Thursday, January 08, 2009

Welcome to 2009 - CYLON!


Herein lies a twisted tale of deception and surprise. Enter if you dare.

Third game of Galactica for me, Agent Easy and Luch, but Bharmer and Shemp weren’t around for the introduction in December. The three of us who have played before feel pretty comfy with the rule set and strategies, so after what I think is a pretty concise and clear rules explanation, we set up and begin a five player game.

First player is determined. It’s one of the new players, "Bharmer". He’s never seen the re-imagined show, though he’s familiar with the rag-tag fleet concept from the old one. He picks Gaius Baltar. I open my mouth to say something, but then I think - ‘this will probably make it more fun for him’, so I close it. Political leader category down. He stares at the picture of everyone’s least favourite ladykiller for a little bit and says - ‘he’s a pretty good looking guy. Sorta looks like me.’ Surprisingly, this is pretty accurate.

Next player, "Luch" takes Chief Tyrol. Good: safe and important support role is covered.

I ("Kozure") take Starbuck. I’ve previously played Apollo and Tigh, but I gravitate towards pilot types anyway and I figure we need one.

Next player takes Saul Tigh. "Shemp" hasn’t played before and has seen neither the old nor the re-imagined series. He asks whether the Battlestar and the Vipers are intentional Star Wars rip-offs or if it’s just a coincidence. I explain in as short a time I can the whole Star Wars - Battlestar Galactica - Star Trek: The Motion Picture relationship. Short story, yeah, they’re rip-offs. Curiously, he takes Tigh because "he looks like John McCain," which is funny because Shemp’s political views are almost diametrically opposed to McCain.

The choice of categories is pretty wide open for the final experienced player, "Agent Easy". I figure it would be best to take Roslin so that the newbie won’t have to make the political decisions, but I try not to influence people about their character choices unless there’s an obvious hole in our skill card set. There isn’t, really - we’ve got piloting covered with Starbuck, tactics with Starbuck and Tigh, engineering with Tyrol and Baltar, politics with Baltar and Tyrol, leadership with Tigh and Starbuck. We’re a little weak in politics and leadership, since Baltar is more likely to "go toaster", but I figure we can handle it. Agent Easy picks Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii. I’m a little surprised, since that makes for two people with higher chances of being the cylon, but whatever. Easy says he wants to try his hand at piloting, so I don’t argue.

Turn order, in case you’re keeping track, is: Baltar > Tyrol > Starbuck > Tigh > Boomer. I make a comment that the seating and character choices may end up being very problematic if Baltar and Boomer turn out to be the cylons.

Loyalty deck is shuffled and dealt. I’m a toaster. Frak me. Well, I’ve only been one once before, so this should be fun. Tigh is the Admiral. Baltar is President.

Skill cards are drawn, board is set. We’re good to go.

Act I - "Uh, I think we should jump now."

The first few turns are pretty typical. I jump into a viper to fight off the raiders doing my best to be a good little human. Unfortunately (or fortunately, from my point of view) the first three crises we draw are green-yellow, and we whiffle on them all, despite the fact that I’m actually contributing greens when I can so as not to draw suspicion. I’m doing a little mental happy dance that the pathetic survivors are getting pummelled so early on, but the skill card draws seem to show (inconclusively) that someone else is sabotaging. It could just be poor initial card draws as well, so I’m not convinced there’s another cylon yet.

We’ve lost morale and food, but we’re not doing horribly. A jammed assault puts more contacts on the Dradis, but we... er... the humans are holding their own despite the onslaught. We’re slowly advancing the jump track, a few more crises with a mixture of successes and failures. By the time we reach the -1 jump, there are a lot of raiders in the air as well as heavy raiders and both basestars. It’s starting to get hairy. Good... good.

It’s bad enough that there is general consensus we should try the early jump. I offer to throw in a card to add +2 to the die roll. The jumping player rolls an 8 so he would have made it anyway without my card helping. There’s the usual relieved sighs as the board is cleared. We jump to a deserted system (jump progress 2). Safe... or so the puny humans thought.

Act II - "Toga Party on Colonial One!"

