1 emperor, 2 pots of coffee, 6 players, 8 hours, 12s of donuts, 21 beers, 62 galactic system tiles, 350 plastic miniatures, and over 400 political, action and technology cards. In a sentence, that describes our Twilight Imperium game day.
Our gaming group has been playing more and more board games these days and I kept hearing about this end-all-be-all space opera game called Twilight Imperium. I mentioned it to my gamer friends and they were excited about, so we bought the game and worked out a Saturday that we could dedicate to playing the game.
The day had finally arrived. I had preset the board ahead the night before and had waited like a kid on Christmas Eve to start playing. We knew that time was going to be our biggest opponent, so we picked our races ahead of time and agreed to set up the playing area using a pre-set map.
I spent a good chunk of time reading about the game and its expansions as the general consensus was that the first expansion smoothed out some unbalanced game elements. One of the other options we played with, called Distant Suns, had us assign a random facedown token to each planet with positive or negative consequences. Distant Suns made planetary exploration riskier, while in most cases flipping over these tokens proved rewarding, but there were some nasty ones that set back their races almost a full round.
Don’t underestimate the commitment of time. Our first turn took an hour and half, going over all the rules and variants.
Early on in the first handful of hours, we played a safe, exploratory game, learning the mechanics of the game, and getting the hang of the multiple turns within a game round.
The Pirates, I mean the Mentak Coalition, were the first to engage in a space battle, testing the fortitude of the L1Z1X Mindnet and after a multiple turn battle, they were driven back and taught the error of their ways, with their admiral escaping their disastrous outcome. However, they would return for vengeance later in the game.
We had set a drop dead time at 5pm, roughly 8 hours after we started, and in those last two rounds, things really started to heat up. Actions cards were thrown down, fleets mobilized, and resources carefully allocated, as we all focused on trying to get as many Victory Points as we could manage in those last turns. We never realized the importance of jockeying for the prized strategy cards as the game near its end. It’s so important to keep claiming victory points steadily through the game; don’t wait until late in the game as your ability to claim victory points can be limited.
At the end of our marathon gaming event, The Xxcha won with 6 victory points, claiming 3 points on the last round with the Bureaucracy strategy card, which proved to be the game winning tactic. Everything you do in the game should be to expand your territory or to get you closer to claiming victory points. Don’t get caught up in meaningless battles that will only drain your resources and command tokens.
After the 8+ hours, everyone agreed that Twilight Imperium lived up to all the hype and to its billing as “an epic board game of galactic conquest, politics, and trade.”
However, while the action cards were invaluable, especially being able to play multiple cards in a battle, or in a round as action, the politics angle was weak. The Assembly strategy card rarely proved to have any impact and was a bit of a disappointment. Reading a bit more about it afterwords, our concern was shared by many players who suggested pairing down the massive Political Card deck down to 50-60 cards.
We made a lot of mistakes, such as allowing agents sabotaging agents or players confusing the different command card areas on their race cards. Allowing mulligans for the first couple of turns is a good idea.
While strategy played a huge part of the game, there was a lot of randomness that contributed to the end results, such as the placement of home systems and neighbouring systems, the secret and public objectives.
Suggestions for our next time:
– allow players to cycle secret objectives, or deal two objectives and pick one
– pare down the political card deck to have more relevant fun cards
– allow players to build the universe map rather than the overly even preset maps
Jason Shayer has been trying his best not to grow up for that last 30 years and comics books are one of the best ways to keep him young at heart. He’s also known as the Marvel 1980s guy and has probably forgotten more than you’d ever want to know about that wonderfully creative era. Check out his blog at: marvel1980s.blogspot.com.