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5
Go to the Pandemic page

Pandemic

123 out of 135 gamers thought this was helpful

Pandemic is a pure cooperative board game, putting players in the role of researchers, doctors, et cetera working for the CDC or WHO, trying to prevent the spread of four deadly new diseases (represented by colored wooden cubes) from wiping out mankind. The game board is split into four colored regions, corresponding to the four colors of disease that will proliferate there, and there are two decks with cards corresponding to each city on the board. Players use these cards to perform many of their actions: playing a card corresponding to a city lets you travel to there from any space on the board, FROM there to any space on the board, build a Research Center there, put that card into the hand of another player who is in that city with you, and discarding five cards of one color at a Research Center corresponding to that color allows the players to research a cure for that disease. Players can also move to an adjacent city, or treat disease in their city, without using any specific cards. Every turn, players get 4 actions to split any way they like among any of these actions. There are five different characters, each with a special ability that helps the player’s team out, often involving skipping or lowering costs for actions. Operations Expert doesn’t need to discard a card to build a Research Center, Dispatcher can move other players, Scientists need one fewer card to study a cure, and so on.

Meanwhile, multiple city cards are drawn from another “Infection” deck to indicate where the disease spreads to on each turn. Allowing too much disease to collect in one city has catastrophic effects — more than 3 disease cubes causes an outbreak, which means the disease spreads into EVERY adjacent city, which can trigger chain reactions. Worse yet, several “Epidemic” cards in the player deck cause the infection discard pile to be shuffled and placed on top of the deck, meaning the same cities will break out repeatedly. Eight outbreaks, and the game is over and humankind is doomed; same deal if a disease spreads so much there’s no more cubes of its color, or the player draw deck runs out.

Since Pandemic is a pure cooperative game, the only “opponent” is the infection deck (and its friends, the epidemic cards in the player draw deck). Without any room for an antagonist player to strategize, the pseudo-program the deck plays out has to be VERY hard to overcome, because it can’t adapt to your strategy or plan ahead. To win at Pandemic, you HAVE to play as a team. That’s why the people that love this game love it, and that’s why I hate it.

Other reviews for this and other co-op games will warn you to avoid “the general” or “co-op co-opt”, wherein one player takes charge and bosses around the other players to do what he wants. That makes a co-op game no fun and sort of pointless. The problem is, Pandemic is so purely cooperative it’s practically designed to create co-op co-opt. All information players have is freely sharable and there isn’t very much of it to keep track of. If the players don’t work in perfect concert according to the same gameplan, they are guaranteed to lose. If you’re in a group where some players are more experienced than others, then the choice presented to the group is: have the older players dictate every action for the new players, or lose quickly. If someone with a naturally aggressive personality is giving out orders, your options are: go along with the plan being forced on you, or lose because you aren’t cooperating enough. If two players disagree on a course of action, either one of them buckles right away, or you lose. There’s just not enough margin of error to accomodate player dissent. Even if everything goes perfectly and nobody is co-opting anyone’s experience, you don’t feel like you’re playing “your” character; you feel like you have a vote on all 4 characters and one of them happens to be the one you personally pick up and move.

Other games keep players distinct by having hidden information, or hidden traitors, or (in the case of Arkham Horror) just too much information per character for any one player to track. Pandemic has none of this. You’re not playing a character who works on a team — you play a member of a team who all have access to some characters. If there are any problems on that team, the game will do nothing to mitigate them. By the high ratings given to the game, you can tell it is the right game for some people. I just advise you to know what you’re getting into before you try it, and only do so if you really, really, really like co-op, and have a playgroup with no members that might speak over or dominate the others. If your playgroup isn’t this level, or you prefer being able to do your own thing and cultivate your own personal strategies in a game, stay away.

10
Go to the Android: Netrunner page

Android: Netrunner

155 out of 163 gamers thought this was helpful

Upon its initial release in 1996 by Wizards of the Coast, the gaming press lauded Netrunner as a brilliant, innovative, highly interactive, cerebral, and rewarding card game. Unfortunately, its only expansion took a full year to be released, by which time the game’s momentum had died out. Now, Fantasy Flight has brought it back from the dead, and it’s even better than it was before.

