This is a session report of my 'birthday' game of TI, which is becoming a bit if a tradition. We usually don't find time to get TI to the table that often, usually being a game we only play around my birthday, though we managed two other games this year! Yay!
Our player count fluctuated a bit, starting at six, then losing one, as my friend had to go stand in the rain for many hours to buy an apartment (the real estate market here seems to be getting stranger). We found a replacement, then lost another to a rally race... seems pretty lame compared to the thrill of pushing plastic ships around to conquer a cardboard galaxy
So, slightly unfortunately, we had a player count of five. I'm not a huge fan of five (though I think nobody is), you can't really design an 'even' board of hexagons for five. I've tried FFG's preset map for five (the one missing a slice of the 'pie'), and didn't really like it. I was going to try the Ultimatum map from Shattered Ascension when the first player dropped, but the replacement guy is brand new, so I didn't want to throw him to the wolves. I ended up find the Oktrakosmos five player map, that looked pretty good, so we tried that.
You can find the map here, if you want to follow along with the report:
I cut a few of the advanced rules we usually play with, in light of having a new player (Political Intrigue, Space Mines, Facilities), but kept a lot of stuff, as it didn't add too much difficulty to the game (Flagships, Shock Troops, refresh abilities).
We played with the Shattered Empire (read: the good) Strategy Cards
Everybody got a choice of three races, mine was between Embers of Muuat, The Winnu, and The L1Z1X Mindnet
The races chosen were:
Dave - Nekro Virus (Starting speaker, winner of our last TI game, and holder of the coveted Imperial Trophy)
Danny - Federation of Sol (the new guy, went with 'The Humans' to show Human solidarity, or some such)
Nicole - The Barony of Letnev (her choice of race was so important to her that she decided by writing them down on paper, crumpling them up, throwing them across the room, and picking up whichever was closest to her)
Jenn - The Naalu Collective (who immediately began acting in character by exssssstending ssssssssome sssssyllablessss in her wordsssss)
Me - The L1Z1X Mindnet (humble cyborgs that we are)
We deal out a Preliminary Objective and two Secret Objectives at the start of the game, you keep one Secret. You must claim your PO before your SO, but you may change your SO blind for a new one when you score your Preliminary. I had 'I control a system next to one of my opponents' Home System' as a Preliminary and a choice of 'I control four planets with the same Tech specialty' or 'I control systems next to two of my opponents' Home Systems' as my Secret. I chose the latter.
We did a Shattered Ascension-style bid for starting positions, which wasn't really necessary, as the map on Oktrakosmos is actually pretty balanced. Nobody bid very high (two people bid 2TG, the other three of us bid 0), I got the top position, which was the one I'd wanted. My neighbors were the Nekro Virus, to my left, and the Naalu, to my right (the two most competitive players). The Letnev were to Naalu's right, with the Sol between Letnev & Virus.
My plan was to push forward toward Everra, get Deep Space Cannons, and build a nice defensive web of PDS to hold my empire, then strike out as required to claim my Objectives.
The opening strategy cards were chosen, with Nekro taking Leadership, Sol Diplomacy, Letnev Trade, Naalu Tech, and me Production (surprising it was left til last).
I was a bit concerned with whether the new player would pick things up well, but he did great once he caught his feet. He even made a great play in the first round, using Diplomacy to grab Cormund out of the Gravity Well and be able to claim the first Public Objective (I took control of three planets this round).
Things went swimmingly for the Mindnet in the beginning, I was able to grab all five planets around 0.0.0 during the first round, thanks to controlling production. I negotiated an improved trade situation (my 1 for Naalu's two, though it cost me my two trade goods I got for starting positions... This ended up being a 'break even' deal, as Trade only got played a couple times during the game).
Round 1 ended with Sol, Naalu and L1Z1X at 1 thanks to conquering 3 planets.
Round 2 was relatively quiet, nobody took Bureaucracy again, so everyone just expanded, I got to Everra and found the Artifact was a dummy, as was the one on Lodor, to Nekro's dismay. Hope's End and Quann had the real deal through, to the delight of the Federation and Naalu, respectively. I spent round 2 trying to run Assembly for the Speaker token, but had it canceled by an Action card from Sol, who enjoyed being able to mess with my plans.
