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Subject: A 3 Player Game of Influence rss

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James Thorne
New Zealand
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Session report – A 3 player game of influence

Setup:
Base game
+Racial techs
+Flagships
+Mechanized Units
+Artifacts
+Custodians of Mecatol Rex

Initiative, Diplomacy II, Trade II, Logistics, Political, Warfare, Technology II, Imperial II.

Pre-set 3 player map with equidistant wormholes connecting to the Wormhole Nexus.

The three races vying for control are: The Naalu Collective, Barony of Letnev and Sardakk N’orr.

Right out of the gate Naalu (first time player) pulls off a ridiculously fantastic and well calculated move. Taking Warfare I and Diplomacy II, Naalu’s starting carrier and ground troops manage to conquer four planets (including an Artifact!) with a peaceful annexation of a fifth!

But the mystic fishy masterstroke actually comes during the status phase where Naalu calmly requests a count up of each players controlled influence… it turns out this first turn move put Naalu ahead of the combined influence total of both Letnev and N’orr (by one point) claiming a coveted 3 Victory Point objective and putting Naalu into a lead of 4 points over all-comers in only the first 15 minutes of the game!

The objective card “3 Points – Control planets with more combined influence than either neighbour” would prove to be the story of Naalu and in fact the entire game.

With the early surge in points Naalu has to try and quell the obvious teaming up between Letnev and N’orr that begins to manifest. It would be a game of hoping the early buffer would be enough to see them through the two pronged attack.

The conquering of planets surrounding Mecatol Rex sees each Great Race hold a strong double planet system beside the ancient capitol. Both N’orr and Naalu has discovered powerful artifacts while the poorly Letnev searched for an artefact in vain and sits in a lowly third place.

The first Political strategy card of the game requires the election of a player to double up their action card allowance each turn. The vote triangle is set up with Naalu and N’orr having equal highest votes and Letnev trying to leverage their position as the kingmaker. A poorly worded bribe by Naalu sees N’orr exit the assembly as the beneficiary and Letnev taking the trade goods spoils for their collaboration.

Five of out six of the Stage I public objectives were peaceful and the galaxy sees a number of rounds where sparks fly around Technology, Trade and Production but no space combat to speak of.

Letnev strikes first blood by hitting a fleet and planet belonging to victory point leader Naalu. With no command tokens down for escape routes the Naalu fleet is destroyed and some tension begins to form in the systems adjacent to the Naalu home worlds. Tension morphs into extortion as Letnev then threaten to move against the poorly defended Naalu homesystem unless paid in trade goods. After briefly considering permanent emigration, Naalu gives in to the threats, trade goods are exchanged and an uncomfortable cease fire ensues.

While Letnev and Naalu are coming to blows in the playground, N’orr makes a decisive move into Mecatol Rex and displaces the custodians with ease claiming the galaxy’s centrepiece as their own. With Mecatol Rex claimed, attention turns to the Imperial II strategy card and the timer begins for N’orr in their move up the power rankings toward victory.

Dispite their differences, Naalu and Letnev are able to effectively collude and keep the Imperial II card away from N’orr. This does little to dissuade N’orr in their grip on Mecatol Rex as their ground forces, planetary defences and capital ships muster ominously in the galaxy’s centre.

In a sweeping round, N’orr reveals and banks their Secret Objective with their garrison of Mecatol Rex, combining with a public objective to move 3 points and threaten the lead of Naalu and more importantly threaten the 10 VP win condition.

The unholy alliance between Naalu and Letnev solidifies under the pressure of this fact and whispers begin about how to dethrone the warlike N’orr.

With all the focus building around Mecatol Rex, Naalu changes tack sharply and sweeps their primary fleet into an unsuspecting N’orr home system to set off a crushing sequence of moves for all plastic spaceships on the board. N’orr’s back door is crushed decisively, Naalu’s production centre is poorly defended and Letnev looms large over the ripening Mecatol Rex as part of a potential two-on-one obliteration of N’orr fleets.

But taking fate into their own hands, the combat-ready N’orr use the intervening turn to launch a pre-emptive strike on Letnev. Carnage ensues with heavy losses for both sides before Letnev makes an Action Card tactical retreat leaving their last Dreadnaught and Flagship in salvageable condition.

The galaxy is now a very different place, trade and political relations are mangled, numerous key systems are at risk and fleets are separated.

Sounds like a good time to hold a galactic assembly don’t you think?
The galaxy is now set to completely shift once again as votes are cast to consider a law reducing all Space Dock production capacity to TWO!! At the time of voting Naalu has the largest fleet and votes “Yes” to keep it that way. Letnev votes “No” as they hold the most productive systems and have the most to lose. N’orr is stuck between a rock and a hard place (an asteroid field and Mecatol Rex?) as a “No” vote from them would prevent much needed Space Dock activation in this turn. The “Yes” vote is carried and now galactic production grounds to a halt as all capacity is capped at two units!