In “Android Netrunner”, players take on the goal of either a large, shadowy megacorporation from FFG’s cyberpunk “Android” universe, or a computer hacker trying to take them down. This is the first brilliant part of the game: the Corporation and the Runner are different decks, and they play completely differently past the most basic game structures — there’s only one card type that works the same for the Runner and Corporation. The Corporation is big and playing defense, installing agendas on remote servers and trying to advance them enough to complete them, and putting protective ICE around them to keep the Runner out. Most everything the Corporation plays is face-down until activated, making ability to bluff and provoke your opponent into traps very important. The Runner uses programs and hardware to hack into the Corporation’s servers (and not just ones where Agendas are installed — you can hack into the Corp’s hand, deck, or discard pile!), trying to break past the ICE and get access to the Agendas to steal them. Nothing they play is facedown, but they have more flexibility with their abilities and the initiative of choosing when to attack.

The game ends when someone scores 7 Agenda points, either by the corporation keeping them protected long enough to advance and score them, or the Runner successfully getting in to steal them. That’s right, the game is so asymmetrical, the Runner’s deck doesn’t even contain its own means to win the game. Playing the Corp requires ability to plan, and ability to bluff — once the Runner starts a run, you won’t be able to use anything in your hand, just things you have in play. You need to set traps for your opponent and keep them away from your valuable Agendas. The Runner needs to be able to read the Corp to avoid traps and ambushes, and properly manage risk and reward to get access to their Agendas without overextending yourself or taking too much damage.

The core gameplay is incredibly flexible and makes every decision meaningful — instead of having a bunch of defined phases wherein you draw cards, recover resources, play as many cards as you can afford, then attack, turns are made up of four “clicks”. Each click is used to draw a card, gain 1 credit from the bank, play a card, make a run, advance an Agenda, or activate one of your in-play cards that use up clicks (as well as a few other actions that are more specific, like getting rid of “tags” or using them to destroy the Runner’s resources.) The Corp’s first click for the turn is always used to draw a card, so they only get 3 clicks to spend, but other than that your turns are wide open. Card drawing is not the bottleneck it is in other games; players can draw 4 cards per turn if they want without using any dedicated draw cards. It’s an amazing, fluid system that manages to keep players feeling like they always have options, and keeps every credit and card valuable.

Android: Netrunner actually improves on the classic 1996 Netrunner in several notable areas, to boot. There are now factions for both Corp and Runner, and factions have different specialties and weaknesses to focus on, rather than every card being playable in every deck for the appropriate side. Corp factions are four different megacorporations the player can represent: Jinteki has the best ambushes and deals net damage to the Runner, Haas-Bioroid uses recursion and ICE that is staggeringly powerful but includes built-in ways to bypass it, NBN is unparalleled at tracing the Runner to “tag” them and use that information to screw with them by destroying resources/closing bank accounts/et cetera, and Weyland Consortium is big, ugly, has tons of money, and no sense of ethics whatsoever. Runner “factions” are more like philosophies: Shapers are in it to prove their skill and creativity, and have some of the best custom hardware and icebreakers; Criminals are in it to enrich themselves and get the most money and several tricks to gain easier access, and Anarchs just want to watch the world burn and focus on Viruses that weaken the Corp’s ability to fight back. Every faction has a character or corp card with a special ability and deckbuilding restrictions on it; in the core set, every deck must have a minimum of 45 cards and a maximum of 15 “dots” of out-of-faction cards; faction-aligned cards have one to five dots in the corner indicating how easy they are to splash into other decks. This gives players ability to customize, but still keeps them roughly sticking to their faction of choice.

The only problems with the game are very, very minor. There’s an ambiguity in the rulebook about if the Corp’s fixed card draw counts as an action or not (which is relevant a few times given that certain things can be used after actions but not before them), the special names given to the Runner’s hand and discard pile (“grip” and “heap”) are silly, and there’s one Corp card, Scorched Earth, that kind of forces Runners to always play as if their opponent had it in hand because it will kill them immediately if they leave themselves open. And… that’s pretty much it. Everything else about the game is pure genius from top to bottom and a shining example of everything a card game can and should be. Buy it. You won’t regret it.

