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I've played my first real BSG game last week with three players and the humans got wiped out before we even jumped once...

I did some calculations to figure out if things get easier or harder with more players. What I found out made me wonder how player manage to beat the crisis cards at all.

Average difficulty of a crisis is 9.95 points. Average value of a skill card is 2.14 points. Average chance of a skill check in a crisis card is 58.6%.

Every human player gets 5 cards in his turn. Every cylon player gets 2 cards in his turn (when revealed).

Assuming every card can be put to good use in a skill check we can calculate the amount of points the humans can field and the amount of points the cylons can field in every full round (where every player had his turn). The difference is the amount of points in favor of the humans. That divided by the number of players and 58.6% is the amount of points in favor of the humans per skill check.

Depending on the number of players/cylons the points in favor of the humans are:

2:1 ...  9.75
3:1 ... 11.89
2:2 ...  5.49
3:2 ...  8.05
4:2 ...  9.75
3:3 ...  5.49

Aside from the best case scenario at 3:1 there is no situation where it reaches the average of 9.95 points per skill check. The destiny deck is roughly balanced (average of -0.1 points per check) so we can ignore this.

Conclusion: Aside from somehow drawing more cards the humans cannot win every skill check even if they were to play their cards perfectly.

Question:

So how should the humans approach the skill checks on the crisis cards to win as much as possible?

Option 1: Discuss which ones to fail and which ones to beat. Doesn't work so well since the cylons will also know when they need to fight a check and when they can save their cards. Thus the ratio of cards remains the same.

Option 2: Use XO's exclusively to draw additional cards. One additional card per turn would be enough statistically.

Option 3: Try to undercut every crisis just a little in the hopes that the destiny deck will make at least some of them pass...

Other Options?

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Could you elaborate on how exactly the Humans lost so quickly? I've never seen the Humans lose that fast and am having a hard time imagining how it could happen. Did you lose through resources, Galactica being destroyed, boarding...? –  Todd Mar 22 '11 at 15:35
    
How did you arrive at these numbers? Not all skill checks take the same color combinations and not all combinations occur with the same probability, so it seems like you couldn't boil things down to just an average strength value. –  lilserf Mar 22 '11 at 17:13
    
True, but since the different colors only make it harder for the humans and make it somewhat harder for the cylons too I decided to ignore this aspect and assume that everyone just draws the perfect mixture of cards. –  Kempeth Mar 23 '11 at 11:53
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5 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

In our games we frequently don't attempt to pass some crises - either because we're pretty sure we don't have the cards to do it (so why waste what we do have) - or because the Fail result of the Crisis isn't that bad.

Using XOs in general is good, of course, and the humans should use them wherever possible - I wouldn't use them exclusively to draw cards, but on occasion that's useful.

There are also a few extra ways to manipulate skill checks:

  • Declare Emergency can lower the difficulty of a skill check by 2
  • Boomer can auto-pass a skill check once per game
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So you concur that the humans have to pick their battles? –  Kempeth Mar 23 '11 at 11:56
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Yeah, definitely. Taking a hit on your highest dial is usually pretty safe, for example. –  lilserf Mar 24 '11 at 20:05
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The number of players does not directly change the difficulty of the game. I feel like i makes it easier to play with less just because there is less stuff to track.
This happens because the amount of cards drawn in total by all players directly balances out to the number of crisis that happen. More players have a wider variety of cards but not more than less. The cylons cannot poison every check. In fact they must often help out. It is very easy to figure out who is responsible if someone just keeps contributing negative cards. Once they humans have identified the cylon using executive actions victory becomes easy if a lot of damage was not already done. A good way to pass a check without throwing a lot of effort is to let only one person contribute cards if they say they can. If anyone does not do it and adds cards anyway they are most likely a cylon. If the one person clearly does not make an effort to pass, it is only one loss and then you know who the cylon is.

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Crisis Deck Management

You haven't put much emphasis on crisis deck management, which is important.

  • You can scout to bottom deck crisis cards.
  • Roslin can select one crisis out of two on her turn.
  • Boomer gets to see the next crisis before it is revealed.

All of these abilities can mitigate the damage caused by failing a crisis.

Track Destiny

You can keep track of destiny, so you can avoid playing when its stacked against you.

Evil and clever brig hack

If you can get around the players personal objections to this, having a player (even human) in the bring increases the number of skill cards drawn per crisis.

Imagine everyone is in the brig. Then you can cycle through the skill deck, getting all of the best cards into players hand before ever having a crisis check.

