Friday, 7 April 2017

No YOU'RE a cylon!

Zhwummmm... zhwummm... I mean, err, hello! Hello from your totally human and not-at-all cybernetic blog-writer! Please ignore any possible, hmm, unusual redness in my eyes; it's all perfectly normal and nothing to do with robots. NoBoG was a bit thin on the ground this week, but of course, no less fun than usual. Games I surveyed this time round were Dead of Winter, Inis, Citadels and my own Spiel der Woche, Battlestar Galactica.
The start of the evening: not too many folks in.
The usually packed middle section

Even though Spring has been setting in in Norwich this past week, a cold bite returned though perhaps not quite leaving us in the Dead of Winter. When I arrived Chris (no, not me, a different one) said the team was working well together; though there could be a traitor, they had no concrete evidence and were close to winning. Chris thought it might have been easier due to the high player count of six. J-Dawg disagreed and declared that it actually gets more boring. (I considered asking why he was playing if it was boring but I suspected it was all a cover for being a traitor, and didn't want to ruin things.) At this point, Maddie (whose nickname I have deemed too difficult to type) was deciding her turn and was being called out for attracting the zombies after killing one. Now I'm not entirely familiar with how this game works but this did strike me as being a little bit out of the ordinary — maybe she's the traitor! When I inquired as to what kind of make-up or clothing might be used to attract a zombie I was informed it was best not ask. Thankfully my imagination was distracted before running away to dark and... disgusting places because Sean gave me chocolate. Whew.
Dead of Winter, teamwork in action.
In spite of the aforementioned teamwork, Gareth suspects that GaydogJ-Dawg (yes, this slip of the tongue actually happened, and yes, it had to be put in the blog. Journalistic integrity.) is a baddie on account of always screwing him over. J-Dawg counters that Gareth has been taking "outrageous risks!" and it all kicks off! Accusations fly left and right, that J-Dawg has been eating all the food, that certain people's mothers do certain unspeakable things for certain low prices and I make my exit. With certainty.
Would you like to attract these lovely lads?
When I return, I guess I'd missed the action because J-Dawg wanted to mime daggers flying through the air, piercing his back. This was a melodramatic way of announcing that Gareth had just shot him. I took some pictures and fled before I met the same fate.
Next up was pInis. This is a card drafting game in which you're trying to become King of the Island. Or the Inis. Pronounced "innish," which is where you go when you think you want to drink a beerish. I don't speak Celtic anyway (not Goidelic. Not even Brythonic, never mind Galatian.) There are three methods of becoming Kingish: you can become the chieftain of six clans, occupy six territories of the game board, or control six sanctuaries. The interesting aspect of this comes, though, because you gain a token for one of these victory conditions on your turn, but to win you have to not only still satisfy that condition by the start of your next turn, but you mustn't be drawing with anyone else who is simultaneously satisfying a victory conditions. The upshot is that while it's not that hard to get a victory condition, it's very easy to lose it, or to be tying when your opportunity to win comes around. In addition to the above, if you control the island's capital and possess a victory condition, you win even if someone else has one, too.
A board game...ish.
Inis has nice pieces.
As Tom put it to me, they'd got to the point, when I came by, where they were all quite close to winning but everyone was cock-blocking everyone else. Tom was, at least according to Emma, the biggest cock of all (or maybe the biggest block?) For the sake of balance I must also include that he protests that what befell Emma was not entirely his fault and that it would have happened without his interference. Then he and Dave fought each other too much and pissed away all their action cards, which are your only means of defence and of course throwing them away limits your possibilities, perhaps throwing your carefully laid plans awry.
The players contemplate their options in Inis.

