At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Feature

At the Café #9: We Playthrough Battlestar Galactica the Board Game

Welcome to our ninth edition of At the Café, this edition is quite special for me because I get to write about our experiences with a game I thought I may never try as it’s out of print. I am a big sci-fi fan and loved the Battlestar Galactica reboot series launched in the early 2000’s. I have been wanting to try the board game themed after the series for years. I finally got my chance and was able to try it out with my son at our local board game café.

I had mixed feelings going into it, I had built this up for a long time in my head and wanted it to be an amazing experience that did justice to the IP, but what if it didn’t? What if it fell flat or the other players weren’t that into it? Would it leave me with sour memories and my son wondering why on earth I got so excited about this in the first place? Well, there was no reservation I could come up with that was going to prevent me from trying this game. I don’t want to spoil the rest of this article, but I can give you a bit of a heads up that I haven’t experienced anything quite like the Battlestar Galactica board game before.

I’m going to run through how the game works at a high level first. If you’re not that interested in that and just want to find out about how our playthrough went you can skip straight to that using the convenient links in the table of contents. Much like our playthrough of Nemesis, boy did this game have some twists in it, I may have even thrown a few spanners in the works myself, but you will have to read on to find out what happened.

What You Will Find in Our Battlestar Galactica Playthrough

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Battlestar Galactica Game Overview

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Box

Play Time: 120-180 Min / Players: 3-6 / Complexity: Medium / Age: 14+ / Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games / Designer: Corey Konieczka

Battlestar Galactica is a team-based game. As well as a unique character you will also receive a hidden loyalty card which will tell you whether you are on the human or Cylon team. For those that don’t know the series, Cylon’s are machines created by humans that rose up against their creators with the aim of eradicating the human race, charming right? They are also sometimes affectionately referred to as toasters. Some Cylon’s can look just like humans and so can’t easily be identified as Cylon’s.

By the way don’t get too comfortable with your team yet though, you will get another loyalty card part way through the game which may switch your allegiance from human to Cylon. This is quite a cool mechanic in the game and simulates the sleeper agents seen in the series. Imagine doing a great job supporting humanities cause and thwarting the Cylons only to discover you were a sleeper agent for the Cylons and your efforts will count against you, just awesome! 

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Character Boards
The characters available in the game come from the Battlestar Galactica series. Each has unique abilities and a thematic weakness.

Much like the series, the goal for humanity is to escape the Cylon threat and travel to the safety of the planet Kobal. This represents a total distance of 8 points of Faster Than Light (FTL) jumps, plus one additional jump. If the humans can achieve this, they win.

The Cylons on the other hand must ensure this doesn’t happen. They have multiple ways to end the game and secure a Cylon victory. If any of the four Galactica resources (food, fuel, morale and population) are depleted to zero, Galactica is destroyed or the Cylons successfully invade Galactica the Cylons win.

Galactica’s crew not only has to contend with defending the ship from the Cylon threat but also the fleet of civilian ships in its care. If any of these ships are destroyed by the Cylons then Galactica will lose precious resources.

During each player’s turn they will be able to travel throughout areas of Galactica or Colonial One and either trigger the special actions in those areas or use cards in their hand to trigger the relevant printed action.

Each player will draw coloured cards that correspond to their character. The mix of coloured cards your character has access to will generally match the role they play on the ship. Politicians are likely to get more yellow politics cards, pilot characters are likely to get more red piloting cards etc. Each coloured card type offers benefits that align with the type, piloting cards for example can offer you a reroll in fighter combat.

Turns will end with a crisis card being drawn. These crisis cards represent all sorts of calamities that can befall the crew and usually require a hidden skill test. Usually if the skill test is successful the crew can avoid a penalty, otherwise they will suffer whatever fate is printed on the crisis card. The cards may also activate Cylon ships on the board and move Galactica along the jump track closer to a precious faster than light jump.

The catch with the skill tests is that to overcome them you need to reach a combined total of points for whichever coloured cards are depicted on the crisis card. Any colours contributed by the crew that are of a different colour count as a negative to the group’s total. Players can contribute as many cards as they like face down to the pool of cards, there are also two added from a central pool called the destiny deck. These cards are then shuffled together before they are revealed to ensure no one can be certain who played each card and which ones came from the destiny deck.

