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Subject: A Merry War rss

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Graham Ward
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Tonight was my fourth time playing Twilight Imperium, and my first play that saw the game to its final conclusion. Four friends and I (including one who will be moving soon) set aside a full day, and ended up playing about 12:15-9:15 pm.

We used the complete base rules, adding only the "Territorial" Distant Suns variant (in which low-risk Domain Counters are placed in the outer rings and high-risk ones are placed around Mecatol Rex) and a house rule allowing trade agreements go into effect immediately. This latter change makes it possible for players to collect the trade goods for the agreements just made when they activate the Trade strategy's secondary ability.

We were all new players, and only had one day to finish, so I set up the galaxy in advance, attempting to balance things as best as I could. When players arrived, we randomly selected race sheets and I did a rules explanation in about 25 minutes.

The Mentak Coalition player quickly built a cheap, mobile fleet of destroyers and cruisers, upping his fleet size to 7 by the end of the second round. He was beside the Beta wormhole, and sped directly to the Alpha, and managed to hold position there for most of the early game.

Meanwhile, the L1z1x Mindnet player snagged Mecatol Rex during round two as well. With a faction aggressively seizing control of the outer rim and another of the inner rim, the remaining three (Xxcha Kingdom, Barony of Letnev, and Sardakk N'orr) began consolidating forces within the two or three systems we were able to grab.

Among the most noteworthy moments of the first rounds was a political action that resulted in Xxcha (me) using their racial ability veto to stop a motion that would punish attacking systems. I was concerned that the aggressive planet grabbing would settle into a long-term (and lopsided) balance of power if retaliation was expensive. Unexpectedly, the next political card drawn was nearly identical, causing me to use my Veto action card to force a third. It was a filibuster for the eons, and had us all laughing. The third card chosen was an elect player effect that buffed a player's fighter units. I was able to swing the vote my way in return for those valuable Xxcha trade agreements, distributed during the Trade Strategy action of the following round.

The Imperial Strategy Card went to Letnev, Mentak, and Xxcha in those first three rounds, but L1z1x claimed two of three Public Objectives and their Secret Objective in that time as well. Things crawled along, with a few minor skirmishes and one large offensive from Sardakk N'orr against the Mentak. That battle ended badly for the Sardakk N'orr aggressor, and shifted the state of the board considerably.

The game really heated up when the first Stage II Objective Card was revealed: "I control all the planets in the Home Systems of two other players."

At this revelation, most of the players turned their ships toward one another. Xxcha, however, seeing victory within striking distance after a couple tech-based 1-pointers in the mid-game, loitered around the inner systems waiting for an opening on Mecatol Rex. When L1z1x vengefully departed the system for my home system, I led 3 cruisers, a destroyer, and a war sun to Mecatol Rex to drop my single ground force unit down to the surface. It was just the opening I needed.

Honestly, I ignored most of the infighting among other players after this point. Every bit of my focus was on snagging 6 trade goods and holding defense of Mecatol Rex for the last 2 VPs I needed.

I was amazed when no one challenged me. They clearly failed to notice that I was about to fulfill my last two (partly because Mentak was hovering at 9 with a good shot at winning himself during the Status Phase. While everyone was charging at one another to win before Mentak, Xxcha at 8 was the hidden threat.

Mentak managed to get the fifth technology needed for their last point, but with the Trade Strategy Card and its "5" initiative value, Xxcha scored 2 VPs, winning by a nose.

It was a proud moment, though we plan to test one another's mettle again in a couple weeks. Hopefully the quick turnaround to a second game among these players will mean better rule retention and stiffer competition through the midgame. What a pleasure to finally get the full TI3 experience after owning it for 8 years.
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