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Ah, but every player in the brig maxes out at 5 contribution to skill checks since they can only put in one card. I think you make the situation worse in that case. –  lilserf Mar 24 '11 at 20:51
    
Everyone in the brig -> no crisis checks. All but one in the brig means you'll have Investigate Committee and Declare Emergencies flowing, and everyone in the brig able to make an average contribution of say, 3 or 4 per crisis. As long as the solo free player is a not a Cylon, and you can convince people to stay in the brig, Crises will be a breeze. –  rrenaud Mar 24 '11 at 22:43
    
All but one character in the big seems like a really dangerous situation. You'd have to be pretty sure the player is not a cylon. Otherwise it's an intriguing move. Also you're right with the scouting. You could basically just skip the hard ones and have cards to spare... Totally forgot about that. –  Kempeth Mar 25 '11 at 7:59
    
I think this strategy only works when there are no Cylons yet (prior to Sleeper Agent phase), or if the Cylons play rather poorly, especially if you are using the Pegasus expansion. Having all but one person in the brig (turtling, we call it), helps when things are looking grim for the Humans. But, it's bad when things are under control, because you don't get as many actions to do useful things. The other problem is that it's difficult to get people out of the brig once the Cylons do start showing up. If you're using Pegasus, all those people in the brig are sitting ducks for the Air Lock. –  Todd Mar 25 '11 at 14:06
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Your data is fine, but your conclusion is flawed. You're right that total card effort for skill checks is below total skill checks on a per-skill check basis. However, you're failing to see that failing a single check through card conservation allows a pool which makes the next several checks succeed.

Let's use your example of 4 humans and 2 cylons. You show 9.75 points possible (per check) with a difficulty of 9.95 per check. Let's simplify the numbers and say that the players all together can amass 9 points per check, but the difficulty is 10.

If the players tried their best every check, they'd always get 9, and the difficulty each time would be 10, and they'd always fail.

However, let's say the players completely skip the first skill check, and suffer then consequences. What happens? For check #2, they STILL HAVE the points/cards from the first check. So now, they have 18 collectively (they drew 9 more each turn), they spend 10, and pass check #2. Now for check #3, they have 17, they spend 10, and have 7 left. Check #3 they have 16 total, spend 10, pass, etc.

So by skipping one check they can succeed at all of the next 8 checks.

Most of the time, in real game pay, the players experience this in reverse (overspending on the first few, and running out at about check #9), but the math is the same either way.

Make sense?

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I am completely aware of this aspect and as a matter of fact the first option I presented is the logical conclusion to it. –  Kempeth Mar 24 '11 at 12:47
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I don't know if there's a flaw in your analysis somewhere (I don't see one at first glance) or not, but it doesn't seem to reflect my experience with the game (and I've played a lot, though I haven't played a 4 or 3-player game in a while). In my experience, the Humans usually don't have much trouble passing checks. In fact, we usually way overshoot what we need. The only time we start thinking "should we just let this check fail" is when things start to get really desperate, which usually only happens about twice a game.

So I guess I wouldn't recommend any of your options as a standard course of action. I've found that it usually isn't too hard for the Humans to pass most checks.

Since this was only your first game, I suggest playing a couple more times to see if you have similar results. It may have been a fluke. I have to say I've never seen the Humans lose anywhere near that fast.

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Well, my analysis only concerns itself with the endgame where all cylons are in their own fleet and no longer have to maintain their cover. Our game had 5 attack crisis during the first 10 turns and after 3 skill checks I knew who was the cylon. So most of our game was played in this situation... –  Kempeth Mar 22 '11 at 15:56
    
Wow, 5 attacks in the first 10 turns is ridiculously unlucky. –  lilserf Mar 22 '11 at 17:14
    
I would like to hear more about your experience in that regard. Do you feel it's easy before and after all cylons are revealed. How often did you play? –  Kempeth Mar 23 '11 at 11:56
    
@Kempeth I've played a couple dozen times. I wouldn't say it's easy to pass all skill checks, but the humans pass the majority of them (60-70%, I'd guess). And yes, that's both before and after the Cylons are revealed. I should point out that I usually play 6-7 player games. It's probably a little easier to pass checks with that many, because the skill checks don't scale up with the number of players (one thing that may be a small flaw in the game). It certainly gets harder when there are multiple nasty crises in a row. BTW, 5 attack cards in 10 turns is pretty brutal. –  Todd Mar 23 '11 at 18:05
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