You May Also Like...

MB
Michael Barnes
December 12, 2019
W
WadeMonnig
December 11, 2019
MB
Michael Barnes
December 05, 2019
V
Vysetron
December 05, 2019

Mr. Face Review

Reviews
T
thegiantbrain
November 26, 2019
D
DavidNorris
November 21, 2019
W
WadeMonnig
November 20, 2019
MT
Matt Thrower
November 18, 2019
V
Vysetron
November 14, 2019
W
WadeMonnig
November 13, 2019
T
thegiantbrain
November 12, 2019
  • Reviews
  • Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles Review

Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles Review

Hot
MB Updated April 13, 2019
 
5.0
 
0.0 (0)
13595 0
Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles
There Will Be Games

One of 2018's best is the new king of its genre.

I'm going to open this review of Ares' new Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles with a few words of advice. Do not write this game off, assuming that you don't need it because already own a grand or so worth of X-Wing. Do not assume that, like the Star Wars miniatures games, that it is going to inevitably turn into a bloated product line with an insufferable "metagame" and eventual cannibalistic obsolescence. Do not assume that this game does not have currency because the license is for a TV show that ended long ago and rather badly at that. Do not be like I was a few months back and not really be all that interested in this title because it is pure frakkin' dynamite.

Designed by Andrea Angolino (one of the creators of Wings of War, the game Fantasy Flight copy/pasted to create their proprietary "Flightpath" system) with Andrea Mainini, Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles is the best spaceship dogfighting game on the market, period. I would almost go so far as to call it the best I've ever played - this game solves a lot of problems with the genre while creating new potential with some really innovative concepts. It is a little more complex- in terms of rules, not in terms of keyword interactions or loadout combinations- than the average X-Wing player may expect. But the richer, maneuver-focused gameplay and steeper learning curve buy quite a bit more detail and a stronger sense of piloting fighter craft in a zero-G environment.

The basic chassis of the game is still the same as Wings of War. Players play movement cards to depict the flight path (sorry FFG, that is not a trademark) of their miniature ships, trying to get a firing solution by lining up an enemy in your firing arc. There's a simple dice-based combat resolution, and hits come in the form of cards from a pool of damage chits that may yield 0 damage, cause the target to draw additional chits, or cause critical systems damage thus incurring various penalties. If you play with the Quick Start rules, there isn't really much special or distinguishing here- but stick with it, because once you break out the rules for kinetic movement, rotation, fuel expenditure, tailing, pilot flaws, and so on the FTL drive spools up and the game goes from good to best-in-class.

If you've watched the show, you've probably enjoyed seeing the Colonial Vipers strafe around Cylon Raiders, directional thrusters flaring, guns trained on the enemy while maintaining a forward orientation with directional thrusters. You can do exactly that in this game because of the absolutely brilliant combination of being able to rotate your ship during a maneuver with the effect of kinetic energy. Each turn, you have to set your speed (from -1 to 3) and this impacts which of the movement lines you can use on your secretly chosen card. But the faster you go this turn, the more kinetic energy you may have to deal with on your next turn and your pilot's Skill has an influence on this equation as well. And if you decide to pivot- these models are mounted on custom bases that allow for each model to effectively have both a facing for movement and for the forward arc- then you may find yourself twisting and turning while you continue moving in another direction. Then you can rotate to get moving eyes forward again- but that means too that you might drift right into a planetoid or another ship before you can make the heading change.

Let's say you can't cut it fast enough to avoid a collision. Good thing opted to change your elevation level during the planning phase! This is also decided secretly for each ship on the cool plastic panels for each craft. It's a high kinetic energy move, but moving up and down means that there are four layers of relative orientation represented by adding stems to your ship's base. So in the above example, you can dive under that obstacle and make a sharp climb to avoid it. This game handles vector movement in a highly abstracted fashion, but it is incredibly significant that it handles it at all. Past examples (recalling the nightmarish Attack Vector: Tactical) were too complicated or confusing. This is a simple way to manage the fact that two ships in space can be in any orientation to each other. It's true that your model isn't rolled upside down at 25 degrees and pitched 45 degrees, but those elements were the right things to abstract out of the equation.