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Game Board Set Up
The board has Galactica dominating most of the space, but Colonial One and Cylon spaces occupy the top part of the board as well as resource tracks and a hanger for Galactica’s vipers and raptors.

This adds some real tension to the game, sometimes it’s unclear whether the crew is being sabotaged as a stray negative card could either come from a player or the destiny deck. It also means any Cylon players need to be careful when sabotaging these skill tests to ensure it isn’t too obvious. Throwing in three cards of a colour only you could have, is likely to make you a suspect, throwing in a single off suit card that a number of players could have is less obvious.

This is one of my favourite aspects of the game, the decisions here are really challenging and meaningful. You only have a limited pool of cards and adding too many to a skill test might be a waste, equally if you think you might be sabotaged you may have to play more cards than you would like to. Crucially players cannot discuss specifics of which cards they will put into the pool, other than providing general comments like, ‘I can help a lot’, ‘I can’t really help much this time’. This fits the theme so well, the constant unexpected crisis, the crews attempt to work together to overcome them and the potential for some subtle sabotage. It is just so thematic.

You can also find that some crisis cards simply flood the board with Cylon ships, leaving you with multiple threats to contend with. Just like the characters in the series you will have to rally as a crew to successfully defend Galactica, your civilian fleet and precious resources. Moments like these are so tense and had me up off my seat.

After two faster than light jumps a key moment in the game occurs. A second loyalty card is dealt to each player. If there aren’t yet any Cylons in the game, this guarantees there now are. You may find your allegiance has changed or that it’s confirmed.

The added dilemma for any Cylon players is when to reveal their loyalty. Revealing their identity provides them with a one-off action that can harm the human team and access to powerful Cylon ship locations with corresponding actions. But it also has to be timed well as the human team will be better prepared to counter a threat they know than one that is hidden.

That should give you enough of a high-level introduction to the game to understand what is happening in the playthrough.

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How Our Battlestar Galactica Playthrough Went

Early Game

As we arrived at the café and found our table, I was so excited to see the game all set up and ready to go. The board, minis and cards all reflected artwork from the series and for a Battlestar Galactica fan it was just so exciting to see how thematic everything looked.

After a quick rules overview from our host, it was time to dive into selecting our characters. We ended up with a crew of:

  • Lee ‘Apollo’ Adama – our first pilot and someone who hadn’t played this game before
  • Laura Roslin – our president and a new player to this game although had played the Unfathomable reimplementation so was familiar with the game’s mechanics
  • Saul Tigh – our admiral, my son picked this character because he got to be the admiral, also a new player to this game
  • Karl ‘Helo’ Agathon – our second pilot and our host for this game. She had played Battlestar Galactica a few times and was guiding the rest of us on rules questions
  • ‘Chief’ Galen Tyrol – my character who I picked because he looked like he would be a good all-rounder as a support crew member. This was my first game of Battlestar Galactica too.
At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Chief Galen Tyrel Character Board
My pick was Chief Galen Tyrol. A good allrounder but a bit reckless which reduced his hand limit.

Our next order of business was to get our secret loyalty cards. As I carefully checked mine, I had a mini freak out in my head. I was a Cylon. Suddenly, I had to figure out what on earth I was meant to do without arousing suspicion. The other players were free to ask questions about how the human team worked, I couldn’t really ask ‘so anything the Cylon players need to know?’

I decided I would wait for opportunities to skim the relevant Cylon sections of the rule book when others were preoccupied. There is so much interaction in this game, my opportunities were rare. My main concern was what happened when a Cylon revealed their identity and how that worked as this changed your options and abilities. I decided I wouldn’t stress too much about it at this stage and just focus on not looking too suspicious.

