As mentioned, we had a pretty big weekend of board games just recently. After getting whooped in X-Wing we brought out the Battlestar Galactica board game. This is a fun damn game.
So for set up we had:
Gaius Baltar – Scott (President)
Helo – Me (Admiral)
Chief – Ryan
Caprica Six – James (Cylon Leader)
What that meant, then, was we had 3 humans leading the fleet. One of us was a cylon – but which one? James playing as a Cylon Leader(CL) meant we didn’t need to use the sympathiser mechanic. You see, James had never played before, so what I have done here is give the new player the CL so that he is not directly involved in the humans-versus-cylon struggle. The CL mechanic is designed so that they should be varying which side they are helping from moment to moment, as suits their enigmatic agenda. Even if they don’t know the best strategies, it doesn’t really matter because it helps to obscure their agenda and they “fail to help” each side equally (due to newbie-ness.) It works pretty well, but the last time the humans – who already have a very hard time winning – got a bit blind-sided by a CL that decided to give up on his agenda and just work against the humans every turn. The next CL game had an experienced player with agenda that is pretty much 100% anti-human. Ouch.
This time, it worked well.
We use a house rule that everyone has to stare at their loyalty card for 10 seconds, regardless of what it says. This is to mitigate the problem of humans being able to glance at their loyalty card (which says nothing interesting) while the unrevealed cylon has to read his to find out his reveal ability. Unfortunately, Ryan didn’t follow through on this rule, and popped his loyalty card down at the 5-second mark. Especially since he was a new player, I knew there was no way he was a cylon. So we re-dealt the loyalty cards. On the second time, Ryan stuck to the 10-second rule… but squinted closely at his card.
Although I couldn’t guarantee he was a cylon from that, there was really only one reason he’d need to look at his card closely. I told Scott that Ryan had done something “very suss.” Scott offered to use his Cylon Detector ability right out of the gate and confirm for us. I agreed. For two reasons – I would prefer Baltar got rid of his ability before the sleeper phase – if I turned out to be a sleeper cylon, it’d be best if the humans didn’t have that ace in the hole. Secondly, if we catch Ryan out on the first turn, Scott and I (as the most experienced players) would have a really good shoot at winning.
So Scott looked at Ryan’s loyalty card and declared him cylon. Ryan groaned a little and that was that. Scott told me he had a Presidential Arrest Order in his hard, so Ryan was going to the brig, no question. I did, however, start to question Scott’s truthfulness. I had no solid reason to doubt him, but a few things ran through my mind… If Scott was a cylon, Ryan’s silly behaviour at the start gave him the perfect excuse to accuse Ryan and get my support. What Ryan did was very minor, so if Scott had the You Are A Cylon card, and a starting Arrest Order this would be the obvious cylon strategy to take – it’s certainly what I would do. The problem I had was that there had been exactly 1 turn so far – Scott’s – and that was all. Already suspicion was high, and accusations being thrown around. I just didn’t have enough information to go on. I know Ryan and Scott both pretty well, so I thought if I had more time I probably could have figured out the truth of the matter… but with just 1 turn’s behaviour to work on, it was an impossible choice. One thing everyone at the table knew, though. The traitor was either Ryan or Scott.
Either way, Ryan was going to brig, so there was nothing I could do there. Also, I figured, if he is the cylon he might get spooked and reveal on his turn (the usual cylon strategy is to not waste any time in the brig) to try and get over to the cylon fleet as quickly as possible. If he decided not to reveal straight away, I would only be in as bad a place as I already am. In he went, he didn’t reveal on his turn and I decided I needed to bide my time a bit to try and work out if we had the right guy in the brig. I kept my suspicions to myself, at first, so Scott couldn’t use them against me.
James was largely amused by all this – sitting by the sidelines and watching the dynamic play out. “All very interesting.” He said.
