B5 CCG review

B5JMS Poster b5jms-owner at shekel.mcl.cs.columbia.edu
Sun Dec 28 06:12:22 EST 1997

From: szy at windridge.com (Steven Szymanski)
Date: 26 Dec 1997 11:15:43 -0700
Lines: 67

I originally got "hooked" Babylon 5 because of the arc. The idea of an
intelligent show where events in one episode can be examined closely
because they would have consequences in later episodes appealed to me. I
became a fan when I realized that the arc was not merely a story telling
technique; but was fundamental to the themes of the show - that there
are choice we make and those choices have consequences (good and bad)
which often outlast the decisions which precipitated them. Thus one man
_can_ make a difference, but often at a great price to be paid later;
and the small individual conflicts which make up a life get woven into a
grander tapestry which encompasses us all.

Given that context, I can report that the Babylon 5 collectable card
game does justice to the series.

First, I am not a CCG addict. I own _no_ Magic: The Gathering cards, and
while I do own a few sets of cards from 3-4 other games, I rarely play
them. So, don't expect a "CCG-expert" review here. As a fan of the series
and out of curiosity in the design I picked up a starter pack of the
Babylon 5 game. Based on what I saw, I'm now trying to collect a fairly
complete set.

Basically, the game is about choice and consequence. How the decisions
which are made can have effects much longer than the conflicts in which
they are made, and how all of these conflicts get woven into greater
pattern. A few specifics to make my point:

- One of the more numerous kinds of cards in the game are 'aftermath'
cards which can be played on qualified characters at the end of a
conflict. These cards then become a nearly permanent feature of the
character, effecting all future play involving them. By the end of a
game, one's ambassador character (your lead character) will typically
have quite a lot of 'aftermath' baggage they are carrying around from
the game's sequence of events. Some of these are good, and you'll plan
on yourself ("war hero" which can be played on an ambassador which wins
a military conflict). Others are bad, and you wait for the right
opportunity to play them on your opponent ("powerful enemies" after they
loose an intrigue conflict). The effect of this is to make each round of
conflicts like an episode of the show, while the aftermath carries the
arc of the story.

- Each player represents one of the major races in the game, and
"winning" is based on increasing the "power" of your faction. However,
the Shadows, Vorlons, and babylon 5 itself are represented as non-player
positions which also accumulate/loose power based on player actions. The
rise and fall of these positions can have serious consequences on play
(if the Vorlons or Shadows get too powerful, the Shadow war breaks out
and the requirements for player victory becomes much more difficult).
Thus actions taken looking at only the current turn can have consequences 
of a much larger scale.

- There is a mechanism of "marks" which can be accumulated on characters
(by aftermath cards and by other means). Doom marks, destiny marks,
vorlon marks, shadow marks; all of which can effect the play of other
cards. This provides yet another means by which decisions can result in
a long series of consequences. So you can have Londo who accumulates
both Doom and Shadow marks and then fights to get free of his
association with the Shadows, and in the process acquires Destiny marks.

This is just a flavor of things. The artwork is excellent. The price is
reasonable (they have tried to keep things like boosters small and
therefore more affordable than some other games). You do need to pick up
at least 2 starter desks from different races to get a start (each race
has a different starter), and the game is perfectly playable with just

szy at windridge.com

From: jmsatb5 at aol.com (Jms at B5)
Date: 27 Dec 1997 12:49:54 -0700
Lines: 9


Thanks for the review.  I'm not as up on card games as I'd like to be, and on
some of this I have to essentially take some of the stuff on game-play on
faith, because that's not something I know a lot about.  So it's good to know
it worked out.

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