Session date: December 28, 2008
Game length: about 7½ hours (not counting game setup and dinner)
For the first time in over a year, I managed to get a group of six together to play Twilight Imperium. I am the most experienced player in the group, having played about thirty times. Most of the others have played at least ten to fifteen times; the lone exception has played maybe four or five times.
We play a moderately-varianted version of this game. Variants and official options are enumerated below.
Optional rules used:
- base game: Age of Empire
- Shattered Empire: variant Strategy Cards, variant objectives, race-specific technologies, shock troops, wormhole nexus, tactical retreats, custodians
Age of Empire with Bureaucracy II
Using input from the Fantasy Flight Games forum, I have printed a revised version of Bureaucracy. (It can be found on BGG here.) Essentially, this allows you to use the excellent Age of Empire option from the base rules, where all of the Public Objectives are turned face-up at the beginning of the game. They are not, however, all available to be claimed from the beginning. On each objective (except the first) is placed a "Red Tape counter"; I use flat marbles from a Mancala set. When Bureaucracy is activated, the active player chooses one of the objectives to "unlock", then claims one of the available objectives. (Note: Stage II Objectives may not be unlocked in the first three rounds.) I feel this option leads to more strategic play and less randomness. It’s pretty much the only way I play the game.
Star by Star
This variant (along with several others we used) were pulled from the wonderful Shattered Ascension ruleset devised by a user on the FFG boards, PsiComa. I don’t know if this package has been uploaded to BGG. I don’t think it has. Here’s a link:
Essentially, with this variant you put your Home Systems in your hand of tiles for placing during galaxy setup. You are allowed to place your Home System anywhere on the board, except directly bordering another player’s Home System. You are, therefore, not restricted to the third ring, which leads to a more natural, dynamic galaxy. Other restrictions: The players placing first and last in the setup can’t place two systems side by side; Muaat must be placed in the third ring; and you can’t activate an opponent’s Home System in the first round of play.
Other ideas we used that originated in Shattered Ascension include:
Dreadnoughts and War Suns
Dreadnoughts need 2 hits to be destroyed (like normal), but also roll 2 dice and take up 2 production slots; War Suns need to be hit 3 times, still roll 3 dice, and take up 3 production slots. Each of these ships loses one combat die for each sustained hit. The Dreadnought becomes a slow but fearsome unit with this minor alteration.
Several technologies have been altered. War Sun is now a yellow tech while Graviton Laser System is red (this is not a Shattered Ascension mod). Assault Cannons are also mounted on Cruisers. Gen Synthesis allows Shock Troops on a roll of 9 or 10. Integrated Economy lets you build without a Space Dock, using the planet’s resource value as its production capacity. Fleet Logistics functions like the Action Card Unexpected Action, at the cost of one Command Counter from Strategy Allocation (this is slightly different from Shattered Ascension). Nano Technology allows ships to be repaired immediately after battle, rather than making them immune to Action Cards.
As an added balancing measure, two red techs can’t be used simultaneously. So, for example, when using Deep Space Cannon to fire your PDS into an adjacent system, you can’t get the +1 bonus from Magen Defense Grid. When using Automated Defense Turrets or Cruisers with Assault Cannon, your ships don’t get the Hylar V Assault Laser bonus, too.
Race-specific technologies have also been modified. Of races used in this game, the only one changed was Saar. Floating Factory allows the Space Docks to produce in the same activation in which they move; it also allows them to retreat. Further, we allow race-specific techs to be acquired automatically once a player’s Victory Point total is equal to or greater than the resource cost listed on the card; a player may also purchase the tech normally.
This may sound like a lot of changes to the technologies, and I suppose it is if you’re quite familiar with the originals. Nobody in this group is so familiar with that amount of detail that they are fazed by changes like this, especially since I printed out new cards and made new tech trees for them to use.
Other minor variants:
The secondary was changed from being strictly 2 influence for 1 Command Counter to more of a "pyramid": 1 influence for the 1st CC; 2 influence for the 2nd; 3 for the 3rd; 4 for the 4th; and so on. I like this alteration for several reasons. First, it lets almost anybody get at least 1 Command Counter. Second, 3CC still costs 6 influence. And third, there is no limit to the amount of CC you can buy, if you have influence coming out the wazoo.
Base game and expansion objectives were mixed. Imperium Rex was not used.
Each player was dealt two objectives randomly and kept one, the other being returned to the box.
All Objectives are claimed simultaneously, rather than in initiative order. Reaching 10 Victory Points is not, in itself, enough to win. Rather, the winner is the player with the most points. In the event of a tie, all players use the influence from all their controlled planets and vote for a winner.
Convert into 2TG or 1CC (instead of 1TG).
Okay. Enough intro. Let’s move on to the game.
These are the six races that were in play, listed clockwise around the table starting with the Speaker:
- Jol Nar
For the record, I played Jol Nar, so you’ll probably see a lot of mention of what Jol Nar was doing in this report since my memories of the other players’ actions aren’t as exact.
