So, something interesting happened on Friday night.
I had a bunch of friends over, and we played the Battlestar Galactica boardgame. It was a lot of fun, as usual, but I messed up in setting the game up – I mistakenly added an extra Cylon loyalty card to the mix. That meant, in a five-person game, we had three cylons and two humans.
But we thought we had three humans and two cylons.
When the first two cylons revealed themselves, we were in decent shape – we’d jumped a distance of five, we had no cylon ships on the board, no damage on the ship, and all our resources except morale were above the red line, and morale was just into the red. I was Admiral (and human), and the President and I were working closely together to keep things under control. I thought we were going to make it.
Then the President revealed that he was a cylon, too.
Now, on one hand, that sucked, because the three cylons just took us apart effortlessly.
But it was also very cool, because we hadn’t been expecting it.
It speaks well to the balance and playtesting of the game that the addition of one extra cylon to the game really tips things in their favour. Of course, Fantasy Flight Games is known among our group for it’s interesting and powerful game balance features.
But I’ve got to say that knowing how many cylons are in the game does take some of the edge off – it gives the players metadata that can be used to make judgements, decisions, and guesses that would not be available to the characters*. The sheer surprise of the third cylon really made the game come alive**, and it made for a very exciting game.
I don’t know that there’s a way to incorporate the surprise of extra cylons into the game while keeping the balance intact. I can’t think of one off the top of my head.
But I think it would be very, very cool.
And, for the record, I have never once got to be a cylon in the game.
*Yeah, I know. That’s a real, whiny, roleplayer kind of complaint. But what can I say? I’m a roleplayer.
** For the two rounds that it lasted after the revelation.