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I've seen these games compared very often, with steadfast advocates on each side. link1 link2 link3 I'm mainly concerned with:

  • depth of strategy
  • suitability for new players (length of time to explain, etc.)
  • overall feel of the game
  • what situations you would recommend playing each of them in.
  • anything else you think should be included in regards to comparing and contrasting them

Some things I've noticed:

  • Shadows supports more and fewer people better, and seems to be easier to understand.
  • Both are Cooperative with the traitor mechanic.
  • Battlestar seems to be the 'improved' version of Shadows. (What's really improved that was 'wrong' in Shadows?)
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your link didn't make it here so I removed the cruft. Can you re-add it? –  Pat Ludwig Feb 23 '11 at 5:24
    
I played BSG once and didn't really enjoy it (though I was quite drunk, and in no state to understand the intricacies of the rules!) On the other hand, I like the look of Shadows and have been wondering if I'd enjoy it. If anyone can provide an answer that explains if Shadows might be a good game for someone who had a negative response to BSG... I shall be generous with my upvotes! –  thesunneversets Feb 23 '11 at 20:29

4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted

One thing I noticed is that Shadows is much more... unfocused. There are a ton of quests all over the board, and the players are going to be split up doing various things the whole time. They're not much interacting with each other, just responding to the general board conditions and their own quests.

In Battlestar, you still have multiple threats (4 dials, 3 kinds of Cylon ships, Cylon boarders) but it seems like you're all working together more against these threats. Perhaps it's the fact that the roles (Political/Military/Pilot) make it clear that each person is most useful in one area (whereas in Shadows it feels like any character can do any quest, mostly).

Most of all, though, the fact that all players are actively involved in every skill check that happens gives Battlestar much more interaction - there's more opportunity to really sabotage, but more opportunity to be exposed, and the Brig offers a way to "hedge your bets" and contain someone you suspect to be a traitor.

I also really like the second round (Sleeper Agent phase) in Battlestar, where some players may discover they're a traitor after all. This means nobody's past behavior can totally prove anything, and that in the first round nobody really wants to do TOO well as a human, lest they turn out Cylon and be hopelessly behind.

When Jeff declined to help us pass that skill check, was he really out of green cards? Or is he a Cylon? OR is he a human, but afraid he'll end up Cylon and lose to the humans?

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Must admit that I hate it when players are playing badly because they might turn later. It just feels a bit cheep in my mind. In the games I have played the cylons never have had any problems winning even if all has played their best. –  Skadlig May 3 '11 at 7:08
    
@Skadlig The general opinion seems to be that the Cylons always win the first few times you play, after which it gradually switches the other way. That's anecdotally how it's working for my group as well. –  Mag Roader May 3 '11 at 12:48
    
I find that unless all players focus on a single plan, it's very easy to lose quests in Shadows. –  tunaranch May 12 '11 at 8:45

•depth of strategy
-Characters with a OPG ability, and weakness in addition to a special move
-Quorum card deck
-Other decks too like Destination cards, and the wide variety of crisis cards
-there's also a sense of spatial locality, namely, space combat. For example, it's typically worse to have 8 raiders vs. 4 raiders, but when those 4 raiders are one activation away from destroying 4 civilian ships, whereas the 8 raiders 3 activations away, then in the short term, the 8 raiders is actually a better situation for the humans. Moving characters about the ships, and knights in SOC doesn't really count as "spatial locality" as characters in BSG to for example move anywhere on Galactica (well, no hazard spots) with just one move/ment, while in SOC, it takes one Heroic action to move to any quest, so distance nor the layout of the locations aren't a factor in those regards.
-reveal powers in BSG
-Also, SOC's accusation has a way to force a player to reveal his identity. In BSG, until you get to Pegasus or Exodus expansions' execution mechanic, there's no way to force him to reveal his identity

