The Tao of Gaming

Boardgames and lesser pursuits

More Battlestar

Having now played two more games, I’ll expand on my thoughts.

Once you know what you are doing, humanity can win. The balance favors the cylons, but not outrageously so. On the downside, that’s due to random variability. We had a five player game with no cylons until the midpoint where the cylons won, and a 6 player game with an early cylon that the humans won easily. The main difference appeared to be due to the crisis deck. In the second game, 3 players were constantly scouting/peeking to make sure that the horrible cards got bypassed, leaving only the routinely bad cards.

More potential flaws — There are significant turn order effects. Often a cylons best bet is to play naturally, then let loose on the turn just prior to theirs. If your Right Hand Opponent draws an ugly crisis, just drop your hand to ensure that humanity fails, then reveal as a cylon on your turn. But if your LHO draws that crisis, dumping your hand reveals you, and you get sent to the brig. If the cylons sit back-to-back, then they can coordinate their ships much better. If this is true, then you are again at the mercy of the deal. That’s forgivable in a shorter game.

Both games peaked a bit early — the ending was clear a few turns before it happened. We probably spent 4.5 hours on two games (one of which included ~15 minutes of rules), which wasn’t bad but could be better. I think having an agreement to let teams concede will probably help.
The humans could have conceded in the first game, and the cylons in the last and shaved a few player turns.

[I'm pro-concession in general in two player/team games, but it's a touchy issue.]

The other issue is that the balance probably changes based on # of players. 5 players have 60% of the 2nd half turns pro-human. 6 Player games are 50% or 66%, depending on how the sympathizer turns out. So it’s in the humans interest to throw a bit to make sure that the sympathizer is pro-human. Still early to claim balance issues, but the niggling doubt is there that this is a 2 hour game to resolve a random shuffle of some cards…

My overall impression is still favorable, though.

Update: I agree with Alexfrog’s comments below. I don’t have enough experience yet; but he adds more data points. It bugs me that revealed cylons can add skill cards, too. That’s just not thematic. (Perhaps a revealed sympathizer could add skill cards, to balance not being able to direct the fleet). I’d go so far as to say that once all cylons are revealed, the destiny deck goes away (or the cards flip face up, perhaps).

As for balance, I still like the sleeper phase, but I think that you should ensure that both cylons aren’t in the opening. Or perhaps cylons can’t take their “Reveal” action until after the sleeper phase. Just to reduce variability.

My game length suggestion is that revealed cylons taking the caprica action don’t get to skip the jump drive step, but do skip the activate ships step. They get to pick two, so they’ll still usually not have to deal with advancing the jump drive, but the game won’t completely stall. Cylons activating their fleet don’t cause the jump to cycle. Alternately, you could make all cylon turns roll a die for the jump drive. Maybe 1-3, jump advances.

I started a BGG thread on variants.

You know what movie needs a BSG-style game? The Thing (or Who Goes There, for purists). You start with one thing, then he can infect others and if they get a majority, they win. How to do this without it become a pure werewolf thing is left as an exercise for the designer.

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Written by taogaming

November 25, 2008 at 6:49 pm

21 Responses

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  1. I also am greatly worried about game balance (after all games I have played being EASY cylon victories except one 3 player where the humans barely own (but which included a die roll on an FTL jump where we needed a 7 or else we lost).

    It seems that whether the Cylon cards are dealt at start or at the halfway point makes a HUGE difference in the outcome. But even that doesnt make as big of a difference as whether the sympathizer becomes human or cylon. If human, the game favors the humans. If cylon, it is nearly a 100% win for the cylons (unless there were no cylons before this and the humans are in great shape).

    Also, in many of my games the outcome has actually been in no doubt by the sleeper agent phase! Whoever got dealt the sympathizer card and became Cylon would win, and the other humans would lose! Lame.

    I feel currently that the game needs to be rebalanced around Cylons being in the game at start, and then each player having only one loyalty card (remove the sleeper agent loyalty card). I think the sleeper agent phase should be replaced by something else where bad stuff occurs, but no one actually switches loyalties.
    Initially I thought that the midgame potential loyalty switching was cool, but now I think its a bad game mechanic. Many times I have gotten about a third of the way through the game, and realized that my winning or losing was going to result solely from what my second loyalty card was.

