Thursday, 16 May 2013

Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game Daybreak Expansion Preview & Speculation


Fantasy Flight Games have announced Daybreak, the latest expansion to the already enormous Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game.  It is inspired by the final leg of the epic series, so spoilers will ensue below.

Theme has always been a central focus in BSG:TBG and every iteration so far has captured the atmosphere of the show perfectly.  The desperation and political tension of the doomed New Caprica (Pegasus expansion), the character-defining choices between revenge and redemption of the Ionian Nebula (Exodus), and the persistent feeling of paranoia and dread that runs through the core of the game are all an indispensable part of the experience and have been realised brilliantly by FFG so far.  Daybreak seems to be attempting to channel the more religious, supernatural forces of season 4.5, as well as a deeper exploration of human-cylon integration.

The focal point for the former aspect appears to be the new Miracle tokens, which are nicely rendered in the "eye of Jupiter" style in an apt reference to the show.  Their primary purpose is as currency for activating each character's Once Per Game move, which would seem to add an interesting new twist to a familiar mechanic, and will likely lead to plenty of new intellectual stalemates around the table as new strategic options emerge and players are forced to relinquish some of their sovereignty over the previously untouchable OPGs.  I would like to see some "miracle transaction" opportunities on crisis cards and the like, for example having the chance to trade a player's miracle for some powerful printed effect, or the ability to steal or deprive other players' miracles.

Daybreak comes with two new game boards, the Rebel Basestar and the Demetrius.  The most important appears to be the latter, as it unlocks the new Mission cards, which trigger major developments in the fight for survival on both human and cylon sides.  The rebel basestar is one element of this struggle, as it is a common ground which can change sides depending on the events that unfold.  It's not yet clear how contested this board will be, but in addition to the invaluable Basestar Bridge in Exodus it is likely to add some much needed variety to the occasionally stale revealed cylon game.  By striking a balance between human and cylon utility, it may also mitigate the danger that the Basestar Bridge presented of making revealing early too strong of a move.
As with previous expansions, new mechanics forge the way for new endgames, and Daybreak has the slightly underwhelming Earth objective, which is essentially the vanilla Kobol but with a final distance of 10 rather than 8.  This might be a misstep by the designers as BSG already has the potential to be a preposterously long game, and the lack of an exciting new finale may diminish the replayability of the new objective in comparison with previous expansions.  It does however offer a clue as to how the balance of the game will be shifted by the introduction of Demetrius and other new components, that is to say that they will favour the humans, so it may be fair to expect opportunities to pick up miracles or activate genuinely helpful abilities from the new boards.  In my opinion this is something that Pegasus attempted but failed due to Battlestar Pegasus being little more than a damage sponge.  FFG should have taken account of this with the Demetrius by making it more versatile and less costly to use, particularly in smaller games where positioning is more important.  It would be interesting if Daybreak were to emulate the lonely voyage of the Demetrius by sending out one or more players alone without the ability to return to Galactica, but this probably wouldn't fit with the existing design.

It's almost certain that there will be no involvement of angels Six or Baltar in this expansion, which is something that fans have been speculating about as the board game advances into the later seasons of the show.  The human-cylon dichotomy has already been dissolved by the cylon leader mechanic from Pegasus, so it's plausible that more third parties could enter the fray, and there may be more incidental expansions to come from FFG in the future.

In terms of new characters, Daybreak is the most abundant expansion so far, and in fact contains even more than the original core game.  Most of the sheets are already available on the preview site.  The four characters fitting into the traditional class moulds are Hot Dog, Doc Cottle, Romo Lampkin and Louis Hoshi, amply demonstrating the starvation of new character ideas that the designers are facing.  The first three seem to have fairly uninspired designs and don't threaten to be particularly useful or fun.  Hot Dog and Cottle both have some emphasis on civilian ships, which may imply that the space combat stakes are going to be raised again, hopefully capitalising on the outstanding Cylon Fleet board in Exodus.  Hoshi, on the other hand, imbues new usefulness into the increasingly overlooked ship locations and gives him a personal specialisation that compensates for the growing skill decks which become ever more practical with each installment.  I'm looking forward to playing a game as him, which sadly can't be said for his 3 mediocre companions.

The next set of new characters is of the innovative new format of re-imagined characters, cultist Baltar and political elite Lee, reflecting the stark contrast between their roles at the start and end of the series.  To me this is the most exciting development as it allows the designers to explore new aspects of the characters without diluting their roles.  Baltar's abilities both entail playing around with other people's miracles, which will inevitably echo some of the slipperiness and manipulation of the original. 