After the jump, someone draws a Virus crisis, so we have a boarder. My turn’s up next. I say, truthfully, that the boarder is a threat but we should also get some CAP out there. There is grumbling around the table. I shrug and say "OK, I’ll hit the Armory, then." Unluckily, I roll a 7 and kill the cylon boarder. Frak. I figure that should throw some of the heat off me, though.

Everyone is suspecting Baltar quite a bit, mostly for some slightly odd behavior before the first jump. There’s a little suspicion on me, for reasons I can’t make out, since I’ve been almost choirboy-innocent for every action - I haven’t even tried to sabotage anything yet. A player turn or two later though, I actually screw up trying to sabotage a crisis check being conducted by Tigh that would probably make me stand out like a neon light if he had actually counted the cards he put in.

Tigh asks me about which cards I put in. I say I put in leadership cards. He says "card..s?" emphasizing the ‘s’. I realize in a heartbeat that I actually only put in one piloting card and the only other pilot, Boomer, has curiously abstained from the check after I threw in, but to correct myself would be doubly suspicious, so I say as earnestly as I can "yeah, two cards." There is a single piloting card as well as two other cards which sabotage the check. Tyrol had also abstained, so all of the leadership cards must have really come from Tigh or the destiny deck, and there were too many for all of them to be from the destiny deck.

I see a moment of suspicion flash over his face, but curiously he gathers up the cards and puts them in the discard without comment. The rest of that portion of the game is mostly quiet as players gather cards and scout, and the next jump happens without much incident. I use my Destiny ability to bury a pretty tough morale crisis (though I know there are worse coming, I don’t complain when a consensus is reached that we should do it anyway). We do lose a few points on morale and food, but population and fuel are where we’d expect. At one point, something happens, I can’t recall what, which tips suspicion on Baltar into the red, and he gets brigged. He makes some initial pathetic attempts to get out, but fails. The only thing that stands out in my mind is we failed a few times as a result of piloting cards that I didn’t put in, so I’m guessing that Boomer is the other cylon. At the same time, Tigh strangely jaunts over to Colonial One on the pretext that we’ve been doing poorly on Political checks, so he wants to pick up some cards there. Strange. Tigh is spending maybe one turn in three being drunk. He announces jokingly that there is a toga party on Colonial One. Another stand out is two Riot crises in a row, which is hard to cope with.

Act III - "Secret Cylon would be a good band name."

Coming out of the next jump into a cylon ambush (now making our jump progress 5) ["Thanks, Admiral," we chorus], I immediately want to get out into space again to fight my (fellow) Cylons to put on the best possible show of loyalty. The loyalty cards are dealt in the Sleeper Phase and Boomer is brigged per her character card (there is some confusion during the sleeper phase when I realize I put the sympathizer card in when I should not have. We resolve it by removing Tyrol’s revealed sympathizer card and giving him the remaining loyalty card).

I launch, but Tigh is after my turn and I note, out of the corner of my eye, that he and Boomer exchange glances for a moment as if agreeing on something. On Tigh's action, I’m brigged - it’s almost futile for Starbuck to try to avoid being brigged by Tigh, but I have to do something. No one helps me stay out. I guess I haven’t been convincing enough and Tigh and Boomer have decided I’m a toaster. Them being right doesn’t make it any less annoying.

Another cylon attack crisis. The Galactica takes damage but is quickly patched by Tyrol. Starbuck, Boomer and Baltar are in the brig. A launch raiders icon comes up in one Crisis, a second cylon attack in the next. The Galactica has a mass of contacts on her starboard front quarter - this is literally the most raiders, heavy raiders and cylons I've seen on the board, ever. Suddenly, Boomer reveals on the second turn of her internment and offs herself, popping up cackling on the Resurrection Ship.

With tonnes of raiders on the board and Cylon-Boomer puppeting them from the Cylon Fleet, things hit the fan quickly. We lose three Civvies in short order with only redshirt vipers out there - two of the Civilian ships turn out to be the double resource ones. We have three damaged vipers and one destroyed, the rest are in the air. Once again, I’m cackling internally, all the while playing the innocent injured party. Morale is at "2" - all the other dials except population are also in the red - 3s and 4s.

President Baltar finally manages to spring himself from the Brig using a combination of high skill cards and the card that reduces the target difficulty. Starbuck is the only one left in the brig.