The first ring of the galaxy was interesting. After a planet was placed by Speaker Saar, three consecutive players put down Special Systems -- two Asteroid Fields and a Supernova. Naalu then decided to place his Home System in the first ring, nestled between a Supernova and an Asteroid Field. As the second ring was formed, Hacan, L1z1x, and Saar all placed their Home Systems. Hacan and L1z1x were each two spaces from Naalu, with Special Systems on one side and the planet/wormhole systems (Lodor and Quann) on the other; Saar parked on the "south" side of the board, opposite the other three. It was after Saar’s HS placement that I (Jol Nar) realized that I’d waited too long to place my own Home System. And I was holding a couple of good planet tiles. I started off the third ring with New Albion/Starpoint, pretty far away from the other players, and hoped that something would be open next to it by the time it came back around to my turn. But Letnev settled next to it, instead. When my turn came, my options were quite limited. I could have settled in the resource-poor northern part of the third ring, next to Hope’s End in what was sure to be a hotly-contested area, or tucked into the corner behind Saar. I opted for the third choice, though I probably should have gone for the border with Hope’s End.
I’ll probably mention this again, but Star by Star breathed a whole new kind of life into the game, even at this early stage. The board had a vastly different feel to it by the time we’d finished constructing it, since almost everybody was within two hexes of another player. Diplomacy between these close neighbors started right away, even before we’d finished with the board. And there’s Letnev, surrounded by some great systems, his three closest neighbors three, four, and four spaces away. Looking at the board, it seemed immediately obvious that Letnev was the biggest threat in the game.
This seems like a good place to put in the objective list, so I’ll do that now.
I took control of 3 planets this round. (unlocked at beginning of game)
I control 5 planets outside my Home System.
I now spend 10 resources or 10 influence.
I won a Space Battle against at least 3 opposing ships in one system this round.
I am blockading an opponent’s Space Dock.
I have 5 Technology Advances.
I control 10 planets outside my Home System.
I successfully invaded two planets this round, each containing at least 1 Ground Force.
I destroyed an opponent’s Space Dock at the end of combat this round.
I now spend 6 Command Counters (from Command or Strategy).
I now spend 20 resources or 20 influence.
Rounds 1, 2, and 3 will be relatively light on details for a couple of reasons. From a purely practical point of view, I don’t remember enough detail to give a blow by blow account from the early game. Plus, it was just normal expansion with a notable lack of combat, despite the close quarters.
Strategy Cards not selected: Production and Bureaucracy
Naalu started the round by activating Assembly in order to keep anybody else from using the secondary. He handed the Speaker token to L1z1x (seated to his right) and played a Political Card from his hand: Prophecy of Ixth. This card gives the elected player +1 to his Fighters for the duration of the game, as long as he builds at least two Fighters each game round. I think Naalu thought he’d be able to convince his neighbors to vote for him, giving him a tidy +2 when coupled with his Special Ability. There were a couple of things he didn’t account for, though.
For one, as Jol Nar I had 5 influence available, which meant I really only needed one other person to sign on with me. For two, even before the first Strategy Phase had concluded, there was a strong, trade-based alliance between Hacan, Jol Nar, and Saar. So they voted for me, especially since I was able to point out my perpetual -1 as Jol Nar. The other three each voted for themselves. A sign of things to come.
For the remainder of the round, Naalu was limited to taking Lodor and building up, preparing for an assault on the Custodians at Mecatol Rex in the following round.
Saar had taken Leadership. The Trade Goods he received from taking Arnor, Lor, and Primor helped him with purchasing more Command Counters.
Jol Nar took Diplomacy. I went for Saudor right away, then used the Diplomacy secondary to snatch Arcturus, and also took Mehar Xull. It was the only way I could think of being able to claim the initial objective -- which, as you’ll recall, was "I took control of 3 planets this round" -- without nullifying trade with Hacan, which was something that was very important to me. For tech in this round, I headed toward War Suns.
Hacan took Trade. Sure, maybe this was a little overkill, but I think he was already thinking toward Production Centers. Not the direction I would have taken to get there (I would have snagged Technology and bought them in round 1), but it worked out. It also assured our little alliance’s ability to thrive, since we three traded with each other. This meant that two of the other three races ended up with a pair of Trade Agreements worth 1 each.
Hacan expanded out to Centauri/Gral, then took the Trade Station Sumerian.
Letnev took Warfare. The player who was controlling Letnev often makes decisions that mystify me, usually involving overthinking a problem or addressing a need that doesn’t actually exist. Perhaps this wouldn’t have been a bad decision if somebody had taken Production, which nobody did. In that case, he would have been able to build a couple of carriers and launch them out to snag all of his high-resource planets. I think this may have been what he was planning, but it was overreaching and I think it ruined the game for him.
He did take Hope’s End with his solitary Carrier, then moved his Dreadnought and Destroyer out to Mellon/Zohbat, which sat two spaces from him and two spaces from Saar, with the intent of discouraging Saar from going there. (As an aside, the other major mistake he made throughout the game was buying technology. Letnev doesn’t need a lot of tech to be powerful, and all the tech he bought left him short on resources to do what Letnev does best: churn out massive amounts of units. For this reason, what should have been the strongest position on the board was never utilized, right out of the gate.)
L1z1x took Technology. She was fourth to pick and it’s a wonder the card wasn’t selected before that. She proceeded to embark on her usual strategy of teching to Assault Cannon, which isn’t much of a reach for L1z1x. This is a powerful strategy with the altered version of Assault Cannon that also lets Cruisers take a pre-combat shot. I have lost many good fleets to her deadly ACed Dread/Cruiser fleets. They are deadly. Deadly.
