Burn the land and boil the sea...
You can't take the sky from me...
My apologies in advance: this is my first Session post (at the bequest of one of the other players), so I'm not sure how sloppy/awful it'll look.
The Pre-Game Pre-Setup
A few weeks back, I stumbled across a copy of TI:3 for a "mere" $70 CAD... it normally retails for closer to $90. I had my eyes on the game basically since it first came out, and with the sale... I just couldn't resist. I purchased the game and giggled like a school girl all the way home. I may have even skipped a little... I'll deny it, of course, but some people may claim to have witnessed it.
Regardless, since I know that TI is too "intense" for most of my gaming friends, it took some work rounding up enough troops willing to devote the time necessary to playing and learning the game with me. E-mails were sent, bribes were offered, phone calls lobbed around like hand grenades. Days stretched into weeks... but finally... FINALLY I had rounded up four players willing to tackle the game! And, by twist of strange fate, one of the players actually roped his girlfriend into trying it out (normally something I would cringe at, but Susan is as avid a gamer as Bill is, so it was a welcome addition).
Now, it should be pointed out (just so you get some idea of my inexperience) that I had neither read the rules nor cut the pieces from their sprues before people showed up at my apartment. My defence: I didn't want to read the rules first to give myself an unfair advantage, and I didn't realize how long it would take to cut all the ships off their moorings. Needless to say, Bill smacked me upside the head and set me reading the rules while everyone else carefully snipped the fleets into existence.
I decided to let everyone choose their race for the first run through... we didn't have any idea how powerful one race was relative to the others, so most picked due to either aesthetic or gut-instinct preferences.
Andy was sitting directly to my right and was given the first choice of race due to the fact that I handed the stack to her. An avid Risk player, Andy was approaching the game with some timidness, as she tends not to like overly-complicated games (for example, she hates Cosmic Encounters with a passion). However, I was relatively confident that she would enjoy TI:3, due to the fact that no matter how complicated the rules were, none of us understood them... meaning that it was a nice, level playing field. She chose the Emirates of Hacan, motivated by the fact that she found the artwork pleasing and, more likely than not, the simple fact that she completely loves cats.
Dave took the stack next and began sorting through the races. Dave is an old friend from university, and you'll never meet a nicer, more easy-going person. Nor a more cut-throat, back-stabbing bastard on the game board (although always with a smile and an apology). He settled on the Xxcha... and I have no idea why.
Susan was roped into the game almost by accident... her boyfriend brought her with the knowledge that she didn't have to play if she didn't want to. She decided to buckle down and try the game, although it wasn't to her specific tastes, as she tends to prefer less Empire building and more subterfuge in her gaming. Regardless, she settled on the Federation of Sol.
Ah, Bill. The only person I know that takes gaming more seriously than I do, and who made a three hour drive (from Ottawa to Toronto, more or less) just to spend a day gaming with us. Sitting next to Bill in most games was paramount to suicide; he was always thinking four moves ahead, cheerfully reaping VPs from under your nose. He's personally responsible for introducing me to several of my favourite games (Puerto Rico, Caylus, Kingdoms, etc...), and I was relishing the opportunity to thump him but good. He choose the Sardakk N'orr.
Lastly, it was my turn. Not wanting to hold up the proceedings, I choose a race completely based on it's colour: black. This turned out to be the Barony of Letnev, and as I quickly read the history of the race, I approved... warlike, resource strapped, proud... I liked 'em already.
Life, The Universe, and Everything
Placing Metacol Rex at the center of my gaming table, we followed the assigned rules for dealing systems to each player. I gave a five word description of the Systems ("Green is resources, symbols are tech specialites, red is Influence, higher is better, go."), and without wasting much time or thought we set up a universe. I carefully (and, it turned out, foolishly) kept the wormholes on the opposite side of the galaxy from me and near Dave, who I figured was my biggest threat (Bill being only 2 hexes away meant, to my mind, that I could strike hard and fast at him to keep him down, but Dave was flanked by the two girls, who weren't nearly as blood thirsty as Bill or myself, meaning he'd have room and time to expand). I also placed an empty system directly between myself and M. Rex, thinking that it would allow my fleets quicker access to the Imperial planet, without having to fight through enemy fleets or bunker down to protect limited-value and exposed planets. Oops.
Dave's homeworld was flanked by the alpha and beta wormholes, both of which led to Susan's approximate sphere of influence. Asteroids separated Andy from my world by the most direct route, and the supernova lay between Andy and Dave.
And so... it Begins...
The first few rounds were full of plenty of questions and a few stumbling mistakes ("Ground Forces are 1 Resource for TWO units?! DAMNIT!"). However, the races all extended to the nearest planets, and within a few rounds each of us were sitting on about 6 worlds (including home systems, of course). Susan made a quick break for Metacol Rex, seizing it with a minimal amount of effort and no bloodshed. Andy and Dave both started massive military build-ups, Dave's fuelled by his technological superiority (taking the Technology Strategy at least 3 out of 4 turns, freeing resources the rest of us had to SPEND on tech upgrades), and Andy's fuelled by her huge war-chests of trade income.
Susan started with the Initiative Strategy, and stuck with it the majority of the game... picking it every other turn with rare exceptions. This meant she was Speaker for approximately 80~90% of the game. Both she and Andy started throwing down starbases as quickly as possible, and had all three up and operational before Dave built his second starbase.
First Blood Goes to...
