10 Jan

Battlestar Galactica

Filed under: Boardgames 6 Responses

Including the recent game with my two youngest nieces, I’m now up to at least four plays of Battlestar Galactica. Of these four games, I have been a Cylon in three of them (once with Sean, once with Shan and of course with the youngest niece Zin in the latest game). I doubt any members of our regular group will ever trust that I’m human again. Some additional thoughts since I’ve already written about this game once before:

  • Shan declared after the game that she didn’t see the point of playing it ever again. I wouldn’t go quite that far but it does seem to me that despite the high amount of cruft in the game, there isn’t that much depth. Players just don’t have enough control over all the randomness that is in the game. Cylon players have relatively few options to perform actual sabotage while remaining hidden and it’s generally clear all that times what the best course of action is for the humans. Arguably, that is the point of the game. If everyone’s loyalties were clear, it would be easy to determine what is best. But I’d still have hoped for more strategy above that.
  • So far in all my games, the only real threat I’ve seen to the human fleet has been the resource dials dropping due to crisis cards and jump destinations. I’ve never seen the Cylon fleet do much of consequence and I’m certainly disappointed that no Admiral has yet seen it fit to launch any nukes. What’s the point? Just jump and they’re all gone. Theoretically, the Centurion boarding parties can be a credible threat too, but it seems pretty tough for a heavy raider to survive long enough and get activated enough to move into the Galactica, let alone progress enough to reach the end of the track.
  • Since the main threat are the crisis cards, there are often times in all of the games I’ve played so far when no one has anything really important to do so they just go to draw cards. That seems, well, unexciting. Players will often just go draw cards even if there are still Cylon Raiders and Basestars hanging around outside because everyone knows they’re not much a threat and drawing skill cards is more important.
  • Even experienced players often forget about the special abilities and weaknesses of each character. I did this too, forgetting that Tom Zarek’s ability works for both the Administration and Brig locations, which would have made it easier for me to grab the title of President. Just like the almost irrelevant space combat mechanics, that’s another sign that there’s just way too much fluff in the game.
  • Similarly, many locations on the Galactica board are hardly ever used. Who ever bothers to go to Weapons Control or Communications? They just seem to gather dust.
  • I maintain that if the human players are all competent, it’s almost impossible for them to lose. Competent play means using the Investigative Committee card as often as possible and going to the Press Room to draw more. There’s no reason to go draw Engineering cards unless you really need a Repair card when you could draw Political cards instead. Humans should play as if everyone were human until someone does something to out himself. Even if a human player plays an Executive Order on a hidden Cylon player, what’s the worse that could happen? To do any real damage, he’d have to reveal himself.
  • The President’s job should be to constantly draw Quorum cards and play them to restore resources. If the President isn’t doing that, either he’s incompetent or he’s a Cylon. Laura Roslin is also a rather bad President due to her downside. It’s advantageous for the humans to let someone else be President (provided he isn’t a Cylon of course) and use Roslin to play Executive Orders rather than activate locations.

Above all, I wish Battlestar Galactica were more streamlined and less Ameritrashy. I’m surprised that even as flawed as it is, it’s still considered the best traitor game available. I’m still okay with playing it, but I can’t say that I’d be very enthusiastic. I understand that the Pegasus expansion, which I admittedly haven’t played, sort of missed the ball by having explicit Cylon characters. Why would you want to gut the best part of a traitor game by removing so much of the guessing game? But I guess Cylon Leaders are still a better idea than Sympathizers. What I can tell however, the latest expansion Exodus gets it right. The Cylon Fleet board makes sure that the Cylon ships are always a credible threat and the Divided Loyalties cards creates conflict even among the humans.

Written on January 10 2011 and is filed under Boardgames. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

6 Responses to “Battlestar Galactica”


It sounds to me like your Cylons are playing too conservatively. The objective is not to remain concealed, the objective is to harm the humans as much as possible. Those situations where you say, “To do any real damage, he’d have to reveal himself,” I say, “Sweet, an opportunity to do some real damage and reveal myself.” Being revealed does have the advantage of letting you choose where to apply pressure, and it’s basically the way that the fleet can become a credible threat. In my dozen or so games I’ve never seen Galactica destroyed outright, but I have seen the loss of civilian ships pivotal in getting those dials low, and I have seen two revealed cylons pressuring Centurions to the end of the track.