L1z1x nabbed Tsion/Bellatrix and Quann (I think -- it might have been Capha. One way or the other she had both of them by round 2).
Status Phase: Saar, Jol Nar, Hacan, and L1z1x were all able to claim the objective.
Strategy Cards not selected: Diplomacy and Assembly
Note: When Bureaucracy was selected, its one Bonus counter allowed the immediate unlocking of one objective: "I control 5 planets outside my Home System."
Naalu took Production and started implementing his strategy. He built enough ships to be able to take on the Custodians (and win), then move on to Mirage and swiped that, too.
Letnev selected Leadership. Again, a mystifying decision. Why not take Assembly (he selected fifth) or Technology? For that matter, how did Technology get all the way around the board before being taken? But this player has always liked the Command Counters; even before we got Shattered Empire, he liked to snag Logistics. This is why I try to avoid sitting to his left. He dialed back his early aggressive move with the Dreadnought/Destroyer, moving them back to Lazar/Sakulag when he took those planets. I can’t remember whether he got New Albion/Starpoint this round or not. I think he did, since I remember him complaining about the fact that he was going to lose the game and this despite the resource-heavy planets he was wielding (and around the time he was plunking down good money for tech rather than building a muscled fleet to keep Saar and L1z1x away).
Jol Nar took Trade. I wanted to pull down a healthy amount of Trade Goods (7 total) to try for the possible unlocking of the ‘10 resources/10influence’ objective. Later, when Tech was played, I convinced Hacan to give me the 2TG from Production Centers, teched to War Sun, and found another good use for all those Trade Goods: a shiny, new War Sun. Ah, it’s always good to plunk down the first War Sun of the game!
At some point during the round I peeked at my Secret Objective again to remind myself of what it was. Turns out it was Threatening, which was painfully easy to do with this setup. I already had Mehar Xull, next to Saar, and all I had to do was move into the empty space next to Hacan. Since I wasn’t using my CC for anything else (like taking more planets), it was worth the expenditure. This was extra good since I knew I wasn’t getting that 5 planets objective any time soon; in fact, I never did.
I’m a little hazy on this, but Saar must have taken Warfare. (Either that or he took Leadership a second time and Letnev took Warfare a second time, but I really don’t think that happened.) He expanded over to Arinam/Meer in this round, hopping the gap over the wormholes and continued trying to get a handle on these crazy mobile Space Docks.
Hacan took Technology, mainly so he’d be able to get Production Centers at a cost of only 3. He may have also bought another one; I honestly don’t know, since he was sitting across the table from me. Other than that, he just tried to build up a little bit and began amassing the traditional Hacanian stockpile of Trade Goods.
L1z1x took Bureaucracy. As her last action of the round, after claiming Capha and Tar’mann, she unlocked "I have 5 Technology Advances." This was of great benefit to the Jol Nar player, of course, who had six techs by this point. L1z1x was able to claim both recently unlocked objectives.
Status Phase: Saar claimed the ‘5 planets’ objective and Naalu claimed the ’10 influence’ objective. On second thought, I think Letnev may not have claimed one of those sets of planets, because I’m pretty sure he stayed at zero Victory Points in this round.
Strategy Cards not selected: Assembly and Production(?)
Yeah, I honestly can’t remember exactly who took which Strategy Card in this round. There are a few things I know for sure, though.
Letnev took Diplomacy in order to use option b. He annexed Wellon. In a move that had me scratching my head, he then invaded the planet in a later turn that round. Using the Diplomacy secondary, Hacan annexed Arcturus from Jol Nar, which was an effective way to keep the Trade Agreements intact.
Saar vacated Arinam/Meer and took Mellon/Zohbat, continuing his policy of trying for some high-quality planets while staying out of his backyard, where Jol Nar was encamped. Letnev viewed this as further proof that he was doomed, doomed! Though actually Saar just didn’t want him to have everything. Saar also moved all ships out of Arnor/Lor, giving Jol Nar a route to the A Wormhole, which turned out to be handy later.
If Saar didn’t take Trade, then L1z1x must have. More likely, Saar took Trade and L1z1x took Technology. Unless I miss my guess, this is the round she finished teching to Assault Cannon, having spent one round of tech on Antimass Deflectors, since she was bordering an Asteroid Field. She also took Vefut II and Mallice in this round, quietly and methodically building a large array of resources.
I’m thinking Naalu may have taken Warfare. He definitely managed to spread his forces out in a thin line down the middle of the board, taking Arinam/Meer after it was vacated by Saar in a deal that was supposed to give him a temporary lease on the worlds. He spent the remainder of his turns parking single ships in every wormhole system. Hmm. Sounds suspiciously like Keeper of the Gates, the Secret Objective. It was, of course.
Hacan took Bureaucracy. He was easily able to claim the ‘10 resources/10 influence’ objective with his vast array of Trade Goods. This was also quite useful to Jol Nar, who had lots of influence with his HS planets, Mehar Xull, and Saudor. (It’s worth pointing out that Jol Nar did not influence either L1z1x in round 2 or Hacan in round 3 with their picks of objectives. There was just natural benefit.) Hacan also claimed the ‘5 techs’ objective, even though one of his techs was Production Centers, his race-specific technology. I didn’t think he could do that, but the rules didn’t prohibit it, I didn’t feel like looking it up in the FAQ, and he specifically took Bureaucracy thinking it was okay. We let it go.