8
Go to the Battlestar Galactica: Exodus Expansion page
32 out of 34 gamers thought this was helpful

“Exodus” is the second expansion for the Battlestar Galactica board game, roughly covering the third season of the television series. Like “Pegasus”, it adds more gameplay mechanics and options in addition to the standard batch of characters, skill and crisis cards. And like Pegasus, some of these options are implemented better and a lot more worthwhile than others. Many of these mechanics focus on making playing as a Cylon more interesting and involve more choices; unfortunately, this also makes the Cylons more powerful, when they were in a pretty good place already.

The expansion is structured as three independent modules that can be added to the base game, or game with the Pegasus expansion, as well as a small set of new skill and crisis cards. There are 4 new skill cards for each skill type in the base game: three 0-strength cards that have abilities that trigger when revealed in a skill check, and one powerful but rare 6-strength ability. The new Crisis Cards introduce a new “Consequences” mechanic, where an additional negative effect is triggered by a 0-strength card being played into a skill check regardless of whether it passes or fails, but they’re so infrequent as to be a non-issue.

The first, and best, of Exodus’s three modules is the Cylon Fleet Board option. Playing wit the CFB introduces a new Title for humans — the CAG, who manages Vipers and civilian ships — adds a new board and new location for Cylon players, and removes all Cylon Attack cards from the Crisis deck. Instead of Cylon ships only appearing when an attack card is drawn, they steadily build up on the Cylon Fleet Board. As more ships are placed on the CFB, the Pursuit Track increases, and civilian ships are placed on the board. When the Pursuit Track maxes out, the entire Cylon fleet jumps in to attack Galactica. Most importantly, when Galactica jumps away, the Cylon ships are not discarded — they return to the CFB, and will come back in full force when they max out the Pursuit track. Pilots are given more to do with this option, as they can now escort civilians off the board, and destroying Cylon ships is more urgent since jumping no longer gets rid of them. The Cylon location “Basestar Bridge” gives Cylon players new options involving the CFB, allowing them to place raiders, place civilians, advance the Pursuit track or lower the Jump Prep track, or damage Galactica directly. It’s nice to have another option, but the Basestar Bridge is often SO good, you’d be a fool not to use it. Even though the CFB option gives the humans the CAG title and the tougher and faster MarkVII Vipers, it’s still a major advantage for the Cylon side.

The second module is called “Conflicted Loyalties”, and is meant to extend the “paranoid mistrust” period of the game by making it harder for humans to find Cylons. It adds two new types of “You Are Not A Cylon” loyalty cards, Personal Goals and The Final Five. Personal Goals are cards that have a certain objective on them that is somewhat harmful to the human side, one might require the fleet to have made a one-distance jump, or ask a player to discard 20 strength worth of Skill Cards, or send himself to Sickbay or the Brig. If, by the end of the game, a human player has not taken an action to reveal and complete a Personal Goal he has, the fleet loses a resource indicated on the card — which could turn a victory into a loss. By making players make sub-optimal plays, it’s easier for Cylons to hide and subtly sabotage the humans’ goals. Final Five loyalty cards represent characters who are allied with humanity, but are actually one of the Final Five models of Cylon and desperately trying to keep that fact secret. As such, Final Five loyalty cards all have some negative effect when viewed by another player: they can damage Galactica, execute the viewer, cause all players to discard cards, etc. Now, viewing a player’s loyalty cards can be dangerous, and players have legit reasons to say “You do not want to look at my loyalty”, making it easier for Cylons to hide behind the same excuses. Unfortunately, as-written, Conflicted Loyalties are ALL downside for the human players: Goals take an action to complete, require you to make somewhat harmful plays, can result in you getting a new loyalty card and changing sides if revealed before the endgame, and the only reward you get is “not losing a resource that wouldn’t have been at risk if you hadn’t played Conflicted Loyalties to begin with”.

The third module is the “Ionian Nebula”, a new Destination like Kobol in the base game and New Caprica in the Pegasus expansion. It adds the most rules and new mechanics, and unfortunately is also the worst of the new additions. Playing with the Ionian Nebula adds trauma tokens and allies; trauma tokens are collected by players to represent their personal growth or decay over the course of the game, and allies are minor characters who appear in the fleet and can help or hinder humanity’s efforts. Trauma tokens are either benevolent (good) or antagonistic (bad), every player starts with some and gains more every time they are sent to sickbay or the brig. Allies are placed at fixed locations in the fleet, and are given a face-down trauma token; players encounter them at the end of their movement, and the ally does something good for the humans if the trauma token on it is benevolent, and bad if it’s antagonistic. Then, after encountering the ally, a new ally is drawn, and the player places one of their own trauma tokens on it facedown. (Cylons can also place trauma tokens on allies, if a location with an ally on it is damaged or destroyed.) When the fleet jumps to distance 8, a special phase called “The Trial / Boxing The Line” begins, and players reveal the trauma tokens they have — a human player with too many Antagonistic tokens, or a Cylon player with too many benevolent tokens, can end up eliminated from the game.

