Friday, March 27, 2009

A moment to marvel at...

As regular readers might already've guessed, and as my facebook friends will already know, the old mood swing kicked in recently, slowing down to a near trickle the flood of articles which already promise to make 2009 RD/KA!'s best year since 2005. I first noticed this a couple of weeks ago in the form of a change in my sleep cycle which signalled my mood swinging below the median.

The inevitable next phase began just this week, with decreased energy levels, poor motivation and attendant psychological disturbances. The upshot of all this is that the various activities I've been enjoying for the past few months start to become painful to contemplate, let alone engage in.

I actually have a better plan than ever to deal with this: exercise. I'm going to have to start to make good on last year's idea of regular gym attendance and swimming. I'll keep you informed.

Meanwhile: onwards, to bigger and better treasure!

Battlestar Galactica
Nearly 2 weeks ago now, our last Sunday session saw 5 of us set out yet again to decide the fate of the Galactica and the rest of humanity. Andy and I had both been hoping to return to Crimson Skies, but there was a mutiny in the ranks; or, to put it another way, the game proved less popular with our fellow players than we'd hoped. A return visit to Battlestar Galactica, so that Tony could experience the 5-player game we'd all enjoyed the week before, was the natural choice then.

Our intrepid team was:
  • Andy: Gaius Baltar (nukes or cowardice - is this a telling pattern?).
  • Donald: Boomer (this is a family site, so nuff said!).
  • Gav: William Adama (the lure of power, nuclear or otherwise).
  • Tony: Starbuck (hotdog glamourpuss - every gaming table should have one!).
  • Me: "Chief" Tyrol (well, someone had to do the grimy maintenance work).
This game featured perhaps the worst start we've yet seen for the humans: the very 1st crisis was 'Surrounded', leaving us with 4 Vipers facing off against 2 Basestars, 10 Raiders and a Heavy Raider (the game opens with the fleet under attack from the Cylons). Gav used 'Exective Action' so that Donald could get Boomer into the fight. Donald promptly used 'Maximum Firepower' to miss 5 shots! This established a pattern followed by both sides in the game, as hails of dice were rolled to no avail!

Soon after this 7 Raiders attacked 3 Vipers. Two 'Evasive Manoeuvres' cards were played to save Boomer, but that attack wave still left us with 4 damaged Vipers (there are 8, for those who don't know). The Cylon onslaught continued with an 'Ambush'. Luckily we had Starbuck with us, and Tony was able to make up for his previous effort by using her 'Secret Destiny' to get us out from under an attack that might just've brought the game to a premature conclusion. We jumped out soon after that. In the tone of a game already notable for its excesses, the jump cost 4 precious resources, leaving us with 29/38 resources.

The game continued in the same vein as it had begun: Andy promptly drew a 'Cylon Tactical Strike' so that we were under attack again. Almost as promptly this was followed by 'Cylon Tracking Device', which could've added a 2nd Basestar to the Cylon attack. Fortunately we passed that particular skill check. Gav decided that it was time to exercise a prerogative of office. The resulting nukage cleared the area.

Soon thereafer a 'Legendary Discovery' took us into the sleeper agent phase (in which the 2nd round of loyalty cards are dealt out, for those who don't already know). For the 1st time, I turned out to be a Cylon. Before even I'd had time to catch my breath, the ever-relentless Cylons turned up with a 'Raiding Party'. Before everyone else'd had a chance to catch their breath, I'd revealed myself as a Cylon.

The action continued fast and furious. In this game's spirit of excess, Gav used Odama's 'Command Authority' to grab a record hand of 16 skill cards, only then to end up in sickbay when a Basestar attack damaged his location. The next jump took the humans to 6 (out of the 8 needed before they could jump to Kobol). By this time they were down to 22/38 resources, so they were actually holding up quite well.

Shortly thereafter Andy revealed that he was the other Cylon (yet another telling pattern?). His Super Crisis card left all 3 human characters in sickbay, which was entertaining. The Cylon onslaught continued, with Andy playing 'Massive Assault', shortly followed by Gav's drawing 'Thirty-three'. With all the juicy targets offered by those 8 civilian ships, plus (IIRC) another wave of Raiders launched from the Basestars, there was nothing the humans could do except jump. They weren't quick enough. It was a Raider attack wave's destruction of 3 population's worth of civilian ships that ultimately won the day.

Puny humans 0
Superior Cylons 1

All legitimate gloating aside, this was a great game for me. And that's not just the satisfaction of winning my 1st game as a Cylon (I just had to bring that legitimate gloating back in, didn't I!). No. What I loved was my first taste of the true psychological depths of this boardgame.

Starting not a Cylon, I was getting irritated - as is inevitable in BSG - by the cheap innuendoes and baseless accusations flung my way in the early game. Loyal human as I was, I did my bit as ever. Then I looked at my 2nd loyalty card. I immediately became very, very aware of my face. Too much of a poker face would've been too obvious, a dilemma which left me nonplussed for long moments as I sought just the right expression that wouldn't alert everyone else to my new role.

This sudden inversion of the whole paranoid dynamic I'd already enjoyed so much in previous games was a truly delicious gaming moment, something the like of which I've only hitherto enjoyed while playing rpg's. You can be sure I savoured the moment, and the victory which followed. In fact, I might even've treated the losers to my legendary victory dance.

"Don't ask," I imagine they'd say. :b

Settlers of Catan
Gav is as longstanding a fan of Settlers as the rest of us, and he hadn't played it in a long time, so it appeared on the table as if by a natural law. The details of what went down are vague at this remove, but 2 features of the game stand out in my memory:
  • I got involved in a competition for the longest road, which I won, but at the expense of the gross strategic blunder of not building any cities, so that my resource base was effectively crippled in the endgame.
  • Gav won by a solid 2 points (me and Andy were on 8).
Superior by design 1
Freak of evolution 1
Genetic throwbacks 0

When you're playing Settlers, always, always, always build a city as quickly as you can. Sheesh! :-/

With dinner looming, we went for a dose of the fast-playing, quick-and-dirty world of 'chivalric' tournaments that is Ivanhoe:
"I know where your car is!"
Tony, to Andy.
We managed 2 games. I won the 1st with a victory surpassing that I'd enjoyed in Prague last January: Andy won a green; lost it due to withdrawing with the lady down; then I romped home with 4 straight wins, including another 4-card laydown (thanks to my shield). I won the 2nd game too, though in more conventional nip and tuck.

Andy 1
Donald 0
Gav 1
Tony 0
Me 3

Mwah, hah, ha, etc! ;)

Battlestar Galactica boardgame:
- My 2009 gaming wishlist #2
- Done down by dastardly Donald's devious duplicity!
- The fickle finger of fate
- Toasters, toasters, everywhere!
- The end is nigh?
- What price survival?
- Again, the toasters' offensive

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