Oddly, I don’t remember what I took in this round. I know it wasn’t Diplomacy (which I took in round 1) or Assembly or Trade (which I only took once, in round 2) or Warfare (which I took the next two rounds) or Technology (which I never took -- I was Jol Nar, why would I take Tech?) or Bureaucracy (which I desperately wanted the next few rounds). That leaves only Leadership and Production, and I can’t think of a compelling reason for me to have selected either of them. Let’s say I picked Leadership and leave it at that. Jol Nar acquired Magen Defense Grid in this round, which led to an interesting idea . . .
Status Phase: Letnev finally got a point with ‘3 planets’, though he was going to claim the ‘5 planets’ objective; we talked him out of that, showing him that it was far more reasonable to get the ‘claimed 3’ than the ‘control 5’. Naalu got three between his Secret Objective and ‘5 planets’. Hacan scored two; Jol Nar scored one. Saar and L1z1x didn’t score this round.
Assembly was taken again this round and again taken by Naalu. This time he took the Speaker token and picked Jol Nar to play a PC, one which he knew about back in round 1. The agenda? Sharing of Technology (the Naalu player’s favorite). Again, I can’t speak to what the other players received in this deal, but I know they didn’t get anything great. Jol Nar got XRD, which was quite timely. His trading partners Hacan and Saar both picked up War Sun.
Oh, yes. The allies had 4 War Suns on the board between them by the end of the round, with Jol Nar building his second.
Naalu withdrew from Saar/Letnev space after having claimed his Secret Objective, though he was still trying to make a deal to retain control of Arinam/Meer when the High Alert-enhanced Jol Nar fleet -- consisting primarily of a War Sun, some Fighters, maybe a Destroyer, and a few Ground Forces -- sped through the intervening space to claim those two planets. Even still he wasn’t going to be able to claim that stinking ‘5 planets’ objective.
It was convenient for Saar to have left Arnor/Lor open for such a maneuver, but ultimately it was unnecessary, since Jol Nar acquired Light/Wave Deflector as his free tech. Remember this equation, kids: War Sun + Light/Wave Deflector + High Alert token = BIG BA-DA-BOOM!!
Letnev really felt the pinch in this round, making his game even more miserable. I reiterate, though: It was a mostly self-inflicted misery, coupled with some odd choices. One prong of the attack on Letnev came from Saar, who decided it was time to invade Hope’s End from Mellon/Zohbat. This was quite successful, since Letnev didn’t have much of a fleet to speak of while Saar had built a War Sun with Production (or its secondary).
Meanwhile, on Letnev’s other flank, L1z1x was anxious to unlock and claim the ‘Space Battle vs. 3 ships’ objective. Letnev had three ships at Wellon. Using Warfare secondary, Letnev reinforced this fleet with two more capital ships from his Home System. Even this was not enough, though, against the massed might of the L1z1x Assault Cannon fleet, making its first appearance in this game in the from of 2 Dreadnoughts, 2 Cruisers, and a Destroyer. In order to show her "good intentions", she didn’t bring along any Ground Forces; she was just after the objective.
Mass carnage ensued. Letnev lost two or three ships in the pre-combat barrage and the remainder didn’t get past the first combat round, though they did inflict two hits on the L1z1x fleet, taking out the Destroyer and damaging a Dreadnought. This was the first round that the Stage II objectives were unlockable, but L1z1x opted to do the ‘vs 3 ships’ and claim that.
Perhaps more importantly, though, the overwhelming performance of the L1z1x fleet -- which the Hacan and Saar players hadn’t seen in action before -- impressed upon them the gravity of the L1z1x situation. It was still containable at the moment, since the four-ship fleet in Wellon was the largest force she had on the board. But with all the planets she had and the massive production capacity of the L1z1x homeworld, action needed to be taken. And pronto.
Having built his first War Sun, Hacan started eyeing Naalu’s territory. Naalu, feeling trapped between a rock and a hard place between L1z1x and Hacan, started dealing like mad trying to stay alive. He was somewhat successful, as we shall see.
Status Phase: Since there was no invasion of Wellon, Letnev still had 5 planets to his name, enabling him to claim that objective. L1z1x also claimed ’10 resources’, and Naalu claimed ‘5 techs’, leading to a three-way tie for first place, just when I was thinking I didn’t have to worry about Naalu. He kind of came out of nowhere. The other three races didn’t manage to score.
With much tension and intrigue bubbling under the surface, it was time to order dinner. After race selection and galaxy setup, the game had gotten underway right around two in the afternoon. It was now five, which meant we’d managed four rounds of a six-player game in just three hours, possibly a record for this group. We paused to order pizza.
L1z1x took Assembly this round and on her first action, she activated it, took the Speaker token back from Naalu, and selected Hacan to play a PC. His choice was Ancient Artifact. The only ones who could possibly have been harmed by this were Saar (very slightly) and Naalu (greatly). But even Naalu was on board with opening the box. To everyone’s chagrin -- and delight -- we all received two free techs.
