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4 player games

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So we played a 4-player game tonight, which is a bit unusual for our group as we almost always play with 5-6.  It was one of the most unbalanced games I've ever played, and I've played well over 100 games of BSG.  Given our lack of 4-player experience I'm hoping to get feedback from those that play 4-player more often, was this experience so different for us b/c of the number of players or was it totally situational b/c of the Crisis cards…

2 Tory -- 3 Apollo
       |             |
1 Cally -- 4 Cain (me)

We used Core + Pegasus + CF Board but no other Exodus components.  The first 5 Crisis cards had no jump icons and the Cylon Fleet, consisting of Basestars and Heavy Raiders, showed up before our jump track moved at all; no Raiders on the board so both Basestars launched them when the icon did show up on turn 5 or 6, things looked kinda bad.  We kept the civies off the board and the jump track started going, at which point we drew a Cylon Genocide Crisis.  All four players were human so we slaughtered the Genocide check with 15 points over the necessary skill check total; everyone assumed there was a Cylon out there and overcompensated in the Skill Check to ensure we passed - passing wiped all Cylon ships from the board.  After seeing the results of this Skill Check we decided there was no Cylon player, we jumped 2, 1 and 2 distance, after Sleeper cards were passed out we were +2 Morale and +1 Fuel with Food and Pop at the starting points, we had very few Skill Check Crises come up so we each had a hand of 5+ cards, no damaged locations and no civies on the board with few Cylon ships stacked up thanks to the Genocide.  Cally got the Sympathetic Cylon and Tory got the the "brig someone" Cylon card. 

I kept drawing Critical Situation + Launch Scout and sat on Command for most of the game so I could combo it all with CAG Apollo; I thought he was the Cylon for a bit until he didn't screw me on a Crisis that would have sent me (current player) to the Brig, at which point it was clear that Tory was the Cylon.  Scouting showed me a 3-distance Destination (about time after all the crappy ones I buried), we jumped and the first Crisis let Tory execute me, came back as Tigh and she promptly executed me again with the 6 Politics card that passes location check immediately, came back again as Roslin with intent of OPGing to find Arrest Order and picking through Crisis cards for jump icons, Humans won the game with me triggering FTL, all Resources in the blue, only one damaged location and one Centurion on board.

5-6 player games frequently result in catrastrophic Human loss for us, so I'm wondering if this was so different due to:
4-player game
Odd combo of no skill check Crisis cards for much of the game
No Cylons before Sleeper (much more likely with 4 players than 5 or 6)
Cylon Genocide Crisis
Dumb Luck

Happy skinjob hunting and thanks for feedback!

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Hi Skowza,

My group has played predominantly four player games over the past three years, and we've had a lot of experience.  We agree that five/six is better than four, but we love the game a lot despite this (and fortunately we have been getting more five-player games lately).  What's also helped sustain our affection for BSG is that we've house-ruled a number of things to try to balance the game with four people. 

To start with, we play a lot of base+Exodus cards (skills/character/crisis but not CF or Ionian) and base+Pegasus+Exodus cards, and the Exodus Loyalty draw rules (one card left over), and we notice that, with four, it is less consistently balanced and more given to dumb luck.  It's a statistical fact that more people usually means less random variability, that is, that random factors influence outcomes less.  This along with the change in Loyalty mechanics makes for a significant shift in game play and mechanics compared to five or more player games. 

Overall, our experience is that in 4 player games, esp. with experienced players, the Humans win more.  Especially if Pegasus is involved.

Fewer players mean that often the early-draw Cylon finds it harder to hide unrevealed and sabotage the Humans on skill checks.  They end up having to reveal early - which relieves the humans and also makes for a less exciting game - or they have to help the humans in order to hide, which is unsatisfying most of the time.  In a five player game, it's easier to hide and sometimes you have a secret ally among the humans if you do get found out.

Also, as you point out, with four people, it is frequent that there will be no Cylon until the mid.  The humans have an incredible advantage at this point.  Particularly if the humans have traveled 3-3 or 2-3 distance, and even more so if Cain is on the team, the Cylons are screwed. 

Exodus Loyalty draw rules (with a card left over) also favor humans because it's possible that there may be *no* real Cylon at all, or no Sympathizer Cylon.  We favor that draw over the base game draw, however, because it tends to increase tension when a human is executed and redraws a new card.  I suppose this may be one thing we could change, though. 

For a long time, we played without the Pegasus board because it helped humans so much, but then we re-added it to keep things fresh.  When we played again with Pegasus, it again strongly favored humans, so we instituted the "basestars fire twice" rule: each one fires once at Galactica and once at Pegasus.  The Galactica hit can still be chosen on Pegasus, but not vice sersa.  This has helped the balance somewhat, sends more people to the sickbay, and increased game tension as we've had Pegasus blow up a few times - one time it blew up before the first jump. 

For a long time, we house ruled our Sympathizer card where the Sympathizer would *always* be a Cylon when they drew it, not a human in the brig under resource-red conditions.  Under resource-blue, they became a Hostile Agenda Cylon and under resource-red, they became a Sympathetic Agenda Cylon. (Hostile Agenda Cylon could not activate Cylon Fleet).  We have never gone back to the real rules.

