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One of the greatest desires in making licensed media is to perfectly encapsulate the licensed materials. While for individual action, that of a single hero or for a small group, a video game perhaps works best, for the grand scale of things with greater overlying conflicts at their core or with large ensemble casts working together, board games are often hard to match in their accuracy. These two games are shining examples of that and should be the bar others strive for.
Without a doubt, the first two seasons of Battlestar Galactica (with later two being more divisive in peoples opinions) is some of the greatest science fiction television ever created. The crew of the Galactica and the surrounding vessels it protects are pitted in a grand race against time an innumerable amount of enemies while struggling with internal politics and the fear of an enemy agent operating unbeknownst amongst everyone’s midst.
All of this makes its way into FFG’s Battlestar Galactica board game. A crisis occurs every turn and must be dealt with using every dwindling resource. Political strife and mistrust abound as secret identity cards are passed out at the games beginning and halfway through so there is bound to be someone who received a Cylon (traitor) card working actively and subversively to thwart the humans’ final goal of arriving on Earth safely. At any point hordes of enemies could appear, hounding the Galactica while military victory seems impossible and escape is not arriving fast enough. Sacrifices are inevitable, as all resources must be managed often in direct opposition to one another. While the Clylons have six dozen or so ways to end the game in their favor the humans only have the one possibility of Earth. The final result is a tense, desperate struggle to complete the mission against all odds just like the show. The only area it falls short on is some of the moral dilemmas caused by your decisions that were a big part of the original, and while they are present here, the death of thousands on several ships has less of an impact if the only consequence a counter going down.
Tolkien’s magnum opus almost needs no introduction as it essentially created the modern fantasy genre as it is know today. The forces of man, dwarf and elf all combining together in an attempt to stop an evil tide engulfing the land while the smallest of creatures, a hobbit, attempts a most dangerous task that might be the only way to stop the spread of this great darkness.
The most interesting part of War of the Ring, and how it so perfectly encapsulates great conflict portrayed in Tolkien’s books (or their Peter Jackson movie adaptations) is the non-identical structure and win conditions of the two players. One takes the helm over the forces of light, dwarves, men and elves as well as the plucky hobbits while the other commands the dark legions of Mordor and Orthanc. Both players may win by capturing enough citadels and strongholds from the others but this is much easier for the forces of evil to accomplish. They have unlimited troops they can fill the board with and each felled orc or troll is easily replaced. Men, elves and dwarves though, for every unit they loose it is taken out of the game for good. They have to choose when and wear to fight and loose in battles of attrition. The ring bearer and the fellowship are their ace in the hole though, as they attempt to sneak them into Mordor and up Mount Doom, if the ring reaches the top they automatically win. However, if the bearer is corrupted beyond a certain point, brought about by the actions of the evil player, the forces of good automatically lose. Choice moments can also be portrayed through actions cards such as the Ents storming Orthanc and taking out Sauroman.
Rebellion seems to be in the same vein as both Battlestar Galactica and War of the Ring and I have heard nothing but good things about it, however I have not played it and as such cannot accurately commentate.