Finally, there is a host of new cylon leaders, now encompassing all 7 "contemporary" models and having new Motive cards instead of the old Agendas.  The motive mechanic appears to give leaders a degree of freedom as to which side they fight for, and possibly a chance to change allegiances at sleeper phase, which will be a profound improvement on the occasionally highly imbalanced agenda system.  There is also yet another new cylon fleet overlay, including the option to destroy the Resurrection Ship, and hopefully this will come with new opportunities for cylon leader-human fleet co-operation in the struggle for resurrection technology.

After the considerable loyalty overhaul of Exodus, FFG have done well to steer clear of further convoluting the loyalty deck, instead simply adding a new Sympathizer variant, the Mutineer, who might be the best half-loyalty yet.  4 and 6 player games have always been jeopardised by poorly aligned Sympathizers or Sympathetic Cylons, and everyone around the table is always desperate to not draw the card at sleeper phase, so a new flavour of symp can only be a good thing.  The Mutineer retains his identity and still picks up an additional loyalty card at sleeper phase, so all his plans and preparations don't have to evaporate the moment he picks up his card, which is a vast improvement.  His role is to generate and use Mutiny cards, whose purposes haven't been revealed, but will likely give him a much greater discretion when it comes to helping and hindering the humans, and keep his true loyalty ambiguous.


At this point the most enduring feature and criticism of BSG:TBG is the sheer amount of clutter on and around the many boards.  Although the excellent design accommodates this, it makes setting up and packing away a grand chore, and makes teaching the game a very daunting and time-consuming prospect.  If this can be addressed in Daybreak, it would be a blessing.  Another minor issue with the current game is the lack of fun variants for 4 players, but the Mutineer will probably put an end to that.


Given the obscene amount of content and sensible design choices that Daybreak is bringing to the table, I strongly suspect that it will be the best expansion yet, although that was true of the previous two as well.  Alongside the effortless cylon fleet and loyalty implementations from Exodus, the collective BSG experience is going from strength to strength.

 



24 comments:

  1. You can only play one - Battlestar or Game of Thrones?

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    1. Definitely Battlestar. Game of Thrones sucks if you start losing cause there's no way back in and you just have to be dragged along until the end of the game.
      But with Battlestar, a group can still drag you to victory with them.

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    2. Then again that is coming from someone who loses alot

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    3. Pay no heed to this prole, GoT is clearly the more gentlemanly game. I'd choose GoT every time if anyone else had the nuts to play it.

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    4. You only hate it because you're such a sneaky bastard that no one trusts you not being a cylon. Which you always turn out to be anyway.

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  2. Neither one appears in the top ten fantasy board games, is that because they're too complicated, too expensive, you two squabble over them...?

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    1. Top Ten board games are normally quite weird in my experience...A friend told me a few days ago that Agricola and Puerto Rico have been at the top for years now.

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  3. This is for Billy Bob.

    Battlestar Galactica - Peabody Awards - (also given to) - Game of Thrones - (featuring) - Will Champion - Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto...

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    1. I know Mr hamster I'm getting there. But I am doing my finals in university at the moment so my time is spread. I'm slowly writing it as i get bored of revising. Gotta write 3 months worth. It's a fat ass article

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    2. Well hey this is lively. You should split them up into articles, that is what all the pros seem to do. Saw one site that had like, one article of content over 10 pages...The cheek.

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    3. Good luck with those finals, Mr Billy Bob.

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  4. Sorry to be pedantic, but is 'commenters' a word?

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    1. After a quick google search it turns out it is. It means someone who makes or writes comments. Who'd have thunk.

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    2. Was on my way back to apologize and say it was a word but you got there first. Should not have doubted you.

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    3. If I don't get a link to a video of you on webcam grovelling in fear in a pool of your own filth within the next 5 minutes, then I shall accept no apology this day good sir.

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    4. As we speak I am eating of Humble Pie, sir.

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    5. Personally I think it is a lot more elegant to be referred to as 'one who comments' rather than a 'commenter'. But I am afraid of Billy Bob ( I think he may have the powers of deletion) so I'm shutting up.

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    6. Don't be scared of him, that would make him way too happy.

      I still haven't worked out the first language debate of Cynics, which was the plural of anonymous in English, so I will refrain from this one.

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    7. Surely the plural of anonymous is anonymice?

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    8. I just don't know, it keeps me up at night man...

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    9. How can you pluralize something like anonymous?

      It's an adjective, it is used to describe something, not denote an amount.

      She is anonymous.

      They are anonymous.

      Same word.

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  5. So can you choose any of the destination objectives or does it have to be earth now?

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    1. Holy balls, a comment about the Board Game, I'll pass it onto Simon. I'd assume you can pick and choose.

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    2. So far the only known requirements for the Earth objective are the Demetrius and rebel basestar (debatable) game boards and the mission card mechanic. Miracles aren't directly entangled with Earth objective, so they will be an optional module to add to the existing game.

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