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Subject: SevenSpirits' and Alexfrog's Tested Balance Variant rss

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Sean McCarthy
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We've played about 8 games at this point and feel the game has a couple issues which should be fixed.

1) It's a little bit too hard for the humans.

2) The difficulty is too dependent on whether there's an initial Cylon. Having the Cylon cards dealt out at the start really helps the Cylons, and having them dealt out later helps the humans.

3) The sympathizer mechanic results in gamey manipulation of the resource dials, and also nearly guarantees a Cylon win if it ends up the wrong way.


So here's the variant so far:

I. Jump Distance: Instead of needing to jump 8 distance plus one more jump, the humans simply win once they reach 9 - C distance. C is the number of Cylon cards received in the initial deal (0, 1, or 2). So in a five player game, if two players start as Cylons, the fleet wins when it reaches 7 distance. In a three player game with three initial humans, the fleet wins when it reaches 9 distance.

In a three or four player game, it's up to the Cylon to tell the humans when they have won. In a five or six player game, each player should secretly record whether they were initially a cylon, for example by placing either a black or white stone in a bag. The contents of the bag are revealed when the fleet reaches seven distance.

What this does:
- It shortens the game
- It makes the game a little bit easier for the humans.
- It has very little effect on the amount of needed fuel.
- It makes the game difficulty vary a bit to counteract the luck of when the Cylon cards are distributed.
- It makes the 5 and 6 player games a tiny bit easier and shorter on average.

II. Sleeper phase: Instead of occurring at four or more distance, the sleeper phase occurs when the jump preparation track is twice advanced after the first jump, after the crisis card resolution. Example: you jump at some point, the track advances one, a crisis card moves it back one, and then a crisis card moves it forward one. After the crisis card is resolved, the sleeper phase happens.

What this does:
- It moves the sleeper phase earlier in coordination with the earlier game end.
- It moves the sleeper phase even earlier, so that there's less of a difference in game difficulty based on when the Cylon cards are distributed.
- It removes the gamey possibility of trying to move just 3 distance, then drawing a 3 planet to get to 6, delaying the sleeper phase and finishing more than half the game with no Cylons.
- It makes the sleeper phase occur based on an interesting and only partly predictable trigger - the jump track icons.
- It guarantees that (like the first bit of the game before jumping), the second bit of the game is interesting. There's no possibility of a section of game with no Cylon ships and no Cylons.

III. Sympathizer Replacement (four and six player only): Don't use the Sympathizer card. Replace it with a "Not a Cylon" card (and add that card at the beginning, not just for the sleeper phase). Instead: reduce food, morale, and population by 1. When the first Cylon reveals, they draw an additional super crisis card. When the last Cylon reveals, they get an immediate action on any of the four Cylon spaces. (In a four player game, the one Cylon to reveal does both of those things.)

What this does:
- Removes the Sympathizer card! Yay.
- Compensates by increasing the difficulty in a different way which is also more interesting for the Cylons.

We've played this with 3 (a couple times), 4 and 5. I think it works very well with 3 and 4. The sympathizer replacement in 4-player seemed fair. The 5-player game still seemed too hard, but we've only played one other 5-player game (it was even harder), so I'm not confident about our understanding of that player number.

We're also looking at a bit of errata (the Massive Assault super crisis is too good with its Power Failure, and a couple characters like Apollo are too weak), but we haven't tested those and this variant is just about jump distance and loyalty cards, so I'll leave that for later.

I'm sure there are some people who understand the game better than us. Suggestions for improvement are welcome.
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Jonathan
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I've enjoyed both games of BSG I've played, but I do feel that the Sympathizer card is the weakest part of the design. No one seems to like it, and the manipulation of the resource track to keep the sympathizer from going over to the Cylons results in un-thematic play where the hidden Cylon is desperately trying to keep the humans in the blue for resources while the humans are trying to drive one of their resources down. It doesn't feel quite right, and any good suggestion on how to fix this is appreciated!
 
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Brian Bankler
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Just to clarify -- the first cylon gets two super-crisis cards and the last cylon gets an extra action (from the Cylon 4)?

Also, regarding 5 player. I think five is the hardest number, so it's not surprising that 5 is still hard with your variant.

I hope to try this.
 
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Nick Short
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SevenSpirits wrote:
1) It's a little bit too hard for the humans.

Are you sure on this? In my group, the humans are 4-1 in 5 player games. This is true despite the fact that we have always had at least one Cylon before the sleeper phase. It has been quite tense, though, and every game could have tipped either way with the right (or wrong) cards popping up.

What normally causes you to lose? Too many ships, running out of fuel, vented into space? What leads to most of your human losses? I'd be interested to find out what makes our results so different from other people's.

