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A bit of backstory: I've only played the Battlestar Galactica game twice. The first time I was uproariously drunk, and a bit too delighted at getting to "be" Dr Gaius Baltar; all the inexperienced (and increasingly sloshed) players were humans, and as far as I can remember the human race was crushed systematically and with ease by the competent and sober Cylon menace.

The second time I played the BSG game was a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't really assimilated any of the rules from the first time round, as you might imagine. However, this time I got to be Commander Tigh... and a Cylon.

It seems to me that a potential flaw of the game, which is, let's face it, above averagely complicated, is that it's good for inexperienced players in human roles (they can ask each other for advice, and generally play cooperatively) but maybe not so good for inexperienced players in Cylon roles. It's quite difficult to probe for potential areas of weakness when you have no idea what's going on!

In the event I think I did alright as the Cylon mole, secretly selecting inferior jump destinations and whittling the ship's morale down to 1 before the final jump (after which a hostile planet might well have finished humanity off, though sadly it was not to be). However, I'm sure I could have done better. So perhaps more experienced BSG players can answer the following question for me:

Assuming a very minimal knowledge of the game rules, what is an appropriate strategy for a Cylon to adopt to bring down other players who know the rules better? What are good ways to undermine the fortunes of the Galactica without making it too obvious that you're the traitor? Additionally, I never felt confident to "show my hand" and go on the full attack towards the end of the game - because I didn't understand what would happen if I did so well enough. Is this ever a good tactic, and if so when and under what circumstances should it be employed?

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Revealing as a Cylon gives you numerous opportunities to ruin the humans' day. From the event itself (ruining their plans for defense, etc.) to the supercrisis card - a reveal can turn the game around quick. –  Ian Pugsley Apr 3 '12 at 13:01
    
@Ian Darn, I thought that might have been the case, but I couldn't think of a good way to broach the subject without being a bit obvious about where my loyalties lay. The owner of the game was a bit surprised that the Cylon had stayed lying low for so long, but when he hadn't explained the advantages of not doing so, what did he expect? –  thesunneversets Apr 3 '12 at 13:04
    
To some extent it depends on how many players you've got (which drives how many Cylons/sympathizers you've got), but yeah, if you guys have been playing without reveals/supercrises...I envy your human players. :) –  Ian Pugsley Apr 3 '12 at 13:05
    
    
Since you were the Admiral, you didn't do badly - selecting poor jump destinations is very high-value for the Cylons, and a good reason to stick around longer than usual. Wasting the nukes, if possible, is also good. –  Tynam Apr 3 '12 at 22:46

5 Answers 5

up vote 31 down vote accepted

There are really three parts to beginner's Cylon strategy: How to sabotage as a human, when to reveal, and how to act as Cylon.

Hanging with Humans: Confusion

While pretending to be human, your job is not to sabotage everything (that gets you caught fast). The game is already trying to kill the humans; your job is to tip the balance.

Crises

Some simple beginner's rules of thumb:

  • Sabotage skill checks only when everyone else is playing and the check looks like being close-fought.

  • Encourage players to overkill important skill checks - it looks like harmless caution (as passing checks by too much is a common beginner mistake in BG) but it's more useful than sabotage. (If the skill check needs 15 and the humans get 27, that's 8-10 points of skill cards wasted.)

  • Try and get the humans to attempt every skill check. Experienced humans will pick some to fail on purpose so as to save cards for more important tasks.

Other tactics

If you're a pilot, make minimal use of pilot cards. Be shot down when you actually have Evasive Action in hand; use attack cards - but fewer than you could. Every viper shot down helps, and being in sick bay is great - it's a legitimate reason to do nothing useful, and it encourages people to XO you.

If you are or become the Admiral, you're golden. The most important thing is to minimize jump distance - delay is always good for the Cylons. Cut back on sabotage; it's more important to hold onto the job than to break every skill check. When someone starts scouting destinations, hang on until a giveaway jump then get ready to run.

The Reveal

When to run

Judging when to reveal is a fine art, but here are the main things to look for. Any one of these is a possible cue to reveal; two together is time to go.

  • A fleet attack has just been drawn. (You want the humans under pressure when you shift.)