    Also I feel the game length needs to be reduced. (If this requires other changes to rebalance, then they should occur). I think it should be 8 distance to end, not 8 + one more jump. (And maybe, change the sleeper agent phase to be at 3 distance not 4).

    Its still a massive improvement from Shadows over Camelot.

    Alexfrog

    November 25, 2008 at 7:58 pm

  2. On the issue of conceding, I definitely think it should be allowed (especially as a former Chess player…where its rude to NOT concede if youre losing badly. You’re basically insulting the other player saying that they are so bad at the game that you expect them to make a huge mistake).

    If the game was short this wouldnt be an issue, but it isnt, and it can take a long time to end even after the outcome is clear. Better to start a new game at that point.

    Alexfrog

    November 25, 2008 at 8:02 pm

  3. I think that perhaps one balance fix should be that revealed Cylons shouldnt be able to add cards to skill checks.

    Currently, I think that in terms of power, it probably goes:

    Revealed Cylon > Unrevealed Cylon > Cylon in the Brig.

    It really should go:

    Unrevealed Cylon > Revealed Cylon > Cylon in the Brig.

    That is, you only reveal because they are about to find you out and put you in the brig, or because they already did (in which case you dont get your reveal ability or super crisis). Even then, the cost required in skill cards by the humans to get you in the brig is probably only a bit less than what they gain from it, so probably some additional benefit shoulkd be added for this.

    Regardless, I feel it is very important that a Cylon should not start doing MORE damage after revealing than they were capable of when not revealed. Otherwise why wouldnt cylons just immediately reveal? (Or blow their hand to make you fail one skill check and then reveal).

    Currently, I think that they do much more damage when revealed than before.

    The only limitation is that they can add only one card to skill checks. But really, when unrevealed, adding more than this is highly likely to get you found out. Adding to their power, they get to either do the worst of two crisis cards, and they dont advance the jump preparation track! This is much worse than what they can do when not revealed in most cases (at least, without giving themself away, which they can do one time).

    It is also frustratingly difficult to get a human out of the brig with revealed cylons adding negative cards (and if you do, its a massive loss of resources). And getting a cylon into the brig is also very expensive.

    I feel that perhaps the brig should be based on a voting system (like lynching in werewolf?)

    Alexfrog

    November 25, 2008 at 8:13 pm

  4. I think that perhaps one balance fix should be that revealed Cylons shouldnt be able to add cards to skill checks.

    Currently, I think that in terms of power, it probably goes:

    Revealed Cylon > Unrevealed Cylon > Cylon in the Brig.

    It really should go:

    Unrevealed Cylon > Revealed Cylon > Cylon in the Brig.

    That is, you only reveal because they are about to find you out and put you in the brig, or because they already did (in which case you dont get your reveal ability or super crisis). Even then, the cost required in skill cards by the humans to get you in the brig is probably only a bit less than what they gain from it, so probably some additional benefit shoulkd be added for this.

    Regardless, I feel it is very important that a Cylon should not start doing MORE damage after revealing than they were capable of when not revealed. Otherwise why wouldnt cylons just immediately reveal? (Or blow their hand to make you fail one skill check and then reveal).

    Currently, I think that they do much more damage when revealed than before.

    The only limitation is that they can add only one card to skill checks. But really, when unrevealed, adding more than this is highly likely to get you found out. Adding to their power, they get to either do the worst of two crisis cards, and they dont advance the jump preparation track! This is much worse than what they can do when not revealed in most cases (at least, without giving themself away, which they can do one time).

    It is also frustratingly difficult to get a human out of the brig with revealed cylons adding negative cards (and if you do, its a massive loss of resources). And getting a cylon into the brig is also very expensive.

    I feel that perhaps the brig should be based on a voting system (like lynching in werewolf?)

    Alexfrog

    November 25, 2008 at 8:13 pm

  5. Thing actually exists. It’s a variant of Werewolf/Mafia. You start with one Thing and a bunch of scientists, and every night the Things turn another research scientist into a Thing. Every day the scientists can test two of their number to see if they’re shape-shifting Things or scientists. (A tested scientist doesn’t die.) If the second test hits a Thing, the scientists can test again; if that one hits, they can test again, and so on. Game ends when the Things are all dead, or outnumber the scientists.

