02 January 2022
Throw an old game into the mythos and see what happens
This article originally appeared in issue 62 of Tabletop Gaming. Pick up the latest issue of the UK's fastest-growing gaming magazine in print or digital here or subscribe to make sure you never miss another issue.
“Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game” whisper the gaming gods in your ear, so persistently that it can’t just be the wind. “You need to play Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game”, it tells you again. Despite being long out of print, and copies costing between £100-£200 it’s remained comfortably in the BoardGameGeek Top 100. When it seems like your only option is to turn to Tabletop Simulator and hope for a version there, how then do you proceed?
Well, you invite the original designer to reskin and retheme the game into an existing and popular franchise, and then sit back and let a whole new set of gamers understand why this remains one of the greats. Or at least, that’s what Fantasy Flight Games have done with Unfathomable. Whilst I’ve never played Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game, it’s fair to say I understand why this game was brought back to life once more.
Now, instead of being on a ship in space in the future, you’re on the steamship the SS Atlantica in 1913, with a perfect storm of Arkham based delights to accompany you. This game is full of deception and mistrust, making you completely paranoid of your fellow shipmates decisions, motivations, and even your own actions, as at least one of them is conspiring with the Deep Ones – and given the loyalty cards are randomly assigned, it might even be you. Did you think it was a better idea to do this instead of speeding up the ship? Did you really only have that action as an option, or are you a traitor? Did you put those cards in to thwart our attempt? Do I reveal myself as the traitor to set their progress back? From the first turn, you’re hooked.
There’s a lot to this game, and it matches the price tag pretty well. Not only do your games take up a full gaming session (more than I’d like to admit of that is reading the amount of text), but you finish with a sense that you’ve been on a journey. That’s partially because this is no beginning-middle-end style game. Victory in one area may cause trouble in another, and each time you think you’re getting somewhere, you might be right back to the start, and you’ve got plenty of decisions to make and actions to keep track of.
Take for example, a turn. Two actions per go, and can include skill cards for your character, but those may also be used for skill checks. Players can contribute a card to help or hinder a skill check, with two being added from the chaos deck – the latter making it tricky to work out who might have chosen not to help at all, and keeping suspicion everywhere.
In a manner that reminded me of Mansions of Madness (as you’d expect, there were more than a few similarities in the presentation using Cthulhu that made it an easier transition), the end of the turn triggers a mythos step, where something bad happens, and a subsequent Deep One action, which is pretty much even worse. All the while your game tracks are progressing (though a well timed traitor reveal can impact this), and that long gameplay time feels shorter and shorter. Like any Arkham game I’ve come into contact with, you can’t be surprised if you lose.
If I look for negatives, I might say that there’s a fair bit of text, a lot going on, and a ton to cram into your brain at once but… that’s almost expected in a game like this. Presuming that this is a streamlined version of the original, I can’t see any reason why you wouldn’t want this on your shelf. Bar perhaps the concern that the creatures may rise from the depths of the box to call you to the table…
Trust me when I say that you want this on your shelf.
PLAY IF YOU LIKED… Battlestar Galactica: The Board Game
Unsurprisingly, fans of Corey Konieczka’s original outing will be pleased with this Mythos-laden version. And for those with a sci-fi aversion, it’s an even easier one to pick up.
Designer: Tony Fanchi & Corey Konieczka
Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games
Time: 3-6 hours
What’s in the box?
- Learn to play
- Rules reference
- Game board with 4 resource dials
- 22 Plastic monster sigures
- 10 Character Sheets
- 3 Traitor reference sheets
- 6 Player reference sheets
- 10 Character standees
- 1 Current player token
- 4 Traitor rings
- 9 Passenger tokens
- 8-sided dice
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