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Subject: A Tale of Failed Telepathy and Imperial Thrones rss

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A Tale of Failed Telepathy and Imperial Thrones.
A session report of Twilight Imperium III, with expansions.

As the Naalu, I ramped up my new mental powers and influenced far and near to proclaim me Empress—or come contest the throne on Sunday.

It is apparently easier to get people to come when you are a snake-lady with an awesome upper half. To my surprise, the telepathy was successful. Too successful—I had a total of 9 races wanting to play. I only have eight colors….dilemma.

Ah, well, sssomeone is sssure to not ssshow up. I mused. It will work out.

Too true. At the appointed time, the Hacan and I sadly surveyed each other over a glorious avalanche of plastic and cardboard bits, needing at least one other race to actually show up in order to begin.

[Much rule explaining and snacking ensued.]

Three hours later (only a couple hours before the Hacan had to depart) the dirty pirate Mentak and the pale hulking Letnev sauntered in. They got a quick (only 45 minutes) rule explanation, for this was the first time any of the other three had contested the throne, and the galaxy was explored. It turned out all races had decent systems adjacent to their home worlds, with a bunch of planets between the Mentak and Letnev. The Hacan and my glorious race, the Naalu, had a few less planets in general along with a supernova on the border, but there was still plenty of virgin planets between us to claim and then strip for the glorious fleets we would soon need. The border between the Hacan and the Mentak had lots of empty space, but the Letnev and I had plenty of planets, along with an asteroid belt. I also had a wormhole adjacent to my home system to keep an eye on.

Three of us sedately spread to adjacent systems, cheerfully liberating the natives from their unfortunate freedom and binding them all to the glorious will of our peaceful governments. However, the Mentak had different ideas. He had decided to focus on technology and warfare, and quickly used the red alert movement to take the Velnor/Lisis system, mid-way between himself and the Letnev.

“Hey!” his brother the Letnev yelped. “That’s my system!”

“Arrr, not at all.” The pirate growled. “My fleet got there first, matey.”arrrh

“I placed it!” The Letnev protested, using the full force of logic and all the legal right he could muster to back his claim. “You skipped over whole systems to get there first!”

The pirate used all the diplomacy at his disposal to defuse the situation. “Arrr, it’s mine now.” He said bluntly, pointing at the three cruisers and PDS he had sitting there. “Come at me, bro.”devil

Thisss issss looking rather exsssciting, I thought. If they would just essscalate their saber-rattling and sssstart battling that would be great. I marshalled all the mind control I had at my disposal and began bending them toward full conflict.

Contrariwise, the Mentak’s next move was to confirm that PDS fire did not, in fact, break trade agreements. After that, he researched long range cannon, to better protect his new, valuable territory. The Letnev followed suite, and prepared to purchase a few cannons himself. The galaxy was heating up, and we were barely to the end of the first round.

Unfortunately, all that had taken a long while, due to it being the player’s first time contesting the throne. The Hacan received a message from the lioness at home that it was nearing time to carve the evening feast. Spreading my brain-net wide, I urged him to tell her to carve her own turkey.

Apparently, there are limits to being a snake-lady, even with mental powers. He dutifully left to preform that vital function, despite hating to leave his claim to the throne unfulfilled. We left his spot blank, on the dwindling hope one of the other missing players would show up. (No one did.)

Down to three claimants for the crown, we resumed our quest. Over the next couple rounds the Mentak bought PDS’s like they were going out of style, while the Letnev also bought several, along with the 2 dice-firing Dreadnoughts we were playing with. It quickly became impossible to stir in that quarter without a hurricane of missiles and lasers erupting at the barest movement.

I marshalled all my considerable mental facilities to ensure they both stayed focused on each other, and pushed them to ignore the snake-lady behind the curtain, while she quietly expanded her empire and therefore resources.oilcoal

Perhaps I should have spared a little telepathy on the savages I was liberating. The uncultured denizens of Rigel put up a spirited defense. Rigel I’s 3 strength defenders eventually overwhelmed my colonization force, and Rigel II was completely radiated, immediately subjecting my army to a gruesome death. Last but not least, Rigel III had an automated defense array, and as troops and ships alike flared into balls of plasma, the Letnev offered this astute observation: “That just ain’t your system, dude.”

angryI responded with the superior “Sssilence, dude.” Fortunately, at the end of the automated cannon fire, I still had a brave ground force left. This gave me a free PDS and, most importantly, meant I would not lose an entire round before I could build a space dock. I needed to start preparing to take the adjacent Mecatol Rex, as I was sure there would be some objectives coming that required possession of that all-important planet.

