Santa (actually Ares Games) dropped off this little gem just prior to Christmas and I have to admit, I was pretty geeked. I saw the prototype game at GenCon this year and was looking forward to kicking some toaster-ass. Ares Games has delivered with Battlestar Galactica Starship Battles.
I was worried this was going to be a reskin of Wings of Glory – it is not. First off the designers have captured the essence of what was saw on the TV screen with the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. When you play with the complete rules your ship must deal with kinetic energy and you can do those awesome maneuvers we saw, like rotating your ship while moving a different direction. Fracking awesome! This game does not portent to be a mathematically accurate simulation of space combat. Instead it favors fun and playability, which was exactly what I was hoping for.
First off, you get two Vipers Mk II’s and two Cylon Raiders from the most recent TV series. Ares has committed that this will cover the old TV series as well, so I have to admit I am excited at that prospect. The amount of stuff you get in the game is staggering – stands, pilot cards, maneuver cards, rulers, dice damage counters, talent cards, maneuver markers, asteroids, a scenario book and the plastic control panels (and more). The control panels are neat – they allow you to track your speed, kinetic energy, and the rotation of your ship.
Like Wings of Glory (or Sails of Glory for that matter) you use cards to determine your maneuvers. Firing is a matter of rolling dice to hit then drawing damage chips. For the Quick Start Rules, this is about all you have to master – meaning you can unpack this game and be playing in, per my calculations, about 15 minutes. The Quick Start Rules are enough to get you going but it is the Complete Rules that make this game purr. Here you deal with kinetic energy you build up in your flight maneuvers and you also can rotate. It took me a few test turns to fully get these rules down to where I understood them, but once I did I saw the brilliance of the design. It turns this game from a simple fighter combat into a more complex tactical simulation – especially rotating.
The complete rules also change the damage your ship takes, using the damage counters. It makes the games shorter when you start doing special damage to your enemies. The Complete Rules makes movement more fluid, breaking it into multiple phases. I found in my solo playtest that it shortened the game considerably.
The optional rules implement altitude changes, ala Ares Games peg elevation system, and introduces pilots and their talents. So you can play Apollo right down to all of his skills.
The miniatures are exquisite and a little larger than I anticipated – a pleasant surprise. I am sure in a matter of days there will be custom paint stuff out on the web for these but they are fully playable right out of the box and look awesome.
So what is the downside to this game? Well, the scale means we probably won’t be getting a miniature of the Galactica, Pegasus, or the fleet ships…my estimate is the Galactica would be over 18 feet long if built to scale (but would be awesome!). I am not sure how well this game will work with large battles, but I am willing to give it a whirl! I found you need some space for this game given some of the maneuvers you can do. Also, the series did not introduce a lot of new ships, which means expansion of this game is going to be likely pilots, talents, etc. I am looking forward to a Raptor mini though.
The upside of this game – it captures tactical space combat in a way that most game have struggled with for generations and does it with style and polish. The game cards and rulebooks have the corners clipped off of them to give them the feel of paper materials we saw in the series. It is that kind of attention to detail that makes this game sizzle and pop.
I give this a solid 10 out of 10 rating – definitely worth picking up and following. I can’t wait for the “classic” Vipers and Raiders from the old TV series – and the chance to mix things up between the two eras. Don’t flee from the Cylon tyranny – swing around and blast those toasters! By my command…