Saturday, August 29, 2009

The end is nigh?

Battlestar Galactica
Dave added himself to the recently familiar turnout, making us 5 for Sunday's games. Donald had first choice and he plumped for Battlestar Galactica. I was pleased with this choice despite the anti-climax of our last play. The imminent expansion I wrote about back in June was part of the reason for this: I want to have played the basic set often enough to have gone well beyond first impressions when I get a taste of how the expansion changes the game.

Preliminary testing
Sitting down Monday morning to get to work on the write-up, I decided on pictures of the key cards which'd been part of the Cylons' final onslaught. I set to work with the scanner. The first scan- fullsize at left, was terrible: the pictures were too small and the resolution was terrible. I briefly considered just using them but, remembering recent testing of the ideal setting for scanning miniatures, I decided instead to run a quick settings test. (No prizes to the readers who notice the smidgin of irony here, but cheerful greetings for sure to those who might wish to register their groans at my lame attempt at humour!)


You can see above the range of tests (from the left):
  • Illustration doctype on screen/web setting.
  • Ditto @300dpi.
  • Photo doctype @300dpi.
  • Magazine doctype @300dpi.
The resolution of the photo doctype scans were good, but the image above shows the problem: the scan automatically cropped the image inconveniently. The magazine doctype proved ideal in the end, which should be hardly surprising I guess: these are full-colour printed images exactly like those in magazines.

What went down
Humanity's last chance on Sunday then rested in the hands of 5 'people':
  • Starbuck: Gav, who sought the simplicity of the fighter jock's role- just fly around and shoot things.
  • William Adama: Andy, for whom a nuclear arsenal was compensation for the burdens of command.
  • Chief Galen Tyrol: Dave, eschewing the complexities of politics in favour of honest sweat and toil.
  • Laura Roslin: Donald, because someone has to be President, I guess.
  • Helo: me, just looking for something different.
I got that something different immediately: my first experience as an at-start Cylon. For some reason I was marked down from the get-go. At the time I imagined this was sheer arbitrariness based on Helo's Stranded special rule. With hindsight I'm not so sure because, unlike my first game as a Cylon, I fluffed the moment when I looked at my card. I can still remember quietly cursing myself as I over-hastily put down the card only to realise that I'd not even read it properly, and that I dared not pick it up to find out exactly what would happen when I decided to reveal my true colours.

All our best efforts...

My play didn't improve much after this bad start but I'm certainly not going to comment on that in detail because I've no intention of passing on tips that could be used against me by either side in a future game. Sufficeth to say that the humans must've had their god on their side, because they were very lucky in several ways:
  • They reached the jump-4 midpoint of their route to Kobol in a mere 2 jumps IIRC.
  • Their first jump thereafter was a Cylon Ambush; which may have launched a Cylon attack, but it was a jump 3 which put them just 2 jumps out from home.
  • Gav was able to use Starbuck's Secret Destiny to avoid a Cylon Swarm just after they'd made that penultimate jump.
These twists of fate notwithstanding our Cylon god certainly hasn't lost the war: the Centurions landed aboard the Galactica by my Cylon Intruders Super Crisis card might not've been as Donald's Bomb on Colonial 1, but the resource dials were still dangerously low as the humans made their final jump preparations:
  • Fuel: 3.
  • Food: 2.
  • Morale: 1.
  • Population: 6.
The pace of the humans' jump preparations told against the Cylons again: Donald's and my options were restricted in those final turns because drawing Crisis cards to attack resources or mobilise the Centurions threatened simultaneously to bring those jump preparations to completion; an eventually we figured was favoured by the odds. Perhaps we should've played aggressively for our own blind luck of the draw, because soon enough our only hope was to buck much worse odds as Dave drew for the Skill card to repair the FTL controls, damage to which was the last thing preventing the last jump out. They made it, naturally enough.

Blind faith and dogma? 1
The appliance of science? 0

This game was more eventful than the last, with a close finish, but we were still left unsatisfied. I think there are 2 possibilities here:
  • The potentialities of the procedural gameplay are as limited as I had originally feared because of my experience of Arkham Horror, so that the game has already become stereotyped and dull.
  • We simply aren't playing it right; that is to say, we aren't investing enough in our tabletalk as we play, so that experiencing the limitations of bare procedural play in a game of this ilk.
I like the BSG boardgame enough that I hope we can revive our interest by bringing more to the table the next time we play. That game of Gloom Gav and Badger and I played with Keith Baker during his recent visit taught me exactly how much difference you can make with speech play for the simple sake of entering into the spirit of a game. So I'm optimistic I guess.

Settlers of Catan
One good quality of BSG is that it is pretty quick to play, so we had time for something more than just filler to follow. Regular readers will be unsurprised to read that Settlers appeared on the table yet again. The 5/6 player game's expanded map soon appeared, and we were off.

The setup

I was red, and my setup left me feeling uncomfortable as the game began:
  • With only 4 different numbers out of 6, I was in a position similar to that from which I'd suffered last month.
  • I had no grain, and soon lost all hope of gaining access to it.
A combination of luck and judgement meant that was I feeling better soon enough:
  • My first settlement was a 3:1 port.
  • I finally remembered to build that quick first city.
  • A series of foruitous dice rolls let me build a couple of quick roads and a settlement so that I became a potential ore magnate.
The final position

Unfortunately the 10's from which I'd reaped such rich rewards weren't seen again and I stalled on 7 as Gav (white) and I sought to stop Donald's (orange) advance to victory. We couldn't.

Devious Donald 1Happy humans? 1
Sore loser? 0

We rounded the session off with a few hands of Looney Labs' Fluxx. Dave was new to the game so Gav and I sang its praises to him. One feature we stressed was how tight the rules are. Ironically enough then, one of our games featured a first: a situation in which the interaction of 2 cards was more than not immediately obvious; it even remained open to question after we'd decided what we were going to do.

The 2 cards were:
  • Action, Draw 3, play 2 of them.
  • New rule, Inflation: X=X+1, where X is any numeral.
The question arose because the action was played, then the new rule; did the Inflation apply to the action? Unable to rule based on the cards' text, we decided to play that it did.

I'm sure that we got it right. The burden of our confusion was that the action had already been played, so we assumed the Inflation was being applied retroactively. The precise wording on the right- first paragraph, corrects our mistake: not discarded until its instructions are completed, the action card was still in play when the new rule was played.

Andy 1
Dave 3
Gav 2
Me 1

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

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