You can see the idea behind this mechanic: the way to get rid of trauma tokens is to place them on allies, so you can either help your TEAM by giving good tokens to the allies and keeping the bad ones, or you can help YOURSELF by placing the bad ones and keeping the good ones so you are less likely to be eliminated. And unlike the other additions, it doesn’t notably favor Cylons over humans; the allies can provide new and powerful benefits to the human team. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work that well in execution. Allies tend to get stuck on locations nobody wants to go to, and new allies don’t enter play until a current one leaves the board. Two of the trauma tokens are “disaster” instead of benevolent or antagonistic, and when a human draws them they are immediately executed, which is always terrible. Cylon players can get new trauma tokens (a new Basestar damage token assigns trauma to Cylon players), but have few opportunities to get rid of them. And part of resolving The Trial / Boxing The Line is playing “Crossroads cards”, which represent pivotal events and have varying effects based on what trauma tokens are put on them — but they end up making the resolution of The Trial far too random and make all your efforts managing trauma useless, and one of them is almost guaranteed to get the Admiral executed.

Exodus is best played with the Pegasus expansion, which tended to help out the human side more than it did the Cylon. It’s certainly not perfect, but is definitely a worthwhile addition for groups familiar with the ins and outs of BSG and ready to shake things up.

8
Go to the Resident Evil Deck Building Game page
88 out of 95 gamers thought this was helpful

You would think the Umbrella Corporation would have learned by now: zombies are bad news. But noooooo, someone always has to play God, and figure that THIS time, their development of zombie bioweapons will work perfectly and they’ll all get rich. Well guess what: it didn’t, and now you’ve got a Mansion swarming with undead on your hands.

In the Resident Evil DBG, players take on the role of one of the characters from the Resident Evil series, and compete to build up an arsenal and clear out the infected from the Mansion before taking on the big boss monster — infected are worth various amounts of “Decorations” corresponding to how tough they are, and the player with the most Decorations when the boss is killed wins. Well, there are several game modes, but this is the one most often played, and the one most relevant to a review.

As a deck building game, your objective is to build your deck, making it a finely-tuned engine of destruction. Your basic card types are Ammunition (your resource), Actions (which let you do special things), and Weapons (which are what you use to attack zombies and get Decorations), as well as Items, which are kind of like Actions and usually remove themselves from your deck on use. Unlike a lot of other DBGs, cards in your deck still cost resources: weapons require a certain amount of Ammo to fire, which is produced by your Ammunition cards in addition to the Gold you use to add more cards to your deck. This means it’s not enough to have enough gold to buy an expensive gun, you have to be able to fire it as well, so Ammunition cards are always required.

There’s also an interesting tension inherent to how you build your deck and play. You can just keep to yourself, making your deck stronger and leaner and more effective by building straight to the more powerful weapons. Or, you can go for weaker but easier to buy weapons, and attack the Mansion earlier — not only will you get points earlier and thus gain a lead, but character cards have abilities that activate when you reach a certain number of Decorations and make them more effective. On the other hand, if you go into the Mansion and turn up an enemy that you don’t have the firepower to kill, it will damage you, possibly taking you out of the game for a round and putting you behind, and as the game goes on and you get more powerful you’re going to spend more time taking the weaker weapons you bought out of the deck again. The decision to play cautious and build up, or be aggressive and go for higher risk and reward, is a tricky one you must make based on your character’s abilities, your opponent’s abilities, and what strategies they seem to be employing.