Again, I wasn’t exactly paying attention to what the other three players (Letnev, L1z1x, Naalu) were doing, but I figured out later that this must have been when Naalu picked up Graviton Negator, after having copied Assault Cannon from L1z1x with Sharing of Technology. You’ve got to give Naalu credit for trying to take advantage of that Fighters +1 that he had.
My alliance, however, hit the jackpot. Hacan got Magen Defense Grid and Light/Wave Deflector. Saar got Light/Wave Deflector and Transit Diodes. Jol Nar got Transit Diodes and X-89 Bacterial Weapon. Fear us.
And then the pizza came, so we paused, poised on the brink of Armageddon.
After sating our appetites, Hacan came right out of the gate and took out the Naalu Home System, using the Light/Wave bypass to get past Lodor. As part of the bargain, Naalu lost both planets and his Space Dock. Naalu felt this was a backstab, since he thought he had secured a non-aggression pact with our alliance and with Hacan in particular. Hacan maintained that he had been noncommittal when asked for reassurance on no forthcoming attack. Ultimately, though, there had been no deals or alliances between those two at all in the game.
The same couldn’t be said for L1z1x and Naalu, though. Seeing an opportunity, L1z1x swooped in from Mallice and sniped Lodor away from Naalu, destroying his second Space Dock.
It was around this time that whoever it was that had taken Bureaucracy unlocked the Stage II objective ‘destroy SD’. Two players could now qualify for that. But we’re not done yet.
Jol Nar launched his War Sun from Arinam/Meer through the wormhole into the very lightly defended Quann system, easily overcoming the opposition there. This was part of the "get L1z1x before they became ungettable" option, all the more necessary since she had another 2VP locked up with that conquest of Lodor. I followed this up with a High Alert- and Light/Wave-assisted move from my Home System to Mecatol Rex, where I was poised to overpower the relatively weak Naalu fleet. He retreated to Mirage, all but ending his round or any chance to take back his Home System this round. It also eliminated him as an immediate threat as leader.
Probably unbeknownst to himself, Letnev helped the anti-L1z1x cause -- endearing himself to the Trade Alliance -- by counterattacking the L1z1x Assault Cannon fleet at Wellon. This time, he had just enough to defeat her; they mutually annihilated each other, which reduced L1z1x’ overall fleet strength by about half.
Saar remained the only race not involved in total conflict, though he continued gobbling up Letnev’s systems one at a time. In this round, the system lost to Saar was New Albion/Starpoint.
Nearing the end of this action-packed round, Hacan attacked L1z1x at Lodor, though he failed to take the planet. Clearing the system of enemy ships, however, enabled him to use Massive Transport AC to move one of his Space Docks from his Home System into the Naalu Home System.
After several questions directed at Jol Nar along the lines of, "Where are you going, man? Where are you going?", L1z1x decided that the Jol Nar fleet might actually be headed her way and bulked up as best she could in her Home System.
Status Phase: Hacan and L1z1x both claimed the 2VP ‘destroy Space Dock’ objective, Saar spent 10 resources for another VP, and Jol Nar was able to tap the ‘vs 3 ships’ objective; more than halfway through the game, I finally managed to gain control of 5 planets, but I still couldn’t claim the objective as '3 ships' was more pressing. Naalu was shut out due to losing his HS; Letnev didn’t qualify for anything else.
Hot on the heels of the crazy action of last round, we continue right on into this round.
L1z1x took Bureaucracy, which was the final nail in the coffin as far as Jol Nar was concerned. I felt that if I didn’t take her out now she was going to win the game. After all, she was already at 7VP. Other selected cards included: Hacan/Leadership, Letnev/Diplomacy, and Jol Nar/Assembly. I don’t remember what Naalu and Saar selected.
Naalu started by going to retake his Home System, using Graviton Negator to assist. He managed to retake one of the planets, but couldn’t get both of them.
Hacan followed by playing Leadership at the behest of Jol Nar, who desperately needed two more CC in Fleet Supply if he wanted to make an attack on L1z1x as his first action.
And then when it was Jol Nar’s turn, the gloves came off. Jol Nar activated L1z1x HS. Here’s how the battle stacked:
Jol Nar -- 2 War Suns, 2 Cruisers, 2 Destroyers, 1 Carrier, and 10 Fighters
L1z1x -- 1 Dreadnought, 2 Cruisers, 1 Carrier, 4 Fighters, and 2PDS
The PDS and Assault Cannon shots did some damage, but mercifully not very much. Jol Nar played Morale Boost to make those Jol Nar War Suns perform better than 4. Much carnage ensued. A second round mop-up was needed, but when all was said and done, Jol Nar stood victorious with 2 undamaged War Suns. X-89 cleaned out the Ground Forces holding the planet and Jol Nar conquered the L1z1x HS, destroying the Space Dock in the process.
At about this point, it crossed my mind that there was a certain danger in being too successful against L1z1x. After all, my alliance with Saar had enabled me to stay very lightly defended at my own Home System, but that alliance could only be stretched so far. And my two War Suns were, in a very real sense, on the other side of the galaxy.
Naalu wrested control of his Home System back from Hacan briefly; I don’t recall exactly whether he lost it again in this round or whether that happened in round 7.