    The interesting bit is that the scientist who gets Thinged in the night doesn’t know who the other Things are unless she survives the next day. . .

    (More info here and in following comments.)

    Tucker

    November 26, 2008 at 12:22 am

  6. Thing actually exists. It’s a variant of Werewolf/Mafia. You start with one Thing and a bunch of scientists, and every night the Things turn another research scientist into a Thing. Every day the scientists can test two of their number to see if they’re shape-shifting Things or scientists. (A tested scientist doesn’t die.) If the second test hits a Thing, the scientists can test again; if that one hits, they can test again, and so on. Game ends when the Things are all dead, or outnumber the scientists.

    The interesting bit is that the scientist who gets Thinged in the night doesn’t know who the other Things are unless she survives the next day. . .

    (More info here and in following comments.)

    Tucker

    November 26, 2008 at 12:22 am

  7. As far as “The Thing” games go, Brian, perhaps you are forgetting (or blocking out) Beest, which came out in 2001. This wasn’t a co-op, but “the box” was a player who could infect the players. It…did…not…work. In fact, it was pretty awful, despite coming from the hands of both Splotter and Corne van Moorsel. So be careful what you wish for!

    Larry Levy

    November 26, 2008 at 10:53 am

  8. I have only played this once and not myself read the rules or really studied things. However, I have a few thoughts on this.

    First, I agree with Alex about the Sympathizer. In our game we made sure that a dial was in the Red at Sympathizer time so he would be human.

    My other issue with the game is that I came up with what I believe is a broken strategy. A cylon revealing himself would most likely fix it but it would at least force that revelation. The strategy is this: Put everyone but Roslin in the brig – in fact demand they all start in the brig. If no Cylon reveals himself and Roslin is not a Cylon (which should be pretty obvious pretty quick), then only Roslin draws Crisis cards and always gets a choice. Work on the fleet jumping fast. Never put out baseships unless draw a pair. Then never launch fighters unless draw a pair. Then never attack unless draw a pair. The other characters each only draw 1 card but this is effectively a ton – 5 extra cards for every crisis for them as well as Roslin’s 5.

    This strategy is boring and ridiculous but would it work? Seems to me the only way to avoid it is for the Cylon to reveal himself instantly at the beginning by refusing to start in the brig. Now of course, if a Revealed Cylon > Unrevealed Cylon this doesn’t really hurt him and he should perhaps do it anyway but it does get rid of the Traitor aspect.

    Aaron Fuegi

    November 26, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  9. I have only played this once and not myself read the rules or really studied things. However, I have a few thoughts on this.

    First, I agree with Alex about the Sympathizer. In our game we made sure that a dial was in the Red at Sympathizer time so he would be human.

    My other issue with the game is that I came up with what I believe is a broken strategy. A cylon revealing himself would most likely fix it but it would at least force that revelation. The strategy is this: Put everyone but Roslin in the brig – in fact demand they all start in the brig. If no Cylon reveals himself and Roslin is not a Cylon (which should be pretty obvious pretty quick), then only Roslin draws Crisis cards and always gets a choice. Work on the fleet jumping fast. Never put out baseships unless draw a pair. Then never launch fighters unless draw a pair. Then never attack unless draw a pair. The other characters each only draw 1 card but this is effectively a ton – 5 extra cards for every crisis for them as well as Roslin’s 5.

    This strategy is boring and ridiculous but would it work? Seems to me the only way to avoid it is for the Cylon to reveal himself instantly at the beginning by refusing to start in the brig. Now of course, if a Revealed Cylon > Unrevealed Cylon this doesn’t really hurt him and he should perhaps do it anyway but it does get rid of the Traitor aspect.

    Aaron Fuegi

    November 26, 2008 at 12:42 pm

  10. Btw, in the one game I played we won fairly comfortably. Two of us grabbed Adama and Roslin off the bat and quickly decided we were both human. We kept trading Executive orders and got lots done. Think also were lucky on the Crisis cards and the Cylons too conservative.

