We had a great 4 person game of TI this weekend. Pope was sitting across from me while Scooter and Willy were on either side. In the initial layout of tiles, Pope and Scooter had most of the high resource systems. Right between Willy and I were a 3 and 2 resource systems. The 2 wormholes were about equidistant between Willy/Me and Willy/Pope while both exiting in Scooter's quadrant.
Although I don't have the expansion yet, we played with the quick start rules. I immediately worked my way to the 3 resource planet. I offered a deal with Willy that he could have the two planet and we could leave it at that. He agreed and went about starting the game.
On the second turn, he attacked and took over my plant. He didn't realize my carrier/fighter fleets (with help from some cruisers) had XRD transport and I swarmed back in and saved it. He started talking shit so I used an action card that acted like warfare and that same turn, took over his homeplanet. He decided to go for my home with everything he could muster and in an epic battle (with help from some lucky action cards like the one where you startdock acts as a 3 shot PDS), I won by just two ships.
While this was happening, Scooter and Pope had been building up. Pope stacked the political deck with a card that says all planets without ground forces are reverted to neutral. This left me with my home system and Willy's home system while Willy had just one planet. Brutal! I had the racial ability to table the political card, but stupidly forgot.
Fortunatly for Willy and I, they weren't able to capitalize on our weakness. Scooter started with 6 tech planets in front of him and so he had his secret goal on the second turn. He was sitting at about 7 victory points, while Pope was at 4 and I was at 3. Pope, Willy and I decided to take care of business. Willy and I moved our remaining fleets to both of the wormholes while Pope prepped to flank from the side. This being Scooter's first game, didn't realize quite how powerful his fleet was compared to my swarm of fighters and cruisers. (He had War Suns, and destroyers with Assult Cannons). He started piling stuff on my wormhole exit, but didn't go beyond that.
At this point, he had Iniative and was ready to get Imperial plus one of the objectives for the win. We had given up hope, when I received the action card that makes someone return their selected strategy card and pick something else. He basically got skipped for the round. The three of us continued to position ourselves for the strike.
Iniative came around to Scooter again and the following turn, Willy decided to go balls out and used a card to let him move through an opponents fleet. Willy went straight for Scooter's home world and took it out, but only had two ground forces and two cruisers left. Scooter's two main fleets had been signal jammed but he still had another to retake his home. Again, we thought all was lost.
At that point Pope, moved onto Mecatol Rex with a massive force. I was suspicious that this was for a secret goal and knew I had to attack. I decided to hold off and do polical strategy first in hopes of getting good action cards. I got crappy cards and immediately afterwards, he played diplomacy on me. Ah shibandit!
When all was revealed, Pope accomplished his secret goal and had tied Scooter for 10 points that around. We went to the tie breaker and Pope won. He never fired a single shot and took the whole game. I was so sure that Scooter had the game in the bag for the last half of the game. Fantastic!
*note* I'm writing this several days after the game, so details may not be 100% accurate, but the general flow is spot on.