Although, at least with my group, having no Cylons before the Sleeper Phase wouldn't make it too much easier. For us, each player is wanting to win. If you don't have any Cylons before the Sleeper Phase, there's a decent chance that you'll be a Cylon. There's not much incentive to let the humans run away with it if there's a 40% chance you're not one of them. I'm not saying people would start sabotaging skill checks blindly, but they would be a lot less helpful. We'd be less likely to let people out of the Brig, more likely to make choices that cost resources than ones that make us discard. It'd be a lot less "cooperative" since we don't have any clues as to who we should be cooperating with yet.
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Sean McCarthy
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Bankler wrote:
Just to clarify -- the first cylon gets two super-crisis cards and the last cylon gets an extra action (from the Cylon 4)?


Exactly.
 
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Sean McCarthy
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bsushort wrote:
SevenSpirits wrote:
1) It's a little bit too hard for the humans.

Are you sure on this? In my group, the humans are 4-1 in 5 player games. This is true despite the fact that we have always had at least one Cylon before the sleeper phase. It has been quite tense, though, and every game could have tipped either way with the right (or wrong) cards popping up.

What normally causes you to lose? Too many ships, running out of fuel, vented into space? What leads to most of your human losses? I'd be interested to find out what makes our results so different from other people's.

Although, at least with my group, having no Cylons before the Sleeper Phase wouldn't make it too much easier. For us, each player is wanting to win. If you don't have any Cylons before the Sleeper Phase, there's a decent chance that you'll be a Cylon. There's not much incentive to let the humans run away with it if there's a 40% chance you're not one of them. I'm not saying people would start sabotaging skill checks blindly, but they would be a lot less helpful. We'd be less likely to let people out of the Brig, more likely to make choices that cost resources than ones that make us discard. It'd be a lot less "cooperative" since we don't have any clues as to who we should be cooperating with yet.


Personally I feel pretty confident in this. I do believe we're getting better at playing the humans (we didn't immediately realize how cool the Press Room was, for example) but those differences haven't helped all that much. Our record with the actual rules is 4-0 Cylons (I may be forgetting a game or something, but I know we didn't have any human victories), and most were not close at all. We've lost from having all resources down to 1 or 2, and losing one more. We've lost to multiple Cylon attacks, and a stretch of no jump icons, resulting in 0 population. We have not yet lost on fuel, and we haven't come close to losing by Galactica damage or centurions. I know from experience that I and other people in my group are a pretty good judge of strategy and balance.

Empirically, you can look in threads here on BGG and on the Fantasy Flight forums. People are seeing the Cylons win a LOT more. The FF thread starts with people reporting tallies of something like 6-0, 2-1, 22-3.

About playing for yourself vs. playing for humans: if you assume that the Cylons have an advantage, "incentive to let the humans run away with it" is not a factor because the humans certainly are not going to run away with it! If anything, the Cylons might, and to keep it even, you'd want to help out the humans. If people are rational though, this kind of sabotage should be very limited anyway. Unless you're Boomer under specific conditions, you have a greater chance of being a human, so you should be favoring the humans. It is true that you have incentives to save your best cards and powers.

Anyway, this variant doesn't actually change the difficulty that much - mostly it just evens it out a bit. We were intentionally cautious in changing game balance. Our Cylon win rate with these rules is still 3-1.
 
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Chris Cieslik
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I cannot speak to 1 or 2 without trying them, but I do like the super-cylon type variant for 4/6 players. The sympathizer card is flat out awful.

I think it would be interesting to restrict those super-cylon abilities as "If you are not in the brig . . . " just as the normal bonuses are. You'd really see the paranoia spike to new levels after the sleeper phase, since there'd be a huge difference in brigging the cylons.
 
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Mike Lee
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angelkurisu wrote:
I cannot speak to 1 or 2 without trying them, but I do like the super-cylon type variant for 4/6 players. The sympathizer card is flat out awful.

I think it would be interesting to restrict those super-cylon abilities as "If you are not in the brig . . . " just as the normal bonuses are. You'd really see the paranoia spike to new levels after the sleeper phase, since there'd be a huge difference in brigging the cylons.


This would be a great idea! To have a Cylon bonus if you are NOT in the brig, which would lead to some timely (and sometimes incorrect) throwing of people into the bring just before this phase...
 
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MikeyMike79 wrote:
angelkurisu wrote:
I cannot speak to 1 or 2 without trying them, but I do like the super-cylon type variant for 4/6 players. The sympathizer card is flat out awful.