Then we have a crisis check. I put in my card which would help the humans, just so that it would be apparent that I’m still innocent and would have time to put in the coup de grace at just the right moment. The revealed Cylon-Boomer has already spent a bunch of his skill cards in other crises, so he doesn’t spend any on this check. We should pass.

The cards are revealed. Three spoiler cards. Crisis failed. Sabotaged again.

I’m gob-smacked. I’m the only other possible cylon other than Boomer, but with the cards distribution as it turns out (I can’t remember the distribution or the participants), the only possible culprit is Tigh. I figure someone frakked up royally and played the wrong colour, but no-one owns up. I say nothing.

Finally, we get to a point where the next crisis will kill us if it hits morale, the fleet is being decimated and we’re nowhere near jumping. It’s my turn. I languish in jail, claiming to be unable to spring myself (entirely true, actually). Tigh’s turn the crisis card flips - it’s the one that is a -2 morale hit if failed. Somehow it gets around to me and I’m the only one who can help it succeed. Obviously I deep-six the check with a high off-suite card and the humans surrender due to morale being in the toilet.

I look up. There are five confused faces. I flip my loyalty card. Cylon...obviously. Boomer is already revealed, but dutifully shows two "you are human" and one cylon card. Baltar flips. Both human. Tyrol flips. Human. Tigh flips... Cylon.

I blink. There are one too many cylons.

I reach over and grab Tigh’s card. Yup. We read it right. Boomer’s card we saw earlier. Mine is right too.

Baltar says, in a wounded voice, "Uh, I thought there was only supposed to be two cylons."

I am baffled, "So did I," I say apologetically.

We never do figure out how it happened, but apparently I somehow shuffled an extra cylon card into the initial deal. This is especially baffling (and galling) to me because I thought I took extra care with preparing the Loyalty deck because the first four-player game we had with a different guest player-teacher, he accidentally left a cylon card out, and we were missing a cylon as a result.

Nonetheless, the evidence is there: I obviously frakked up the Loyalty deal somehow. Three of the five players had been cylons from the very start. The humans never had a chance.


  1. Great session report, as usual!

    I am, however, somewhat wounded that you didn't highlight the fact that I orchestrated such a big swindle... getting everybody but one player into the the brig before revealing myself! They were helpless in the face of this brilliant ploy! HA!

    Oh wait, right. The people I was "fooling" were also cylons. Tigh, in particular, helped me put Gaius and Starbuck into the brig because he was a cylon, not a putz.

    In truth, I was positive Shemp was a cylon from the moment he was being so helpful helping me do all the bad things I was doing, but didn't at all suspect Kozure, Bharmer or Luch. Kozure is one sublte cylon!

    Regardless, it was fun. I am afraid that the game stays far more interesting for the cylons when things are going badly. It definitely seemed to be less fun for the brigged good guys during that last hour.

    It's too bad the game has some pacing issues. The way the system breeds suspicion is very well done, but things can get a little slow with 5 players and there are times when the "system" isn't injecting the fun it should be. Why is it that in three games, there has been exactly zero boarding ? (the virus doesn't count). Also, unless an exposed cylon helps them, the raiders aren't much of a threat. Players just have way more opportunity to move their vipers than the raiders get to act. Something doesn't quite feel right.

    Anyway, I still like it for the experience of the game. Maybe we'll play quicker with experience.

  2. Rules mistakes to keep in mind for next time:

    You are not permitted to ask about or voluntarily tell people what cards you played into a skill check.

    Weapons Control location can be used to fire on any cylon ship (using the standard target number) not just basestars.

    For maximum accuracy and to avoid this sessions' fiasco, two players will confirm the correct composition of the loyalty deck and the precise order of the card deal order shall be read out and followed.

  3. Another rules omission which is actually pretty important:

    Cylons in the brig may not use their special ability when they reveal themselves (though they still get a Super Crisis card if they aren't a sympathizer).

    I missed the rule because it isn't actually in the rulebook anywhere (except briefly mentioned in the strategy section on page 29 at the back) and is only printed on the card itself.

    I admit when I was a Cylon I missed reading this restriction. A recent post on BGG alerted me to the error.