During Round 3, someone took Bureaucracy, finally, and we got new Public Objectives: 'I successfully won a Space Battle against at least 3 opposing ships' and 'I am blockading an opponent's Space Dock'. It looked like bad times were coming. About this time is also where my memory starts to get a bit hazy... Being a birthday game also means I was indulging in a slight amount more beer than usual. In Round 3, I was largely out of space to expand, so I went to the Wormhole Nexus (partly as it was one of the only unclaimed planets, partly due to the artifact token, partly cause the 3 influence would go nicely with 3 from Faunus to buy Command Counters, and partly cause I'd just come back from the washroom and was being yelled at for holding up the game). I ended up quite happy to have a true Artifact show up. Letnev was a bit upset with me, as she'd planned on heading there the following turn.
During Round 3, Naalu allowed Letnev to blockade their space dock at Quaan in exchange for overlooking them blowing up 3 of Letnev's ships at Tempesta (then taking the planet, which was not part of the original deal). Nekro began devouring Sol's poorly defended fleet (Danny made a typical new player mistake of overvaluing technology and undervaluing ships on the board).
Round 4 saw Letnev jump through to the Wormhole Nexus, for spite after having it taken last round. My fleet barely held space around Mallice. Nekro Virus finished his Secret Objective (own Mecatol Rex with a Space Dock and 8 ships in the system), and war continued on the Letnev/Naalu front. I also convinced Naalu to abandon Vefut II to me.
Mindnet: "I'd like to request that you remove your fleet and soldiers from Vefut"
Naalu: "But, we're trading partners and I need that planet"
Mindnet: "We are giving you notice to remove your personnel only because we are trading partners. You will be compensated for the loss of resources, but you've already put yourself at odds with Letnev, you don't want a war on two fronts."
... and thus, I scored my preliminary objective.
Round 5 proved to be decisive. I went into the round with 4 points. I got Bureaucracy, with a Bonus Counter on it. I attacked Nekro on Garbozia (where he had no ships, and only a single GF), which would secure my secret objective, presuming I could hold it, and Vefut for the round. I played Bureaucracy early, claimed an objective (I can't remember which), and turned up 'I have 9 tech advances, for 2 points', which I would after Tech got played this round. This meant, if the stars aligned, and I managed to hold Vefut, Garbozia, and the Artifact on Mallice, I'd jump another four points and win that round. I was a bit surprised that more retaliation didn't come, but I evidently chose a perfect time to strike as neither Naalu or Nekro had reasonable fleets in striking distance of Vefut or Garbozia (or possibly didn't realize the importance of my move). Nekro manage to jump through the Wormhole at Quaan to Mallice and crush the remnants of my fleet that had turned the Letnev away a round prior, but my PDS and two GFs from my initial expansion there was too much for the couple of GFs the Nekro had handy when he attacked.
I was able to ride it out for the victory!
I had a great time with this one, we're hoping to get TI to the table early in the New Year again, which will be great. Our new player loved the game and asked for an invite back, he was solidly tied with Naalu for third place in the end.
I liked the Oktrakosmos map. It seemed really well balanced, and provided a good game, so I'll consider it the next time we have 5, though I'd still like to give Ultimatum a try.
This is another time where the consensus was that 'the game was over too fast', though I think 7 hours is pretty adequate, lol. The next time we play, I think I'm going to cut Preliminary Objectives, just to limit the available points a bit more, and hopefully stretch out the game another round.
I've had the L1Z1X in my draw of random race choices three times now, and this was the first time I took them. They've always seemed slow, or just slightly boring to me before, but I have to say they're a powerhouse. Solid starting tech and excellent production capability is solid. I didn't end up going too crazy on Dreadnoughts as I had other demands for my resources (I likely teched more than I needed to, but it worked out for me with the first Stage 2 objective being for 9 techs).
I'm glad I won, and my opponents played great games too. I'm fairly confident that Nekro could've been within a round of winning, and Naalu stood a reasonable chance too.
Hope we'll play again soon (I don't want the coveted Imperial Trophy gathering much dust)!
Thanks for making me aware of that 5 player pre-set map! Somehow had missed it in the sea of TI3 files.
Sounds like a sweet birthday and congrats on the win!
Just Another User
Nice summary and congratulations on the win. You really do want to try Ultimatum sometime, it's a great 5-player map with lots of interaction.