I also wormhole warped to Malice and claimed the nexus, with an overkill force of two Mechanized Tanks. This gave me quite a force threatening to strike through the wormholes on the opposite side of Mecatol Rex….a plan began stirring in my mind.

Meanwhile, on the cold war front, things were looking grim for the Mentak. Several times during the rule explanation, and during the game, I had stressed that new players frequently overbuy technology, which frequently costs them the game in the long run. The pirates had ignored this advice and consequently their fleet was technologically superior, but still only consisted of the starting fleet, plus one carrier & a couple fighters. (He also had lots of PDS’s.) To make things worse, he had not done much colonization since taking over Velnor/Lisis, so the Letnev had since outgrown him. The Letnev had used his income to mass a fleet of a carrier, two dreadnoughts, and support ships on the border of Velnor/Lisis.

And then, Letnev used production to produce two more Dreadnoughts, a carrier, and support vessels. This fleet then braved some PDS fire to move into the other Letnev system bordering Velnor, with its measly Mentak fleet consisting of 3 cruisers, a carrier, and single fighter.
The Letnev cheerfully announced that the fall of Velnor was imminent.

The pirates were looking a trifle green about the gills, and it wasn’t seasickness.gulp

Then the dastardly pirate chief looked through his action cards with his one good eye. He raised a card and announced dramatically “Avast ye! I have an answer to your evil, conquering fleet.”

The was a moment of silence while I bent all my Telepathic Power toward his card. I then helpfully turned to the Letnev and said: “ssssooo…he might be bluffing.”

“I know he’s bluffing.” Growled the pale Letnev. “He’s my brother, after all.”robot

He would soon rue this conclusion, but meanwhile the pirates were trying to figure out what to do, seeing as how the Letnev were not deterred by his claim. The one-eyed leader finally decided discretion was the better part of valor—and that he really needed both carriers to step up his expansion efforts—and withdrew his carrier, to load up some infantrymen. Then he flew toward the outer rim empty space with his 3 cruisers, finding an abandoned transport with 2TG for his efforts. “Arrrr, beware my counter-attack!” the half-blind villain growled, having left a PDS and a single infantry division on adjacent Velnor/Lisis.

The Letnev was not intimidated, and we checked how close we were to the throne. The gorgeous snakes were leading with 3VP, the Mentak had by sheer luck produced 2VP, and the Letnev only had 1VP. I reiterated once again how important it was to be aiming to score an objective every round, and not sheer technology or fleets.

The Mentak listened and thought maybe he should consider a strategy card other than his unwavering previous selections, technology and warfare, since he was picking first. “Arrrr….what does the diplomacy card do again, matey?” He asked. I explained, and the corpse-pale Letnev actually got some color in his face. “What! Not fair! I’ll never get it now!” he yelped, while the pirate villain guffawed and chose the unnatural strategy of diplomacy. I pointed out that his attack was merely delayed, and he just had to ensure that the speaker token left the dirty pirate’s hands this round. Assembly was immediately scooped up, the remainder of the strategy for the round was chosen, and a highly irate Letnev prepared to….um….do something terrible for vengeance.

With the diplomats having sealed up Velnor/Lisis for the game round, the Letnev decided to crush the miniscule group of cruisers. He could only reach them with half of his total ships, but both he and I figured two 2-dice-firing Dreadnoughts, carrier, fighters, and a destroyer should be plenty to take out three little cruisers. Well, it started to go wrong with the PDS fire…the Letnev gunners apparently did not consider hitting the enemy a required skill, while the pirate gunners effectively cleared the Letnev fighters away.

ninjaThen the cruel, devious, one-eyed pirate decided against an honorable fight. Instead, he grabbed his I-told-you-so action card, and laid a

Without fighter cover, the damage was catastrophic.

And then, two cruisers bored in, on their special Mentak torpedo attack. Let’s just say the Mentak torpedo gunners apparently go to the same school as the Mentak PDS gunners.

At this point, the space battle proper was ready to begin. The three pirate cruisers cruised in formation, hull plating still shiny, to face….

One, single, solitary, very damaged dreadnought.