Letnev contented himself with building up in the few systems remaining to him while Saar occupied himself doing . . . something over there by the wormholes. I wasn’t concerned with either one of them since they were both so low in points.
When I activated Assembly and took the Speaker token, I chose Saar to play Core Stability. What this does is instantly turn neutral any planet that has only a Control Marker on it, no Ground Forces. Though this would damage both Hacan and myself, the more important thing is it would all but eliminate L1z1x. This was important because I couldn’t afford to waste time rooting her out of all of her different planets, but I also couldn’t abandon her to her own devices and let her retake her Home System.
Following this, Hacan removed L1z1x from Lodor, Letnev played Local Unrest on Capha to delete another Ground Force, and finally Letnev moved a Dreadnought into Trade Station Tsion to take L1z1x’ last planet.
At the beginning of the round, L1z1x was leading the game with 7VP and had a real chance of winning. By the end of the round, she had become the first player ever to be eliminated in a face-to-face game that I have played.
After the passage of Core Stability, Hacan was free finally to take Primor, which he had been wanting for awhile, and Saar made his move to Mecatol Rex. Both of these things were possible since we didn’t have to worry about breaking Trade Agreements. Also, Naalu grabbed Quann with Voluntary Annexation AC, placing 3 Ground Forces there.
Status Phase: 2-point ‘destroy SD’ objective for Jol Nar and Hacan finally grabbed the ‘5 planets’ Stage I. Naalu still didn’t have control of his HS, even though he could have qualified for the ‘destroy SD’ objective if he had. Saar and Letnev failed to score yet again.
So now Public Enemy #1 is Jol Nar. I had 8 points and the Speaker token. My plan was quite simple: Take Bureaucracy, hope nobody notices how vulnerable I am at my HS, then unlock the ‘6CC’ objective and win. Unfortunately, Saar did notice how imminent the game’s end was and took it upon himself to do something.
He moved in a substantial fleet from his HS and Arnor/Lor which had little to no problem reducing my defending Dreadnought and Fighters to ashes. He concentrated his landing on Jol, which oddly didn’t have any Ground Forces on it despite having a Space Dock (what was I thinking there, huh?), and claimed the planet. Since he had his (adjusted) race-specific tech, he then built an unholy number of ships in that system.
So much for a Jol Nar victory this round. Of course, I had acquired my own race-specific tech, so it was a trivial thing to move from the L1z1x HS to Saudor in one fell swoop; at least I could build up and retake my Home System next round, I thought. Of course, to do that I would have had to build a Space Dock there, which I intended to do, but forgot to actually do. No biggie, I figured. I’ll just build it at Mehar Xull, instead, though that would make it a lot more delicate.
Saar continued his arcane manipulations, eventually sending more ships and troops to Mecatol Rex. Letnev cruised around his side of the galaxy, building up some more. Naalu succeeded in getting his Home System back, again using Graviton Negator, along with his recently-acquired Fleet Logistics (which in our version acts like Unexpected Action AC), but had no objectives to claim at the end of the round. Hacan maneuvered his forces, apparently trying to line things up to wipe out Naalu in the next round.
Status Phase: The only one to claim an objective is Saar, who blowed up my Space Dock good for 2VP. He tried to claim his Secret Objective, too, but he was 2GF short on Mecatol Rex to do it.
Let me address Letnev before I detail the grand endgame. He ended up the game with two sizable fleets -- impotent fleets, to be sure, but sizable. One was in his HS, one was in the L1z1x HS. At some point he scored a Stage II objective. I was thinking it was ‘destroy SD’, but it could also have been ‘6CC’. I’m pretty sure he scored it here in the final round and ended with 4VP.
Okay, back to the main story. We have a few invented Action Cards in our deck, too. I drew Synchronicity in the Status Phase of Round 7, looked through the deck, and found Self-Destruct Sequence. Here’s what this interesting little card does: Between rounds of a Space Battle, you can choose to blow up one of your own ships. Your opponent then has to remove ships worth an equal number of resources.
Now, I recognized the danger in Saar. He was going to claim his Secret this round and probably any other Stage II he wanted. I couldn’t let him have Bureaucracy. But if I took Bureaucracy, I didn’t think I’d be able to wrest control of my HS back from him. I thought I needed to take Production, build, and attack.
Well, that was probably a mistake.
I realized when my turn came around that I couldn’t afford to play Production first, or he would just further reinforce my HS. So I just attacked him with the fleet that took out the L1z1x HS, along with a couple of ships that were still hanging out around Mehar Xull and Saudor. It was brutal. Both War Suns managed to survive the first round, but one was one hit away from being destroyed; Saar was left with three damaged Dreadnoughts. So I played my little Self-Destruct Sequence and won that battle. Letnev had to remind me that I had X-89, but that was enough to reclaim my HS. Now I just needed some points.
I had acquired Fleet Logistics in the previous round, my 16th(!) technology of the game, not counting Spatial Conduit Network. So I used Production, removed the CC from my HS, and invaded Arnor/Lor, where there was still 1 Saar GF hanging out. This enabled me to qualify for the ‘invade 2 planets’ objective, which would get me to 10VP.
