James Read
United Kingdom
BATH
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Well it’s taken three attempts, but we have finally completed a game of Twilight Imperium. We set aside eight hours in each instance and agreed that we’d not play beyond the turn that went past our time marker. A little background: our group has been gaming (board, war and roleplay) for about 20 years, we’d been playing a lot of Eurogames (apart from Civilisation and a few old GW games) and all agreed we’d like something with a ‘little more meat on the bones’ hence my recommendation of Twilight Imperium after much trawling around BGG reading numerous reviews for many different games. The version we’ve been playing is the vanilla version and yes we are aware of the huge debate over the Imperial strategy card!

Our first game was obviously a little slow, as we were all trying to learn the rules, and we were also a little wary of the combat and I don’t think a shot was fired in anger until turn 3. At the end of our allotted time we had reached turn 6, and the leading player was on 6VPs so barring the Imperium Rex card turning up we could’ve of played for some considerable time!

Our second game also failed to reach a conclusion, although we were at least much closer to an outright victor. One of the group had to drop out at the last minute so we ended playing our first 5-player game; hence our set up was a little stalled as we had to check the variant start rules. This was further delayed by as fluffing the board laying (we forgot that when the fifth player (the last in this game) placed his tile the order of laying should have reversed and he should have placed another), so we all agreed to start again. The game was further delayed when, all confident that we knew the rules, our first major combat was messed up (the defending player didn’t fire his PDS when he was supposed to and there was a lengthy debate about what should happen; the combat was fought again!). Despite this one player was about to win (he was on 8VP) by taking the Imperial strategy card when another player forced him to chose another strategy card with a timely intervention of an Action Card (I forget the name of the card). The game then reached it’s time limit and again there was no clear winner. Interestingly the guy that was about to win started at position 5 (PG32 main rules), arguably the most hampered start position, as you are so close to your neighbours.

So onto to game three and finally we finished; in fact we were done in under 7 hours. This was again a 5-player game, which does make things a little quicker and I think we’re all agreed that we we’d sooner play with the full 6-players. Despite the additional trade cards, the three players starting closer together do have less area to expand into before coming into conflict with opponents. Furthermore with 3 Strategy Cards being left each time, the strategy cards don’t work as well; important secondary effects are missed, and for some races these can be critical.

The game was won in turn 7 by the Xxcha Kingdom (**clears throat humbly**)blush, that is to say me. I managed to get the Imperium card twice (4VP); scored my Secret Objective: Master of Ships (hold Mecatol Rex, have a space dock and 8 (non-fighter) ships in the system) (2VP); plus I managed to score 6 trade goods (tricky when one of the other races are the Mentak Coalition, pesky pirates!) (1VP); 5 different technology advances (1VP); spend 10 influence (always easier when you have Mecatol Rex!) (1VP); and technology advances in 4 colours (1VP), so I didn’t need (or in fact meet) any Stage II objectives.

I was looking forward to utilising the Xxcha’s special ability of actioning the Primary Diplomacy function when actioning the secondary ability of Diplomacy, but didn’t get the opportunity. The first couple of times the Diplomacy card was played I didn’t need it and the secondary ability was more useful. Then towards the end of the game the card was passed over on several occasions, and on the turn I really could’ve of used it, the guy that took the card didn’t play until towards the end of the round, as his primary foe had taken Initiative and so clobbered him on the very first action, there was then little point in him playing Diplomacy.

We’re currently planning our next game and hopefully it will be soon with the full 6-players. I think we’re expecting any future games to take 1 to 1½ hours per player. This maybe a bit longer than some other groups, but we do like the haggling, negotiating, cajoling that goes on during the Political and Trade Strategies, plus during potential moves and hostile action.

I guess the question for us is: Shattered Empires? I know it’s highly rated and the most contentious issue is the Imperial Strategy Card. I must admit that up to this point we have liked the card despite it being an artifice. This is because it drives the game forward, which with a fairly heavy and long game, and considering the way we play, has been a good thing. However we do note that if you go first or second you are more likely to secure this card twice and on the face of it this would appear to indicate you are more likely to win; after the game is all about VPs. The counter argument is that in taking the other strategy cards you gain a greater advantage in game play, more technologies, more action cards and political sway, better trade etc. I have my personal opinion on this, but perhaps I’ll wait and see what the community has to say before I reveal my hand!

