Saturday, 22 December 2007

Battlestar Galactica Card Game

I had the bright idea of getting a Colonial deck of hexagonal cards as a Christmas present for a friend of mine. He's a fan of the latest Battlestar Galactica re-imagining (BSG-RDM) where the Viper pilot characters play a betting card game and it seemed like the perfect gift. However, it turns out there is no official product and the show's production team have not come up with any official rules for it. So I have done some research and have to blog it here before I forget. It is important to note that the card game in the original series (BSG-TOS) was called Pyramid but BSG-RDM has called it Triad. The names have been reversed with that of the basketball/rugby sport in the show.

There are two decks that purport to be Colonial cards. One of them is a replica of a licensed product and indicates the denominations of cards using the ancient Mayan numbering system with dots representing 1 and bars representing 5, as shown at Katarra8's ebay store. The other uses triangles only to indicate a hierarchy of cards, as shown on neweyestudio item BG-19. However, I have found evidence on Battlestar Wiki that the deck with Mayan numbering was actually used in a BSG-TOS Pyramid game. I have not found any evidence that the deck using the triangle numbering system is used in the show, BSG-TOS or BSG-RDM; again Battlestar Wiki has a screen capture of Helo, Starbuck, and Boomer playing Triad in BSG-RDM but this does not show the faces of the cards.

There are some rules online for the triangle numbering deck at and wikipedia but the lack of hand possibilities does not correlate with the hands named in the show. The Mayan numbering deck comes with 5 card draw poker rules for use with the deck but 5 card does not sit well with the Colonial Battlestar Galactica atmosphere. 5 is a pentagon and the cards are hexagon, there are 12 colonies, pyramids and triangles - not base 5.

In conclusion, it is clear that the Battlestar Galactica card game, played by Starbuck, uses a Mayan numbering deck but it is not a variant of 5 card draw poker. Therefore it must be a variant of single deck six card one draw poker with 4 jokers and hands including straights of 3 and 5 cards, called '3 on a run' and '5 on a run'. I have taken the information about hand possibilities from BSG-TOS, BSG-RDM,, wikipedia, and Katarra8 together with the probabilities of hand combinations from a Michael Keller review of Jeff Cross' six-card draw poker and applied them to a single Colonial deck of Mayan numbering hexagonal cards to come up with 'Rules For Triad: a re-imagining'.

I printed off a batch on 90gsm paper and cut the corners off and it looks great! Hopefully it plays well too, but the inclusion of '3 on a run' increases the hand possibilities and could make it daunting and cumbersome. However, I feel that herein lies the skill of a game requiring the nerves of steel that only Colonial Viper pilots have. Comments on these rules are always welcome, email me. I have noticed a few extra points that could do with adding, like the hand summary doesn't show those that are all the same Color, but such matters can be included in rule revisions as and when new features arise during the course of the show. Here's hoping that the BSG-RDM production team come up with some official rules and a licensed product (deck, cubits, glossy fan material) becomes available soon.

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