What we have recently added, however, is that *everyone* (human) draws an Agenda at the half-way point and studies it before passing out new Loyalty cards and then the Sympathizer *does not reveal* who they are but follows their agenda secretly (if you didn't draw the Symp, your agenda is moot) and can action-reveal like a Cylon (but gets no SCC or reveal power, just becomes a Cylon).  This has made it more tense as to who the Cylons are and what they might be up to.  (Also, we have tweaked the Agendas and made our own cards, for what it's worth). 

So, that's how we have evolved over the years of playing four-player games.

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Thanks for the response Anacreon… I can see how Pegasus makes it so much easier but the whole experience just seemed so different compared to the larger player games.  Even though we had Pegasus available, we didnt set foot on it the whole time; it took a single damage b/c I didnt want to chance hitting Command on Galactica but was otherwise unused.  Not using the CF seems like it would make the game a lot easier for Humans too though, I remember games before Exodus when Cylon Attack Crisis cards never showed up, got buried by Roslin, etc and even without the Basestar Bridge I think its a better game mechanic than the Attack cards.  Basestars fire twice rule seems like a good one, we followed standard Sympathetic Cylon rules from Pegasus, but I like the idea of the SC not being immediately revealed, though I do feel like he/she should get some sort of bonus for revealing… isnt it actually punishing the SC to offer them the option of wasting a turn to reveal with no effect, or do yours mostly just stay in hiding the whole game?  I can't even imagine how much easier this would have been for Humans in this game if the extra Loyalty card had been one of the Cylon cards.
I also never used my OPG with Cain b/c I kept Scouting crap Destinations and never knew what would be on top of the deck; by the time I did Scout a 3-distance we were one square from jumping anyway so I didnt bother.

We've never been able to decide if the suggested Resource modification is a good idea; even a little bit of change could have a huge effect, but maybe next time we do 4-player (probably like a year from now or something) we'll reduce all the Resources at start.  But then that makes it easier for Human team to knock a Resource into the red before Sleeper so the SC sides with them…

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I think our Symps end up staying in hiding - even when everyone knows its them - unless they get brigged/executed or feel they need to "go more cylon" and reveal.  Since the original Symp never got a "reveal bonus," we never thought to give them anything, and never considered it might be a punishment to reveal and lose the turn, but it's a good point.  I am not sure what the reveal bonus would be, though.  Maybe the reveal should not take up an action, but since they go to the Res Ship right away, the best they could do is, what, get an SC card?  Or maybe they should get a SC card just for revealing unless they are in the brig or executed.  Not sure, as they might not even want the SC card.  We only just started playing this a bit ago, so we haven't altered much more. 

Pegasus is additionally helpful at a minimum in that it can soak up Cylon basestar damage.  It means reducing the chance of hitting vital points, notably FTL, but also the fuel resource token, Hanger Deck, or Armory when those are needed.  That being said, when The Beast in our games, we use it quite a bit on the Main Batteries, less so CIC (we don't like damaging Pegasus).  We've also been using the Engine Room more because, in general, our human players have developed the mantra "move move move." 

I will say that recently in a 4 player game, the President and Admiral were the Cylon/Symp team and totally hogtied the two humans in the brig, and then just proceeded to brutalize the humans until they killed them on a jump that lost on fuel.

I should also add that we play almost *every* game by picking characters blind within their 4 stacks, so we never know who we're going to play, but we know they'll be distributed almong the classes.  This has made us play characters we might never choose.  (It also hurries up the picking process).    So, people do end up playing Anders… and complaining about it no end.

As for the Cylon Fleet… yeah, I *want* to use it, but the few times we did, people were pretty "meh."  I don't know why we've had such bad CF games in contrast to other people.  Maybe we should try it again.  

I don't know if I would resource modify.  The issue would be that uncomfortable feeling that if the game was lost on some reduced resource, the human players would feel cheated, and it would sour the game and make the 2-3 hours feel lost. 



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Anacreon said:

Exodus Loyalty draw rules (with a card left over) also favor humans because it's possible that there may be *no* real Cylon at all, or no Sympathizer Cylon.  We favor that draw over the base game draw, however, because it tends to increase tension when a human is executed and redraws a new card.  I suppose this may be one thing we could change, though. 

If you want to guarantee that the Sympathizer Cylon card is drawn, during the sleeper agent phase you should set aside one of the initial cards to be the leftover card and then add the Sympathizer Cylon card. This will guarantee that the Sympathizer Cylon card isn't the card left over.

In addition if you want to tweak the odds that the regular Cylon card comes out earlier, you can make the loyalty deck be short one or two 'Not a Cylon' cards which you'll add along side with the Sympathizer Cylon card during the sleeper agent phase. With regular characters, it's 50% that you get a pre-sleeper Cylon. If you waited to add one or two of the 'Not a Cylon' cards until the sleeper agent phase it will go up to 57% or 67%.

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