Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Weekend of Geekin': Part 2 - Saturday (Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game)

My weekend of geekery continued on Saturday.  After an outing on Friday night to see the disappointing "Sucker Punch", I was looking forward to a day spent gaming with friends. 

Those of you with kids will understand how much importance my wife and I put on this event, because we were able to get my mom and dad to come over to watch our sub-two year old so we could play games with our friends in an unfettered mode.  After my parents arrived, my wife and I packed up and headed over to our friend Wil's house to give him a ride, since he mentioned that his wife couldn't make it until later because she was doing "tax bullshit."  Once Wil, my wife and I were all settled in the family truckster, we headed over to the West Side (or "West Sigh-EED!" if you prefer) to meet my friend Cal and his wife to celebrate Cal's birthday with a day of playing games and drinking some spectacular wine.

I was happy to see some of my other friends there whom I haven't seen in a while and chat with them about what's new.  One of them is a screenwriter who has written some movies that I know you've all seen, and when he told us what he was working on in the future, we were all floored.  Somehow he's gotten tapped as "the guy who writes geek movies."  I'm not going to vouch for how many of these are really good ideas for movies, but some of them sound pretty cool.  He's working on movies based on a Marvel Comics property, an old Japanese toy property, and potentially a fantasy game (non-video) property.  He's also really into gaming, both of the strategy kind and of the table-top RPG kind.  And he had agreed to teach us how to play the Battlestar Galactica game, which I was super excited about.

The thing is, I've owned this game forever.  Or I should say my wife has owned it forever - I gave it to her as a birthday gift about three years ago on the recommendation from my friend Cal, who said that it was a great game.  Well, actually, what he said was, "I've heard it's a great game" but I didn't hear it that way, so I bought the game hoping that Cal would teach me to play it because that's how I've learned to play 90% of the games I own.  Once I learned that Cal had never played it, I cracked it open and started trying to read the rulebook.  As anyone knows who has tried to learn to play games from reading the rules versus being taught, game rules typically are written horribly and aren't much help in actually learning to play the game.  It doesn't help that the BSG rulebook is so many pages long that it's bordering on RPG-like complexity. 

I put the game back on the shelf and it's been sitting there for almost three years now. 

So, I was definitely excited to learn to play the game.  Tom has a great way of explaining games, which we all discussed at length.  "Explaining games is really an art form," Tom noted to us, and we were forced to agree.  We have another friend who is honestly pretty terrible at explaining games.  It takes him longer to explain playing the game than it does to actually play the game. 

Again, I'm not going to post a full review of the BSG game.  You can read that somewhere else on a site dedicated to discussing those kinds of things.  But, I did really like the game a lot.  It's really not as difficult as the rules would make it seem, and there are some very elegant design elements that make it fun and also a little intense.  Our game came right down to the wire and unfortunately for those of us playing humans, the Cylons won.  But if the game had gone one more turn, it was pretty clear that the humans would have won.  That's how close it was.  My understanding is that this is pretty typical for a game of BSG.

It's a cooperative game (mostly), but depending on how many players you have, one or even two of those players are going to end up being Cylons.  However, there are two "loyalty phases" during the game, so a player might start out being human and then later in the game discover that he is a "sleeper" when he draws a Cylon card during the second loyalty phase.  So, it has some similarities to "Shadows Over Camelot" if you're familiar with that game.  Unlike SoC, though, in BSG, the Cylon traitor players have to actively work on trying to sabotage the humans.  In SoC, a traitor player can just fly under the raider and never do anything overtly bad and still win the game because the loyal players lost.  In BSG, if the Cylon players don't actively take actions to go against the humans, then the humans will always win. 

In our game, the two women players (my wife and Cal's wife) ended up being Cylons and betraying all of us.  Rest assured many jokes were told about the women being traitors and the men being weak and unable to stop them. 

Sadly, this particular game took quite a while to play and combined with drinking copious amounts of wine from Cal's awesome wine cellar and then eating dinner and dessert, we were all a little tired and we ended up just chatting afterward instead of playing another game.  Then again... there's nothing sad about that at all.  I wouldn't change a thing. 

And I'm definitely looking forward to my next game of BSG.

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