Kevin Jumper
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I just played one final game with the group I've played TI3 in the past, before I leave graduate school and return to my home in another state.

There were three players this time - myself, Brian, and Marshall, all experienced with the game. This time, Brian suggested that we do something different - each of us would take command of two "allied" races who would work together to earn victory points for a single tally, though each race's resources and tech would be separate, each "alliance" would be only able to qualify for one objective each round, and trading would only be permitted with races outside of one's "alliance". We also adopted the wording of the Imperial II card, with Brian printing out an overlarge one from online.

We each drew three races and selected two for our alliance. My choices were the Mindnet, the Hacan, and the Jol-Nar. I had played the first two before, but I had been really hoping to have the chance to use the Jol-Nar, so I chose them as one of my races. I then went with the Mindnet, which I used in my first game, to have a more militarily-oriented race to offset the Jol-Nar's weak combat ability. Plus, the fact that they had a lot of tech to start with appealed to me.

We set up the galaxy. From my position in the south and going clockwise, we had the Jol-Nar, the Mindnet, the Sardakk'Norr (Brian), the Mentak Coalition (Brian), the Yssaril Tribes (Marshall), and the Barony of Letnev (Marshall). I got Bereg/Lirta in my hand and placed that next to 0.0.0., aka Null, giving the Mindnet a very rich opening, while I clustered more numerous low-value planets (but with several tech bonuses) around the Jol-Nar. Someone dropped a Nebula between the Jol-Nar and the Mindnet, and there was a natural DMZ between the Sardakk'Nor and the Mindnet in the form of a Supernova and empty space. Initially, the A wormhole was dead, not connecting to anything.

We drew one secret objective for each alliance. Mine was Industrial: to control Mecatol Rex, have all 5 dreadnoughts on the board for one of my races, and to have all three of that race's space docks on the board.

Brian managed to get his Sdarkk'Norr General killed in a landing due to radiation in the first round.

I grabbed Technology for the Mindnet in the first round so they could grab Sarween Tools and that the Jol-Nar could activate its primary while using the secondary (but not actually paying 8 resources and thus getting another tech from the secondary). Then in the first political round, someone drew the Ancient Artifact, which gave everyone two free techs. This led to the Mindnet researching War Suns on the first turn, though I would delay producing them for several turns while I built up my dreadnoughts and other ships in the fleet.

With only 6 out of 8 strategies being chosen each time it became more important to choose certain strategies right away, particularly if you needed their secondary for one of your races, since you couldn't always rely on the others choosing them. On the other hand, Imperial II didn't get picked for several turns now that it no longer gave free, unconditional VP.

The next major event of the game was that Brian and Marshall passed a law prohibiting anyone from researching tech for a turn, as they thought the Jol-Nar were getting to many free techs from their racial ability. I forgot that I had a Veto action card in hand, so that set me back… but I used that later on to prevent limits on fleet sizes from being imposed… resulting in a -2 penalty to War Suns and Dreadnoughts being approved instead. While I was the only one with a War Sun at the time of that vote, I still voted for it as my Mindnet Dreadnoughts were still better than everyone else's especially with Assault Cannons, which the Jol-Nar dreadnoughts shared (and had Type IV drives as well).

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I seized an opportunity to seize Mecatol Rex with a small Mindnet force, and with a Space Dock on Null, two in the Bereg/Lirta system, and a quick production of my remaining Mindnet Dreadnoughts, I satisfied my secret objective and came out to an early lead. In contrast, the Jol-Nar fleet lagged behind, but I started building up large groups of Advanced Fighters for them.

Brian heavily fortified the systems surrounding Mecatol Rex and along my border with the Sardakk'Norr, placing five PDS systems on a a planet along said border, prompting me to place five in Bereg/Lirta, on the other side of our effective DMZ. Basically, any fleets that entered it would die or suffer serious casualties.

Brian and Marshall made the mistake of letting me get Imperial II a few times, broadening my lead, and it was only after I used it to get 1 VP for controlling Mecatol Rex and satisfy three additional public objectives in one turn did they realize how much of a threat I was. They seemed just too reluctant to attack Mecatol Rex, content to make it hard for me to reinforce with their PDS net. But I had managed to situate a War Sun and a pair of Dreadnoughts over MR by bringing in an escort of fighters on a suicide mission to absorb PDS fire. I later managed to destroy the PDS along the border with a well-placed Local Unrest (since there was only 1 ground force on that planet), wiped out about four of Brian's GF on another planet with plague, prevented Brian's Sdarkk'Norr from using Logistics when they desperately needed it, and wiped out nine of Marshall's Trade Goods, taking four for myself, which we thought he was hoarding for some objective (really, it was just for the Barony's combat bonuses, which he underutilized), a misconception he encouraged.