Equally simplified is the shooting. There is no ordnance, at least at this point. There's just plain old guns like a Vickers on a Sopwith Camel, and I kind of love it that this is the case right now. No turrets, no EMPs, no torpedoes. You point and shoot, and you can practically hear that muffled gunfire sound effect from the show. But here again, the complexity budget is spent on more interesting things than ordnance type, such as factoring dynamic kinetic energy into combat resolution. Faster targets are harder to hit than slower ones. Some of these concepts have been around in other games, Wings of War included, but when combined with the 3D movement and orientation something new emerges out of all this especially if you are willing to go the extra mile and fold in all of the advanced and optional rules. I love the fuel rules in particular, that introduce the need to budget your moves, speed, and every rotation or elevation change. The pilot attributes are fun and add a little more detail. It all does feel uniquely like a Battlestar Galactica game, even with just two Vipers and two Raiders.

As a starter set, this is one of the best that I've ever seen. I would actually be completely satisfied if this were the end of the line. There aren't that many ships in BSG to represent anyway, just pilots really. Although more is coming including "classic" era ships, I'm hearing, rest assured that the game in this box is robust with lots of options and it is absolutely satisfying. I'm finding that flying two ships is plenty and with all of the pilot options for both the Cylon and Colonial ships you won't be at a loss for interesting match-ups. The "terrain", such as it is, isn't great (just some thin punch-out asteroids and planetoids) and the included scenarios are pretty humdrum, but the rest of the package is outstanding. The rules are well-written. The graphic design is on brand for BSG. The ships are slightly larger in scale than X-Wing, and rather shockingly they actually look better than many miniatures in that popular line. And in a nice bit of fan service, all the corners on all of the paper materials are cut.

I'm raving about this game anywhere and everywhere I can, but admittedly I feel like Zarathustra come down from the mountain trying to convince people of the coming of the Uberspiel. Even if this game turns out to be one of those games that doesn't meet the impossible sales challenge of the leading brand anyone interested in this type of game simply must give it a chance even if it's not supported by in-store play, world championships, and endless forum posts. This is a better game than X-Wing, which I called the best game of 2014 and played fervently for a couple of years. It's better than Armada, which I declared better than X-Wing despite its Cadillac price. The notion of "best" space battle game is a moving target, I suppose, but for right now this game has hit the bullseye by balancing process economy with rules complexity, narrative detail with judicious abstraction, and compelling planning with high stakes action.

Thanks to the fine folks at Ares Games for supporting quality games writing by supplying a review copy. There Will Be Games does not accept any payment or editorial direction from publishers or designers.


Editor review

1 reviews

Board Game Reviews 
 
5.0
Sell off X-Wing now, buy this game for about $50, and pick up a new space mat with the change.
MB
Top 10 Reviewer 69 reviews
Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles
Michael Barnes (He/Him)
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Sometime in the early 1980s, MichaelBarnes’ parents thought it would be a good idea to buy him a board game to keep him busy with some friends during one of those high-pressure, “free” timeshare vacations. It turned out to be a terrible idea, because the game was TSR’s Dungeon! - and the rest, as they say, is history. Michael has been involved with writing professionally about games since 2002, when he busked for store credit writing for Boulder Games’ newsletter. He has written for a number of international hobby gaming periodicals and popular Web sites. From 2004-2008, he was the co-owner of Atlanta Game Factory, a brick-and-mortar retail store. He is currently the co-founder of FortressAT.com and Nohighscores.com as well as the Editor-in-Chief of Miniature Market’s Review Corner feature. He is married with two childen and when he’s not playing some kind of game he enjoys stockpiling trivial information about music, comics and film.

Articles by Michael

Battlestar Galactica: Starship Battles
Michael Barnes
Senior Board Game Reviews Editor

Articles by Michael

User reviews

There are no user reviews for this listing.
Already have an account? or Create an account
Log in to comment

Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #289757 10 Jan 2019 21:36
Don't hold back. What did you think?
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #289767 10 Jan 2019 22:22
It’s aight
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #289775 11 Jan 2019 07:26
More than likely will not take off like X-Wing due to things like price (cheapest here is £44, you get four ships) and expandability/variety ... oh and theme, BSG Reloaded universe is no where as well known as Star Wars.
I'll just keep watching my discs and trying to get the boardgame out but won't be spending that sort of money on it.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #289788 11 Jan 2019 09:59

southernman wrote: More than likely will not take off like X-Wing due to things like price (cheapest here is £44, you get four ships) and expandability/variety ... oh and theme, BSG Reloaded universe is no where as well known as Star Wars.
I'll just keep watching my discs and trying to get the boardgame out but won't be spending that sort of money on it.


Yep. In this particular instance, it's actually a game, not a lifestyle. The base package is all you'll ever need for four players. You expand only if you care to.