By the time it came around for my second turn, I started to doubt Scott more and more. It was the little things. The way Scott revealed the Arrest Order and made sure to call Ryan a “Cylon Bastard.” Ryan was very keen to help out as best he could from the brig. He gave me an Executive Order every turn and would go scrambling through his cards if there was a call for a Strategic Planning, or what have you (even though he had no way to have a Strategic Planning, ha!) A clever ruse, or helpful human?
Scott gave me no cause for suspicion. He played his part. But he gave me no solid evidence of his innocence either. Human who had no opportunities yet, or cylon that has gone to ground? At this stage I decide it would be better to have a cylon out and about, than a human in the brig, so I tried to get Ryan out. I realised we wouldn’t have the card strength for that, though, so I turned to my other option – brig Scott. We had the strength for that although we had to throw down hard for it.
So there I was. Running the Battlestar Galactica by myself while the rest of the crew was in the brig. I knew for sure I had the cylon brigged, at least, I just didn’t know which one it was.
I believed in Ryan more than Scott. Every turn that went by had me more convinced, though I still had nothing solid. Also, statistically, it was more likely to be Scott (because of Baltar’s negative ability that gives him two loyalty cards to start with.) So I was very up-front with telling Ryan I’m going to be helping him out of the brig. Even if Scott was the cylon, I expected him to stay in there. Obviously he’d protested his innocence on the way in, and fought to keep Ryan in there (because, you know, Ryan’s the cylon) but that didn’t really tell me anything. Even if I got Ryan out, if Scott was to stay in the brig (i.e. not reveal) I would really question my decision. Still, it was worth a shot. Scott might spook – like I’d hoped Ryan would earlier – and besides, I don’t think I could have won the game by myself!
We (well, James and I. In hindsight, I’m not sure if James was helping or hindering) failed to get Ryan out, but as it turns out, it didn’t matter. Scott revealed. He’d been dealt the perfect opening cylon hand, and played it just as I would have. He’d decided he’d done enough damage, and a big attack was presently underway and he wanted to get over and help it out.
We took some losses, but got away from the attack. (I also made a grevious error of accidentally choosing a distance 1 card, instead of distance 2. Seriously, if the cylon wasn’t already revealed I would have sent myself to the brig so fast.) The cylons are an ever-present danger though, so I had to get Ryan out of the brig. It took a number of turns to save up enough cards to be able to get him released, but once he was out we had a fairly quiet run. The skill checks were a challenge as we constantly juggled the number of cards we needed to spent on them, and our resources were dwindling – having started quite low due to Scott’s opening gambits. I was Pres-Admiral, due to Scott’s defection, and we smashed the hell out of the Quorom deck. Pegasus really adds some pretty nice ones. Helo’s ELO ability is nice for those Quorom cards that require a dice roll too, so he makes a good Pres-Admiral.
It came down to James’ agenda. We were barely hanging on, and what his ultimate goal was could make or break us. By this stage of the game, he seemed to have a pretty good grasp of the mechanics so I think his behaviour started to change a bit as he worked out what it was he needed to do to achieve his goals.
This was not good for us, as it turns out. We’d had a stack of cylon attack cards in the opening jump cycle (but as I mentioned, got away… just.) And at distance 6 another clump of them popped out. I think we had 2 attack cards in the space of 3 or 4 draws, and then both James and Scott used attack Super Crisis cards on us. We literally had every single cylon ship on the board, except 1 raider, we were down to 1 working viper and we had only 3 of every resource.
We held on as long as we could, but that was only a few more turns. Eventually we lost our last population and the cylons won. James’ agenda was “Cylons win and Galactica has 3 or fewer damage tokens.” This is exactly the agenda I was talking about earlier. It is a pretty imbalanced one that essentially makes the cylon leader an extra kill-all-humans cylon. It requires almost no effort (especially with Pegasus) to kill the humans without damaging Galactica too much. If James hadn’t been a complete newbie at the start, I think we would have died much sooner.
So the final result: