Monday, 28 June 2010

The Engamerising 2010

Just a couple of notes from this weekend's gaming experiences. The Pegasus expansion for the BSG board game is a curious beast (much like the ship herself). The actual battlestar in question adds comparatively little (mainly a few alternative ways to blow shit up, including your own ships). The New Caprica board is an interesting idea, but it makes an already potentially long game far longer, particularly with a lot of players. By the time the fleet had made it to New Caprica, everyone was just as exhausted as the Colonials they were playing. On the other hand, one could quite easily tweak the rules slightly and actually play it as its own mini game, by randomly deciding how many civilian ships have made it, and in what shape the Galactica's resources, air wing, and locations start off in.

I'm also not yet convinced about the Cylon Leaders idea. This might be because I had a uniquely poor agenda to follow, but I'm not convinced; I think it's just as likely that said agenda revealed the flaw in the system. Other than to make sure the Cylons won, my only aim was to either end the game in the brig or detention, or be executed at least once. This meant the potential double-dealing and politicking that might otherwise have been involved was replaced by deliberately trying to wreck as much shit as possible so I would be dragged to the nearest airlock and introduced to Mr Vacuum. The fact that I was neither able to do a massive amount of damage to the fleet whilst making no effort to hide was not particularly encouraging, but the main problem was that the human players were in agreement that sending me to either the brig or the void was a waste of time since I'd immediately come back in a different body in any case. If a punishment system is so unappealing that you don't want to consider it for a player desperately trying to wreck your entire game plan, then something has gone wrong somewhere.

On the other hand, Red November is great fun, a lovely little quick game with plenty of character. The mechanic of replacing turns with minutes, and thus always allowing the player furthest "back in time" to have the next move is brilliant, and in any case I think there's a strict limit on how much bad things you can say about a game that forces you to ponder whether or not you're already too pissed to down the bottle of grog you need to make stabbing a Kraken to death a little easier. Of course, my viewpoint is a little coloured. Not only was I slightly drunk when I played it (Ooh! Red November drinking game: every time your gnomes polishes off a bottle of grog, you have to drink a beer), but I had an eye on the England game, which means I could have been playing Monopoly (most hated of all games!) and I probably would have appreciated the distraction.

It's also worth noting that, according to Garathon, the game was originally conceived as "Rescue the Kursk", before presumably being considered too legally tricky/in bad taste. It does make me wonder how much the game changed between iterations, though. As difficult as it might be to sell a game based on the tragic deaths of over one hundred sailors, one imagines it would be exponentially harder once your core game mechanic involves fuelling your repair attempts by stealing the captain's vodka.


Jamie said...

We didn't use the Pegasus a great deal to be honest, the Engine Room can be a massive help to increasing the regularity of jumps.

I think you did have a rather poor agenda to follow, in that there was no real subtlety needed for it. Some of the others require you to walk a far finer line.

Actually, I think the main reason we weren't really considering airlocking you for the vast majority of the game was that we were in such dire straits elsewhere that we really had to deal with all the other shit going wrong, and had little opportunity or skill cards to spare merely in order to kill you. The fact that you would be back in some form didn't help of course, but I don't think it was the deciding factor. We were pretty happy that you got put in the brig at the end without us having to expend energy though.

Jamie said...

Somewhat later, in reviewing this post, I've just realised how the Cylon Leader agenda you received is probably intended to play out generally, rather than the way you perceived it, and which possibly allows for somewhat more subtlety.

If you are in the brig you are correct, you are comparatively powerless, which-if you end up there too early-means that although one of your winning conditions has been successfully achieved, the other is far harder to obtain.

Therefore you might want to play a rather longer-term strategy, sabotaging subtly in the background on occasion, but trying mainly to do helpful things to give the impression that you have a sympathetic agenda, and meanwhile plant suspicion about other players if possible.

Then, when it's clear that the Galactica is in trouble and it won't take too much time/effort to tip the balance against them, do some obviously insanely harmful things and get yourself thrown in the brig.

Alternatively, if you don't want to hang in the brig for the rest of the game, you could always kill yourself (appearing back on the Resurrection Ship), then re-infiltrate the Galactica and cause the human players to waste valuable time and skill cards trying to either brig or airlock you.

The execution thing is possibly slightly broken (you'll be pleased to hear that in some respects the mechanic has been improved in Exodus, at least in regards to being sure about someone's loyalty, if not necessarily in this particular respect), but I think it's more due to meta-gaming - in Galactica's case they didn't know about Resurrection ships for a pretty long time, whereas we know implicitly that airlocking someone just brings them back into play in a potentially harmful way. I suppose if there were more benefits to airlocking a known cylon as well as the drawbacks it would make it more of an incentive to do so.