Though £44 isn't cheap, it's in line with other games with this sort of content. Fireball Island is closer to £80, X-Wing starter for three ships is £30. Frankly X-Wings starter kit is a bit of an F-You containing 2 ships for one side and 1 for the other if you ask me.
GorillaGrody's Avatar
GorillaGrody replied the topic: #289791 11 Jan 2019 10:50
I wonder how much the IP hurts this one.

I have fond memories of the first couple of seasons, but it’s not a show that’s aging well. Returning to the show now feels like renting space inside of a “Never Forget” T-shirt circa 2003–it’s 100% of-it’s-time. That’s not counting the terrible denouement of the show, which was never good.

More importantly, as a dogfight game, how many ships even exist within the IP? I remember two.

I’d have preferred an original, well-written IP.
BaronDonut's Avatar
BaronDonut replied the topic: #289794 11 Jan 2019 10:58

GorillaGrody wrote: I’d have preferred an original, well-written IP.


You know this is an impossible task for the board gaming industry.
RobertB's Avatar
RobertB replied the topic: #289802 11 Jan 2019 11:28
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #289807 11 Jan 2019 12:45
Plug your X-wing models onto the bases if you don't like the theme.
Msample's Avatar
Msample replied the topic: #289812 11 Jan 2019 14:12
A bit off topic, but Tricia Helfer just started a podcast looking back at the show and it’s pretty good so far. Battlestar Galacticast.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #289819 11 Jan 2019 16:06

Sagrilarus wrote:

southernman wrote: More than likely will not take off like X-Wing due to things like price (cheapest here is £44, you get four ships) and expandability/variety ... oh and theme, BSG Reloaded universe is no where as well known as Star Wars.
I'll just keep watching my discs and trying to get the boardgame out but won't be spending that sort of money on it.

...
Though £44 isn't cheap, it's in line with other games with this sort of content. Fireball Island is closer to £80, X-Wing starter for three ships is £30. Frankly X-Wings starter kit is a bit of an F-You containing 2 ships for one side and 1 for the other if you ask me.


Maybe we're just in different economic tranches (the variety of the big wide world), I expect (require) a lot more for £44 - heck I only just pulled the trigger on Seal Team Flix at £39.
n815e's Avatar
n815e replied the topic: #289833 11 Jan 2019 21:53
The X-Wing base set contains less and doesn’t give you a complete game experience.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #289834 11 Jan 2019 22:15

GorillaGrody wrote: More importantly, as a dogfight game, how many ships even exist within the IP? I remember two.


Vipers, Raptors, Raiders and Heavy Raiders. That’s it. And I really like that, after chasing X-Wing through a few waves and buying multiples of most ships. I am totally OK with this.

They are doing ship packs though, the first ones will be Starbuck and Scar. So they will add pilots, and at least the Colonials will have a few there. But Scar is the only “name” Cylon so I don’t know what happens there.

But I am OK with two ship types per side.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #289861 12 Jan 2019 16:54

n815e wrote: The X-Wing base set contains less and doesn’t give you a complete game experience.


So one extra ship is a complete game experience ? Give me a break.
Michael Barnes's Avatar
Michael Barnes replied the topic: #289862 12 Jan 2019 17:26
Ok, what you aren’t seeing in that assessment is that piloting these ships is very different- there’s a lot more to consider from the fact that each ship has WAY more movement paths to the speed management to the elevation. So flying one or two BSG ships is much more of a robust, compelling experience than flying one or two X-Wing ships.
n815e's Avatar
n815e replied the topic: #289895 13 Jan 2019 13:51

southernman wrote:

n815e wrote: The X-Wing base set contains less and doesn’t give you a complete game experience.


So one extra ship is a complete game experience ? Give me a break.


I get that you don’t know anything about the game and you are responding out of a place of ignorance.
Besides being a more interesting game with that movement system (which is what dog fighting is really about), with significantly greater content delivered in the box than X-Wing, BSG’s starter is actually enough to keep interest for many plays and provides enough material for up to four players in the box. X-Wing’s starter literally has enough to keep only two people engaged for one session before it gets stale enough to need to buy more stuff.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #289899 13 Jan 2019 14:54

n815e wrote:

southernman wrote:

n815e wrote: The X-Wing base set contains less and doesn’t give you a complete game experience.


So one extra ship is a complete game experience ? Give me a break.


I get that you don’t know anything about the game and you are responding out of a place of ignorance.
Besides being a more interesting game with that movement system (which is what dog fighting is really about), with significantly greater content delivered in the box than X-Wing, BSG’s starter is actually enough to keep interest for many plays and provides enough material for up to four players in the box. X-Wing’s starter literally has enough to keep only two people engaged for one session before it gets stale enough to need to buy more stuff.


