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Battlestar Galactica: The Boardgame

Entry updated 13 May 2015. Tagged: Game.

Board Game (2008). Fantasy Flight Games. Designed by Corey Konieczka.

Battlestar Galactica: The Boardgame is a cooperative board game of deceit, based on the Television franchise Battlestar Galactica (2003-2009). Rather like the Zombie game Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (2014), tension in the game arises because the players must collaborate in order to succeed, but there is also a high chance that one of the players on the team may be a Cylon working against them. Worse, although there may be no Cylon present in the first half of the game, there most certainly is during the second half, when players receive an extra card which potentially changes their allegiance. Perhaps they were a normal member of the crew, and have discovered that they are a sleeper agent for the Cylons; or perhaps they are a sympathizer who must secretly aid one of the two sides. Either way, this element of the game means that trust becomes an important game mechanic, and a player's decisions must revolve around the assumption that someone in the game is betraying or will betray the others. This mechanic closely echoes elements of the television series, whereby characters discover that they are Cylons, or agents placed within the crew in order to disrupt the Galactica's progress.

During each round of the game, players may move around the board, which depicts a map of the Galactica Starship. Within each area, they can carry out various actions to help themselves or others, usually either gaining assets (in the form of cards), or attacking enemy Spaceships. During each round, a "crisis" will also occur, drawn from a pool of randomized cards. This will demand that players collectively contribute a certain amount of actions or cards, which are held in each player's hand and cannot be revealed to the others, in order to neutralize the crisis. Players can choose how many of these cards they contribute, but do so secretly, enabling to them to lie about the contents of their hand. Failing to resolve a crisis by contributing insufficient or incorrect cards aids the Cylons and prevents the Galactica from reaching its ultimate destination, Planet Earth. If Cylon players are revealed or choose to reveal themselves, they may move to a different part of the board, representing a Cylon base ship, and can subsequently perform various aggressive actions against the crew.

Although the game is cooperative on the part of the human team, suspicion created between players who may be helping or hindering each other becomes a key part of gameplay. In this respect the game bears comparison to Werewolf or Mafia, both games of deduction and bluff where one side must conspire to kill the other before they themselves are eliminated. Success in the game comes from either side triumphing over the other, but as with many cooperative games, it is hard to succeed and the players face a number of trials that make winning tricky. Players can lose by running out of food, morale or fuel, through the destruction of the ship by enemy raiders and base stars, or by simply failing to complete each task as it arises. In this respect, the game is deliberately difficult and makes the players' decisions a crucial element.

Battlestar Galactica is also one of a series of games which use the trust/deceit dynamic to create exciting gameplay; other examples are The Resistance (2009) series of games, Dead of Winter: A Crossroads Game (2014) and Shadow Hunters (2005), Three expansions to the game, Battlestar Galactica Pegasus (2009), Battlestar Galactica Exodus (2010) and Battlestar Galactica: Daybreak (2013), provide extra rules, characters and game dynamics as well as roughly tracing a narrative progression akin to the television series. The game was well received and was nominated for several gaming awards (including four Golden Geek awards), and is generally considered a strong board game and a relatively unusual example of a game that survives adaptation from another science fiction media type. [EMS]

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