I think it would be interesting to restrict those super-cylon abilities as "If you are not in the brig . . . " just as the normal bonuses are. You'd really see the paranoia spike to new levels after the sleeper phase, since there'd be a huge difference in brigging the cylons.


This would be a great idea! To have a Cylon bonus if you are NOT in the brig, which would lead to some timely (and sometimes incorrect) throwing of people into the bring just before this phase...


Ummm... All of the normal Cylon reveal powers are like that anyway...
 
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bleached_lizard wrote:
MikeyMike79 wrote:
angelkurisu wrote:
I cannot speak to 1 or 2 without trying them, but I do like the super-cylon type variant for 4/6 players. The sympathizer card is flat out awful.

I think it would be interesting to restrict those super-cylon abilities as "If you are not in the brig . . . " just as the normal bonuses are. You'd really see the paranoia spike to new levels after the sleeper phase, since there'd be a huge difference in brigging the cylons.


This would be a great idea! To have a Cylon bonus if you are NOT in the brig, which would lead to some timely (and sometimes incorrect) throwing of people into the bring just before this phase...


Ummm... All of the normal Cylon reveal powers are like that anyway...


They are talking about this particular variant's extra cylon powers.
 
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This sounds good. But the concept of the sympathizer card is great - both gamewise and thematically. It's justs its execution that doesn't play well. I'ld prefer a solution where there could still be a change in loyality, but without the possibility to influence it in such a stupid way as the current sympathizer card allows.
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Matt Smith
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jmw23 wrote:
I've enjoyed both games of BSG I've played, but I do feel that the Sympathizer card is the weakest part of the design. No one seems to like it, and the manipulation of the resource track to keep the sympathizer from going over to the Cylons results in un-thematic play where the hidden Cylon is desperately trying to keep the humans in the blue for resources while the humans are trying to drive one of their resources down. It doesn't feel quite right, and any good suggestion on how to fix this is appreciated!

It's possible that the designer created the Sympathizer as he did to introduce more suspicion into the beginning of the game. If players are "metagaming" the resource dials as you propose, then human players would be making decisions that make them look like cylons, and hidden cylon players would be making decisions that make them look like humans. By metagaming the resources, players make it even that much more difficult to determine who is on their team, which ultimately hurts the humans (as they have a hard enough time as it is).

I think it's better for the humans to play as optimally as they can prior to the sleeper phase, because this not only conserves resources for later in the game, but also helps them determine who is on their team. A Sympathizer helping the cylons is pretty weak (as we all agree). His main ability is selecting one of two crisis cards, which mostly affect resources (primarily morale, food and fuel). By conserving these resources as much as possible before the sleeper phase, the humans have set themselves up nicely to counteract whatever the Sympathizer cylon tries to throw at them.

Also, if you're finding the humans lose too much, just use the variant provided in the rules (increase each resource by two at the start of the game).
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Sean McCarthy
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mvettemagred wrote:
It's possible that the designer created the Sympathizer as he did to introduce more suspicion into the beginning of the game. If players are "metagaming" the resource dials as you propose, then human players would be making decisions that make them look like cylons, and hidden cylon players would be making decisions that make them look like humans. By metagaming the resources, players make it even that much more difficult to determine who is on their team, which ultimately hurts the humans (as they have a hard enough time as it is).

This shouldn't happen, because the humans can agree on what is good strategy beforehand, and if someone refuses to go along with everyone else, you throw them in the brig. The only way this is an issue is if you're playing without talking.

Quote:
I think it's better for the humans to play as optimally as they can prior to the sleeper phase, because this not only conserves resources for later in the game, but also helps them determine who is on their team. A Sympathizer helping the cylons is pretty weak (as we all agree).

We don't all agree with this! In fact, I think it completely screws the humans to turn it into a three-player game with an extra negative card in every important skill check and an extra bad event every round. 2 vs 2 is a bad situation for the humans.

What I've heard people say is that being a sympathizer helping the Cylons is boring for the person doing it.

If there is no opening Cylon in a four-player game, it should be pretty easy to get to 5 distance and 4 fuel, which isn't bad at all but still involves a resource in the red.

Quote:
Also, if you're finding the humans lose too much, just use the variant provided in the rules (increase each resource by two at the start of the game).

That gives the humans a nice boost in the average game, and you could do that. However, I prefer the above variant because of the other 11 things I listed that it does. Also, the +2 resources thing will basically make fuel irrelevant.
 
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Andy Daglish
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SevenSpirits wrote:
1) It's a little bit too hard for the humans.


They need to be good. Everyone seems to be saying this, although there's no reports of anyone not liking the game for that reason. I wouldn't be overwhelmed by the game just yet, although this is probably the best way of defeating Galactica, with everything bad happening at the same time.

