Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Galactica, you and me need to have a talk

Last night, I was number 6 to arrive at VTES night.
(Yes, I made the evening-gown joke, and yes it was just as bad as you think. So stop.)

After a rousing game of VTES where my cruddy Marconius+Krassimir vote deck managed to win a 6 (ugh) player game (partly thanks to my grandpredator's Anathema giving me 10 yummy pool), we decided to play Galactica.

Now, see, I like Galactica. I think it's a great game.
But the last 2 games have soured it a bit for me.
In the EliCon game, the humans lost before the sleeper phase, due to randomness and unfavorable crisis deck shuffling; mechanically a total flop. The No Sympathizer rule didn't even enter into it, but you've heard my feelings on that.

In last night's game, which used Pegasus (but not New Caprica), another house rule was introduced to me:
If there is a Cylon Leader in an even-number-of-players game, he modifies the Loyalty Deck to ensure that there won't be 3-on-3 cylon-vs-human action.
I was on the Human side, playing Ellen Tigh, and didn't feel like we were ever in danger or challenged at all. I didn't ever even feel the need to use my special abilities, and spent the whole game tossing Treachery cards into the Engine Room boilers.
And, even though Morale got down to 1, it still seemed like an easy win for the Humans.
The Cylon Leader (John "Eno" Cavil) had a Hostile Agenda, and so the house rule dictated that there was only one other Cylon. It was Admiral Cain (played by Chris), who didn't get her Cylon Loyalty until post-sleeper phase after blasting us 6 distance forward.
Had there been another Cylon loyalty card in circulation (as per the standard rules), then there would have been a lot more sense of tension in the room; granted, the Cylons probably would have won in that case, but I think it would have been a more interesting game.
Despite winning, it kind of gave me a "meh" feeling about the game; especially the feeling by most players that House Rules are necessary "to balance things", when in fact they often don't matter or don't actually balance the game in the intended way.

I still don't know if I'm ever going to pick up Pegasus.
But whenever I am in charge of setting the "House Rules" for a game of BSG, I'm always going to be in favor of being minimally invasive.
That is, when playing the Base Game, leave the Sympathizer in a 6p game (unless someone twists my arm real hard) and only use the new rules from Pegasus that apply to the base game, and no other "house rules". I'd even love to play an "as-written" BSG base game sometime, which isn't really that outrageous. The Forum game I played (which barely counts) used completely unmodified base rules and I didn't have too much of a problem with, for example, old Investigative Committee...

When playing Pegasus, I'll encourage playing by the rules as-written, except for the choice between New Caprica (which I'd love to try, incidentally) or not.
You can say I'm overthinking it in the other direction, but as much as I love inventing house rules and variants, I really want to try the game as-is to be able to judge the imbalances for myself. Because, in my observation, none of the Major house rules (especially the respective No Third Cylon rules) have really accomplished what they set out to accomplish in the games I've played with them.

Ideally this game would get another expansion; there's plenty of plot left to work with, and I've even written down a bunch of ideas for a "wish list" for an expansion that covers the rest of the show.
I'm not holding my breath on that, but I'm sure it would address balance issues once again in its own way.


  1. I think that was more luck than anything else, in both games. Also, that playing a cylon leader is hard and not something that I'm necessarily good at, meaning that since I was the only cylon for most of the game and the game itself (via the crisis deck) wasn't providing much challenge, it's not surprising how much of cake and walking the humans got to indulge in. Also, I tentatively think taht Cavil just sucks.

    I was actually thinking this morning about a houserule in which a cylon leader knows and/or can determine who is/are the hidden cylon(s) after seeing what his own agenda card is. Thematically, I've always thought it funny that they wouldn't know somehow, and game-balance-wise, I think it could give the leader some more incentive and ability to be socially active in the group, which is generally the big problem with the leaders rather than unbalanced agendas or being generally weaker than the other players.

  2. I agree with John that randomness is simply a factor. I think we can mostly agree that the base game is balanced, and in the EliCon game, the humans got really screwed by bad luck. (not too take too much credit away from Cylon Swainbank)

    The Cylon Leaders still need some fixing, though. There are so many game permutations with Pegasus that I wonder if they got to playtest the Leaders enough. The elimination of the 3rd cylon really made the game a cakewalk.

    I think that rather than eliminating the 3rd cylon, maybe we should make a different fix:
    If the 'sympathetic' cylon leader is hostile, then they are forced to set up the Loyalty deck so that one hidden cylon shows up in the sleeper phase. Otherwise, they are forced to set up the loyalty deck so that one hidden cylon is set up in game start. (the other hidden cylon will still be randomly appearing) This can be done by simply putting one card aside before the first Loyalty deal.

  3. I think that's part of the issue I'm having; there is a lot of luck in this game, mechanically, and I've always known it. But when the game has been prominently lopsided in the last 2 games, it feels like it has "lost the challenge".

    As to your variant: Maybe it could be something just as simple as: An Infiltrating Cylon Leader can take an action to look at a random (or all?) loyalty card of a character in the same location. (Maybe not exactly that, since Leoben would have a tough time using it)

  4. mongrel: I like the sound of that variant quite a lot.

    Ossian: Two games is too small a sample set for you to divorce the game. You just happened to get them in a row, but that's the nature of luck.
    Your variant sounds balanced, I guess, but I'd never ever use that option except in very odd circumstances if I was playing a leader. Dunno if you've played one or not, but because you're so rarely the recipient of XOs, and need to spend actions getting to/from the human board, &c. actions are way more precious as a cylon leader than as a human or unrevealed cylon.

  5. I'm not divorcing the game; I'm just hoping to play one that is nail-bitingly uncertain until the bitter end. And with as little modification to the rules as a group can get away with.

    And for sure I only have 2 games under my belt with the Pegasus expansion; both with the same Cylon Leader with the same Agenda, coincidentally enough (last time it was Max, and might have been a 5p).
    So maybe it is overwhelmingly broken when there are 3 humans, 2 cylons and a hostile leader, but I haven't experienced that yet.
    But that's immaterial to my concern.

    If any variant would satisfy me, it would be one that somehow stacks the crisis deck to maybe evenly distribute the Cylon Attack crises or something, so that the outcome isn't so lopsided. Loyalty imbalance doesn't bother me as much as that.

  6. I've seen that some people play that when the humies get to distance eight, the first cylon attack card in the crisis deck get played as though it were a crisis. I like that idea for a showdown ending; one of the only problems with the game is that when the humans win, it's often in a very anticlimactic fashion.

  7. Sure, but it would be nice to avoid the extreme cases of "smooth sailing" and "all the plastic bits from the box are on the board".

    How's this for a variant:
    * At game setup, remove all the Cylon Attack cards from the crisis deck. Shuffle the crisis deck. Then, take the top 10 cards off the top of the crisis deck, insert one random Cylon Attack, shuffle those 11 cards and put back on top of the deck.

    * After each Jump, take 5*X cards from the top of the crisis deck, insert 1 Cylon Attack, shuffle, and put back on top. Where X is the amount of distance jumped.

    Or.. something like that?
    It doesn't muck too much with Scouting/Roslin/Boomer/etc, and it gives a tangible minor incentive for the penultimate jump to take you past 8 (because distance 9 and 10 are now meaninful).. or for the cylon admiral to encourage jumping quickly to increase the density of attacks.. or whatever, etc etc.

    Maybe (as an alternative or addition), you could add "Action: add a Cylon Attack crisis to the top 10 cards of the crisis deck" to the Cylon Fleet location?

    These are ideas off the top of my head. Hypocritical to the original point, I know.. but like I said before, I like creating house rules anyway.


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