While it’s fun to go kicking in doors and blowing zombie heads off, especially if you have a group of RE fans who know the characters and monsters, the game does have some notable flaws. In the basic set, only two monsters in the Mansion have over 40 Health, which kind of makes some of the tension in being aggressive vs cautious moot. Some of the characters have versatile abilities that you can choose how best to employ, while others, unfortunately, have abilities that pretty much lock you into one strategy by only working on a certain type of weapon. And some characters are way, way more powerful than others. Adding expansions can solve these problems by introducing more tougher Infected and more characters that are fun to play with. Also, the boss Infected (Uroboros Aheri in this set) is huge, ends the game when killed, does enough damage to kill several characters outright from full health, and is shuffled into the deck like any other normal monster, then REshuffled instead of being placed on the bottom when he comes up and isn’t defeated — you can run into him in the early game, which sucks, and in one game with a friend who had never played before, he ran into Uroboros Aheri three times in a row, killing him every time and leaving him with little to do. He was not eager to play the game again. And the first few turns of the game are quick but boring, with almost everyone going “Buy Ammo x20, your turn”.

Still, it’s a fun game that’s easy to pick up and most of the time runs pretty quickly. If your group contains fans of the Resident Evil series, or folks who want a deck-builder with less castle-building and more zombie-decapitating, definitely give this one a shot.

8
Go to the Betrayal at House on the Hill page
53 out of 60 gamers thought this was helpful

Betrayal at House on the Hill is a semi-cooperative game where a group of characters explore a spooky haunted house one board tile at a time to reveal the creepy secrets and hidden treasures within. At the start of the game, players don’t know much about how the game is going to play out or even how to win — as they explore the house, certain rooms cause them to draw Omen cards and carry out their effects, then roll a batch of dice; if the total rolled is less than the number of Omen cards drawn so far, the Haunt begins. The Haunt dictates what the objective of the game is, as well as who is the Traitor trying to stop the players, based on what the omen card that triggered the Haunt was and what room it came up in. There are dozens of possible Haunts that can come up, each detailed in separate books for the Traitor and the rest of the players, which often don’t give all the information about how the other side is going to win.

Competitively, it’s terrible. There is a lot of dice rolling, and Haunts can drastically favor one side or the other. Seen purely as a “game” game, it’s not very good. Luckily, that doesn’t matter, because Betrayal has the trait that really matters — it’s fun. Betrayal is the archetypal “social game”: the rules are there not to challenge players or allow them to exercise their skill, but to build a framework where fun things happen. And at this, it succeeds admirably.

The Haunts have a definite feel of schlocky 1950’s B-movie charm to them, with scenarios involving stuff like mummies, evil dopplegangers, the house actually being a giant monster trying to eat you, bizarre alternate dimensions, alien invaders, and creepy little dolls. Each Haunt has its own specialized rules and quirks to it, so there are a lot of different ways things can go, but as most of the special rules are particular to their Haunt and not in use most of the time it doesn’t feel bogged down or overly complex. Haunts feel really, really varied, and it’s fun to get a new one you’ve never played and madly try to figure out what’s going on and how to stop the craziness going on around you. And there are enough Haunts in the book that coming across one you’ve played before is more likely to be nostalgic than disappointing. The game oozes flavor, and it’s the kind of thing that inevitably gets the group laughing and reading everything aloud in really, really hammy voices. Turns pass quickly, so players rarely feel bogged down, and barring a couple locations where they can be held up by repeated bad rolls they’ve almost always got something they can do.

Betrayal isn’t for everyone. If you enjoy games exclusively or primarily for competition or intellectual challenge, there won’t be much to sink your teeth into here. And you kind of have to be careful not to play it too often, or the haunts risk becoming familiar and losing their most compelling element of the unexpected. And there’s WAY too many pieces in the box, as each Haunt that requires tokens of some kind gets completely unique ones — there’s going to be five chits in there for various “organs” that will only ever come into play in the “the house is alive!” scenario and sit around in the box almost every time you play, and then when that scenario DOES come up you’ll have a **** of a time finding them. Still, if you’re looking for a great social game for your friends or family, equally playable and enjoyable with kids or adults, Betrayal at House on the Hill may be right up your alley.

6
Go to the Munchkin page

Munchkin

46 out of 53 gamers thought this was helpful

If you, like me, were a kid in the mid-90s, you probably remember the Nintendo 64 game “Mario Party”. You’d be hanging out with your friends or your family, and want to play a game together, and someone would say “Oh, why don’t we play Mario Party? That’s always fun!”

