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Subject: TI3 in Japan Game 3: Max Pain rss

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Angry Augury
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Five years. Five long years...

Roughly.

This was my first TI3 session in nearly half a decade and only my fourth time overall. The first time was just my solo learning game so not even a real session. The second was another test run with two friends and the third was my first REAL experience of the game. Reading that session report, it's amazing how naively I believed I'd actually be playing the game again shortly after that. Overweight chance! I fully intended to play again once we had a bigger group because so many people say that six-player TI3 is the best way to experience the game and, by golly, I wanted to experience it in the best way possible.

It may have taken almost five years but I finally arranged for a six-player game as part of my going away party. Yes, after I finally managed to scrape up five other people to attend the game it was also time for me to say goodbye to them forever (basically). How lucky could a man get?

This session report isn't going to be like the two previous ones that I linked above nor will it be like my super awesome Arkham Horror campaign reports. Instead this is going to be akin to my A Game of Thrones session report... which doesn't bode well. Note: it was not a huge, game group-ending debacle like the AGoT session but this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Without further ado, I give to you what could potentially be my final TI3 session report ever (or at least for another five years).

---

Set-Up:

-All Races available from both expansions
-All Systems available from both expansions
-Strategy Cards: Initiative, Diplomacy II, Political II, Production, Trade II, Warfare II, Technology II, Imperial II
-All Techs
-Preliminary Objectives
-Base Game and Expansion Public Objectives
-Base Game and Expansion Secret Objectives
-Race Specific Techs
-Flagships
-Custodians of Mecatol Rex
-Shock Troops
-Wormhole Nexus
-Distant Suns

House Rules:


-Players draw 2 Races and choose one
-Players draw 2 Secret Objectives and choose one

I forgot to add in the Artifacts, even though I wanted to, and the Leaders. We really wanted to go all out for this session since we knew it was the last. I'm sure we made tons of mistakes, but it really didn't matter in the end.

Players (clockwise):

The L1Z1X Mindnet - (me)
Universities of Jol-Nar - (Lolai)
The Arborec - (Day)
The Barony of Letnev - (Max)
The Mentak Coalition - (Leanne)
The Emirates of Hacan - (Dandelion)

---

This was going to be the first time for ALL of the other players to experience TI3. I had hyped it up in the weeks leading up to the game. I, myself, was very excited to know that I had enough people to play. There were actually some extra players that could have potentially made it, but they wouldn't be able to stay for very long so I decided to leave them out of it just so we could get as much TI3 in as possible.

Since the group was new, I told them to be at my house by 11 in the morning. Everything will be set up and I'll go through the rules, hoping to start up around noon if possible. There were a couple pre-planned breaks in the day for other things that needed to be done and to just take a breather from the game as I'm sure we would all need a little down time.

Well, by 11:10 everyone had arrived except for Max. I tried sending him messages but there was no answer. Everyone said that he was participating in a cultural event that day but no one seemed to be sure if he was in the morning session or the afternoon session. They asked what time I told him the game started and I said he got the same message as everyone else: to be there by 11. They told me that if I want him there by a certain time, I have to say a time that's at least two hours earlier. Then he should be there by the right time.

For real? Ugh...

Well, we all had our brunch and I explained most of the key concepts of the game by the time Max arrived around noon. With the group finally assembled, I went into detail on the mechanics of the game and said I'll go into finer points of more specific rules as we play just so they're not bogged down with too much info. Plus the rule book would be available for them to flip through at all times. It took about an hour to get through the basics, demonstrate some examples and answer questions. After that we started building the galaxy and finally began the first round.

There were some good planets between myself and The Emirates of Hacan but the best were on the other side of the Emirates and Mentak. Everyone did the usual moves, spreading out to the closest planets with the best resources. Most of the confusion came from Day who was confused about The Arborec. I had never seen them in action before so I was confused, too. Imagine our surprise as we realized they basically grow all of their soldiers and ships out of the Ground Troops. We were really stunned; it was such a cool ability.

It was a little slow but everyone was sort of feeling out the game. I thought we might get a little more momentum in the next round but...

Max announced that he had to leave for that cultural event.

Where the heck was he in the morning if he was going to the afternoon event? Oi...

