Boardgame Fest

Back before Christmas, my friend Chris and I started talking about all the boardgames we have that we hardly ever play. Not because they’re not fun, or we don’t like them, but because the roleplaying games always seem to fill up the schedule. So, we decided to see what we could do about that – we scheduled an all-afternoon-and-evening boardgame event at my place for December 30th. The idea was for people to come by when they wanted, play what they wanted, sit around and kibitz, and enjoy the company and refreshments. In particular, I wanted to try out Carcassonne and Battlestar Galactica with the Pegasus Expansion.

Talisman, with all three expansions, turned out to be the big hit, though. It ran essentially all day, with a short break for one person to go pick up someone else while we played Carcassonne. Yeah, Talisman will take all day when you get seven or eight players around the table. It was a lot of fun, despite the fact that I never seemed to have a chance of winning. I’m not going to talk much about the play of the game, because I did that back here. I will say that it’s pretty easy for people to join and leave the game during play, though obviously it’s not ideal if you’re trying to win.

This was also my first time ever playing Carcassonne. I’m pretty sure everyone else in the entire world has already played it, so most of what I have to say will surprise no one. The game is very simple to learn and play, but the scoring system reveals a complexity under the surface that supports pretty deep strategy. We played without any expansions, so the game went quickly – about an hour from opening it up to closing it up again. There’s an interesting combination of laying tiles for maximum benefit – or minimum detriment, as the case may be – with the resource management of using the little wooden people to claim various things. There is a danger to being both too daring and too cautious – sometimes long shots pay off, which is good for the person taking the risk, but not for those avoiding it.

It was a lot of fun, with various folks coming by and playing for a while at various points, and we’re going to do it again.

After all, I still haven’t had a chance to try out the Pegasus Expansion.

What the frak?

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.

Happy Frakkin’ New Year

So, it’s New Year’s Eve, and it true geek fashion, my friends and I got together for a nice dinner and an evening of games.

This year, we decided to test-drive the Battlestar Galactica boardgame from Fantasy Flight Games. I got it just before Christmas, and wanted a chance to try it out before demoing it on January 10 at Imagine Games.

We had six players, which is the maximum, and none of us had played before. To compound our difficulties, I had forgotten the rulebook at home after taking it out of the box to read. Fortunately, Fantasy Flight Games posts the rules for their boardgames online in .pdf format, so we just powered up the laptop and used that for the rules.

It’s late, and I’m coming down off all the caffeine I had this evening, so I’m not going to go into detail about the mechanics of the game. The rulebook is up on the site, and a number of reviews have discussed the game in detail*. I’m just going to talk about my impressions after a first playthrough.

  • The components are the luxurious quality I’ve come to expect from Fantasy Flight Games. Nice board, nice cards, nice little plastic ships, nice everything. My one tiny little complaint is that it would have been very cool (but understandably expensive and cumbersome) to have plastic base stars, along with the plastic vipers, raptors, raiders, and heavy raiders.
  • Same thing for the civilian ships, but that creates the problem of being able to identify what resources you’d lose from the shape of the ship model.
  • Fewer pieces than something like Arkham Horror or Runebound, so faster setup and teardown. About on a par with Fury of Dracula. However, those little plastic ships are pretty tiny.
  • From opening the box lid to closing it again, about four hours time. This is pretty good for learning an new game, though we rushed through the last two turns to get to the end. Hey, it may be New Year’s Eve, but we’re old and tired. Anyway, I expect a normal game to run about the two to three hours the box claims.
  • It was a lot of fun. Everyone had something interesting to do on their turn, and there’s obviously a fair bit of strategy involved, though we didn’t get all that deep into it.
  • Man, when the cylons start swarming around the ship, you can really start to feel boned.
  • The secret cylon mechanics were great at sowing discord and suspicion.
  • The revealed cylon mechanics were great at making you feel completely outnumbered.
  • The idea of the sleeper agents is brilliant.
  • There’s a lot to keep track of: what’s on your character card, what’s on your other cards, what’s on the board locations, etc. I found I kept forgetting my character’s special abilities.
  • The choice to jump early can be a difficult one.
  • Being Admiral and having to choose between two sucky jump destinations is bad. Being forced to choose a bad location in order to gain required distance hurts. And it should.
  • The game was very close. It came down to what Crisis Cards were drawn in the last couple of turns as to who would win.
  • The humans won. I was a human. I was happy.
  • Those who played cylons said it was a real blast.
  • Everyone said they wanted to play it again. Preferably not so late at night.

I count it as a win. We had fun, saved humanity, and ushered in a new year.

Who could ask for more?

Happy New Year, everyone.

*Here’s one. Here’s another.

Battlestar Galactica Demo

Whoops! I forgot to mention that I will be running a demo of the Battlestar Galactica Board Game by Fanatasy Flight Games on Saturday, January 10, at Imagine Games. Demo starts at 1:00, and will run about 2 hours. If there’s enough interest, I will run a second demo after the first (around 3:00). If you’re interested, come on down and help save the human race from the cylon menace! Or help save the cylon race from the human menace! Either way!


[[EDIT: Changed the date of the demo to avoid conflict with a Flames of War tournament at Imagine Games.]]