Half an hour later, all of you are ****** off at each other, shouting that this game is unfair and stupid, punching each other in the arm, unplugging each other’s controllers, swearing openly when your stars got stolen yet again and Tyler got like eight without even TRYING. By the end, everyone is either angry, or just wants the game to be over with.

Then a week or so later, you’re hanging out again, and someone will say “Oh, why don’t we play Mario Party? That’s always fun!” The cycle repeats.

Munchkin is the Mario Party of tabletop games.

A comedy card game about adventurers out for treasure and XP, Munchkin’s high degree of randomness and “screw your buddy” factor have given it a reputation as a great party or “filler” game for avid gamers to unwind with in between RPG sessions or when they just don’t have time for a longer, more involved game. This despite the fact that while people are actually PLAYING the game, past the first few rounds, everyone is either angry or bored just wanting the game to end, and games can drag out to take up the whole night.

Gameplay is simple and easy to learn: every player is an RPG character who starts at level 1, with some treasure adding bonus levels, who fights monsters in the dungeon by flipping cards over from the dungeon deck. If the player’s total level is higher than the monster’s, they defeat it, gaining at least one level and some amount of treasure, depending on how strong the monster was. First player to level 10 wins. In addition to monster cards, the dungeon deck can have useful items for players to have, or to screw other players with, such as new races or classes, traps, or abilities to make other monsters stronger or weaker.

Monsters and treasures are lighthearted and wacky, and the premise certainly sounds fun, but it never really comes together. You need high levels to beat monsters, and beating monsters is the only way to get more levels (and treasure, which adds to levels), and when you kick in the door in the dungeon you’re just as likely to face a potted plant as you are a medusa, so players who get unlucky early on can get shut out pretty easily. In fact, most everything that happens until the very endgame is decided by luck, and there’s few ways to have or reward a good strategy. Nearly every game ends the same way, as well: one or more players are at level 9 and need to kill one more monster to win, every time they fight one, all the other players play their interfering cards on it to make the fight harder, and the one who wins is the guy who was lucky enough to come later in the turn order after everyone’s run out of cards, or the one who is lucky enough to fight a level 1 monster that the other players can’t buff up enough to beat him.

People remember Munchkin as fun because they really, really like the premise of it. A wacky comedy dungeon crawl card game just sounds like it should be a good time, right? But Munchkin just can’t live up to the promise of its premise. Some groups may find it enjoyable when they are actually playing it, but for most it simply isn’t worth the time or effort.

8
Go to the Battlestar Galactica: Pegasus Expansion page
40 out of 41 gamers thought this was helpful

Pegasus is the first expansion for Battlestar Galactica, covering the second season of the TV show. In true Fantasy Flight tradition, the expansion isn’t just content to add more of what’s already there — skill cards, quorum cards, characters, Crises — but to introduce a slew of entirely new mechanics into the mix. Some of these new mechanics work better than others, but luckily they needn’t all be used together.

The Pegasus expansion adds the titular Battlestar Pegasus, another ship in the human fleet with location abilities that are more powerful and more risky than those on Galactica or Colonial One in the base game, Cylon Leaders, a new character type who start the game as Cylons but whose true loyalties are always in doubt; Treachery skill cards, which subtract from almost all skill checks and have abilities only usable by Cylon players; Reckless skill cards, which grant benefits to skill checks but trigger detrimental effects from Treachery skill cards played into them; and the New Caprica phase, and endgame replacing the Kobol destination where the human players survive Cylon occupation and oppression until they can make their escape.

New skill and Quorum cards provide more variety and options to all players, as well as making things more unpredictable, and the new Crises fit in with the base game’s very smoothly. The Battlestar Pegasus adds interesting options with its increased risk-vs-reward abilities. Pegasus CIC and Main Batteries can do more damage to attacking Cylons than Weapons Control, but can also hurt the humans on a bad roll, and killing a suspected Cylon with the Airlock is a much more decisive solution than sending them to the Brig, but the consequences of getting a human by mistake are worse. Treachery skill cards can give revealed Cylons a couple more options to use on their turn, but most of them only trigger when played into a Reckless skill check, and revealed Cylons don’t have a way of making skill checks Reckless; human players just tend not to use Reckless abilities once the Cylons players are known, and unrevealed Cylons have few ways of getting Treachery and fewer ways of using the ones they get without tipping their hands. Treachery’s still a worthwhile addition to the game, but it doesn’t quite accomplish what it sets out to do.