We asked what time it ended. He said he didn't know but it would only be a couple hours. Ok, maybe not too bad. It was almost time for one of our pre-planned breaks (there was a festival going on down the road from me and one of my former students was having her final drum performance before heading to university so she invited me to watch).

So we said goodbye to Max and figured we'd just move on to Round 2, agree not to invade Max's territory (though I don't think anyone could have done so in that round) and we should be ready for the break once the second round was finished. After that, Max might be back and we could jump back into things.

So, that's what we did. We did round two and we pulled Max's little corner of the board out like its own little floating island in space. Lolai was catching on the fastest of everyone else because a.) he has the most experience with board games compared to the other new players and b.) we had recently tried Star Wars: Rebellion together, which has similar mechanics. Day was being a bit too peaceful but still doing well. Leanne and Dandelion seemed a bit lost at times and they had the most questions of all players. Still, they seemed to enjoy it.

We took our break as expected, walked over to see my student's performance at the festival, ate some festival food and came back to the house for Round 3. Still no word from Max so we just pushed ahead as a five player group with a strange, fractured galaxy.

Forgive me as my memory is hazy, since this was month ago, but I don't recall the details of the game so much as I recall what was happening outside of the game. What I do remember is making an alliance with my neighbor, Jol-Nar, as I figured we could easily be the most destructive to each other as we are both the most experienced. I figured if that were to happen we would likely knock each other out of the game. Oddly enough, after we agreed on peaceful coexistence, I had to play an Action Card on him to stop his from using the Technology Strategy simply because I saw him racing to a massive lead tech-wise, as you'd imagine Jol-Nar would do.

Jol-Nar protested that I immediately got hostile with him moments after solidifying our peace accords. I told him I was merely watching out for him as it was too dangerous for him to dabble in so much untested technology and I wanted his R&D team to be sure they were following all the correct safety procedures. Fortunately he didn't take it personally and we maintained our non-violent partnership.

Just as Round 3 was ending, Leanne started to get messages from Max that the event had ended. We decided we would wait to see when he was coming back before starting the 4th round. We waited for his answer. And waited. And waited.

By now I was getting a little annoyed and Lolai was perceptibly agitated. Finally, Max called and said he had a mutual friend of his and Leanne's with him and they were debating on whether they would come back to the game or not because they were hungry. Leanne was asking how long they would be when I told her to just tell them to go eat and forget about the game. Yes, I wanted a six player game but I'd rather play with five than sit around doing nothing waiting for a wishy-washy sixth member.

As soon as she told them not to come back, Max said they would pick up some fast food and be over soon. She hung up and said, "I guess we can wait for them to get back." Both Lolai and I said no way to that and we were starting the next round. He can jump in with Round 5 if he's even there in time but we aren't losing any more of the day on his account.

Max and his friend arrived during Round 4 and they watched us play while they ate. After the round, we slid his corner of the galaxy back into place and we figured an average of how many ships he'd have and what likely planets he might have by that point and gave him a fair, but not generous, supply to work with.

Leanne then said that she was going to step out of the game and let her and Max's friend take over for her because she felt bad that he was just watching and has nothing to do.

Hell no.

We told her she needed to stay in the game as this new guy wasn't even invited in the first place and he should have known what was going on when arriving to a game in progress. And, saints preserve us: he did know what was going on because he refused to take her spot and said he wanted to head out and take pictures before heading home. So he left a short time later and the game resumed--with six people.

Again I mention that I really don't remember what happened in detail in the game. Time has eroded my memory and the pictures I took don't help with the play-by-play. All I remember is that my non-aggression pact with Jol-Nar continued while he got into a few skirmishes with The Arborec. Hacan and Mentak started to butt heads and were both building quite a huge fleet, with Flagships included. The Barony of Letnev, now back in action, didn't stand much of a chance thanks to missing most of the strategy that got the galaxy to where it was, but it gave him a sort of nihilistic approach to go out, take chances and see what he could grab.

I, on the other hand, was just trying to enjoy the game, explore the options available and see what the game had in store since I didn't know if I'd ever play it again. Because of this, I wasn't doing very well points-wise, but I was learning a lot about the game. I had a great opportunity to break my alliance with Jol-Nar and I could have done massive damage to his entire fleet, but I opted not to do so. Instead I help him hold back the Arborec that, while not a direct threat to me, was looking like it could grow into something horrifying.