    The above strategy came to me when a player ended up in the brig and I had a Quorum card to easily get him out. However, despite being 95% sure he was human, I became convinced he was doing the group more good for us in the brig than he would have out of it ;) so left him in (would have got him out if a Cylon revealed).

    Aaron Fuegi

    November 26, 2008 at 12:47 pm

  11. Btw, in the one game I played we won fairly comfortably. Two of us grabbed Adama and Roslin off the bat and quickly decided we were both human. We kept trading Executive orders and got lots done. Think also were lucky on the Crisis cards and the Cylons too conservative.

    The above strategy came to me when a player ended up in the brig and I had a Quorum card to easily get him out. However, despite being 95% sure he was human, I became convinced he was doing the group more good for us in the brig than he would have out of it ;) so left him in (would have got him out if a Cylon revealed).

    Aaron Fuegi

    November 26, 2008 at 12:47 pm

  12. Nice find, Aaron! I guess it comes down to whether the Cylons (+ sympathizer) can win if they’re all dealt out on the 2nd half of the game (obviously they reveal right away if dealt in 1st half). Either way, removes a lot of fun…. :(

    Jon Waddington

    November 26, 2008 at 1:50 pm

  13. Its still a massive improvement from Shadows over Camelot.

    Wow, Alex, with all the issues you list with BSG, you must have really hated Shadows!

    Larry Levy

    November 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm

  14. Its still a massive improvement from Shadows over Camelot.

    Wow, Alex, with all the issues you list with BSG, you must have really hated Shadows!

    Larry Levy

    November 26, 2008 at 3:31 pm

  15. I think the Brig mechanics are pretty wierd. I could definitely see scenarios where its better for humans to sit in the brig. But once there are revealed Cylons this changes, because the Cylons would each get one turn (which doesnt advace jump track) per round. If only one human is out of the brig at that point, you make no progress and the Cylons can DESTROY you with carprica events and/or fleet movements. Also, getting all the humans back out of the brig again is very hard.

    Regarding Shadows over Camelot: I think it doesnt really work well. But I still think its ok, and it is trying to do something cool. BSG does a better attempt at succeeding in that cool thing (which is basically, making a resource management based boardgame out of Werewolf, with a good theme).

    I see BSG as a big step forward with some great ideas and very strong theme. Its the type of game that has problems but is so cool that I really want to fix those problems and make it great.

    Alexfrog

    November 26, 2008 at 4:48 pm

  16. I think the Brig mechanics are pretty wierd. I could definitely see scenarios where its better for humans to sit in the brig. But once there are revealed Cylons this changes, because the Cylons would each get one turn (which doesnt advace jump track) per round. If only one human is out of the brig at that point, you make no progress and the Cylons can DESTROY you with carprica events and/or fleet movements. Also, getting all the humans back out of the brig again is very hard.

    Regarding Shadows over Camelot: I think it doesnt really work well. But I still think its ok, and it is trying to do something cool. BSG does a better attempt at succeeding in that cool thing (which is basically, making a resource management based boardgame out of Werewolf, with a good theme).

    I see BSG as a big step forward with some great ideas and very strong theme. Its the type of game that has problems but is so cool that I really want to fix those problems and make it great.

    Alexfrog

    November 26, 2008 at 4:48 pm

  17. I don’t know if this was obvious to everyone else, but you can’t just move into the brig. You have to go via a skill check (Admiral’s Quarters) or another effect. No voluntary incarcerations.

    Jon Waddington

    November 26, 2008 at 5:24 pm

  18. Yes, and its hard (costs resources) to get in there even if thats what you want.

    Alexfrog

    November 26, 2008 at 6:12 pm

  19. Yes, and its hard (costs resources) to get in there even if thats what you want.

    Alexfrog

    November 26, 2008 at 6:12 pm

  20. Even if the Brig idea works, it’s uninteresting (apart from theoretically).

    As for The Thing, never played Beest, and I’m not looking for Werewolf variants.

    Brian

    November 26, 2008 at 8:59 pm

  21. Even if the Brig idea works, it’s uninteresting (apart from theoretically).

    As for The Thing, never played Beest, and I’m not looking for Werewolf variants.

    Brian

    November 26, 2008 at 8:59 pm


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