Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Cylons Wear Hats... Mostly

The game of the week, chosen by Pablo "No Nickname" H., was Battlestar Galactica (no expansion).

I like BSG. It has a certain feel - a combination of gritty, "let's make the hard decisions" resource management and paranoia that you don't quite get from any other game. Shadows Over Camelot wasn't bad, but got a little tiresome, and Panic Station had too many thematic problems for me to enjoy. I haven't played "The Resistance", the other candidate for the tinfoil hat prize for paranoia in gaming, but I suspect that it would be less engaging without the opportunity to push little models of Vipers around and making pyew-pyew-pyew noises while blowing up Cylon Raiders.

Well, what to say about this session except it featured a undeserved brigging of Shemp (as Apollo), the destruction of Caprica One by terrorists, an early suspicion and subsequent brigging of Bharmer (as Chief Tyrol) and a Academy Award (tm)-worthy performance by Pablo (as trouble-maker President Zarek), who turned out to be the second, very deep cover Cylon operative, unsuspected by anyone until the very end. It also featured one of the highest Raider kill counts by a single pilot (Easy's Starbuck) I've seen in the game -- somewhere upwards of 20+ --  and a very above moral reproach but ultimately futile tenure as Admiral by me as Karl Agathon.

The suspicion thrown on Shemp's behaviour by an early (and, if I recall correctly, misread) play led to him being brigged at a fairly critical time. With him being unable to get out without the firm support of the other human players, it was difficult, and then when it became apparent that Pablo was the other cylon, we couldn't brig him because the Admiral's quarters were damaged - and Tyrol had already "gone cylon", so repair cards were few.

It was an interesting dynamic. We had Bharmer pegged as a cylon early (and brigged early), but in the mid-game, none of the humans were sure who the cylon was until certain potentially Cylon-game-winning strategies were ignored both by me and Shemp, at which time it was difficult to get him out. By the time we recovered, resources were in the low reds, and there was no escaping.

We fell to a morale loss at distance 6. To my credit as the admiral, we had only lost one civilian ship to enemy fire and Galactica was never in serious danger from Cylon ship-based attacks. No, we lost this one because we couldn't identify and brig the second cylon, and Pablo's machinations caused us to lose several key morale-based crises. We were high on population, mid-range on fuel, low on food and critical on morale when we lost. I was generally happy with my performance as admiral, less so with my ability to figure out who the cylon was and act on it decisively.

The difficulty of this game varies dramatically depending on whether there are zero, one or two cylons from the initial loyalty deal to the sleeper phase, and in this case, there were two right from the start, making it the most difficult it can be in a five-player game.

This game may not be the most balanced and it is a little long; but for the dramatic experience it's one of the better ones.

Also, Cylons wear hats. It's a fact.

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