Retreat was unthinkable for the Letnev. He cocked back, aimed carefully, threw down….and stared in shock as both laser blasts went wide.wowshakesoblueyukangry

The cruisers’ skill did not desert them. The dreadnought flashed into a fireball, and the Mentak fleet sailed away without a single scratch.
“Well….” I hissed thoughtfully “the lessssson here issss….you need fighersss for cover.”

Just to add insult to injury, the Mentak cruisers sailed back into the Velnor/Lisis system (back into range of the other, still surviving, Letnev fleet) and the Letnev PDS fire continued to be ineffective. The pirates celebrated with much rum and singing quality songs, like fifteen men on a dead man’s chest, and other mature selections. I thought the pirates might be suffering from a little bit of overconfidence (surely they did not have another minefield up their sleeve) but the Letnev admiral was quite shaken from the tale of woe that was trickling in from the other system. He also correctly pointed out he was essentially out of fighters due to previous PDS fire, a VERY BAD THING, considering the mass PDS and pirate torpedo run he had to endure. I promised to warm up my best telepathic blast, precisely tuned to screw up the targeting systems. Somehow he was not impressed, and declined to invade without first procuring more fighters.

At this point, the Letnev began bargaining, bringing up his reasonable legal claim of ownership on account of placing the system in the first place, offering a cessation of hostilities if the Mentak would surrender the system. If not, he would produce an even more terrifying fleet, pointing at his impressive income, production capacity, fleet limit, and still-existing fleet.

The pirates….well, they just said “Arrr…no.” arrrh

“What about just Velnor? You can keep Lisis!” The Letnev begged.


The Letnev and Mentak eventually negotiated an end of combat, in particular no more PDS fire as they divided up the unclaimed planets in the area. In addition, the Letnev began taking over the planets between he and I.

Meanwhile, my beautiful and deadly legions had dislodged the nasty stinking Winnarian custodians from Mecatol Rex and its palace, and began cleaning the kitchens, moving the furniture, and choosing new curtains for the throne room in preparation for my inevitable glorious coronation.

There was a brief period of calm, as we consolidated our positions, re-examined our secret objectives, and refreshed the plan for our bid for the throne. Not a single objective requiring Mecatol Rex was in play (nor, oddly, would one ever show up) and my secret objective required 6 planets with science symbols, making my occupation of the palace important only to ensure the carpet, paint, and china matched and complimented one another.

I did, however, need two more science symbols. There was one in a double planet system bordering my Rigel system, but the Letnev were baring down on it and I wished to avoid appearing too aggressive. I ended up using the secondary of diplomacy on it, and he also used the secondary to get the other planet, Xxehan (avoiding any PDS fire from Rigel) and it was all good—other than the red science specialty, Dal Bootha is kind of a lame planet.

As the game wore on, bedtime approached. It was a school night, and the momma pirate-Letnev would not allow it to go too late. We more or less agreed to go to 7VP, with 9:00 the end time no matter what. My careful accumulation of VP had yielded me 4VP. The restless pirates had done zero planning for points—and somehow still had 4VP, a testament to sheer luck and accidentally having enough cc’s saved at the right time to score objectives. The Letnev were lost in the shiny ships, had done the same amount of planning as the Mentak, and had less luck in scoring; he only had 2VP.

So, I was only 3 points away from scoring the required 7VP, and getting to show everyone how the throne room upholstery matched my eyes. The easiest of the remaining public objectives, I judged, was to blockade an opponent’s space dock. I could hopefully do that at the same time I finished my secret objective. I just needed one more science specialty….this was tricky. There were several in the pirate’s area, which he was finally close to completely taking over. I popped through a wormhole with a cruiser in his space on his side, and was pleased to see he didn’t freak out at the mine-laying war machine sitting outside his system. I was less pleased when he nonchalantly took over the last empty planet with a science symbol before I could. I began laying plans for war.

Which was particularly dangerous, as he researched Death Star….ahem…War Suns and the giant balls of destruction would soon began appearing in the galaxy. I needed a distraction, something to hold his attention while I held his planets. He was looking at the juicy planets near the stone cold, abandoned Hacan system, but that was not enough.

ninjaHmmm….bordering his home system was a nebula with a single planet named Everra, so far unclaimed despite its 3 value production. That should do it. My cruiser sitting in the adjacent wormhole/empty system was controlling that system…I used Diplomacy to annex Everra.
“Hey!” the Mentak yelped “That’s my system, matey!”arrrh

I arranged the snake half of my body in sensuous coils, rolled my hand just so, and gave him the full blast of feminine mind power and winsomeness. “You don’t need to ssssee my identification. You’ve had the whole game to claim it—don’t worry about me taking your sssysssstemssss…..”

