A follow-up from last week. From time to time a short board game review will replace usual book-related post. It will not necessarily be “easy games for beginners”. But all can be played by reasonably smart people after reading the manual, all are based on popular genre franchises and can provide many evenings of group entertainment each.
I will not concentrate on new games. A board game is significantly more costly than a book and takes up more shelf space. It’s better to establish a collection of a few classics, than just buy something fashionable at the moment.
The game I like to use to introduce new players is Battlestar: Galactica. The show is highly recommended (in its XXI-cent. version, the one from the 70-ties aged… not so well, IMO), even if the ending was disappointing for most of the fans (me included). Almost everybody at least heard of it and that’s part of game’s appeal.
*on photos we have Polish edition from my collection, of course English is also available, the game was designed in English and published by Fantasy Flight Games.
Aesthetically it relies heavily on the show. It’s natural, the game is an adaptation after all, and it works. We can instantly connect with the heroes we know from TV, but players not familiar with the show are not at disadvantage – everything is written down, the lore gives game special flavour, but is not strictly required to enjoy it.
Players… three to six, but, trust me, five or six are best. You need a small crowd to create proper atmosphere. Age – 10 and up, although a smart kid might start earlier, as is the case usually, with books and games alike. Time – reserve at least three hours. May take more, but probably no more then four. Sometimes, rarely, only two, but don’t count on it. Game publishers always lie when they print suggested game length on boxes ;).
What’s best about the game is its mechanics, the best combination of cooperation and conflict I’ve seen in board games. It’s safe for wary, insecure beginners, because each player is part of the team. It won’t be disappointing for people demanding action and suspense, because there are two teams and only one will win.
The very basics of the show needed to understand the game: it’s humans (not Earth-based humans, a civilization from Twelve Colonies – planets – named after zodiac signs) against the Cylons, a race of AI that rebelled against its creators. Spoiler for first five minutes of the show – the rebellion is successful and what remains of humanity escapes aboard a fleet of ramshackle ships defended by only one powerful military vessel – Galactica. The goal of human players, and initially it is assumed that every player is human, is to reach Kobol – mythic planet of our species’ origin, there to rebuild civilization. Powerful Cylon fleet chases, but that is not the only problem. Traitors are aboard. There are Cylons hidden among humans, and they look just like us – some of the players are, possibly, acting against the rest. Before the game starts, special cards are secretly given to each player, defining whether they are human or Cylon. And again, in the middle of the game, everybody gets another identity card, because some Cylons previously unaware of their true identity might be activated. Game-wise it creates a very interesting dynamic. Firstly – nobody knows who the enemy is. But everybody has some suspicions. Accusations, trials, fun stuff happens. Secondly – even if you’re human, chance is, you will become Cylon later on. Will you play to the best of your abilities? What if you’re forced to change sides and all the brilliant moves you made earlier will make it harder to win? But if you stay human, it may be too late to win, if you only get serious about it in the second half of the game…
You need a table to fit the board and a little extra space for each player, not only to keep refreshments and phones, but also character sheet and all the cards and tokens.
Most of the space on bard is taken by Galactica, the very spaceship that gave TV show its name. Smaller areas represent space around our ship, Colonial One (smaller ship, where political events take place), Cylon-controlled areas, and indicators of various resources. There are some nice cards, tokens, a dice. Regular board game stuff, good-quality and eye-pleasing. No complaints here, FFG knows its business.
Every playes (Cylon or not) takes a role of one of the shows protagonists. There are politicians, military leaders, pilots and chief Tyrol. He’s special ;). Every type of character specialises in something specific, but can also try some general actions. Still, if your only pilot happens to be a Cylon, you are in trouble :D. Cylons act as humans, but secretly try to undermine their efforts, or they can reveal themselves and escape to Cylon-controlled territories to fight openly.
Several expansions were published but we never got around to play any of them. The base game is great and we never felt the need to make it more complicated. Maybe one day somebody will bother to learn new rules and we will try ;).
The game is fairly balanced, in my maybe around twenty games both sides won similar number of times. It’s fast-paced, exciting, keeps all the players interested all the time, does not require previous knowledge of the series (although encourages people to watch it afterwards!).
Read one of the detailed reviews on BGG (links are in “forums” section) or go to youtube to see one of the gameplay videos. I will finish here, with a simple conclusion – Battlestar Galactica is definitely a great game for genre fans, with minimum effort highly accessible even for beginners.
And in cities like Kraków you can book a table in one of many gaming caffes/pubs and try it our without having to buy a copy!
There will be no score, I believe that games are good or bad, but not easy to compare on one scale – there are games for various occasions, different sets of players, or even specific moods. I’ll just say it’s in the top 100 on BGG (34th precisely), and that means a lot.