Sadly, we were approaching 7pm and Day had to be leaving. He needed to catch a train back to his city and had a long way to go before he'd be home so there was nothing we could do about that. We decided to go into Round 6 as far as possible before he had to leave.

It seemed that now we had a time-limit on the game and we needed to play as fast as possible, Leanne instead did everything as slowly as she possibly could. Every time her turn came around, she realized that she had put no thought into what she needed to do next. So, of course, she would take all the time in the world to think about what she should be doing then while we all waited. This had been happening earlier but now it seemed more pronounced. She would just sit there daydreaming until it was her turn then BAM she realized she had no plan. Nor did she see what anyone else was doing so she constantly had to ask what happened.

Multiple times she would ask a question, then ask the very same question again moments later. I should point out that she wasn't alone in this: many times a question would be asked, there'd be a big discussion and explanation about it then immediately it would be followed with a different player asking the exact same question. Apparently they weren't listening because they were thinking of strategy but it was starting to wear on the nerves.

Midway through the 6th round, Day had to leave and Lolai was going to drive him to the train station. He said we could finish the game without him but it was getting late and I said we'd just stop at the end of the round. He told us what his final actions would have been if he could stay and told us to just play them in that order after he left. So once Lolai got back, we were ready to finish out the final round.

Mentak and Hacan went at it and really decimated each other's fleet fighting over their borders. Letnev also went on the offensive trying to take some planets from the Arborec but in the end his entire fleet was pushed back to a single location after Mentak pushed in from the other side. The Arborec finally had their long-sought after Flagship and Jol-Nar held control of the space of Mecatol Rex... but was wiped out on the ground by the Custodians.

There was a tense bit of negotiation with both myself and Jol-Nar trying to take Trade Goods from another player in attempt to score Objectives. If I could get just two more Trade Goods, I might be able to tie for the lead or possibly win. Nothing I could say to Mentak was good enough to get any of her TGs and no other player had any to spare. So in the end, I was left high and dry.

Round 6, and the game, ended with a final score of:

The L1Z1X Mindnet: 4
Universities of Jol-Nar: 6
The Arborec: 2
The Barony of Letnev: 2
The Mentak Coalition: 4
The Emirates of Hacan: 2

Lolai and the Universities of Jol-Nar were victorious. And rightfully so because he was playing the game to win, making sure he scored a point every turn. He was also true to his word during the game and got the win honorably, so I couldn't fault him. He played very well.

Final Thoughts:

There were a couple of moments where I made some big mistakes and missed out on points throughout the day and, honestly, I wasn't playing nearly cutthroat enough to win. But in the end, I was happy to have experienced the game again.

Playing with Max, however, was a bit of a hassle. Although I was grateful that he could make it to my going away party (if you call that "making it") and it was nice to see him again, I honestly would have preferred if he hadn't come at all. We would have been better off with just five players the whole time rather than awkwardly incorporating a mostly absent sixth.

Aside from, I'm sure, numerous rules errors and forgetful moments, one big thing stood out to me:

I really didn't enjoy the six player game.

I know what you may be thinking: "Yeah, your group was pretty crap. Of course you didn't enjoy it."

This is true, BUT there was a big reason why I didn't like it and that was the left over Strategy Cards. Politics and, to a lesser extent, Trade just sat there again and again. I believe we only used Politics twice in the entire game, maybe only once. That was terrible because it was one of the aspects of TI3 that I was intrigued by. Even more, I wanted to see how the Political Intrigue worked with the Representatives. But, honestly, there was rarely a reason to choose it during the game. Yes, we didn't finish the game and, yes, we are all basically noobs but there were always more pressing Strategies that we all needed and nothing about Politics made anyone want the card. I took it once just to finally do it, but I really wished it was a bigger part of the game.

That's why I loved my 4-player session five years earlier. We had all the cards in action every round. It just felt like a much more fulfilling experience even though we didn't have the maximum number of players. I think if I play again, I'd only like to play with four instead of six. Not only is that easier to gather (ha! not anymore) but the game was just so much more enjoyable.