I had run into my first stumbling block in my path to Imperial glory. Bill and I had planets neighbouring each other, and our amassed fleets were poised, nervously awaiting orders. However, Bill had also expanded into sectors bordering my approach to Metacol Rex... places his deadly PDS on 4 of the worlds in 2 sectors. With the technology and racial bonuses of his PDS, they hit on a 4+ and could reroll a miss! That was the equivalent (approximately) of *eight* 4+ cannon between me and any more planetary expansion! This... would not stand.
I rushed my fleets into his closest system, and a mighty space battle erupted. PDS fire from both sides hammered into the fleets, fighters screamed through the void, ships crumbled and blossomed silent explosions. When the dust settled, I had seized one of his 2 worlds, and my fleet was battered but unbroken!
Bill, however, was not content to let that stand, and launched a counter offensive almost immediately. My brave, noble Letnev warriors enacted a terrible toll on the evil Sardakk N'orr forces, making them pay for every step... but by turn's end, Bill had reclaimed his system and the world I had liberated. My Diplomatic Strategy bought me precious time, allowing me to rebuild enough of the fleet to protect my own system from further attacks.
The Middle of the End
With Bill's PDS forming a wall of death, Andy's massive fleet buildup, and Dave's steady technological mastery, I was rapidly running out of tactical options. Susan had just revealed her completed Secret Objective, holdind Metacol Rex and successfully building all her Dreadnoughts. VP-wise, we were all relatively close, in the 4~6 range (although almost all mine were from taking the Imperial Strategy twice). Bill's expansions were thwarted by a quick rush-attack by one of my brave carriers, which by-passed his PDS and grabbed a world at the very edge of his space near the center of the galaxy.
Bill, however, took the Imperial Strategy two rounds in a row, thrusting him to 8VPs almost instantly. Realizing how close he was to a sudden and inexplicable victory, the other races agreed to keep the Imperial Strat out of his claws by any means necessary.
That very turn, Dave and Andy both completed the technologies required to create War Suns, and where once there were none, suddenly four of the monstrous vessels graced the board.
I managed to launch a successful assault on Metacol Rex, beating Susan's humble space fleet out of orbit... but the Human ground forces would not be bowed, and I was forced to leave the planet under her control.
And the Universe Ended... not with a Whimper, but a Laugh
Dave apologized to Susan as he rushed two War Suns, fighters, and ground forces towards Sol by skillful application of a Flank Speed action. Susan's fleet was a bare-bones ordeal, her capital ships defending the outer reaches of Human space, and before the might of Dave's fleet, was only able to inflict light casualties. Dave apologized and indicated that his Secret Objective was completed, and that he would happily return Sol to her after he had the victory points.
Bill, meanwhile, had clashed with my meagre (but noble!) forces in numerous skirmishes, wearing my fleet thin. At last he pushed into a system neighbouring my homeworlds... and while I threw everything I could into the fight, he managed to capture one of the two planets. In retaliation, I pounded his remaining ships with my PDS, but had no fleet left to recapture my world with and no resources with which to create a new one.
The Status round began, and Dave happily took his 2VPs for crushing Sol for his Secret Objective, bumping him up to 8VPs. His glee, however, was short-lived, as Bill revealed that he had successfully seized his 5th Technological World... completing his Secret Objective, and granting him his 10th VP.
It was an awesome game, and words alone can not describe how much fun I had. Obviously, some facts were omitted... mostly due to memory issues (hey, YOU try compressing 8 hours of gaming into a few pages of text, see how much you forget!). Susan will probably not play TI:3 again, as I suspect she felt unjustly picked on (losing her fleet around M. Rex and her homeworld within a turn of each other didn't sit well with her). Andy was frustrated and disliked the game... for the first five hours. At hour six, something clicked and she suddenly started to understand how the game worked and really got into it. Dave was happy with the game from start to end, despite being cheated of victory by only a turn or two.
I had topped out at 7 planets, and ended the game with 5, whereas everyone else was securely holding at least 8 or 10. This inevitably crippled me, and even the planets I held were resource-poor (although I did win more than my fair share of Political Votes).
Some novice mistakes were made (like the aforementioned Ground Force price error... also, we didn't notice the price for the PDS is incorrectly listed on the race cards until after the game, which may have made my work dealing with Bill slightly easier), but I think it was a great, great time. I can't wait to play again!
Reading your review makes me want to crack open this beast sometime soon.
There arent many games that ive seen that can lead to so much gristly, greasy, epicosity and sheer awesomeness.
That said, there are 3 words for you, my friend:
GET THE EXPANSION.
It makes the game sooo much better its not even funny. The new set of strategy cards makes the game more combat oriented (You'll learn to hate the imperial card) and the new races are fun (there is a new race that STARTS with a war sun. hehe.) :D
This looks tasty...
THe War Sun is awesome. I tore up my non-aggression pact with my two closest neighbors and eliminated one and nearly eliminated the second.
I can tell we are going to be mortal enemies.
You chose the name Hiro Protagonist. That's why you get a thumb. I guess...it's also for a pretty fun session report. But mostly for the name.
I hope you have your swords.
I approve the Douglas Adams, but Snowcrash is a terrible, schizophrenic, anti-climactic mess of a book--which hasn't aged well.
Entertaining report, though!
Burn the land and boil the sea...
You can't take the sky from me...
Aww, Snowcrash isn't THAT bad... and there are some unquestionably funny parts. Like the pirates that will listen to Reason.
"I thought you hated machineguns?"
"I hate pirates more."
I'm glad you liked the report, though. Next time... I'm keeping *notes*!
Don't listen, Snow Crash is awesome. Thanks for a great report, I'm looking forward to playing for the first time next month.