At this point (almost 1:00 am) the Great Races collectively decide the fate of the galaxy is best to wait until the following day when play will resume.

During this 18 hours intermission the scores are poised with Naalu leading on 8 VPs, with N’orr and Letnev sitting on 7 each. Will it be a sprint to pop the final victory point bubble or a bloody slog and slow grind for those last points?

18 hours later the battle lines are redrawn and a tense round of strategy card selection begins.

N’orr = Imperial II (will their waning grip on Mecatol Rex be enough to see them to victory?)
Naalu = Warfare (this is not for troop bolstering - someone is going to be annihilated!)
Letnev = Initiative or Lostics? (They can’t afford to have last pick two turns in a row, but desperately need command counters – and is the game going to even last another round?) choose Logistics
N’orr = Technology II (surely a combat tech is coming to push their combat rolls into further obscenity?)
Naalu = Diplomacy II (oh no – now the big military move will be carried out with virtual impunity!)
Letnev = What’s left? It’s looking like the Naalu fleets will have their way – only a miracle could save the Barony… OK choose Politics (time to pray for a swingy – game changing set of action and political cards).

But before the action turns begin, Naalu plays Signal Jamming on Letnev’s forward system that contains their primary fleet. Letnev is screwed… the unwanted system activation completely shutting them down. Their only recourse is to read and re-read and re-re-read the text on the Signal Jamming action card just in case it doesn’t actually mean what it means. It does mean it.

The round gets under way. Ships are built, tension mounts, no combat yet… surely it’s just a matter of time. Letnev offers a prayer and plays the Political strategy card. After first drawing three absolutely dud action cards, probably the most timely and game changing law comes up and we must vote to elect a player that will not be able to invade systems or planets for the remainder of this round! It’s an insta-vote and N’orr and Letnev put a freeze on Naalu’s plan to find their last two victory points this turn. Lesson - if in doubt… choose Politics.

Naalu’s plans now on ice, they do the most aggressive thing that they can this turn and that’s play Local Unrest on N’orr and turn a 2P 3I planet with a lonely ground force into neutral.

With Naalu momentarily subdued, Letnev and N’orr shortsightedly turn their sights to each other. N’orr has all but given up on their fleets and converts production into ground forces, PDS, and mechanized units. N’orr does not simply walk away from Mecatol Rex.

After a number of delay-ish turns Letnev decides that it is better to finish first or go out in blaze of glory and pushes their entire movable fleet into Mecatol Rex to take on the N’orr bunker.

N’orr’s multiple PDS fire hits the fleet from the adjacent system but the fleet battle is won easily in the end by Letnev. It’s all coming down to these ground troops. Will 3 defending mechanized units and 3 ground forces be able to hold off the invasion party?

Yes. Decisively. The invading ground forces were shredded by the tanks and the Letnev last ditch “Hail Mary” was in vain.

Or was it?

Now it’s status phase and time to claim those public objectives: 1 VP for Naalu – moves to 9. 1 VP during the round for N’orr moves them to 8 and now it’s Letnev.

What’s this? Letnev is requesting the Great Races to count out the influence under their control!

The neighbour to the right, Naalu counts out… 6 influence.
The neighbour to the left, N’orr counts out… 12 influence.

The Barony of Letnev - “I HAVE 19! woohoo” enough to claim the 3 VP objective and move to 10 VPs taking the game.

So if Letnev had all that influence did they really need the 12 influence point swing of Mecatol Rex? Well possibly they did… but let’s not forget the one offensive action the leader Naalu played during the round. Local Unrest on N’orr reducing their influence total by 3! Which turned out to be enough to pull the rug out from underneath an imminent and calculated Naalu victory.

Let’s revisit:
The objective card “3 Points – Control planets with more combined influence than either neighbour” would prove to be the story of Naalu and in fact the entire game.


And so it was that the galaxy's fate was balancing on a knife edge right up until those finals moments. Don’t underestimate planetary influence. The game defining 4 VP first round and the narrow Letnev victory came from clutch 1 influence point swings.

Thanks for the game fellas – much better than I thought a 3 player game would turn out to be. Tons of memorable moments and 7.5 hours well spent.
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Hate to burst the bubble on this, but according to page 1 of the Twilight Imperium FAQ:

The Age of Empire Option
When playing with the “Age of Empire” game option, players
may not qualify for Stage II objectives during the first three
rounds of play.

That 3 point objective is a Stage II and thus not able to be claimed right away.
 
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