Players also have the option of starting as one of three Cylon Leaders, with their own special rules. Instead of a Loyalty card, Cylon Leaders get an Agenda, which is Sympathetic or Hostile depending on the number of players in the game. Cylon Leaders can switch between being a Cylon player and “Infiltrating” as a human player at will, and their Agenda card describes specific conditions required for them to win: one may want to salvage Galactica and thus want the humans to lose, but Galactica to be only lightly damaged when they do, another may want humanity to prove its worth, and thus want the humans to win, but only after having lost a great deal of ships or resources. Each agenda is supposed to require the Cylon Leader to help both sides, meaning neither side is quite sure who they work for — is Leoben helping the fleet survive because he wants them to win, or because he wants them to have their hopes crushed at distance 7? Is Six sending raiders at us to test us or to kill us? Unfortunately, some of the Agendas are much worse than others, and there are few enough Agenda cards (6 in each deck, 4 pro-human in Sympathetic and 4 pro-Cylon in Hostile) that the bad ones can’t really be taken out without throwing off the proportions. Testing the humans’ worth requires the Cylon Leader to play both sides, but “Join The Colonials” just requires them to be in the human fleet at game’s end… so how are they different from a human player?

The most lackluster addition has to be the New Caprica segment. It replaces the last jump cycle of the game, beginning when the human fleet reaches distance 7, and has the humans surviving on Cylon-occupied New Caprica long enough for Galactica to return to orbit, get all the civilian ships out of impound, and jump the **** out of there. It has new rules, new Cylon forces, a new board, and a separate Crisis deck, but mostly just drags the game’s length out. It can be cool to play once or twice, but most groups just go back to using the Kobol objective.

So, Pegasus isn’t perfect, and some of its more ambitious new developments can have some heavy flaws. Wisely, the expansion is structured such that you don’t have to use all of the new additions, and you can just add the parts that work and leave the parts that don’t, usually New Caprica, in the box. Overall, the expansion is definitely worth your time, providing new options to explore and new abilities to become a welcome part of the “core” gameplay, and then a couple new gimmicks on top of that you can try once or twice and then leave behind.

10
Go to the Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game page
65 out of 72 gamers thought this was helpful

The Cylons were created by man. They rebelled. They evolved. They look… and feel… human. Some of them are programmed to believe they are human. There are many copies. And they have a plan.

Players in Battlestar Galactica take on the roles of leaders and notable figures of the Colonial fleet, the last remnants of humanity after the villainous mechanical Cylons obliterated the 12 Colonies on which they lived. They will have to deal with crises from outside and within the fleet that drain away their precious resources, fend off attacks by Cylon ships, and root out who among them is secretly a Cylon infiltrator working to destroy them from within.

That last part is where the real meat and replay value of the game lies. Like Mafia / Are You A Werewolf?, BSG is at its heart a social game about finding out who among you is a horrible murderous traitor. But unlike those party games, where the only way to progress toward each side’s goal is to remove players, BSG provides many more ways each side can help or hinder the mission’s goal, subtle or overt, and thus more ways for humans to determine who among them is a traitor and for Cylon traitors to be clever and sneaky about it. Most crises require the fleet to pass “skill checks” to avoid Bad Stuff happening — every player plays some amount of cards facedown into the center, two cards are added from a random deck, they are shuffled, and their numbers totalled, with certain designated types of card adding to the total and others subtracting. Was that 5-point Piloting skill card that tanked the check bad luck from the random deck, or is one of our pilots a Cylon? With multiple ways the fleet can be destroyed and multiple avenues to approach that destruction, the best course of action on any player’s turn isn’t always clear. Did the Admiral spend his turn drawing more skill cards instead of shooting down enemy raiders because he’s worried about passing skill checks, or because he really wants those raiders to blow up Galactica? The President just got to look at another player’s loyalty card and said he was a Cylon. Is he really a Cylon, or is the President the Cylon, and trying to get us to fight each other?