Apparently my seduction skills are not up to par. “Arrrr….I placed it!” he retorted. “Matey, it’s right next my home system! You yourself just said it was mine!”

Dropping the alluring pose, I went for logic. “Lookssss...sssss…ssss. I’m ssshowing you how this game of thrones worksss. I couldn’t reach with my ssshipsss, so I extended my reach with annexation. Isssn’t that clever?”

Pirates are hard to impress. “Avast ye scoundrel! That’s my system! Leave it be!”

I channeled my just-used strategy card for the perfect reply. “It’sssss mine now.” I hissed savagely. “Come and take it from my cold, dead brain wavessssss….”

Fortunately he still did not have the required cash for a War Sun, and I could make such bold statements.

At this point he admitted some trepidation for his mostly-bare home system. I confided that, in the interests of ensuring new players had fun their first game, I probably would not take his home system. (In reality, I just didn’t need it for my secret objective.)

Apparently I have an honest face, along with my stunning good looks. He continued to leave his home system bare over the next round or so, while I prepared my fleets for a strike into the heart of his empire. I must have stuffed my forked tongue in my cheek.

I was quite pleased with my negotiation skills. We had apparently come to a general agreement, with me allowed to hold a dagger over Moll Primus. And then, I slithered out to use the facilities. Upon my slithering return, I discovered my mind control must have slipped. He was striking into the nebula, at my very undersized fleet, with a yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.

“Sorry, matey.” He apologized. “It’s in my way. I need some of those juicy planets the Hacan abandoned. They are ripe for some first-rate carousing!”

“How issss it in your way?” I demanded, trying to reassert my mental dominance. Besides, I wasn’t yet in position to take the Arnor/Lor system. “There issss an empty sssyssstem right behind it!”

I could feel my mind regaining control…..he was being wowed by boo-- And then the Letnev spoke up. “Dude! You’re stretched in a line across the galaxy!”

And just like that, Everra’s fate was sealed. I will say the nebula apparently interfered with the pirate’s targeting systems, and my cruiser used the nebula to put up a valiant fight, but in the end I had not reinforced the system enough. My Mechanized Units once again could not hit the broadside of a barn (I would say they were bedazzled by pretty nebula colors, but there was no such excuse every other time they were called upon to fire) and the dirty traitorous pirates had the most beautiful system in the galaxy. The waves of color ssssoooo matched my lovely earrings, it was a crushing disappointment to lose it.

“I thought we hadssss an accord.” I grumbled.

“Arrr, we never set up any actual rules.” He said cheerfully, as he swept through and colonized some lonely, cold planets beyond.

I mined the adjoining wormhole ‘to ensure no attack back through it’ (in reality I needed it to do my strike) and we checked for further victory points. The score going into the final round was still 4-4-2.

The final round was full of veiled threats and more colonization, as most of the remaining planets fell. The Mentak built a War Sun, but it ended up not doing anything but intimidate the pale Letnev. I piled units up in preparation for the final strike, and the Mentak groaned about probably loosing Everra—but no matter how much I tried to mentally manipulate him into reinforcing (and therefore activating/locking) that system, he resisted. Finally, I could wait no longer. I activated Arnor/Lor, drew fleets in from Mecatol Rex, the nexus, and my red-alerted Lodor wormhole system in a massive, intimidating dreadnought-lead strike, swatting the lame defenders down without a struggle. My fighter cover took the brunt of the PDS fire, I laid a minefield for further defense, and the system was mine. I had the spacedock on Arnor under siege so I could complete that objective, and I had a pile of tanks and infantry on Lor to protect the vital science specialty.

Now, I just needed him to leave me alone and I would have the required 7VP. Even if someone else managed it too, as the Naalu, I would score first. I just needed him to ignore the little fleet in the middle of his sector. I fired up my trusty brainwave, and bent his attention elsewhere.

It worked splendidly…..for a couple activations. Just as we all began running out of cc’s, he stormed in with all available ships, figuring that he could keep me from scoring the public objective and we would end the game tied on VP. I tried to tell him he needed to score some other VP, as I would still technically win because of my high natural initiative, but he didn’t go for it.

