So Play We All: Battlestar Galactica (the Board Game) Review

Cooperative games (games in which the players play against a common threat engineered by the game itself) are all the rage now, and the latest hot one is Battlestar Galactica: the Board Game, from Fantasy Flight Games (designed by Corey Konieczka).

Based on the popular television show (the new, “re-imagined” version, not the original one), the game has the players try to make their way to the sacred planet of Kobol while being pursued by sinister Cylons and also having to fend off various other disasters. As in the show, you can always guarantee that the next thing that happens is going to be either tragic or horrible. For example, one player is the Admiral, and he gets to choose the destination Galactica reaches when they make a light-speed jump. However, the destination options are always awful, and it’s a matter of determining which one is less awful at the moment.

This is not a place the fleet will be going.

After every player’s turn there is a “crisis” that they have to throw skill cards in on. If the numbers on the cards meet or exceed the crisis rating, they succeed, which usually means nothing happens. That is, you didn’t have anything good happen, you merely avoided something tragic. Your main enemy is simply attrition.

Except it’s not, because you have another main enemy: the Cylons. And as in the show, these Cylons are able to disguise themselves as humans. As crew members. As the players. Yes, a portion of the players (I don’t know exactly how many) will be Cylons, secretly trying to sabotage the crew’s efforts and make their mission fail. And the beauty is, the players may not know right away that they are Cylons. Some are only revealed halfway through, and the rulebook even suggests that you try not to help out too much in the first half, in case you turn out to be a Cylon later! Yay!

Cylons, the lot of them.

You have various ways of finding out the identities of the Cylon(s), but it won’t do you much good. A revealed Cylon gets to hop around other locations, continuing to cause trouble for the fleet.

This is a tough, tense game and it includes just about every element from the show that you could want. There are tough choices, hidden agendas, space battles, and a rule that if it’s not Starbuck’s turn the other players have to say, “Where’s Starbuck?” The game seems to be focused more on the first half of the series (the humans win if they get to Kobol, not Earth), which makes it evident that a sequel or expansion is forthcoming.

My most important question going into this game was: how is it if you’re not into Battlestar Galactica? Although I watched the first three seasons, I lost patience with it after that and quit. I didn’t know if it would be like one of the umpty-jillion Lord of the Rings games that are completely uninteresting if you don’t care about that universe. The game we played had players ranging from active viewers of the show to people who’d never seen it, and we all got into the spirit of the game. You do not need to be a fan to enjoy this.

I should point out that, due to an error, our game ended up ending a touch prematurely because, well, four of the six of us were Cylons. That was a mistake, and I believe you’ll never have more than two (plus possibly a sympathizer) in a normal game, but someone can correct me if I’m wrong there. Obviously this meant the humans lost horribly, but we still got a really good feel for how the game worked and flowed. I’m eager to play it again “correctly”.

“Guys, hey! Look! It’s me, Starbuck! Look at me! I’m Starbuck! Come on, pay attention to me!”

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5 Responses to So Play We All: Battlestar Galactica (the Board Game) Review

  1. Curtis says:

    That was pretty dumb of whoever put in those two extra Cylon cards. *Hangs head in shame*

    I love the Puppy Planet card!

  2. rob says:

    Nice review, thanks. Sounds really fun.

  3. Eating puppies makes grown-up Boxey cry!

  4. Funny. In our first game in Champaign, Dave T did the same thing and it became 3 Cylons vs. 2 humans, so you know how that went. The last time we played, we did it correctly. A good game, but seemingly very difficult for the humans to win. Harder than Pandemic, IMO. Still fun. And I haven’t seen an episode of the new series yet.

  5. David Thiel says:

    It’s amazing what kind of game effect it has when you miss the “NOT” in the sentence, “If Boomer is in the game, put an extra ‘You are not a Cylon’ card in the deck.”

    I particularly enjoyed the feel of our second game, in which Brian above got really pissed to learn that he was a Cylon. It seemed very much in the spirit of the show, as did my paranoia late in the game when it began to dawn on me that Admiral Adama was taking the long route to Kobol.