Thursday, May 15, 2014

Product Review and Game Report: Twilight Imperium (3rd Edition)

Earlier this year, I watched the Starlit Citadel review of Twilight Imperium; a game I played once, so long ago, I forgot nearly everything about it. But as Fate would have it , few weeks ago, my friend Joe wanted to play TI3 (as the 3rd Edition of the game is referred to as). Together with my daughter's boyfriend Dallas, we managed to play, more or less to completion, this epic space conquest game. 

The entire game report, Twilight Triumvirate, in comic format, can be read here, or under the Studio Pages in the top left tab of this blog. 

This game of cosmic conquest can be played by 3-6 (eight with the Shattered Empires expansion) and is of moderate complexity.  While each individual rule is simple in and of itself, the complexity level rises because the rules taken as a whole, force players to balance and coordinate layers of economic, diplomatic, political, technological and military power to achieve their objectives.  Not to mention all the cards, status counters and plastic playing pieces (a.k.a. "fiddly bits") to keep track of. 

The geomorphic (astromorphic?) map, along with random selection of races and card-draw, guarantees players won't be playing the same game twice.  The process of constructing the interstellar terrain is quite extensive, normally involving all the players. Since time was of the essence, Dallas and I assembled the three-player galaxy the night prior to our session and randomly selected which races would be the card-carrying members of our galactic triumvirate.

(Our Three-Player Galaxy)
When Joe arrived, we randomly determined who would represent each race.  Joe got the Sardakk N'Orr (warrior bugs), Dallas the Mentak Coalition (space pirates) and I ended up with the Yin Brotherhood (clones). 

Rule mechanic-wise game went fairly well, considering Joe and I have only played it once before, while this was Dallas' first exposure to the game.  

The two major items we misplayed were the Action Phase and the production portion of the Activation Sequence.

Normally, in the Action Phase a player can do one of the following--

--conduct a Strategic Action
--conduct a Tactical Action
--conduct a Transfer Action
--or he can Pass

In our game we played a Strategic Action followed by a Tactical Action each turn.  Basically, we did two actions per phase instead of one. I felt that something wasn't right and the turns had an odd feel to it.  But since we were in the thick of playing the action, I didn't realize what we did wrong until several days later--and with the help of some tutorials available on YouTube

As far as producing new units, we simply built whatever we could afford at the moment.  We somehow forgot we needed to use an activation counter (which depicted the level of command & control one is capable of exerting) to do so.  As a result, our collective industrial capacity was higher than normal. 

As the Yin Brotherhood player, I realized I overlooked some aspects of this race after re-reading material for this blog post and game report--

--The Yin are fanatics and could use their destroyers to make kamikaze attacks against specific ships in an enemy fleet.
--They can also swap a planet's Resource Rating (economic power) and it's Influence Rating (political power) for one round.  

Oh, well.  

Next time we play, and if I end up with the Yin again, hopefully I'll remember all this.

On the plus side, we felt the game was much more interesting using the Distant Suns Option.  Under this rule, Distant Suns counters are placed inverted on each planet.  Each one represented a hidden benefit or danger to any player landing ground units on unexplored/unclaimed planets. In on-line forums, some players feel this option slows the game down.  This may indeed be true. But I think otherwise the opening phases of the game would merely be a long series of "expand-build-expand-build" actions, with a dash of political/economic backstabbing, until players' forces come in contact with each other. 

Overall, TI3 does well at immersing players in a star-spanning saga of political intrigue, financial finagling, diplomatic double-dealing and cosmic conquest.  


Anonymous said...

Great post, Ted. Covered pretty much everything. My take is that we were able to play this monster to near completion in a single moderately long sitting! Yes, of course we'll work out the bugs next time. Hopefully, we'll have more players and a place we can leave the game setup for an extended period. I am very much looking forward to playing this one again!


Ted Henkle said...

Thanks Joe! I'm looking forward to playing again too.