Anyways, after the VP bubble stunt I pulled, it was clear that both Brian and Marshall were going to declare all-out war on me since I had pulled ahead to a vast lead. So I used an action card to nullify all trade agreements, foiled Brian's plan to revive the Ancient Artifact Agenda, and then launched my own offensive, trying to put them on the defense first. And at first I had great success - both the Mindnet and the Jol-Nar had more Fleet Logistics than their enemies, and the Mindnet's Assault Cannon armed dreadnoughts were the bane of Brian's existence in the war. In my offensive against him, I got him to retreat in a system between his home system and where the PDS net had been, seizing two planets and destroying one of his space docks in the process. In the same round, I overran one of Marshall's fleets with massed Jol-Nar Advanced Fighters and some other ships, and conquered a weakly-defended planet in the system. And then I surprised Marshall with my aggression, using my 3-movement Cruisers (from Type IV Drive) to sweep through an undefended corridor, from empty space to an asteroid field, to the system with Meer and another planet, both undefended, and conquered them with ground forces allowed through Stasis Capsules. Brian and Marshall were quite concerned that they had lost five planets between them in one round.

But then they began their counterattacks, and this was where the Yssaril's repeated use of the political card began to shine, for they had tons of action cards saved up, including several Sabotages to protect their hands (my Mindnet didn't have Neural Motivator, though the Jol-Nar got it around the second round of the game). I hadn't really gotten involved too much in Politics earlier, although I had been quite influential when I controlled Mecatol Rex, and now that Brian and Marshall were allied against me, they could outvote me.

But first, Brian counterattacked to reclaim his lost systems and to weaken my hold on Mecatol Rex. He suffered major casualties retaking the two planets the Sdarkk'Norr had lost, losing an Admiral in the process, and his attempt to invade Mecatol Rex with the Mentak failed, though it reduced the defenses to just a damaged War Sun and two Ground Forces, which were defeated by a Letnev fleet from Marshall that included a War Sun. Marshall then focused on maneuvering the Letnev to retake the three planets they had lost the previous round (which they did), and destroyed my Jol-Nar Space Dock at Lodor next to Mecatol Rex (though I was mainly using the two docks in the Jol-Nar home system for that race's production) with an action card (I think it was another Local Unrest, and used a similar tactic on Lirta and a Jol-Nar system via a political election to render them neutral… I tried to force Marshall to abstain so I could do that to two of Brian's planets, but I was Sabotaged). But what I certainly didn't expect was that he used an Action Card to bypass his Letnev fleet and bring in a massive Yssaril Fleet with lots of fighters, even more than mine, and attacked the massed Jol-Nar Fleet over Lordor, which would have tried to retake Mecatol Rex otherwise.

In retrospect, both of us were unwittingly in violation of the fleet rules, since while we both have advanced fighters, without support one can only have them up to the fleet limit. But this battle thinned them out enough that it was no longer a problem. I tried to Direct Hit the ship carrying Marshall's Admiral, but he sabotaged it, preventing my escape. The bulk of the Jol-Nar fleet, already spread thin by me trying to turn the pressure on mmy enemies, was wiped out.

Realizing my situation was dire, I used Diplomacy to keep the Yssaril from attacking the Jol-Nar again… only for Marshall to use Flank Speed to attack with an Armada of Letnev Dreadnoughts and a War Sun, pushing to right outside of my home system. Meanwhile, I sacrificed my Mindnet Agent to prevent a Signal Jamming of Bereg/Lirta… only for Marshall to use another one. I still managed to inflict major casualties on Brian's advancing Sdarkk'Norr forces though, shredding his fleets with PDS fire, some mines left by my Cruisers via Action Cards, and two more Direct Hits.

But everyone was getting tired, and while militarily the Mindnet and the Jol-Nar were on the ropes, they still had 11 VP to the 5 VP each that Brian and Marshall had (it had been 12 VP vs. 6 VP for Brian and Marshall, but they passed a law that took away 1 VP from everyone), so everyone agreed to end the senseless conflict. The Jol-Nar had 15 techs at the end of the game, while the Mindnet had considerably less due to investing more into their capital ships and not having the advantage of free tech.

And thus the alliance of the Jol-Nar and the Mindnet became acknowledged as the rulers of the galaxy. The Mindnet was welcomed into the Jol-Nar's Universities, and the Hylar voluntarily underwent their own cybernetic modifications, creating the new entity of the Jol-Nar Mindnet. And now it is time for the rest of the races of the galaxy to be assimilated.

Resistance is Futile.
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Nicola Bocchetta
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How long did it take?

Shouldn't the game end at 10 VP?
 
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Kevin Jumper
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It took 10 hours. We were playing the long game variant, at which it ends at 14 VP.
 
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