The game is designed such that the humans will likely win unless the cylons stop them, and I do think it’s weighted in favor of the humans somewhat. But I’ve also seen plenty of competent humans lose the game. It’s really up to the cylons to judiciously tip the right crises and then reveal with a bang and continue applying pressure where the humans are weakest. It’s totally worth it to lose a turn revealing from the brig if you get to knock food down by 2, especially because a revealed cylon gets to filter their crises and the humans don’t get jump preps on the cylon’s turn.

My win rate as a cylon is 3/4, and the overall humans’ win rate is around 60% in my group. We learned after the first game or two that cylons need to play aggressively to win; turns spent helping the humans to blend is are simply turns spent helping the humans. You at least need to sandbag until an opportunity for a big obvious sabotage turns up.


Yeah, you’re probably right. The natural instinct for a Cylon player would be to lie low and try to blend in. But it’s hard to stay in the crowd without ending up helping the humans. The innate Cylon abilities on reveal abilities also seem pretty weak so Cylon players shouldn’t be afraid of being forced to reveal in the brig. Frequently, the once per game ability of each character does more damage than the revealing action does, so it’s worth doing it even if you end up in the brig afterwards.

The problem is that once all Cylon players have been revealed the humans can proceed much more confidently. Having a potential Cylon sabotaging a skill check forces the humans to commit extra resources to it. Over time, that’s still a considerable form of damage to the humans.


That’s a good point about unrevealed cylons forcing the humans to spend extra resources, but if you’re rarely spiking checks as an unrevealed cylon (to avoid suspicion) or if the humans are using investigative committees frequently then it’s not really much of a help. The cylons’ job is to be as destabilizing as possible. You’re definitely right that sometimes remaining unrevealed is the best way to do that. But your primary methods of destabilizing Galactica when unrevealed are sowing distrust to keep the humans playing inefficiently and sabotaging skill checks. If the humans are already playing as if everyone were human, you’ve failed at this and it’s time to cut your losses and reveal at the next opportunity. Likely they’re not even trying to overspend to prevent sabotage at this point.

Also, proceeding confidently means using lots of executive orders, and part of the purpose of an unrevealed cylon is to prevent the humans from using them at every opportunity. If the humans are already slinging them around willy-nilly, the cylon needs to punish them for that: if it’s right before your turn you can communicate some civilians into harm’s way or use the FTL prematurely, blow your once-per-game and then safely reveal on your turn.

I’m overstating my case a bit (I’m not one of those people on BGG who insist the cylons should reveal on turn 1). There’s definitely plenty of reasons to stay unrevealed, especially at the beginning of the game when the stakes are low and you don’t know what to pressure yet. It’s just that in my experience one of the hardest, but most important, lessons for cylon players to learn is that you need to be ruthless and bold. Brazen. The worst than can happen is that you have to reveal, which in turn presents its own set of advantages.

Chong Sean

I agree with some said in BGG:”With one revealed and one hidden cylon ca do the most damage..


Wow… I can’t believe people think the game is geared towards the humans winning. The game is so unbelievable in favor of the Cylons it’s a joke. My group has played over 20 games already and the humans have not won a single time. We are all excellent players I may add. We typically play with 7 players. Even with the humans starting with extra resources and the potential of only 3 bad Cylons, the humans get destroyed. There have been 2 games that were somewhat close. If you add in the expansions.. it becomes even worse for the humans. Cylons drawing Crisis Cards = game over. For every resource added by the humans, the Cylons can remove 2-3.


Eh, I don’t have any experience with any of the expansions and the base game only goes up to 6 players… But what are you losing resources to? Crisis cards or Cylon attacks? From what I can tell crises aren’t that hard to pass if the humans are determined to pass it and fails only if the Cylons spike the check. Perhaps your human players are being too paranoid, frequently throwing people into the brig when they could be human?

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