That's just my opinion.

Now the horrible part...

With Twilight Imperium 4th Edition announced, a little voice in the back of my head is telling me to buy it. I like a lot of the changes they made especially what I hear about Politics. That just speaks to me. But, first and foremost, I rarely play this game. Even the word "rare" is too generous. Secondly, if I buy it, what on earth would I do with my TI3? If I play this game once every five years and I'm splitting that over two different editions, I might get one play of each every decade. At that rate, that might give me 4 or 5 more sessions in my lifetime if I'm lucky.

Decisions, decisions...
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Roger Reisinger
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Politics has always been the weak point in TI3 in my opinion so I dont have any redeeming comments for you; however, taking the Political SC is more than just nominating an agenda, it is taking the speaker token, which is very important and I am surprised the SC went unchoosen as much as you said it did.
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Angry Augury
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Lowecore wrote:
Politics has always been the weak point in TI3 in my opinion so I dont have any redeeming comments for you; however, taking the Political SC is more than just nominating an agenda, it is taking the speaker token, which is very important and I am surprised the SC went unchoosen as much as you said it did.


Though I have no experience with 6 player TI3 aside from this session, I was surprised too. I thought for sure it would be taken much more frequently. Again, it could be a result of only having 5 players for 3/4 of the game and ending early.

Still, during the game there never seemed to be an instance of anyone thinking they needed that SC, myself included.
 
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jumbit
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Max is a dick.

Did you put 1 trade good on the unpicked strategy cards? They accumulate round after round and are a good incentive for players to pick them. I thought the mechanic worked quite well making the unwanted cards desirable. When there are a couple free TG out there for the taking, someone will snap it up.
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Angry Augury
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jumbit wrote:
Max is a dick.

Did you put 1 trade good on the unpicked strategy cards? They accumulate round after round and are a good incentive for players to pick them. I thought the mechanic worked quite well making the unwanted cards desirable. When there are a couple free TG out there for the taking, someone will snap it up.


While Max isn't a dick, his behavior was quite dickish that day. Kids these days.

Yeah, we were piling on the Bonus tokens. Everyone saw them, some commented on them but, in the end, wanted the ability of another SC. I believe I got 3 or 4 tokens once I finally picked the Political SC.
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Kallan Greybe
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It doesn't surprise me that you didn't have as much fun in the six player game, because the political dynamics are pretty much the biggest part of what makes this game shine and the reason why people recommend higher player counts. Hell, in every six player game I've played it reached a point where people were choosing the Political strategy card, just so they could guarantee a vote would happen!

There's a reason one of the biggest changes TI4 makes is to guarantee an agenda vote.

So my advice when playing TI3, especially with new players, is if nobody is taking Political it's up to the host to make the suboptimal play and pick Political because you're not getting the full Twilight Imperium experience unless someone is. In fact (somewhat) "suboptimally" is in my one of the best ways to play this game, precisely because something about its mechanics is just perfectly pitched for grand social theatre.
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Angry Augury
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ThatGuyMontag wrote:
So my advice when playing TI3, especially with new players, is if nobody is taking Political it's up to the host to make the suboptimal play and pick Political because you're not getting the full Twilight Imperium experience unless someone is. In fact (somewhat) "suboptimally" is in my one of the best ways to play this game, precisely because something about its mechanics is just perfectly pitched for grand social theatre.


I'm not sure when/if I'll play again but that's great advice. It was definitely a huge missing aspect of what I was hoping for. I'm sure the other players had no idea what was lacking but I could feel it.

Thank you.
 
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As a member of the (now defunct) Fabulous Four as I like to call us, that 4 player game we played was indeed more balanced in terms of gameplay than the 6 player game it seems.

Here's hoping that we can organize another session in the near future!
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Angry Augury
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MerkabaZA wrote:
As a member of the (now defunct) Fabulous Four as I like to call us, that 4 player game we played was indeed more balanced in terms of gameplay than the 6 player game it seems.

Here's hoping that we can organize another session in the near future!


Definitely want to do 4 player again. Get down here and I'll try to drag Dandelion out of her cave. Then we just need to find one more person... I'll think of something!
 
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