Nah, I'm saying it out of someone who's played X-Wing and doesn't believe 4 ships makes a complete game when 3 ships doesn't - but you're definitely allowed your own taste and your opinion is equally as valueless as mine and anyone elses.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #289904 13 Jan 2019 16:17
It makes a complete game for two teams of two, that's for sure.
Sevej's Avatar
Sevej replied the topic: #290007 14 Jan 2019 21:35
I don't care about it being only a few ships. If I ever get X-Wing, it'll probably lots of X, and TIEs, their respective bombers and just a few more.

But the price is indeed a huge strike against it, as I'd want at least a lot of raiders. I mean, that scene of raider pouring out of a basestar like skittles... I want that.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #290015 15 Jan 2019 03:31

Sevej wrote: I don't care about it being only a few ships. If I ever get X-Wing, it'll probably lots of X, and TIEs, their respective bombers and just a few more.

But the price is indeed a huge strike against it, as I'd want at least a lot of raiders. I mean, that scene of raider pouring out of a basestar like skittles... I want that.


So a SW Armada version required then :-) ?
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #290016 15 Jan 2019 03:39

Sagrilarus wrote: It makes a complete game for two teams of two, that's for sure.


But when has dog-fighting been about equal numbers ?
And in tabletop gaming isn't it about the points system to make a competitive game, hence two Ties costing about the same as an X-wing. Plus you can't get the Millennium Falcon in the BSG universe (even though I'd watch BSG any day over a SW show).

PS In the UK BSG starter for £44, X-Wing starter for £25. And then you can custom build your X-Wing game ship by ship, which seems to be the biggest draw for tabletop games.
n815e's Avatar
n815e replied the topic: #290092 16 Jan 2019 09:47

southernman wrote:

n815e wrote:

southernman wrote:

n815e wrote: The X-Wing base set contains less and doesn’t give you a complete game experience.


So one extra ship is a complete game experience ? Give me a break.


I get that you don’t know anything about the game and you are responding out of a place of ignorance.
Besides being a more interesting game with that movement system (which is what dog fighting is really about), with significantly greater content delivered in the box than X-Wing, BSG’s starter is actually enough to keep interest for many plays and provides enough material for up to four players in the box. X-Wing’s starter literally has enough to keep only two people engaged for one session before it gets stale enough to need to buy more stuff.


Nah, I'm saying it out of someone who's played X-Wing and doesn't believe 4 ships makes a complete game when 3 ships doesn't - but you're definitely allowed your own taste and your opinion is equally as valueless as mine and anyone elses.


Your X-Wing experience creates a flawed impression of a different game. In BSG, players control just 1-2 ships.
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #290110 16 Jan 2019 14:26

southernman wrote:

Sagrilarus wrote: It makes a complete game for two teams of two, that's for sure.


But when has dog-fighting been about equal numbers ?


When it's on my table and me and three of my buddies are playing.

The Wings of Glory games are about fellowship, not two guys controlling 19 ships each with their super-opto-permu-combo bullshit card-ship builds. If I want that I'll set the toys aside and play Magic, a true nerd's game.

The number of ships doesn't matter in the real world (which we'll stretch to include these two games) but it's fun to have a wingman in games like this, and four ships means you can play two-on-two. For me that's way more fun than controlling a whole side and optimizing each move across a dozen ships. It also means I can drink a bit while playing.

If I get a chance to play with a team-mate (I particularly like team games) I don't care if the ships are a little unbalanced. That's actually part of the fun.

Someone on the X-Wings reddit forum indicated that BSG not being set up for "competitive play" meant the game was a joke. The game wasn't designed for "competitive play". It was designed for a more casual session.


Plus you can't get the Millennium Falcon in the BSG universe

Watch the first hour of the new Star Wars movie Solo. That should kill any affection you have for the ship or anyone that flies in it.
southernman's Avatar
southernman replied the topic: #290118 16 Jan 2019 15:45
Crikey - what a lot of fun-murderers this site has started to breed, just because it isn't your idea of fun doesn't mean it isn't fun for other people :huh:
And where's this thing about 19 ships coming from - I thought we were talking about X-Wing not Armada ? Or do some people actually play with fleets that large and you're using that example to represent the game itself. When I did play it (I'm more of a boardgamer than a tabletop minis gamer) I can't remember ever having more than about four ships each, it was purely about outmanoeuvring each other (same as it was when I did WoW many years ago).
Sagrilarus's Avatar
Sagrilarus replied the topic: #291259 31 Jan 2019 18:47