Kevin Jumper
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This was my second time playing TI3. The game had four players, myself (Kevin), as the Emirates of Hacan (last time I was the Mindnet), Brian, the game's owner, as the Tribes of Yssaril, Marshall, as the Mentak Coalition (all of whom had played in my first game), and a new player, Jared (The Federation of Sol). We were using the base game, and Brian set up a pre-defined map, designed to be balanced, prior to our arrival to save some time. Since we thought the ISC was overpowered last time, we adopted the House Rule that it would only grant 1 VP if taken, unless one held Mecatol Rex, in which case it would give 2VP. We also decided to play the long game to 14 VP (or whenever we had to leave to catch the last bus back) and removed the Imperium Rex card from the Stage II Objectives to reduce the chance of an anticlimactic and abrupt ending.

Hacan took the southeastern position, Yssaril the southwest, Sol the northwest, and the Mentak the northeast. The Yssaril won the right to go first, and thus the game began.


Brian, as the Yssaril, had the edge on colonizing over me, thanks to his XRD Transporters, but fortunately he didn't make a beeline for Bereg/Lirta between us, taking some worlds closer to Mecatol Rex first. Bereg/Lirta was potentially a source of contention between us, since we both knew its value as a manufacturing center, but I persuaded him to let me take the system, and not attack me, by giving him one of my trade agreements. My secret objective was Merciless, so I hoped to use it to pump out fleets and strike Brian's space docks when his guard was down.

Brian also suffered a public execution on the very first Political Card of the game - as the most experienced player, the Yssaril, and equipped with XRD Transporters, he was seen as the biggest threat. I buried a -2 penalty to Dreadnoughts and War Suns law, as I was hoping to use them later, and another to pull out a relatively harmless minister of trade.

Yes, trade was quite lucrative for me as the Hacan, especially not having to pay for its secondary. Of course, my wealth attracted an action card from Brian that stole all of my first turn trade goods (from me taking the Primary and from events while colonizing planets), since he said they were too tempting to pass up. Yes, he was the true pirate of the game, unlike the Mentak, who never stole a trade good from me. Throughout the game, I'd often use trade goods to encourage players, particularly Marshall to do political favors for me - and he had lots of clout because he found two Lazax survivors during colonization. But the immediate effect of the loss of my trade goods was delaying when I could claim the "spend 6 trade goods objective).

The others had some trouble with hostiles or radiation / biohazards on their worlds, slowing their initial expansion… but I got very unlucky while trying to take Starpoint - an unlucky die roll made it Brian's planet instead, denying me three resources per turn. And with him grabbing another 3-resource planet to the south of Bereg-Lirta, I couldn't keep up with the Yssaril or Mentak in fleet production (the latter of which had Abyz/Fria adjacent to Mecatol Rex). And then Marshall swept in with Mentak Dreadnoughts, and conquered the throne of the galaxy, which would remain his for most of the rest of the game. Shortly thereafter, he announced the completion of his secret objective, Industrial (though not before someone caused an unfortunate accident at one of his space docks, delaying him by a turn), funded in part by the bribes that I had been making.

But it wasn't all bad for me. The worlds I did control had numerous green technology discounts - three of them, and with my Scientist on one such world, I got a discount of four on green tech. Before I got the last such world though, I was able to trade with Sol (who was also fairly small compared to the Yssaril or Mentak) for a card that would reduce the cost of a green tech for me by 4 (letting me get Stasis Capsules for just 1 resource), while giving him a card that would let him bypass a perquisite for six resources, which would enable him to later me the first to research War Suns.