During all of this, Hacan was surprisingly wily. He regained control of the Naalu HS, then used his twin War Suns. One he sent to destroy the Space Dock Naalu had built at Quann, in addition to the 3GF he had placed there with Voluntary Annexation (simultaneously eliminating him from the game); the other he sent to nuke the Space Dock I had built at Mehar Xull, where I still had 1GF hanging out. Can you guess what his goal was? That’s right, kids. He also could claim the ‘invade 2 planets’ objective and his Secret Objective, which was Regulator -- destroy SDs belonging to two different players. Which would get him to 10VP, also.
And then there was Saar. Of course, he managed to fortify Mecatol Rex. He also won a squeaker of a combat against Letnev at Lazar/Sakulag, conquering both planets. And, yes, he had ended up with Bureaucracy when I selected Production, so he was also able to arrange things to have just enough CC to claim the ‘6CC’ objective. Add that up and he finished with 11VP.
As I stated at the beginning, we’ve adopted a "claim all objectives simultaneously" policy, without putting a ceiling on how many points you can score. Therefore, Saar won the game with 11 points. As a side note, if we were playing by the rules on this, Hacan would have won since he had Leadership in the final round. Of course, in that event, I would have been very sure to take Leadership for myself.
What did Letnev do wrong?
As established at the beginning, Letnev had by far the strongest opening position in the game. Everybody else was only two spaces from at least one neighbor (Naalu was only two hexes from two neighbors) and most of the resource-heavy planets surrounded the Letnev Home System. As I said earlier, the mistake appears to be the selection of Warfare, which he chose while sitting to the Speaker’s right, i.e. second. I understand that he was wanting to secure those planets which were two spaces away before anybody else could get them, and that it’s usually a safe bet that somebody will take Production. But honestly he should have taken Production for himself, churned out a couple of Carriers, and gone to town. He would have been rolling in ships by round 3.
Of course, even after that first round blunder he could have been rolling in ships pretty early. After all, the other players were pretty cautious about moving onto others’ turf. But then he continually made a common mistake: buying tech instead of building ships. A stack of technology will not deter opponents from attacking you nearly as effectively as a huge stack of ships. Get the tech after you get the ships, especially if you’re Letnev and really don’t need much tech at all.
He did end the game with two huge stacks of ships. But it hardly mattered by then.
What did Naalu do wrong?
Naalu was the first one to place his Home System and he placed in the first ring. Odd choices, especially since he didn’t have a Mecatol Rex Secret Objective; in fact, there weren’t even any Mecatol Public Objectives, which is why there wasn’t a lot of fighting over the central planet. Perhaps he was thinking that being centrally located would better enable him to accomplish his Secret (Keeper of the Gates, if you recall). And in the end, he did this and was cruising right along, tied for first place with 5VP in the midgame.
But that first tile placement came back to haunt him, I believe. He had no control over where he was in relation to everybody else and when two powerhouses camped right next door, as it were, it was almost inevitable that he would eventually be consumed. A stronger alliance with L1z1x might have helped him go further, but even then it was going to be L1z1x/Naalu against Hacan/Jol Nar/Saar.
Still, I thought he did respectably well in the game, even if he did stretch himself a bit too thinly before he was taken out.
What did L1z1x do wrong?
Not much. The biggest thing that went bad for L1z1x was becoming the points leader without sufficiently securing the Home System. Especially in a three- or four-player game, this wouldn’t always be such a huge problem. But in this version, with Star by Star in play -- and especially sitting next to a wormhole -- it was deadly. She failed to recognize the danger that came with being the leader and being the target of a three-player alliance. And I believe she was scared a little by the War Suns that came knocking on her door.
But those War Suns were somewhat fragile while separated, especially the one sitting on Quann. At that point, instead of modestly reinforcing her HS at the end of round 5 and taking Bureaucracy in round 6, she should have made sure that she was going before me. She had the opportunity, selecting second while I selected fourth. And it was still kind of close, though having two undamaged (Jol Nar) War Suns remaining meant that she would still have need six more hits to take me out.
If she had been just a touch more aggressive in defending herself, had recognized the danger just a little quicker, she could have won (or at least been a fourth solid contender for that honor).
What about the alliance?
Near the end of galaxy creation, I (Jol Nar) had a choice of where to put my Home System: in the location where Hope’s End ended up or in Saar’s backyard. I thought I had more to fear from being two spaces away from Letnev than two spaces away from Saar; even now it’s hard to say whether that was the right decision or not. But due to the decision I made, I immediately started dealing with Saar. A deal with Hacan, my other neighbor, was almost automatic once I made it clear that we were the only players with Trade Agreements valued at 3. A little nudge to make the trading circular (Saar also traded with Hacan) and we had our alliance created before Strategy Cards were even selected in round 1.
This decision had a gamelong impact. Being secure in his border with me allowed Saar to move toward the more fertile fields in Letnev’s quadrant of the galaxy. Being secure in my border with Saar allowed me to gallivant halfway across the galaxy in order to keep L1z1x from walking away with the game; at the time, Jol Nar was the only one in position to do so.
