Sunday, January 25, 2009

The worst episode of BattleStar Galactica ever

So, we finally had a chance to play the Battlestar Galactica board game. Through natural selection of various reasons, we wound up with 3 players, which isn't really enough to fully appreciate the game. But we decided to play anyway since none of us had played it before, and felt it was worth getting the hang of it anyway.

And what we wound up with was a game that suffered from something that is a common malady that all game designers fear, regardless of what kind of game you are working on: "demo-itis." Here's how it works: in the middle of a design, you are required to show your game to some big wig or somebody, so you spend a day or two just making the thing work, through whatever means possible. Mr. Big Wig comes in for a demonstration, and you hope that the game does exactly what you want it to, the actual hooks and fun stuff becomes apparent, and everyone has a grand old time.

Unfortunately, the oppposite typically happens. While a complete breakdown, most likely resulting in fire extinguishers and ambulances, never occur, it's the little bugs, the things that you miss, or simply, the game does not show off it's features well, or obviously enough to someone who hasn't been wrapping head around the game for the last 5 months. Which usually results in some type of tap dance of "well, what you are experiencing is quite rare" or "well, that feature isn't quite finished yet," or some sort of excuse.

Anyway, in the case of the BSG game we played, the Cylon fleet never bothered to show up beyond their starting positions. Never. And not really through any clever type of card play either; it was just an unlucky shuffle of the deck for the most part. I played Roslyn, who has the quite powerful ability to draw 2 Crisis cards and only select 1 to play, and for the first 80% of the game I didn't draw a Cylon fleet card; it wasn't until the very last 3 rounds that they started showing up, and only to me, at which point I simply selected the other card.

Now I don't think that makes the game broken in any way. It's just that when you have events driven through the random ordering of a shuffled deck of cards, this is bound to happen at some point. And in fact, it even points out how powerful Roslyn's ability is with three players. For a round of all three players, the other two players draw one card, while Roslyn draws 2 and picks one, so she alone is seeing 50% of all crisis cards drawn; once Adama revealed himself to be a Cylon, now she was seeing 66% of the crisis cards. (Since, typically, revealed Cylons draw from their own deck).

It's enough to make me think that Roslyn probably shoudn't be selected in a three player game.

Additionally, I tend to agree with the observations that with three players, you wind up drawing too many card than you really need. At some point, we were defeating crisis checks with monstrous numbers just because we had so many cards to toss into the stack; if we have to discard down to 10, might as well use them anyway.


One of the more interesting features of the game is that it thematically "feels" like playing out an episode of the show remarkably well. Except in cases where the game doesn't work properly due to a bad randomization of the cards. And so, I present to you our episode, "One Is The Lonlient Cylon," probably the worst episode ever, but sort of humorous if you can imagine it as a "real" episode playing out.

After the opening credits, we find Roslyn doing her presidential duties on Colonial One, building confidence with the Quorum. On Galatica, Starbuck jumps into a Viper to defend the few human ships behind Galatica from a few Cylon raiders, while Admiral Adama commands that a few for Vipers should be launched, acting like a true leader.

Not much interesting is happening at this point, Starbuck takes down a raider, Roslyn is dealing with the Quorum, and Adama is yelling "frak" a lot. The Cylon basestar lauches a heavy raider, and right before the fleet executes it's first jump, the raider lands a boarding party on Galatica.

At the fleet's new location, Starbuck decides to jump in a Viper again, and go off on patrols, just waitin for the Cylons to jump into range. Adama waits for someone, anyone, to yell "Draedus Contact" because he is getting itchy with his control over the nukes. And Roslyn is just hanging with the Quorum.

So we wait, and wait, and wait. Sure there's a few minor crises' going on, but the fleet is constantly spinning up their FTL drives, so there's no big issues. Roslyn complains that maybe someone on Galactica should, you know, deal with the Cylon raiding party that is on Galactica, who really aren't doing much raiding anyway. Maybe they are a Cylon READING party and they've found Adama's bookshelf. In response to Roslyn's request that maybe someone should take care of the Cylon reading party, Starbuck responds, "Hey! That's not my job, I deal with stuff OUTSIDE of the ship!"

Adama, for his part, laments his need to throw anyone in the brig, but because of his emotional attachment disadvantage, he doesn't have it in his heart. We find a need to look up some rules, and Adama is disheartened that he can't launch one of his nukes at Starbuck.

Roslyn decides to put up "WANTED" mug shot posters of Starbuck just for fun, and finds out that Starbuck is not a Cylon. Morale on the ships drops a bit.

After a jump, Starbuck decides, "It's fraking boring doing training runs and patrols, I'm going to run for fracking president." Adama also decides to run for fracking president. President Roslyn, upset that noone cares about the Cylon reading party on Galactica, decides that it's up to her and her cancer-ridden body to deal with it, and transfers off to Galactica.

Meanwhile, both Starbuck and Adama are holding numerous press conferences on Colonial One announcing their intentions to be fracking president.

Cancer-ridden Roslyn visits the armory, gets her weaponry, and defeats the Cylon reading party. Starbuck gets sent to the sickbay due to some crisis, and then Admiral Adama also becomes fracking president.

While cancer-ridden Roslyn, due to a crisis, goes off on a mission to find water, Starbuck goes back to Colonial One and holds some more press conferences. President/Admiral Adama does something wacky during a crisis, makes it obvious he's a Sleeper Agent Cylon, and reveals himself. As President/Admiral Sleeper Agent Adama is sent out an airlock (and gets reborn on the Resurrection Ship) the bombs he planted on Galatica go off.

Fortunately for the humans, Sleeper Agent Adama doesn't know his own ship that he commanded for years. Even though he wanted to knock out the FTL drives, he inadvertantly placed a bomb in both the main gun control room and in the armory. Which would be useful to him if other cyclon ships ever bothered to show up.

Starbuck winds up becoming both the President and the Admiral. Roslyn, still cancer-stricken, just waits it out on Galatica.

Starbuck and Roslyn work together to spin up the FTL drives as quickly as possible, jumping the fleet. Cylon Adama on the resurrection ship continues missing rolls and getting lousy crisis/super crisis card selections. Foolishly, both Roslyn and Starbuck hang out together in the lab which just makes Cylon Adama want to continue to take pot shots at Galatica, in the hopes of hitting the lab and sending them both to sick bay.

But it doesn't happen, Roslyn and Starbuck just hang out together tossing back beers and Chamela Extract, reliving the good times.

With two fuel left, Galactica performs it's last needed jump, and the humans win.

Closing credits roll.



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