I was thrilled to get my copy of the Exodus expansion for the Battlestar Galactica board game (a.k.a. BSG) on December 30th. I think that the BSG board game is the best one out there currently and I frequently run games of it at local gaming conventions. The BSG game really captures the feel of the TV show and is accessible even to people who are not fans of the TV show. What Exodus does, besides adding lots of new characters and cards (and tokens!) to the basic game, is provide three new variants for BSG gameplay.
Honestly, though, I expected more from Exodus than what I got. Don't get me wrong--I think Exodus is great. But there are still a lot of pieces missing that would make this game a more complete experience. For example, I was expecting to get at least one new Cylon Leader, possibly D'Anna or Athena, and perhaps some new cards or rules for the New Caprica endgame.
If you've played BSG before, you might be surprised to learn that the Exodus expansion pretty much ignores the Pegasus expansion--or pretends that it never happened. The last page of the Exodus rulebook gives you helpful tips on combining the two expansions with the base game, but that effort seems half-hearted at best. Without Pegasus, you don't have the Battlestar Pegasus board, Admiral Cain, the three playable Cylon Leaders, Treachery cards, "Reckless" skill cards and the New Caprica board and endgame. Though I know a lot of people would rather leave New Caprica out altogether.
But let's focus on what Exodus does bring to the table.
1) New characters. There are four new characters in Exodus: Samuel T. Anders (pilot), "Cally" Tyrol (support), Felix Gaeta (military) and Tory Foster (political). Each one has new and interesting abilities and disadvantages. Cally will be popular because she can just execute someone at her location once per game. Gaeta can allow a re-roll of a bad FTL jump roll for any player. Anders can make one die roll per game be any result that he chooses. And Tory benefits by drawing skill cards (of any color) each time someone plays a Quorum card.
2) New skill cards, crisis cards, destination cards, Quorum cards, and Cylon super crisis cards. The new skill cards include zero strength skill cards that have triggered effects in skill checks (Establish Network, for example, doubles the strength of all Engineering cards in a skill check) and six strength cards that also have powerful texts (for example, Political Prowess is basically a get out of the Brig free card--it allows to you choose the result of any skill check started by a location). There are many new crisis and destination cards which follow from situations in season 3 of the TV show. Some of the crisis cards have extra effects triggered by some of the "skill check effect" skill cards. The Humans will be comforted to know that the new Cylon super crisis cards aren't overly abusive, and the Cylons should be pleased that the new Quorum cards aren't overly powerful.
3) The "Conflicted Loyalties" option. There are two new "You Are A Cylon" loyalty cards which can either add a Centurion to the boarding track or knock the Galactica jump track back two spaces. But the big news is that there are two new kinds of "You Are Not A Cylon" loyalty cards.
These two types of new loyalty cards make up the first of the three new variants for the game, the "Conflicted Loyalties" option. There are five "The Final Five" "You Are Not A Cylon" loyalty cards, all of which do bad things to the Humans if revealed. Yes, the Final Five are Cylons, but they're not necessarily allied with the Cylons that want to destroy Humanity. Despite that, the Five still don't like being revealed to the world and the consequences for outing them can be dire. This type of loyalty card makes the common practice of looking at another player's loyalty card from a crisis card or Baltar's once per game ability to be a new and dangerous risk.
The other new "You Are Not A Cylon" loyalty cards give "Personal Goals" to the Human players. Achieving these goals can make any Human look suspiciously like a Cylon, yet if the goals remain unfulfilled they cause resources to drop at the end of the game. An unfulfilled personal goal may turn a Human victory into a defeat.
Mainly, what these new loyalty cards do is give everyone something interesting to look at when loyalty cards are handed out. The player who looks at their loyalty card intently (or more than once) is no longer automatically a Cylon.
4) The "Cylon Fleet" option. A new secondary "Cylon Fleet" board with a Cylon basestar location at its center is the biggest addition to the game in Exodus. In the "Cylon Fleet" variant, all Cylon attack crisis cards are removed from the crisis deck. Instead, the Cylons mass their fleet outside of Galactica's space (on the secondary board) and their progress towards Galactica is measured on a "Pursuit Track" similiar to Galactica's jump track. Every Cylon activation icon on a crisis card adds more ships to the Cylon fleet board and advances the pursuit track towards an attack.
