 10:29am
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*adds riverbrady to the List of Folks Showing Interest in the Game*
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From:wackyengineer
Date:Monday (4/6/09) 12:03pm
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We should play this again.
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From:hujhax
Date:Monday (4/6/09) 12:31pm
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*note to self:  pick up eye patch*
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