The stakes we high for both of us.

PDS fire crossed the starry sky. Mines blew. Mentak torpedo runs hulled two ships. Fighters swarmed and died. The fleets closed, and waves of fire rippled back and forth.

Fighting to the end, my dreadnought blasted the last two attackers as they got in critical hits of their own, and space quieted, empty.
The fleets had killed each other.

The spacedock was relieved, but Lor was standing strong, held in the iron grip of my coils.

It was a fitting end.

Both the Letnev and the Mentak were delighted that I was not ahead in score….until I whipped out my secret objective. The disappointment was great, but the final score was only Naalu 6, Mentak 4, Letnev 2—just shy of the needed 7 for an honest coronation.

It was a blast. They want to do it again, soon.

I’m counting it as a half-game win. Halfway veni, vidi, vici.

Lessons learned

For those who are curious: we were not using the Shards of the Throne technologies, we were using 2 dice dreadnoughts, and the mines were using a modified ruleset.

The gameplay and general flow of the negotiations, as related, is actually factual or nearly so; but the precise words recorded are mostly fabrications for more engaging narrative.

What I learned: well, quite a bit of this was reminding me how to play, having been 2 years since I last battled for the throne.

However, one fact really stuck out. The carriers struck me as really being on a one-way trip—it does not seem to be worth it to come back and reload. I’m sure this is not always true, but as a general rule they sail off, slowly losing ground troops and fighters (to natives and PDS fire) as they expand your empire, and then die in glorious battle at some point. The implications of this are large…you really have to fill your carrier before setting out, and you frequently can't adjust the troop mix after that.

This makes the new spacedocks you build practically the only refill option, and you have to hang close by while they are constructed. It would be very expensive, but I wonder if it is ever worth it to build a SD in a system you really aren’t interested in leaving it, and just scuttle it after refilling your carrier. I think the cost would be too high, but it’s a thought.

On the subject of spacedocks….I played the Naalu really poorly. I did not get a double-spacedock-system until late in the game, and that meant my build limit really hampered my use of fighters, the Naalu’s great strength. Even when I did get a double SD system, it was just on Rigel II and III, which is not that high a build limit anyhow.

This is even worse, considering I had Abyz/Fria adjacent to my home system! Here was my (faulty) thought process during galaxy build and initial expansion: A) put Abyz/Fria right next to my HS so I would get the income immediately. B) I planned from the moment I got my system hand to place the tri-planet Rigel system adjacent to Mecatol Rex, and make it my forward production center/PDS firebase. C) I figured this would give me a nice place to strike at all the other players, fulfil Mecatol Rex objectives, and cause general PDS havoc.

This is, actually, somewhat the same thing I have done in past games.

This isn’t necessarily the dumbest plan ever, but it took me way too long to implement it. The game was half over before I got both SD’s up and running. The Naalu need mass fighter cover long before that. Plus, I spent a bit on PDSes, and Rigel was bordered by an asteroid field AND Ion Storm—not sure what I was thinking there. (Just to rub salt into the wound, they never looked at Mecatol Rex or any other close by system. The PDSes never fired.)

Basically, you really need to be taking over the planets you want for your forward production center that first round, so you can get at least one SD built at the end of the second round, and start producing units on the third. If you want this base a space away from your HS, you need to get extra range that first round.

It is not a bad idea to have this production center right next to your HS, but that is uncomplicated.

So, here is my general thought process for a distant production center at the moment: your initial expansion plan and galaxy layout are really co-dependent on each other, with a heavy dose of Strategy Card availability affecting your expansion too. If you get diplomacy or warfare, you can take over a planet and system two spaces away. (But remember you have to control a system in order to use the secondary of diplomacy. Tough distant suns counters can mess up your day.) There is also the possibility of some races getting Technology and choosing XRD transports, getting the range before moving out too. Another possibility, with diplomacy and an empty system two spaces away, you could use a cruiser/destroyer to annex a planet 3 systems away.
Therefore, before you even start placing systems, check how far down the pecking order you are in choosing Strategy Cards. If you are one of the first, you can build the galaxy differently. If you are the last, you should probably just plan on not having a distant production center.

There are a few options, but you really have to consider them all as you begin the galaxy build, not after.

I love this game!


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This also appears in my geeklist of my TI3 games, too.
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