In this variant, the Cylons are ALWAYS doing something to get ready to attack Galactica and the civilian fleet. As an added bonus for the Cylons, a revealed Cylon player may move to the basestar location on the Cylon fleet board to create even more havoc.
The Cylon Fleet variant also brings in several new elements for the Humans. The new title of CAG (Commander of the Air Guard) gives pilots a leader who can perform extra actions on his turn. The CAG is also responsible for the placement of all civilian ships on the board...because in this variant no civilian ship can be placed in a space that already contains one (unless all space areas already contain civilian ships).
The new version of the Admiral title card now makes it so that nukes attack an entire area of space, not just a single ship. The Human pilots have the new option of "escorting" civilian ships off the board to prevent them from being easy prey for the Cylons. When the Cylons are not attacking--and even when they are--most of the pilots (and even the unmanned Vipers) will be busy escorting civilian ships off the board.
The four Mark VII Vipers (new in Exodus) used in this variant make that job easier. These advanced Vipers fly faster and are harder to damage. To balance that for the Cylons, a few extra Cylon raiders are included in Exodus.
If your Cylon Fleet games go anything like mine did, you'll have every Cylon ship on the board by the end of the game. Good hunting!
5) The "Ionian Nebula" option. This is the most complicated variant in Exodus, yet it's also the most interesting. There is a new "Ionian Nebula" objective card that leads to a new "Crossroads" endgame.
In this new endgame, a large Cylon fleet (the same size as the one the Humans faced leaving New Caprica) appears and is ready to fight, but before that fight occurs, all the players (both Cylon and Human) are judged. What constitutes said judgment are the new "Trauma Tokens" that come with Exodus and are the largest new element in this variant.
Each player starts the game with three trauma tokens (signifying the results of their struggles up to that point) and they want to have as few of them as possible when they reach the Crossroads phase at the end of the game.
There are three types of trauma tokens: benevolent (good for Humans, bad for Cylons), aggressive (good for Cylons, bad for Humans) and disaster (bad for everyone, usually resulting in an immediate execution). You keep what kind of tokens you have a secret (except the disaster ones, which have an immediate effect) until the Crossroads phase.
You get rid of your trauma tokens (or possibly gain some) by having encounters with "Allies" on board Galactica and Colonial One (but not on Pegasus). That brings me to the next new element in this variant--ally cards. There are 35 different ally cards, including every main character (Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, Baltar, etc.) not already being played (or not already executed) and a few whose names I never knew before.
There are always three allies waiting to be encountered on the board, and each one has a trauma token on their card waiting to be revealed. Once that token is revealed, an interaction occurs. If the trauma token is benevolent, a generally good action happens. If the trauma token is aggressive, a generally bad action happens. And a disaster token causes immediate execution.
When an ally card is resolved, a new ally card is drawn and the player who encountered the last ally gets to place one of their trauma tokens on the new ally--either ensuring a good result or setting up a bad result for someone else to resolve. You also gain a trauma token any time you go to the Brig or to Sickbay.
When the Crossroads phase begins, the battle of the Ionian Nebula is set up (see above) and then the judgment phase starts. Each player gets one of seven Crossroads cards and must use one of their trauma tokens to determine the outcome of the Crossroads card, either benevolent or aggressive. Then after their Crossroads card is resolved, each player discards the tokens that helps their species (Cylons discard aggressive tokens and Humans discard benevolent tokens). And anyone with two or less tokens left discards them.
At the end of the Crossroads phase, whoever has the most negative trauma tokens left gets eliminated from the game (possibly more than one character in the case of ties). That means no new character, you're just done and you're out of the game. You're a Human who has been "permanently" executed by the fleet or your Cylon line has been boxed.
After the Crossroads phase, the remaining players must finish the battle of the Ionian Nebula. If the Humans jump away, they win.
In my first "Ionian Nebula" game, Anders was executed when he drew a disaster token when he was sent to Sickbay. Everyone in the game survived the Crossroads phase, but the Cylons won the battle of the Ionian Nebula (and the game) when the Humans ran out of fuel.
If you enjoy playing BSG, then by all means buy Exodus. Though be warned that this expansion makes things much tougher for the Humans and has a lot of new rules and options that may be overwhelming to some players. While it is possible to combine all three variants in Exodus with the base game (you could even include Pegasus), you are in for a long and complicated struggle if you do. If you're a new player, try just the base BSG game first, then check out the Pegasus expansion before buying Exodus. But in any case, enjoy playing Battlestar Galactica!!!