Quote:
2) The difficulty is too dependent on whether there's an initial Cylon. Having the Cylon cards dealt out at the start really helps the Cylons, and having them dealt out later helps the humans.


hence the sympathizer, one assumes.

Quote:
3) The sympathizer mechanic results in gamey manipulation of the resource dials, and also nearly guarantees a Cylon win if it ends up the wrong way.


"wrong way" contradicts "gamey manipulation". If you can't get it right [see 1] then the manipulation disappears. Manipulating the jumps is rather more important.
 
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Sean McCarthy
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aforandy wrote:
Quote:
2) The difficulty is too dependent on whether there's an initial Cylon. Having the Cylon cards dealt out at the start really helps the Cylons, and having them dealt out later helps the humans.


hence the sympathizer, one assumes.


The sympathizer is only for 4 or 6 player games.

And in fact, the sympathizer only exacerbates the problem, because an initial Cylon can more easily engineer a resource situation that produces a second one. If there instead is no initial Cylon, the humans can probably make sure that the Sympathizer becomes human.

Quote:
Quote:
3) The sympathizer mechanic results in gamey manipulation of the resource dials, and also nearly guarantees a Cylon win if it ends up the wrong way.


"wrong way" contradicts "gamey manipulation". If you can't get it right [see 1] then the manipulation disappears. Manipulating the jumps is rather more important.


Nothing is contradicting anything here. The Sympathizer provides an unthematic and bizarre incentive for the humans. Then depending on how successful they were at following the incentive they may do better or worse. How could that possibly be contradictory?
 
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Andy Daglish
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jmw23 wrote:
and the manipulation of the resource track to keep the sympathizer from going over to the Cylons results in un-thematic play where the hidden Cylon is desperately trying to keep the humans in the blue for resources


and why would he do that, when helping them further into the red as early as possible is ideal? of course he wouldn't. They may all go down due to Cylon inhibition. The Cylon does well either way. It would be better to list ideas that really do benefit the humans for certain. I like shooting at basestars...

Another contradiction is that the Cylons seem to be winning more often than not, which means they are winning more games of a pro-human hue than the humans are winning pro-Cylon ones. This suggests there's nothing wrong with the Sympathizer rule at all, given that the humans can try to exploit it [and are failing to do so well -- of course what we actually need to know is who is winning four- and six-player games]. As for balance, lets not forget the sympathizer can't use Cylon fleet [to drive those centurions] and doesn't get a super crisis.
 
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Andy Daglish
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If there instead is no initial Cylon, the humans can probably make sure that the Sympathizer becomes human.


or not, but at what cost? They may also be in combat all the time. The "problem" is that the Cylons want resource level 5 whereas the humanswant 4, and that is an all or nothing situation which is not ideal.

Quote:
"wrong way" contradicts "gamey manipulation".


Quote:
Nothing is contradicting anything here. The Sympathizer provides an unthematic and bizarre incentive for the humans.


Bizarre is certainly not unthematic for this TV series. Deliberately caning resources into the red deserves a more apt word than "incentive"!

Quote:
Then depending on how successful they were at following the incentive they may do better or worse. How could that possibly be contradictory?


Didn't you just answer your question? The "incentive" may not actually be a very big one, but it may have been misidentified as such. Is three humans in poor shape versus one cylon more desirable for the humans than two humans in better shape versus one and a half cylons?? Is it so close that it doesn't matter, and worrying about it was the real fallacy? The pro-human Sympathizer goes to the brig and that can be a big problem, especially if there's a human already in residence.

Why isn't the Sympathizer included in the initial deal? I guess actually knowing you don't know was seen as overdoing it, possibly leading to carefree play, but it sounds interesting.
 
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Sean McCarthy
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Two things are contradictory if one being true implies the other is false.
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Nigel Buckle
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How about this to change the sleeper phase and 'Jump to 3' type manipulation?

(Edit - changed to include brigged players)

After the fleet reaches distance 2+ for each FTL track advance you give the current player their 2nd (sleeper) loyalty card (or cards in the case of Boomer), if the player already has their full set of cards then a player in the brig gets their loyalty cards instead (current player chooses if more than one).

Once all players have their full set of cards the sleeper phase is triggered and the sympathiser is revealed.

This may give the sympathiser a little bit of time to manipulate things (ie. act as a cylon, dropping the dials into the red then change their mind - which fits thematically).

Boomer is brigged when everyone has their cards and sympathiser is revealed.

That way the actual sleeper phase isn't quite so predictable.

 
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Andy Daglish
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SevenSpirits wrote:
Two things are contradictory if one being true implies the other is false.