That goal was immediately threatened when I made a big mistake on our first skill test after a crisis card was drawn. I thought I would play a blue card to deduct points from our total and hopefully sabotage our attempt. Unfortunately, when all the cards were revealed, our president accurately noted that I was the only character who had access to blue cards, so the card had to have either come from me or the destiny deck. It wasn’t quite enough to sink my efforts completely as there was still some doubt, but it did mean I had some serious damage control to do, I needed to do something to make myself look more trustworthy.

When my turn came around, I decided to go straight for Galacticas main armament and try to take out the Cylon base star in front of us. What could be more dedicated than taking on the largest enemy ship on the board right? My roll turned out to be a miss thankfully, but more importantly the crew were now less suspicious of my motives. What sort of self-respecting Cylon would attack a base star?

The early rounds of our game were largely about us familiarising ourselves with our roles and dealing with various minor crises as they arose. We had a few questions on the rules but they were largely dealt to by our host, or a quick skim of the rule book.

Lee Adama busied himself dealing to the few raiders that had come to test our defences and successfully saw them off. He managed to get a few cards that allowed rerolls which was particularly useful in combat. Karl Agathon lent a hand by activating unpiloted vipers to support Lee in our defence. By in large the Cylon threat at this stage was manageable and our fighter screen was sufficient.

President Roslin stuck to Colonial One and kept drawing quorum cards, these usually offer some benefit, sometimes improved moral, or special abilities. Our president was keen to keep a steady flow of these coming into their hand to increase their options.

Admiral Tigh was working well with our president. There were no signs of the military and civilian leadership at odds, which was a good sign. Our admiral had some important responsibilities, like for example making decisions about which cards to use when we went to faster than light jumps. These often have a cost attached to them so making the right call on these is important.

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Board Early Game 1
So far so good. The Cylons are probing Galactica’s viper screen but our defenses are holding up well.

Our crisis cards were a mixed bag, but nothing terrible had happened yet. We passed most skill tests but when the opportunity presented itself, I would sabotage the occasional skill test or intentionally waste cards on skill checks that were likely to be passed anyway.

When we did fail a test, it wasn’t usually that big a deal as we still had a lot of resources available, and we didn’t feel like we were behind. Having a healthy stockpile of resources is key in this game, if any are completely depleted humanity is doomed and the Cylons win.

Our first jump was a sign of progress, and everyone started to think that we had got lucky with no Cylons yet in play. We managed to get 2 points on our journey towards Kobal, we needed 8 total plus an additional jump, it looked like we would need four more jumps at this pace.

Meanwhile I was taking opportunities when no one was looking to take a quick squiz at the Cylon sections of the rule book so I could better understand what my options were and try to figure out the best time to reveal my identity for my special ability to trigger. This was proving challenging, but I was slowly piecing it together. I felt I still had a lot of time, I thought it would only become a consideration when Galactica was in a more desperate state.

By this point we were all confident with the basics and had settled into our decision making well. Although we were still thumbing through the rule book on occasion when something a little unusual popped up. After our first jump we had lost any Cylon ships and were safe again from what had been largely a nuisance more than a threat.

Our next couple of crisis cards changed that with more enemy ships in play and our first heavy raider. Heavy raiders can be quite nasty if they can make it to Galactica as they land a boarding party on the ship that if left unchecked can kill the crew and win the game for the Cylons. We weren’t having that, there would be no toasters on the Galactica on our watch.

Aside from the heavy raider we were about to have bigger problems. The base star attacked for the first time damaging Galactica, in particular our FTL drive, this disabled our ability to jump early which limited our options.

I was increasingly beginning to think I was the only Cylon on the ship, it didn’t really look like anyone else was doing anything suspicious. I hoped that wouldn’t be the case though. I was struggling at this point to create as much havoc as I would like without arousing suspicion, but I tried to sabotage another skill check, and this again triggered a little suspicion.

I felt the only way to ensure I wasn’t implicated was to do something incredibly helpful. I decided to use my repair card to repair the FTL drive which immediately made me a trusted crew member again. I needed to find a better way to sabotage these skill checks, my challenge was I really needed some way to get cards that other players are more likely to have. The answer was about to become clear to me on how to resolve this, but not quite yet.

