Tuesday, February 16, 2010

London days #3: We hit the gaming table, again

On Friday night then we turned to the "star attraction- specially requested by Mike" to which I'd referred last Thursday; that being Battlestar Galactica. I confess I was just a tad daunted at the prospect of this play of the game I like so much. It's one thing to teach a game like this to a bunch of confirmed gaming geeks including some experienced rules interpreters; it's quite another to teach it to people whose face-to-face gaming experience doesn't extend beyond card games and classic family boardgames.

Thank goodness then for the excellent setup guide in the rules, which provides both a nice picture of the game's layout on the tabletop, and a step-by-step list of how to go about getting the game up and running. Of course that didn't stop me from screwing up on Friday night. Jo had chosen Gaius Baltar and Mike had chosen Sharon "Boomer" Valerii: both are characters who change the composition of the Loyalty deck used to determine who is Cylon, which was something I forgot. D'oh! Fortunately the most important mistake- Gaius Baltar's extra Loyalty card at the start of play, was spotted early enough to be quickly corrected; and the other- Boomer's extra one in the Sleeper Agent phase, was easy enough to correct before it mattered too much.

What went down
With the political and the pilot already chosen, I was going to have to be the Military Leader. Nukes? Oh dear me, what a responsibility. My choice was easy: who else for Jo and Mike's first game but the man himself- William Adama? Easy this choice might've been, but Adama's inability to send people to the brig would prove to be a much bigger limitation than I had at first imagined.

The game started in a unique and amusing fashion: first to play, Jo drew the 'Detector Sabotage' Crisis card. We failed the Skill Check- Mike and I only had our initial draw of 3 Skill cards, with the result that we were prohibited from looking at each other's Loyalty cards for the rest of game: looking at someone's Loyalty cards just happens to be Gaius Baltar's one-use special ability! Jo was to bemoan this more than once as the game progressed. As a loyal human throughout the game I was a bit scunnered at this a few times myself I can tell you.

This setback aside the early game went well for the humans IIRC. We were able to escape the marauding Cylon fleets without too much difficulty and reached the halfway point on our journey to Kobol with our resources in pretty good shape. Sure, there had been the usual paranoid accusation and counter-accusation: I persuaded Jo to slap Boomer in the brig because I was sure she was Cylon. Mike wasn't slow to exact his revenge so that Adama was stripped of his rank when he too ended up in the pokey. This meant that our chief Cylon suspect- Boomer, was now in charge of our deadliest weaponry.

Jo and Mike: well, who would you suspect?

The paranoia became less shrill after the Sleeper Agent phase, when we knew one of them was among us for sure. I was pretty confident that Mike was our Cylon, though I couldn't be sure because he'd done nothing to vindicate my suspicions. Of course I was right, but Mike was playing a very canny game, holding back on his reveal with admirable patience as the situation began to deteriorate rapidly for humanity: at one point we had no functioning Vipers for example. Ultimately we were spooling up for our final jump to Kobol when the endless run of crises proved just too much; we were driven into defeat by the depletion of one of our several resources which had been teetering on the verge for several turns.

ScoreHuman, all too human 0
Sleekit, all too sleekit 1

Unfortunate clunks and fumbles notwithstanding, this was yet another great game of Battlestar Galactica. My main worry- that the game would just bomb, proved unfounded; even though Jo in particular found both the systems and the length challenging at first. I believe that the proceduralism I discussed so extensively last year proved its worth here: although there is a wide range of options to consider each turn, the very repetitiousness of the turn sequence makes it easy for new players to get into the swing of things.

I think the teamwork and the prospect of treachery also demonstrated their profound appeal. They give BSG a social and dramatic dynamic which is very different from the sort of games which'll be familiar to casual family boardgamers. The combination of cooperative play and the built-in plot twist serve to draw everyone in so that even being picked on- as a Cylon suspect, is a very different experience from what it is in games like, eg. Monopoly.

A hit again then. ;)

London days
- #1: I hit the big city
- #2: The big city hits me

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