My attack on L1z1x was where I made my "mistake." It was a pretty mild mistake, but it was something I had been concerned about when I went to do it. Essentially, my worry was, "What if I’m too successful?" Despite my planning, I really didn’t expect to knock out the L1z1x HS with such a little fight. I thought I would expend my fleet softening L1z1x up, then Hacan (most likely) would come through and finish the job. But L1z1x’ lack of foresight enabled me to be more effective, and I found myself sitting five hexes from my very-lightly defended Home System with 8 points.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have selected Bureaucracy in round 7, and perhaps I wouldn’t have done so if I’d paid closer attention to the dearth of ships protecting my homeworlds. But I did, and Saar rolled in. A backstab? I suppose so. But who would expect an ally to sit by idly while somebody goes off and wins the game? The victory would have been cheapened in my mind. So Saar did what he had to do, and effectively.
Hacan’s mistakes were also few. He was determined to wipe out Naalu (or at least occupy his HS), but he never really sent enough ships along to do the job right. And he was short of planets for a good chunk of the game, never really producing much of a fleet. In fact, he never triple-docked his HS, a normally good idea which would have been excellent in a game like this with such easy nearby targets. I think he kind of just coasted through a good chunk of the game, devising a possible winning strategy right near the end; his Regulator SO could have been fulfilled earlier if he’d turned against his allies sooner. And if he had, who could have faulted him for going for the win?
Saar did all-around well. I didn’t view him as any kind of threat until about round 7, right before he initiated his stealth victory. He expanded slowly and deliberately, built up his fleets the same way, didn’t become the leader (and therefore a target) at any point, let other people do the heavy lifting for him (such as when Jol Nar took out L1z1x), and only really got involved in battles in that final round. He exploited the situation perfectly.
So, how did Star by Star work out?
Fantastically well. I really like this variant and will probably push for it to be used in every other game we play. Turn this loose on a two-ring galaxy and a three-player game would become a real dogfight, rather than the long-distance, plodding games they are on the official three-player board. And Star by Star scales well all the way from three to eight players.
Why was it so great? Well, it shifted the dynamics dramatically. People ended up closer to each other, or had little pockets of planets that nobody else could get to. There was none of this invasion of "my" territory business. Usually you expect nobody to move into your "Y", the spaces next to your Home System and along your route to Mecatol, then you bargain with your neighbor for who will get that little spot in the middle, two spaces from each of you and Mecatol. Here, there were no such comfort zones (except for Letnev). You had to start in on diplomacy right at the beginning, making deals and carving up territory between you. You were almost forced to venture directly into others’ territory to meet objectives. Overall, there was a noticeable lack of, "Hey, why are you attacking me?" syndrome in this game, since it was obvious why the attacks were coming.
And as a bit of a side note, it just "felt" better to have an asymmetrical, organically-grown galaxy rather than the typical template that is commonly used. It felt more "natural", if you will.
Nice report GMO... I mean Remy.
The star-by-star variant is probably the best variant to come along to TI3. Unlike some variants, which change the game, not better not worse, just different. This variant changes the game but it makes it better in almost every way.
I don't think I would play a 5 or 7 player game without star-by-star now.
And I would prefer to play star-by-star on 3-4-6-8 player games.
Star-by-star also makes pre-made maps much better.
TI3 fans, reread Remy's report again and check the Star-by-star rules.
Once again, Remy is always does a good through job with anything TI3.
Great Session report!!
Makes me really want to try that Star by Star variant... Think I'll use it with my next PBeM...
One was not enough so you are getting
After looking at the length, I don't have time to read it now, yet my thumbs to you none the less!!!
I have always thought this game and Dune could be so freaking cool to play with the right group. Now I positively know it and find myself both hyped up to get a play in someday and lamenting the lack of people around who would teach me/bring me into the fold.
Excellent, excellent work!
Great session report! I think some of your changes and variants are "broken" (in the sense that they can be exploited for an excessive advantage), but it's clear that you had a blast, and that's what this is all about
Star-by-star also makes pre-made maps much better.
TI3 fans, reread Remy's report again and check the Star-by-star rules
Star-by-star sounds awesome; I think I'll be playing that way next time we table up TI3.
What do you mean when you say it makes pre-made maps better? I'm guessing you take all the tiles that would go into the premade map (the distribution of 1 and 2 planet systems) are distributed to players and then tiles are placed as normal. That way you still have an even distribution of stuff in the tiles but the placement will vary.
Just curious if I'm understanding that correctly. I could see that being a lot of fun.
He means that when you construct a pre-made map, you can make a lot better maps without the restriction of keeping Home Systems symmetrical around the edge of the map. The most obvious reason is that the number of contested systems (systems equally far apart from two or more Home Systems) is greatly increased. Also there is a lot more room to make all kinds of creative twists and promote all sorts of challenging set-ups.
I should also add that OP's link to the SA set is really, really out-dated. Check out the respective thread for the new version.
- Last edited Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:58 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Jul 13, 2010 2:57 pm
Where can one find the "respective thread?"
Question: How would the 'production slots' aspect of the Dreadnaughts & War Suns house rule work if someone played the Arborec, considering their production capacity cannot be pooled?
Where can one find the "respective thread?"
Do a search. Alternatively, I had this link to the (slowly) developing website available here
Question: How would the 'production slots' aspect of the Dreadnaughts & War Suns house rule work if someone played the Arborec, considering their production capacity cannot be pooled?
In SA, Arborec are adjusted to make them fit. Here, production actually IS pooled (and Arborec GF costs 1 instead of a that hidden cost)