•suitability for new players (length of time to explain, etc.)
All variables equal, BSG is roughly twice the game play time as SOC. However, it's also got more depth. If I have the time and group that's up for it, I'd much rather play BSG. However, it's easier to teach SOC. And more people are familiar with dragons and Arthurian legends than the new BSG TV series. However, an explanation should be enough for most people (e.g. explain what "jumping" is, what a cylon is, the state of the 12 colonies)

•overall feel of the game
•what situations you would recommend playing each of them in.
BSG takes 2.5 to 5 hours. Average times about 3.25 hours. Also a higher learning curve. SOC takes 1 to 2 hours, and teaches fairly quickly, but there's less options. For example, people feel in BSG, stuff happens between turns like playing a die roll modifier, or how whenever there's a skill check, everyone can participate.

•anything else you think should be included in regards to comparing and contrasting them
I will say that I'm a fan with BSG with all 3 expansions. There's a whole wall of opinions on what's best, but it seems there's more love for the better expansions here than just Merlin's Company for SOC.

Also those who don't like BSG cited as one complaint how you can turn cylon halfway through. Some like it because it forces the humans to play a bit conservatively in case someone gets turned. Others hate having their work undone. With SOC, since you deal out n cards out of n + 1 Loyalty deck, with only 1 Traitor card, there's the possibility that there may be NO traitor. If you guarantee a traitor, it changes the dynamics knowing that it's gotta be someone, and makes accusations less risky. If there ends up not being a traitor (again, NOT because you played the fully-coop version), then those who don't enjoy fully-co-op games feel like they got robbed of the real deal.

Oh, SOC does scale better. Some purists will only play BSG with exactly 5p. I'm more flexible. However, SOC is hard for the loyal knights with only 3p or 4p, and gets harder for the traitor in a 7p games on account of # of loyal turns between the traitor's own.

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Could you be more direct in your comparisons? Your "depth of strategy" and "what situations you would recommend each game" don't have any compare-and-contrast in them; it feels like you're describing random parts of each game without actually comparing their relative strengths & weaknesses. Also, you don't actually state "what situations you would recommend playing each of them in." –  Paul Marshall Jul 22 at 0:59

One thing I can say about Shadows Over Camelot is that it does a very good job of creating the proper feel for the theme.

Camelot always stood on a knife's edge, with failure on either side. Arthur was the only thing between Britain and the Dark Ages and when he fell, the darkness consumed civilization. That's how SOC feels. Like every moment could be your last, like every decision could be the one that snuffs out the light of Camelot.

I have not played BSG, but I have heard (hearsay alert!) that it requires some significant knowledge of the relaunched BSG, that in some ways it is an engine for a group to "make their own fun." Which is not to say that it's not a good game, just that it may be less suitable for groups that aren't at least somewhat up on the ever-less-new BSG.

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2  
This is not an answer to the question, how can it be - you haven't even played one of the games! If you had played BSG, you would have known that having seen the series was in no way needed to play the game, in fact in many ways you are better off not coming to the game with the preconceptions from the series. –  Mark Booth Jun 5 '12 at 14:23

When it comes to the traitor function I think that the games are quite different. When the traitor wins in Shadows I tend to feel betrayed, as in there was one person who ruined the game for the rest of us. But in BSG I have never felt that. It's more like there is two different teams to the game and I can take that one team triumphed over the other one.

When it comes to excitement I would also put BSG first. It just feels more important during the whole game to find out who is a Cylon and you can always be certain that there will be at least one who is. Shadow on the other hand projects a sense of urgency that BSH just can't top. When it comes to drawing cards I think Shadows is the better game. I have never felt such an reluctance to draw a card as I do in Shadows when it comes to the black cards. It's probably because you have got an choice.
"Is it better if I draw a black card now when we're almost done with excalibur or should I take a catapult instead? On the other hand we can only two more so if we got a traitor..."
You get the feeling that strategy and your choices actually matter and to draw a card can make or break the game.

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