As this part of the game wore on and crisis cards were progressively resolved or failed, we ended up with one of the scariest crisis cards we had encountered so far. The Cylon swarm card all but drowned the board in ships, mostly Cylon and gave us far more civilian ships to protect in mostly exposed areas of space. Things were looking pretty grim for Galactica’s crew, well for most of the crew… one was secretly elated.

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Board Early Game 2 Cylon Swarm
Our first Cylon swarm crisis card got our attention in a big way. The board flooded with enemy ships.

Once the panic subsided, we fought off a few of the raiders, bolstered our defences with some freshly launched vipers and again Lee Adama took the lead in picking off enemy raiders. His character gets red cards each turn which are usually handy in combat and he was able to get multiple re rolls which caused havoc amongst the Cylon fleet.

Admiral Tigh (my son) was trying to use Galactica’s main armament to take out a base star, but the die roll didn’t go his way. My son often joked that his character’s alcoholism was a key factor in the poor rolls. He was developing quite a reputation for poor aim at this point, and I reminded him every now and then that he was meant to be playing the part of our admiral not a storm trooper. Another example of how wonderfully thematic Battlestar Galactica feels is these little details around character weaknesses which align nicely with the series. Saul Tigh is actually an alcoholic in this game, just like his character in the series and it means that he must discard a skill card if he has only 1 in his hand. Each character has a thematic weakness like this one, my character was ‘reckless’ which resulted in a lower hand limit.

Things were starting to look inhospitable by this point but luckily enough for the human members of the crew, we were able to initiate our second jump and leave the chaos behind.

Mid Game

By the time the second jump occurred we felt it was all under control, we had kept the raiders in check, hadn’t depleted too many resources and people around the table were starting to question if we had a Cylon among us at all, I was relieved about that, but it would all soon change.

We now got our second loyalty cards, and I was hoping I would get another Cylon buddy at the table, to my horror my second card was a Cylon role as well. I was it, there was no back up coming, I had to go it alone.

I felt like I had been doing poorly so far, 2 jumps in and there were no major concerns for the Galactica crew, this was going to be tough without help. Was there something I was missing here, should I have revealed my loyalty earlier and taken advantage of some of the Cylon abilities on offer?

I decided that sabotaging in secret was far more important until the crew was in a more perilous situation, but I needed a better plan. I had to sow more doubt and suspicion somehow. The answer was actually in my hand for most of the game. I noticed one of the yellow cards in my hand allowed me to play it to get two cards of any colour. This was a big deal, I could now get some purple and red cards that I don’t normally get, use them to sabotage skill tests and direct suspicion towards the other players who normally draw those cards. This could be the advantage I have been looking for.

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Skill Test Cards
The yellow consolidate power card turned out to be extremely useful for me to use as a Cylon to deflect suspicion to other players during skill tests.

My first attempt at using this plan was a big success and a small turning point for the group. A crisis card came up with a low 7 hurdle for us to overcome, everyone was confident we would achieve it and so held back a little. This was my chance; I picked a card colour that matched three other players but not me to sabotage the skill test. It was high enough that we missed out, I also got some help from the central pool of cards which made it look like the sabotage was more severe than it was.

The important thing was that it really shook the confidence of the rest of the crew members. If we couldn’t overcome a low 7 hurdle on a skill test, then it cast doubt on our ability to overcome any future skill test. This played into my hands incredibly well, when future skill tests came up, I would often point out how they could easily be sabotaged by one of us, or maybe even two of us. Inevitably this led to the crew deciding to take a penalty whenever the option arose rather than risk a skill test that could result in a more severe outcome.

I no longer needed to risk much suspicion but as a crew we were steadily depleting our resources due to a lack of confidence on the skill checks, usually opting for a small penalty rather than risking a big one. The crew was essentially doing part of my job for me.

My next stroke of luck came when another crisis card with a Cylon swarm was drawn. We now had two base stars, multiple raiders, and some heavy raiders on the board.

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Board Mid Game 1 Cylon Swarm
More Cylons flooding the board after another Cylon swarm crisis card.