I was actually slow to get started on the tech front, but once I did I was able to get a good amount of green tech compared to the others - Stasis Capsules (quite useful for transporting with my cruisers and dreadnoughts), Neural Motivator, and Cybernetics (the latter of which I was the only one to have in the game), which later qualified me for the "three techs of one color" public objective. I by default had Sarween Tools (which I embarrassingly forgot to use on the first round but made diligent use of afterwards) and Enviro Compensators, and when colonizing an outlying planet, along a natural DMZ with the Mentak, I was able to research Hylar V Lasers, theoretically providing a boon for my numerous destroyers and cruisers (though these didn't actually end up seeing much combat). Later on, we passed a law (repealed a turn or so thereafter), making blue techs cheaper by 3 and all others more expensive by 2, which let me easily get Antimass Deflectors for the "One Technology of Each Color" public objective. I could have gotten microtechnology to benefit from trade goods over the course of the entire game, which would have bolstered my economy further, but it really didn't fit into my tech-for-VP strategy, and neither did War Suns for me.

I was also able to claim the "having all my space docks" objective when I built a second one in my home system (deciding that putting one on Lirta, aside Bereg, would give the game away to Brian and provoke his rather) and ensuring my HS would almost always be well-defended. Additionally, I barely managed to claim the "5 planets outside of your home system" objective on the turn that it showed up. And I managed to snag Imperial or Initiative (and then subsequently Imperial) a few more times more than I deserved to, keeping me doing well in points, though Marshall was clearly ahead with his Secret Objective completed and occasionally getting an extra VP from the ISC for holding Mecatol Rex… though Brian tied up with him early on with a short war to claim his own Secret Objective, for holding a certain number of planets with a tech speciality.

With Brian's much more powerful Yssaril fleet along my borders, I repeatedly made use of Diplomacy to keep him from getting any ideas of invading me, while I built up my fleet with the intention to stab him in the back while he was distracted trying to wrest Mecatol Rex away from Marshall's Mentak or deal with the threat of Jared's new War Suns from Sol (though soon enough both Brian and Marshall researched and produced War Suns of their own).

It looked like Brian's guard was down, but I didn't have XRD Transports yet, so attacking his home system, or his somewhat more fortified system to the west of Bereg/Lirta was less immediately attractive. I decided to try to claim the planet to Bereg/Lirta's south, for its three resources and green discount. But the invasion was repulsed, and I had made a serious tactical error, forgetting I would be unable to reinforce Bereg/Lirta from a counterattack of multiple dreadnoughts and cruisers. Marshall thought I was about to get my fleets thrashed and my worlds conquered in revenge, ruining me, and at first Brian seemed set on that, rejecting my initial offer of trade goods as reparations and a normalization of diplomatic ties / trade agreements, but when I offered him six trade goods, he accepted and war was averted. Considering I would have lost 5 resources a turn if he took Bereg/Lirta, and had massive fleets wrecking mine, that was a quite cheap price to pay, and probably my single most important bribe of the game. But Brian fortified his rear worlds after that, and going after him for my Secret Objective / for more resources would no longer be viable.

But thanks to my Neural Motivator (which remained unique to me throughout the game) and a few political cards, I had a nice selection of action cards in my hand. And we passed a law, establishing a universal truce for the next round unless anyone paid 10 influence to discard the law. Since I was still free to attack before the truce when into effect, I used the Flanking Speed action card to bring three of my dreadnoughts up to Abyz/Fria, the site of one of Marshall's three space docks and one of his War Suns, which they otherwise would have been unable to reach, along with several fighters, and a carrier (though I forgot to bring enough ground troops for a proper invasion). Now, the odds would have normally seemed against me - but I had Into the Breach, granting my entire fleet +1 while forcing a dreadnought in my fleet to take two hits. From the enemy fleet, I took 4 hits once the battle began in earnest - but then I cancelled two hits with Shields Holding, so I still had two Dreadnoughts left, and the I got in some good hits with my dreadnoughts and Cybernetics-enhaced fighters, damaging the War Sun. I tried a Direct Hit on the damaged War Sun - only for Marshall to Sabotage that plan (and he apparently had been holding on to several and used two more in subsequent rounds). I was prepared to retreat, lest Marshall wreck my survivors, but he retreated to preserve his War Sun. And I was also able to reinforce all of my planets with Rise of a Messiah.