Contradictoriness implies inconsistency which is not necessarily absolute.
 
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Steve Hope
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Sean, hasn't WotR taught you not to get into discussions with Andy about game design?



EDIT: Just having fun! First message was subject to misintepretation...
 
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Alex Rockwell
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bucklen_uk wrote:
How about this to change the sleeper phase and 'Jump to 3' type manipulation?

(Edit - changed to include brigged players)

After the fleet reaches distance 2+ for each FTL track advance you give the current player their 2nd (sleeper) loyalty card (or cards in the case of Boomer), if the player already has their full set of cards then a player in the brig gets their loyalty cards instead (current player chooses if more than one).

Once all players have their full set of cards the sleeper phase is triggered and the sympathiser is revealed.


I like this! (Though I would go with 1 Jump not 2 distance. Humans should never want a '1' card, except maybe ragnar ancorage).


With our '1 Jump + 2ftl advances' rules, people were trying to game the timing of the 2nd ftl (scouting, wanting it to happen right before their turn, etc). Its really cool if it happens right beofre your turn, and you get the cylon card, then you get to go next).


Also, I think we definitely need the errata on "Massive Assault" to not move back the jump preparation track. That card turned a 5 player game from what wouldve been very close, to death without even getting to jump again after the sleeper agent phase, we never got out of there and lost every single civilian ship there is.
Also, we played a game with this errata, and it was a human victory. Without that errata, it would probably have been a loss, purely due to the card.
 
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Alex Rockwell
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Quote:
Bizarre is certainly not unthematic for this TV series. Deliberately caning resources into the red deserves a more apt word than "incentive"!


Spoiler humor comment:
Spoiler (click to reveal)
Clearly, the reason they wasted 43% of the fleet's fuel supply searching for Starbuck, is because they wanted the sympathizer to turn out human because a resource was in the red.
 
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Sean McCarthy
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So, I've now played a couple more games with this 3-player. (Note: without Alex.)

In each one, the humans won!

The crazy part is that the humans reached 9 distance each time (either because it was necessary, or because it was necessary as far as they knew), which takes nearly as long as 8 distance plus another jump - and it takes about one more fuel. It's arguably harder. Fuel ended at 1 in all three games, and various contortions and inefficiencies were necessary to not run out.

The other change in the variant - the earlier sleeper phase - definitely makes the game harder. I'm pretty sure that this variant was making the game harder, and it resulted in three human wins.

There are a couple things going on here. First, I realized that scouting the planets early isn't very useful. Looking at two and choosing one generally works out OK. Later on, it becomes useful to ensure that you will not run out of fuel, and that you will hit the needed distance exactly. Early you don't really know what those constraints are going to be, and you should scout the crisis deck instead.

Second, in pretty much all my previous games, we had a stretch of time with many crises that didn't advance the jump preparation track, including a couple Cylon attacks. I looked roughly at what the likelihood of this is, and it's much lower than the amount we were getting in previous games. Anyway, this kind of problem wasn't as severe this time around.

Third, strategic realizations we had made previously finally started working. We didn't lose all our raptors in the first couple turns. The cards we drew from the press room were followed by crises in which they could be applied, and so on. I think my group had a lot of bad luck in our first games and the evil consistency of it shaped our opinion of balance.

Oh, and fourth, no one chose Gaius Baltar. That guy is pretty much a deadweight, and if you no longer believe the Cylons are all but guaranteed to win, he's not a very good pick anymore.

So, to summarize:
This variant made my last few games harder.
I am seriously considering wanting to make things even harder for the humans (at least in 3-4 player).
 
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Alex Rockwell
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Yeah, I believe we had some horrendous luck as humans in a couple games. (Like the one where we got the cylon in the brig very fast, (before Jump#1), and then proceeded to draw at one point, 7 straight cards that didnt move us forward on the jum track, 4 of which were cylon attacks.


I think scouting early is not great, unless the situation becomes dire. You want most of the scouting to be post reveal, when it really matters. And when it istn a Cylon possibly scouting

Early on, doing stuff like drawing cards on the press room is awesome.


It probably helped that you werent playing the game variant where the text on the Scout cards wasnt "Lose a raptor", like a couple of our games.


I think the main reason the humans won was that you werent cursed with my IncrediblyBadBSGLuck, which causes my side to always lose.


I dont think Gaius is dead weight. He has no drawback, he has the most diverse skill draw possibilities, and the cylon detector ability is strong. Obiously Laura has a strong ability, but she also has a huge drawback that prevents good use of the press room or presidents office by her. (And the president is the best one to have do the press room actions). And Tom Zarek's abilities arent as exciting as Gaius', imo.
 
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