Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gameplay: "I Attacked Us to Save Us"

Our last game included just four players and we took the roles as followed:

Me: Gaius Baltar
Jessica: Karl "Helo" Agathon
Mike: Lee "Apollo" Adama
Craig: Tom Zarek

Now, to preface this, before we played, I had run a few statistics and shared them with our group. One of the stats was the frequency that each of us was a Cylon. Everyone always thought that I had been a Cylon a disproportionate number of times and the numbers proved right. At that point, I had sided with the Cylons approximately 64% of the time. The next most frequent player had sided with the toasters 38% of the time. Pointing out that statistic did not help avoid suspicion throughout the game that followed.

I received my initial Loyalty cards and saw that, despite receiving two of them as Baltar and despite the fact that I am statistically more likely to be a Cylon, my allegiance was towards humanity. At least so far.

I took a quick look at the other player's skill access. Each of the three other players had access to Tactics. I was the only player that did not. I quickly devised what I thought would be an ingenious plan.

Baltar can draw a skill card from any skill set once the Crisis is revealed. I would discretely stack my hand with Tactic cards. Then, right after the Sleeper Phase, I would intentionally sabotage a skill check. If it turns out that I was a Cylon, it would be great because all of the purple cards would cast suspicion on the other players and not on me. And if I was a human, it would be fine as well. Sure, I would be acting against humanity, but it would take the suspicion off of me and focus it more on the other characters, thus helping us find who really was the Cylon. With a plan that good, how could I fail?

The first phase went quickly. Our first jump was a distance of three and it meant that the Sleeper Phase would come up quickly. Also, no one really seemed too worried about what cards I was drawing during the skill checks, so my hand was full of purple Tactic cards.

The next jump activated the Sleeper Phase. I was still human. However, we've become a very efficient at playing humans and all of our resources were in the blue. Apollo sympathized with the Cylons and left us. By everyone's actions, I was fairly certain that Apollo was human prior to the Sleeper Phase, so there was little chance of him being an unrevealed Cylon as well. Either Zarek or Helo must have been a Cylon.

Apollo's turn was next and he moved to the Human Fleet and checked my hand of cards. "Perfect!" I thought, "He'll see my Tactics cards and know it was me who sabotaged the upcoming skill check. Then he'll assume I am a Cylon and he might accidentally let slip his intentions before my turn and I'll be ahead of his game."

Then the perfect Crisis card came up. Losing it would hit our Morale and Tactics cards did not help the skill check. At the time, Morale was our highest resources, so I wouldn't be attacking anything vital. I tossed in four Tactic cards. This way, no one could rationalize anything but a traitor in our midst. Two could be blamed on Destiny and a third on the Cylon sympathizer, but the fourth would incriminate someone else... someone with a little purple Tactics box on their character card. Destiny also helped my plan by adding in a Red Piloting card that hurt our check. We failed it and everyone looked at the cards.

I eagerly added to the suspicious disbelief, "Look! Four purple cards! Obviously it is either Helo or Zarek." I thought that the human player would have to suspect the other character, the unrevealed Cylon.

Zarek's player said, "That's a lot of cards in there. Did someone maybe misread the skill check requirements?"

However, Helo's player was swift and quickly pointed out, "Baltar can get a skill card of any color. He could have easily done it."

Damn. Perhaps there was a little meta-gaming there. Helo was being played by my wife who never trusts me in games.

Anyhow, Helo then started to say that the unrevealed Cylon could be any of us, including Apollo. He might have been dealt the card in the first round.

That made me immediately suspect her. Usually human players tend to focus on one target of their suspicion and try to come up with any reason possible to suspect them. However, Helo was being logical and rational. That didn't make any sense. It also meant that she was trying to increase the number of suspects instead of narrowing it down. Obviously, a Cylon move.

So, Helo became the focus of my suspicion. I still had Baltar's ability to look at loyalty cards. So, I decided to ask to see Zarek's cards. I figured I would see two human loyalty cards and by me verifying his allegiance, he would trust me and we could turn on Helo and toss him into the brig. I peeked at Zarek's cards.

He was a frakkin' skinjob.

I immediately turned to Helo and said that he was a skinjob. Helo didn't trust me and said, "Or you could be one and lying to make me suspect him."

I decided to come clean and bare my soul to Helo to prove my allegiance so that we could turn on the skinjob. "Remember that skill check we failed with all the Tactics cards in it? I did that! I intentionally sabotaged the check so that people wouldn't suspect me and we could focus on the real traitor! Now I know it's Zarek!"

A pause. Then, "You intentionally failed that check?"

"Uh... Yeah." It was at that point that I realized that my plan sounded much better in my head than saying it out loud to another human player.

"Why would you try to fail a check?"

Admittedly, a good question, now that I thought about it. "So we could focus on the real traitor. I attacked us to save us. Look, if I really was a traitor, would I be telling you how I intentionally sabotaged us all?"

Somewhere there is logic in there. However, I did not have an easy time of getting the others to see it and I made no headway in gaining support against Zarek.

Over the next couple turns Zarek so nicely helped the humans. He played strong cards, he moved the civilian ships around away from the Raiders, he even gave up the Presidency (which I lost early in the game) and gave it to Helo, all the while I screamed like a maniac, "He's only helping us to make me look bad!"

Finally, it was worth it for Zarek to reveal himself and go to the Resurrection Ship. It was a bittersweet moment of vindication as I turned to Helo and told him, "See?!? I told you he was a Cylon!"

Helo's response was rather deadpan, "But you sabotaged us. You admitted it. You said you sabotaged us."

Anyhow, the efficiency of the humans had died in the second round, partly due to my intentional sabotage, but mostly due to the mistrust that had been spread. We were in a weakened spot once Zarek revealed himself and it was only a short time before the humans were starved out through food and water shortages.

I learned something from that game. First of all, no one I game with trusts me when it comes to Battlestar Galactica. Secondly, if you are going to attack humanity to save it, don't tell anyone what you did.

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