And just when you think you have a handle on who to trust, things get more complicated. Players are dealt a loyalty card at the start of the game, telling them if they are a human or a Cylon. But when the fleet has jumped halfway toward its destination, the Sleeper Agent phase happens, and players are dealt another loyalty card — meaning some of them were Cylons programmed to believe they were human! This does a great job of keeping the element of mistrust and paranoia stable longer, and creates interesting dilemmas for human players to deal with and cylon players to exploit. Do I use my character’s powerful once-per-game ability to help the humans survive now, when I don’t know for sure if I will still be human after the Sleeper Agent phase? It’s entirely possible that there will be no Cylon players at the beginning of the game, and both Cylon loyalty cards will be dealt out in the Sleeper Agent phase. If we focus our efforts on rooting out Cylons early, will we waste our time hunting ghosts? If not, will we be giving a Cylon infiltrator all the cover she needs? And if I AM a Cylon, do I play it cool and let people think we’re just getting unlucky, or go more overt and start putting the screws to them early and often?

Eventually, the Cylon players will be found out or reveal themselves, and move to a separate section of the board where they start trying to destroy everything without bothering to hide it. At this point, the game shifts from paranoia and mistrust to the brave humans weathering the worst the Cylons can throw at them, desperately trying to survive long enough for the fleet to jump to Kobol, their new home. This part of the game loses the most social elements of trust and betrayal, but is still great fun, combining the best aspects of a co-op and competitive boardgame. Humans have fun fighting through impossible odds, Cylons have fun tricking the humans and leading them on until they can reveal their loyalty at the most damaging time.

The game does a fantastic job of capturing the feel of the show’s early seasons, but knowledge of the show is not at all required to play or enjoy the game, and I’ve met many people who hated the show but still love the game. It takes a good long while to play the first few times you do so as you learn the game, and sometimes every random element can align to just totally screw over one side or the other, usually the humans… but if a game had to be utterly perfect to score a 10/10, 10 wouldn’t even be on the scale. Battlestar Galactica is still a superbly enjoyable game with amazing replay value that I recommend without hesitation to anyone who enjoys board gaming.

7
Go to the Resident Evil DBG: Alliance page
21 out of 23 gamers thought this was helpful

The Resident Evil DBG is a fun game, but not without its flaws. One of the biggest was that there were only 2 cards in the Mansion deck with more than 40 health, meaning that characters could safely face almost everything in the deck rather early in the game. Alliances fixes that problem with several new higher-health enemies, including the scaling Los Illuminados Monk who starts weak if revealed early and becomes the devourer of worlds by the endgame, an Action card that allows players to increase health and damage of Infected revealed by other players, and Event cards in the mansion that can result in a player fighting two Infected at once, or shooting an explosive barrel and blowing their own face off. If you are anything like me, that last event will be funny every single time it happens.

The other major addition to the game is Partner mode, where a player controls two characters at once. One is the main character, and the other is the “partner”, who can attach weapons to use again and again without discarding or actions to provide an additional effect each turn, but who dies permanently if their health hits zero. That last part is my biggest problem with this mode; you can choose to lead an Explore with your partner and have them take the damage, but it’s just too risky to do so with any character with less than 90 or so health, because you know as soon as you decide to lead with your partner, she’s going to open up a door on the boss monster and get ripped in half, or be severely wounded and risk death from incidental damage on other monsters before you can heal her. Having cards attached to your partner is powerful, but scenarios with partners also have Action cards that provide excellent card drawing if yours died.

The expansion is advertised as being standalone, but unfortunately, the tools it provides for players just aren’t enough to deal with the increased difficulty. Health and damage on Infected are overall higher, but the average power level of Alliances-only weapons is a bit lower. Well, with the exception of the flamethrower, which is so disgustingly good in partner mode I recommend groups not use it as it is all reward, no risk or cost. Worse still is that as far as I saw, the only way to “trash” or remove cards from your deck entirely included in Alliances is a single action card which trashes a single card from your hand when used, without drawing cards beforehand to fill it, and does not trash itself upon use — it is entirely possible to have them all bought out, and end with no way of ridding cards from your deck, and even if you have one or two you won’t be clearing it very fast or with very much control. And some of the characters provided are so weak as to be useless, with a couple who only work in partner mode, one of whom is still terrible even in partner mode!

When mixed and matched with cards from the core set, the Alliances cards provide more interesting options for players and deeper, more challenging gameplay. On their own, however, they’re all sauce with no steak to pour it on.

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