Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game

No-one saw it coming… Not when Caprica City was hit, not when over 28 billion from Leonis to Aerilon were wiped out in the blink of a nuclear eye. It was always a possibility in the back of everyone's mind, despite decades of silence, but in the 40 years since the armistice was signed, the 12 colonies had become far too complacent. Modern defenses stood no chance when the Cylons finally launched their surprise invasion. While the rest were gutted from the inside out by the vicious codes of the enemy, it was only a lone colonial Battlestar, Galactica, the oldest in the fleet, that had a network immune to the virus. The frantic crew of this Battlestar, including a few antiquated squadrons of Mark 2 Vipers, now lead a fleet of 40,000 survivors, and a newly appointed and inexperienced President of the Colonies, in a desperate flight away from their mechanized pursuers. The destination? A fabled 13th colony, Earth. They've been jumping for weeks now, food, fuel, and morale are fading, paranoia is rising, and the Cylons have already infiltrated the fleet…

The stakes really couldn't be any higher in Fantasy Flight Games brilliant adaptation of Scy Fy's cult classic Battlestar Galactica. This board game harnesses the feelings of paranoia, pressure, and fear eating away at the crew of a fugitive vessel, on board which enemies in disguise patiently dwell, waiting to be triggered.

It's obvious that designer Cory Konieczka was at least partially inspired by the 2005 board game Shadows Over Camelot; however, when developing a game based on treachery, there is no more suitable theme than Battlestar. Depending on the number of players (3-6), a carefully compiled deck of Loyalty Cards is evenly distributed at the start of the game; once character roles have been chosen. This deck determines which players are human: fighting to lead the fleet to the ancient planet of Kobol where the directions to Earth supposedly rest, and which are Cylons in human skin: the deadliest of models, hell-bent on eradicating their former masters from the shadows.

Each playable character (Adamas, Starbuck, Chief Tyrol, and Baltar all included) has a unique set of special abilities and skills based on their characteristics in the show which may be used either as their one playable action for the round or to help resolve crisis that arise at the end of each player's turn. Galactica itself is a fully functional battle station complete with all the prominent areas featured in the show (the Brig, FTP Control, etc) which can be moved to and utilized for the player's single turn action as well- This absolutely includes moving to the hangar and taking a Viper out into space to defend the ship from attacking Cylon fighters.

The five skill decks: Leadership (Green), Politics (Yellow), Tactics (Purple), Piloting (Red), and Engineering (Blue), from which a character draws their specified amount at the start of their turn: contain cards brimming with even more unique actions to be played strategically during the round, or saved for the crisis phase (more on that in a moment). The role-play element involved with character selection is fantastic here as playing the Chief yields a specialty in Engineering, while Starbuck and Helo are the glory-chasing pilots. The contrasts go on, but if you thought the layers of strategy stopped there you’d be fracked.

The roles of President and Admiral are assigned at the beginning of the game based on the characters in play and following a predetermined line of succession based on rank. As the Political Leader the President has access to the Quorum deck-an additional set of action cards that have political ramifications on the game- as well as the ability to board Colonial One and utilize additional actions there. As military commander the Admiral has access to the final two nukes on board Galactica, a dire solution when every other option has run out against attacking Cylon Basestars. These roles can be reassigned at any time when a player holding the title is condemned to the brig or an election is called from the Press Room of Colonial One- a maneuver that may be designed to place control of the Quorum or nuclear weapons right into the hands of a Cylon in disguise-if they aren’t already there.

Every time a player makes their move and executes their one action for the turn from any of the options above, a Crisis Card is flipped and resolved. These contextual scenarios are a great homage to the costly struggles plaguing the fleet throughout the series and have muti-faceted outcomes which really drive the game forward. The idea is that all players must offer up a predetermined number of skill cards of the designated colours on the crisis card in a "vote" in order to resolve the situation. These cards must be played face down so as to the allow the hidden cylon players an opportunity to secretly play skill cards of the wrong color in an attempt to fail the crisis resolution and force the negative effects onto the fleet.

Failing a crisis will usually result in the depletion of either food, fuel, morale, or population, represented by dials on the top right of the board, and when just one of these dials reaches zero, it's game over for the humans. Crisis cards can bring attacking Cylon Basestars and fighters into Galactica's airspace, activate them, and cause severe damage to the Battlestar and surrounding fleet if players are unsuccessful in warding them off in Vipers, or even if, Gods forbid, Galactica's two nukes are unable to get the job done. Cylon boarding boarding parties can also be dispatched in a crisis, and if they are able to dock with and board Galactica, and the Cylon boarding track maxes out, game over for the humans as well.

What to do when Vipers are being damaged left right and centre, civilian vessels are being slaughtered, and heavily armoured basestars are closing in? Run.

Certain Crisis Cards will have a jump symbol in the bottom right corner which automatically results in the jump track being advanced one space. When the track maxes out, The fleet automatically jumps into hyperspace, fleeing their attackers just in the knick of time. If the situation is just too dire to handle, the crew can attempt a premature jump by moving to and activating Galactica's FTL control at more of a risk to the fleet. This decision making makes for some of the most tense and immersive gameplay that Battlestar Galactica Board game has to offer.

The fleet must jump 8 units of distance in order to reach Kobol and the humans to win the game, but this feat is far from easy. Twsits and turns abound and are constantly thrown at players in their desperate flight for survival, including the deadly sleeper phase which occurs after the fleet manages to jump 4 units of distance. This phase sees players dealt new Loyalty Cards which may awaken Cylons previously hidden from the fleet and even unbeknownst to themselves. Just when you think the crew is getting it together, it takes only one crisis and one vote to burn it all to to ash faster than a supernova. Cylon players can reveal themselves at any time and draw a super crisis card, the effects of which are truly devastating. Revealed Cylons then travel to the Cylon fleet section of the board and must play out the rest of the game using the limited hostile actions available to them from there.

Ultimately the humans must do everything in their power to strategize and plan their limited turn actions accordingly to both manage crisis and preserve their precious resources at all costs against ruthless attack and espionage. It's really the way the mechanics weave the desperate struggles onboard Galactica into a playable experience where characters can use their skills and abilities to crew the last Battlestar to salvation or bring it to the brink of extinction that makes this game such a worthwhile endeavour. You can never know who to trust. Will you root out the sleepers or cleverly mask your own treachery? The cards will decide your fate. With expansions available that introduce even more playable characters and new locations such as the massive Battlestar Pegasus, or the infamous colony of New Caprica, the opportunity to explore the detailed universe of the show is synthesized in such a way where the intelligence and social savvy of players will be tested to the max. This game will leave your heart pounding and your excitement fixated on the edge of your seat. In a classic war for the ages who will prevail, man or machine? When no hope remains all you can do is fight. So say we all.

Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game Reviewed by Jade GamingNews on 6/03/2014 12:02:00 pm Rating: 5

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