The following turn Galactica took a beating from the base stars damaging the ship. It was now Saul Tigh’s turn (my son) and he tabled the idea of using a nuke on one of the base stars. This was a big call if we used it that would be our most potent weapon gone but things were perilous. We might not survive if we didn’t do something quickly. In the end we opted to use it and the roll was good resulting in one of the base stars being destroyed. One less threat on the board but still plenty of others to contend with.

While the battle raged in the space around Galactica, a skill check came up that would allow our President to check one of the role cards around the table. I wasn’t confident I could sabotage this one so I wanted to ensure I wasn’t the target.

At this point we were not confident we could achieve any skill test and so I offered to use my one-time ability to negate cards of a single colour. We could use this to prevent negative skill points from one card colour, improving our chances of a successful skill test. This went down well with the table and ensured any suspicion of me as a Cylon was reduced, after all I was actively taking extreme measures to ensure our skill test was successful. Aside from that our saboteur was using cards that were a different colour to the ones I normally get.

My misdirection worked and our president was far more suspicious of Lee Adama than me. It turns out he was suspicious of Lee from the beginning, my use of red and purple cards to sabotage skill checks may have helped, not sure. He checked one of the role cards for Lee and declared it was safe. Of course, that didn’t mean the other card wasn’t Cylon so there was still a healthy dose of suspicion there. I was incredibly relieved, both my loyalty cards were Cylon, if a player were to check either, it would be guaranteed they would discover that I was the dirty rotten Cylon in their crew.

After a few more turns and crisis cards our situation had become perilous. We had jumped a third time by this point but encountered yet more Cylon base stars and raiders and we found it hard to hold them off. We were three jumps in and needed at least two more jumps to win but our resources were now all in the red. Food was becoming our weak point with supplies down to 2, if they dropped to zero, we would lose. Fuel was also a concern with only 3 left. Would we have enough for the remaining jumps?

End Game

I now had a challenging decision, when to reveal my loyalty and take advantage of the ability on one of my loyalty cards. If I did it too soon the rest of the crew would be able to more effectively counter my efforts, too late and my Cylon abilities may not be enough to prevent them reaching Kobol. My main goal was to be able to get to the resurrection ship before the crew travelled 8 points, that would allow me to give my second Cylon card to another player and finally get some back up.

With the board covered in Cylon ships and all resources in the red I thought enough damage had been done that I could be more effective as a Cylon in finishing off Galactica. My other choice was which Cylon card to reveal, my options were to reveal a card that would deplete Galactica’s morale by 1 or a card that could damage two sections of Galactica.

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Cylon Reveal Card
My big reveal as a Cylon.

Morale was low but not the weakest area for Galactica, so I opted for damaging the ships FTL drive and the admiral’s quarters which activates the brig. My thinking on the brig was that I was hoping to get to use the resurrection ship space in my following turn to convert Saul Tigh (my son) to the Cylon cause, but I didn’t want him thrown in the brig when I did it. I thought a father son Cylon team would be a good combo here and I hoped my son would see it the same way.

As my turn came around, I stood up grabbed my card and announced that I was a Cylon. As I waved goodbye to Galactica, and my character token made its way to the Cylon area of the board I imagined the fall out this might cause. Everyone seemed stunned. I actually felt pretty bad betraying them like this, the game is so thematic that I really felt like a rat for doing this to them.

I think they took it well though, I don’t think anyone really suspected me until this point so there was some surprise, but I think more relief that they knew who the saboteur was. Then they questioned who else might be a Cylon working with me, which I hoped would sow even more distrust.

I eagerly awaited my next turn with Galactica having travelled 6 points through space I couldn’t afford for Galactica to make another jump. If Galactica did jump, it would prevent me from using the resurrection chamber to convert one of my crew mates by giving them my second loyalty card. The chamber will only work if Galactica has travelled less than 7 points.

The crew knew the danger here and after repairing the FTL drive prioritized another jump, which was successful. My plan had now unravelled and there was only one jump remaining for humanity to assure their survival. Did I time this too late? Should I have revealed my loyalty earlier? I don’t know.

My first act as a Cylon was to immediately use my super crisis card which depleted resources further for Galactica, they were now in an even more critical state. Any further loss could tip one of the resource levels to zero and hand the Cylon team a win.