I then swung by a game plaid by those men (and women) in the ivory towers of several Citadels, a game I love for its sometimes agonising layers of social deduction. The aim of the game is to have the most point-value of built districts at the end of the game, by paying that same point value in money to build them. Added to the mix is the fact that each round you take on a different role, chosen from a selection that is passed around, dwindling until the final person chooses from two. The trick here is that the special abilities of two of the roles which I will describe as the "fuck-you" roles target roles rather than players so if the most advantageous role for you is the merchant and you pick it, you may find yourself skipping your turn or losing all your dollah.
The citadels being built... and destroyed.
Joe seemed to be close to winning and his strategy was "just trying to go into 'game over' while everyone else does trying build big things," in other words trying to end the game by getting eight districts built, even if they're not worth so much. He'd also been the biggest dick, stealing all of Monika's money and other people's besides. "Crime does pay," he said, but it did turn out that he got his just desserts in the form of brutal murder for all his thievery. (In case you're wondering, after being murdered your city is taken over by your heir(s) in your stead.) Sam reckoned James was also doing pretty well, and I inadvertently aided him on his path to victory by clearing up his misunderstanding of the Warlord's special ability, pointing out that he could destroy one of frontrunner Joe's districts for free. The pot suitably stirred, I ran off.
And that brings us to the 5+ hour epic consisting almost entirely of pot-stirring that is Battlestar Galactica! Ahh, what a game. A special place it has in my heart, and I'd not played it for nearly a year. If you think you might watch the TV show, be warned that mild spoilers will follow.
The premise of the game, as with the show, is that humanity is trying to escape the blasted nuclear wasteland that was their home and strike out for the legendary Kobol, dogged all the way by their chrome-plated former slaves, the Cylons. Hidden amongst the humans, however, are sneaky skin-jobs who appear indistinguishable from good honest people with organs and souls and whatnot. They try to sabotage humanity's efforts by subterfuge and trickery, aiming to drop one of four resources to zero, to damage the titular Galactica six times, or to sneak a boarding party aboard her and have it disable the ship from within. These hidden agents can always do this by making or suggesting bad decisions, but secret actions complicate matters severely. Each turn the current player draws a crisis which must be resolved in an attempt to avoid or minimise its negative effects. Some of those are simply a choice for a particular player, often the President, between, say, losing a resource or discarding cards — skill cards which represent the particular skills of each character, like Leadership or Piloting. Others are skill checks, where each player in turn secretly contributes skill cards in an attempt to bring the total value of correct skill cards minus the incorrect ones to a given target. At this point, secret cylons may announce sweetly that they are single-handedly flying the planes, rallying the pilots and all else that is needed, whilst in fact contributing precisely the wrong cards. Once two random cards to reflect the hand of destiny have been shuffled in, it is no longer so easy to tell who has been telling the truth, and the accusations are let loose. In the midst of all of this, the cylons are typically sending raiders and other ships to damage galactica, threaten the fleet and generally screw things up — as things become increasingly chaotic, the humans must make tricky decisions about what to prioritise in order to avoid succumbing to any of the loss conditions.
In our play-through, everything started off swimmingly: there was not even an oily whiff of the cylon fleet, and we sailed through the void of space managing at first to even scavenge more fuel than we were using on our way to our mythical new home. At the four-distance mark, all resources looked peachy in spite of Madame President Meltem's insistence early on that food was not really so important, losing us two points in rapid succession. Our record on the skill checks had been patchy too, attempting and failing far too many for our liking. Yet the pilots were sitting in their ready room drinking ambrosia and playing cards with nothing to do; the enemy raiders weren't coming, and without that there was just no need to do better.
Just got to the half-way point: everything looks peachy,
though Chief's shown his true colours.
Kaan, looking sympathetic.
Four distance is the half-way point which marks the sleeper-agent phase where more loyalty cards are handed out to represent those who'd been cylons all along but who only now realise their true identity. It was here that the first signs of strife began to appear, as one of the humans turned to be rather sympathetic to the cylon cause; Chief Kaan slipped away from the human fleet and joined the cylons on our tail. Soon enough, the third jump had been made, bringing the fleet to 7 out of eight distance, guaranteeing a human win if they can just jump twice more, and still only fuel was in the red, with more than enough to close out the game. It was at this point, though, that the first full-on toaster-top revealed himself in the form of yours truly, Vice-President Chris Zarek, who first used his friends in low places to force the rest of the team to exhaust themselves in keeping another cylon suspect locked up in the brig. Zarek then blew himself away in a suicide attack that left Commander Lewis severely wounded. Respawning in Cylon-heaven, robo-blogger joined Chief Kaan in trying desperately to coordinate the cylon effort, which had as explained, been sorely lacking up to this point. The next round revealed also that Sam "Boomer" Valerii had been a sleeper agent all along and, though locked up and unable to cause any damage, she too offed herself and ended up on the resurrection ship.
This is what the board looks like when
the shit is hitting the fan.

With three toasters turned all the way up, defrost mode engaged, the humans' days were numbered. A massive assault was the all but the first sign of any real activity from the cylon fleet, orchestrated by Zarek. The erstwhile Chief used his connections to organise sabotage, damaging the hangar bay and preventing the launch of more vipers to defend against the amassed enemy. Boomer then coordinated every single cylon ship to attack, blasting the remaining meagre defences apart. An error in fleet management brought on by the chaos had left a dozen civilian ships unprotected, slaughtered almost to a man, and the humans finally broke, lacking the manpower to continue.
Cylon Centipede 2
Starbuck did not escape this encounter unscathed.
Cylon raiders, civilian ships, and their viper defence.
The cylons had won, proving the superiority of machine over man once and for all, but what had we learned? Well, first of all, never trust Adam "Starbuck" Thrace with the loyalty deck — if it weren't for good luck with the order of cylon reveals, we would have had four out of six players trying to screw the humans! As it happened, the third chrome-dome to be revealed had two cylon loyalty cards which doesn't turn him into some kind of super-cylon and has no further effect. He could therefore ignore the extra one without affecting the game at all. Second, it is extremely important that everyone read their loyalty cards for the exact same amount of time, especially if there are new players. I knew with almost certainty that Kaan's AI was malfunctioning because he spent a long time referring back to his loyalty card when others had finished reading — the "You are a cylon" cards having far more text. It would even be an idea to have everyone read these cards before the loyalty deck is made up to ensure familiarity. Luckily, this too didn't affect the game much as Kaan disposed of this card very quickly (giving it to me) on account of the rapid onset of the sleeper agent phase.
Cylon victory!
The destroyed civilian ship that ended it all.

And that's all for this week — citadels being built up and torn down, islands being fought over by great chieftains, the zombie apocalypse being defended in the bitter cold, and the inexorable march of the machines. Hope you've enjoyed it!

1 comment:

Minitrue said...

There were 35 this week at Tuesday NoBoG, you missed a couple of tables upstairs - Lewis and Clark on one table, Riff Raff, Skulls, Betrayal at House on the Hill, Other Stuff on table 2.