Of course, he invaded one of my outlying worlds in revenge, but it was only a small loss - a single resource. He also sent Destroyers through a wormhole to appear behind my lines, near my home system. But I had plenty of ships to not be unduly concerned, and the truce would shortly go into effect. But before that, Brian had put one of Jared's Space Docks under blockade, and managed to wipe out Marshall's forces over Mecatol Rex - but was prevented from bombarding them with War Suns thanks to a timely action card from Marshall.

During the truce, I encouraged Jared to take Imperial to keep Marshall, who was leading by a point and getting very close to the winning threshold from getting more VP. I also research XRD Transporters for myself (making me the only other player in the game to get it), and maneuvered into position to properly invade Abyz/Fria after the truce expired, claiming a "Spend 10 resources now" objective with the help of my trade goods. And Brian exploited a loophole in the rules of the truce to move more ships over Mecatol Rex, since he wasn't actually invading the planet. In the meantime, we passed a law giving everyone 1 more fleet supply.

With the expiration of the truce, I used Signal Jamming to keep Marshall from reinforcing the Abyz/Fria system with his War Suns or Dreadnoughts. One of the planets was undefended, so I took it without a fight, and I bombard the other before leading to a successful ground invasion of the other, following an orbital bombardment from my dreadnoughts, leading to my first proper conquest of the game, worth five resources, the elimination of an enemy space dock, and the capture (and immediate execution) of one of Marshall's leaders. Unfortunately, the game was about to end from time constraints, so this wouldn't really help me (and neither would Deep Space Cannon, which I would have researched next otherwise as a prerequisite for my own War Suns... though in retrospect Type IV Drives, which I was the only one qualified for, may have been more immediately useful had the game continued), but I felt pride in my victory, made possible through my skillful use of Action Cards / Neural Motivator.

And then, the climatic battle of the game began. Marshall tried to Signal Jam Brian to keep him from invading Mecatol Rex, but Brian sacrificed his Agent so that the orbital bombardment and invasion could commence. The Yssaril Tribes were successful, finally wresting control of the Ancient Imperial Throne from the Mentak. But the Mentak counterattack was swift and furious, and both War Suns of the Yssaril and Mentak, along with several Dreadnoughts, fighters, and crusiers each exchanged volley after volley, staining the skies of the capital red with laser fire and littering it with the hulks of destroyed capital ships. And in the end… not a single one remained intact, leaving behind a graveyard of fleets that had destroyed each other utterly.

Time was pretty much up now, so I played Imperial one last time for one more VP and then we all agreed to pass turns and end the game so we could catch the bus. I earned one more VP by spending 10 influence, and Marshall completed another objective, bringing the final score to:

1st Place - Marshall (Mentak): 13 VP
2nd Place - Brian (Yssaril): 12 VP
3rd Place - Kevin [i.e., me] (Hacan): 11 VP
4th Place - Jared (Sol) - 4 VP.

So while I lost because I couldn't claim my Secret Objective, while Marshall and Brian had fairly easy ones (Jared's was to control all wormhole systems), I still didn't far very behind in points in spite of my poor expansion, and managed to diligently complete objectives (and only passed up Imperial once when it was available to me when it was imperative for me to have Logistics for the coming turn… which I made up for by managing to get it twice in a row, and generally more frequently than I deserved).

Afterwards, Marshall said sometimes he would have obliged my requests without a bribe. But of course I had no way of knowing that, so it was a perfectly reasonable way for him to take advantage of me. But in other cases, bribery certainly helped, especially when it prevented an escalation of hostilities with Brian.

I probably won't have another chance to play TI3 this summer, but even though it took 8 hours, I had a lot of fun. It would have been cool to play as the Jol-Nar (one of Marshall's two choices for a race), but I had been looking forward to the Hacan as a potential choice too, so that worked out. And maybe I can get a copy of the base game for myself one day… the only trick will be finding players back home to play with.

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