In the meantime, crisis cards resulted in more Cylon ships flooding the board giving me some much-needed options. Lee Adama and Karl Agathon did what they could to protect the civilian ships and take out raiders but by this point they were very outnumbered.

One of the crisis cards resulted in a failed skill test which required the crew to put one team member in the brig. They decided collectively that Lee Adama was going to take the hit for the team and they would try to get him out later.

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Board Late Game Before Cylon Attack
More Cylon ships flooding the board. The viper screen is starting to look pretty thin.

Saul Tigh did his best to use Galactica’s weapon and attempt to target the base stars although unsuccessfully. President Roslin was not having much luck with useful quorum cards although she did manage to give us a minor boost to morale.

My second act as an open Cylon was to activate the considerable number of raiders on the board, around 11 at this point. I hoped to pick off the remaining vipers and then tear shreds out of the civilian fleet for the win. Unfortunately, Lee and Karl were well equipped with numerous red re-roll cards and most of my successful hits were met with a requirement to reroll. By this stage many of us were up off our seats and either cheering or cursing the dice roles depending on what our loyalties were.

While I did manage to dispatch most of the vipers my real goal was the civilian fleet which could have ended the game right there, but I only managed to destroy one which put Galactica in a perilous state but wasn’t enough to end the game. I went from being confident of pulling off a win to now thinking I would likely lose it for our fellow Cylon toasters. Maybe humanity would survive after all?

The final turn came down to Karl Agathon activating the FTL drive early and hoping for a roll of at least 4 to avoid a loss. Lee Adama had played a card reducing the number required to activate the drive safely from 6 to 4. Above a 4 would mean a safe jump and the win, below would lose us enough population to bring us down to zero and cost the human team the game. The decision had been made to take the gamble as one more raider activation would have resulted in an almost certain loss, our fleet had no more viper cover remaining for the civilian ships.

At the Cafe 9 - Battlestar Galactica Final FTL Jump Attempt
Karl Agathon had the final act in the game. A successful FTL jump would secure the win for Galactica’s crew, a failed attempt would hand victory to the Cylon team.

We were all up off our seats for the roll, when it settled and revealed a 3 there were fist pumps and whoop whoops from me and devastation from the rest of the crew. It had come right down to the wire and one final dice roll.

The game took us over 3 hours, but it was an incredible experience and either team could have won.

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Our Thoughts on Battlestar Galactica

Teen perspective

My son just loved this game. He had a blast with his character as the admiral and loved the interaction throughout the game. Although he hasn’t seen any of the Battlestar Galactica series he did love the sci-fi theme and is generally a fan of social deduction games.

He did think the group you played with would have an influence on how much fun the game was, and I agree. Our group really got into it even though they weren’t all familiar with the IP. All of them are veterans of social deduction games and I think this made a big difference.

Parent’s perspective

I mentioned earlier I had been wanting to play this game for years and it really built up my expectations. Now that I have played it, I can say as a Battlestar Galactica fan I think this game did the IP justice and then some. It is an incredibly well-done implementation of the theme.

I love that they have taken such care with the details here, not only do the mechanics support the theme well, but all the artwork is from the series and looks amazing. Sleeper agents, character weaknesses, the potential of sabotage and frequent crises to resolve all gel nicely with what the characters faced in the series.

The skill tests in particular are a fantastic mechanic and allow for some really challenging decisions. There’s also a nice pace to the game, the tension seems to build steadily for both the Cylons and the humans as Galactica makes progress to Kobol but also depletes its scarce resources.

The final thing I will mention is that each player’s actions matter to the group as a whole so I stayed engaged pretty much the whole game. Interaction is also quite high as many decisions are debated as a group and there are crises each turn which require a group skill test to resolve.

I simply loved this game and I really hope I get to play it again soon.

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About the Authors

We are parents who love board gaming. We have three children and have been enjoying board games as a family ever since we had our first child. We share our real unbiased experiences and opinions on board games so you can decide if they are right for your family. We also write guides and articles to help you get the most out of your family game time. 

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