  • A skill check is sabotaged, and it wasn't you, but could have been. (When you know there's another Cylon around, you can provide him with more opportunities for sabotage by revealing and pressuring the humans. And your departure helps confuse suspicions.)

  • The humans suspect you. (If you're going to be brigged/executed anyway, it's time to leave, even if the moment isn't optimal.)

  • Your 'You are a Cylon' card sabotages the humans in some way that's particularly harmful in this situation.

  • The Golden Moment: Someone XOs you just before your turn. (Experienced human players will never do this if there's a Cylon not accounted for. If you get the chance, take it.)

How to run

Obviously, you will use all your spare actions before revealing to do as much damage as possible. The following actions are almost always worthwhile:

  • If you have a good one-use power that can hurt the humans, use it in a damaging way. It's wasted once you reveal.

  • Use Communications to push civilian ships into raiders.

  • If you're the admiral, waste nukes.

  • Brig or execute someone. The Admiral, if possible.

There's a more detailed analysis of this part elsewhere.

The Enemy: Driving the Nails In

This is the easiest bit for a beginner Cylon. If in doubt, it's almost never wrong to play your Super Crisis, then keep drawing more Crises.

If Galactica is heavily under fire (or you used the fleet attack super crisis), consider the Cylon fleet instead. (Especially if you were a pilot.) But don't get attached to it; use it once at a critical moment for extra firepower, then go back to crisis cards.

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I think the most common mistake new players (and even some experienced players) make when playing a cylon is waiting too long to reveal. There's a tendency to wait for that perfect moment when you can really hammer the humans with a timely reveal. But the reality is, those moments don't happen often and precious time is wasted waiting for it. Unless you are the Admiral or President, I think you can usually do more damage as a revealed cylon. This is especially true for inexperienced players. Experienced players understand the subtleties of the game and know how to wreck havok without revealing. However, I often think even experienced players would be more effective if they revealed sooner rather than later.

When I'm playing with someone who is new to the game, my standard advice to them is: if you are a cylon, reveal as soon as possible. It may not be the best strategic move, but new players often don't understand how to play unrevealed cylons well and, as you point out, it's difficult for them to ask questions without giving themselves away. Revealing immediately allows them to play the game much more effectively, because they can openly ask questions and solicit advice. Even though it's humans vs. cylons, most human players are very willing to give the cylons (especially a new player) good advice. I've found that they often enjoy the game more that way because they feel much more involved in what's going on. A new player playing an unrevealed cylon tends to be very passive and not do much at all out of fear of giving themselves away. That's generally not an enjoyable experience.

I think the revealing quickly strategy is even better when it's a group of experienced players playing with one or two new players, and there are enough players for there to be two cylons. If a new player is a cylon, they should just reveal and let the more experienced player lurk in the shadows.

This is general advice only. A lot depends on how much experience the new player has with similar games and how good of a general board gamer they are. However, my personal opinion is that it's generally better to reveal early rather than late.

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It seems you're asking for an easy Cylon strategy for beginners that don't know the rules or consequences. I'd do this:

  1. Start playing as a human.
  2. Wait until a "setup" card is drawn (one that places enemy ships on the board).
  3. Use your Cylon reveal.
  4. Spend every turn thereafter drawing crisis cards.
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I did feel like the Cylon ships were being dealt with infuriatingly easily by the humans (maybe because we had Starbuck, I don't know). If I'd known that a Cylon reveal could have ramped up the threat level... next time :) –  thesunneversets Apr 4 '12 at 6:57
    
@thesunneversets: The fleet attacks are definitely the biggest random shift in the gameplay. Sometimes the humans can deal with everything infuriatingly easily; sometimes they get swamped and die. Normally Cylons want to reveal during a busy attack, but sometimes it just won't come and you have to reveal and go fetch it. –  Tynam Apr 4 '12 at 17:35

I don't want to steal any glory from the other answers, but one tip that might not be obvious to everyone the first time around: thoroughly read the rules for revealed Cylon actions before you start the game, so that when you're thinking about revealing, you know what you can do after, and don't have to tip your hand by reaching for the rulebook.

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A friend of mine says:

One of they keys is to help more than you should on less important crisis cards. In this way, you have fewer cards to help when something terrible happens, but nobody can point at you and say you contributed something negative. Also, if you can, play-up the less important crises to other players.

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