I’m looking forward to another game and a fuller session report afterwards.
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Kai Wootton
United Kingdom
Clevedon
North Somerset
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I would heartily recommend Shattered Empires to be honest, it adds some really good elements including some more "warfare" based Public Objectives (i.e - I won a space battle against an opponent defeating at least 3 ships or I conquered a world defeating at least 2 ground forces etc)

On the FFG forums a lot of people seem to suggest that Shattered Empire is essential to fix many flaws from the first game (fighter swarms etc) I cannot testify to that though as I had only played 2 games before committing to the expansion and now we play different variants each game (and mix up the strategy cards two as there are 8 new ones in the expansion that really mix it up and a few are "interchangable" between the two startegy card sets for more variation)

Finally, the expansion has the 4 new races which are pretty cool as well as giving each race its own race specific technology some of which are great (The Winnu are awesome)
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Remy Gibson
United States
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Many of the imbalances in the base game (such as the fighter swarms mentioned above) don't become apparent unless you've played multiple games or are very perceptive. The obvious exception is the ISC, which is just flat-out broken.

I also wholeheartedly endorse Shattered Empire; the game feels "complete" with it. But it's a huge cost, and that can be a minus. If your group doesn't have a problem with the ISC (and some don't/didn't), there's no hurry. If you want to try a variant -- and in my opinion, much better option -- check out this link, specifically the "Ancient Throne" variant, which has a variant ISC. You can swap that in without investing another sixty bucks.

And as far as the time it takes you to play... well, my group never has gotten that down much. We can knock out a 4-player game in 3-4 hours, but 6 players is guaranteed to take 6-8 hours. And I still think 6 players is the best.
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Wayne O'Keeffe
Ireland
Sligo
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8 hours? Hmm, long game. Last few we've played have been 4 player games in about 3 or 4 hrs.
The expansion isn't needed but does have some cool stuff. I wouldn't bother with it myself if your just getting into TI3 but if cost isn't a factor then fire away.
I'd recommend using a pregen'd map set up (can't remember if the maps are in the file sections here or in one of the rule books) as you can have the game ready and set up for when the players arrive. That'll save 30 minutes anyway.
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James Read
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Thanks for the responses guys

I’m still not 100% sold on Shattered Empire, especially considering the £40 price tag for an expansion (there are plenty of good stand alone games that you can pick up for that!) Our group would not be too worried about making the combat important; it’s an integral part of winning the game already. I don’t think it needs to be further rewarded for its own sake.

Further I don’t think we have a problem with fighter swarms (apart from the first game we played where as well as costing half a resource we also counted them as half a unit when counting towards space dock capacity). If your opponent has masses of fighters then you need to do likewise, but because of the space dock production limits it takes time to get to ‘swarms’. Plus the cost of Destroyers is not that much greater, and with a decent Fleet Supply and Hylar V Lasers you can get away with only a moderate fighter screen.

I do however like the idea of different races and strategy, increasing the randomness and future playability.

We’ve already downloaded the variant rules and I suspect we’ll try Star in the Crown or Ancient Throne next time around. What we may do however is carry on with the unrevealed Objectives (which we like very much), turning them over automatically each Strategy Phase, and not relying upon the ISC. Of course admitting this has made my thoughts on the subject clear! I like the ISC for its bloody minded drive to bring the game to a conclusion, however I have a greater dislike for the unbalance that it creates, giving players that go first and second a much greater chance of winning.shake

One thing I would be interested in hearing is whether or not the Initiative Strategy card remains a gimmee, given that the primary reason for taking it was to ensure the ISC in the following turn?

As regards to speeding up the game; I know our group would never agree to is a preset board.Setting the board up a tile at a time is one of the best parts of the game. Calculating how many pieces you have left, how many tiles go down before you next place and how many spaces are left in the current ring is great fun; get it right and you can get great systems near you and really stitch up your opponents, get it wrong and the doom is on you!

Finally a decision on whether or not to purchase Shattered Empire maybe be moot anyway as I can find nowhere in the UK where it is in stock! thumbsdownthumbsdownthumbsdown
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Necessary Evil
United States
Glen Arm
Maryland
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Shattered empires is a must.
The new cards are better, the new objectives are a lot better and the new races are all great.


SE will not add time to the game.

Also you should try playing with 4 before playing with 6.

-M
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Edwin Priest
United States
Inverness
Illinois
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certain death wrote:
We’ve already downloaded the variant rules and I suspect we’ll try Star in the Crown or Ancient Throne next time around. What we may do however is carry on with the unrevealed Objectives (which we like very much), turning them over automatically each Strategy Phase, and not relying upon the ISC. Of course admitting this has made my thoughts on the subject clear! I like the ISC for its bloody minded drive to bring the game to a conclusion, however I have a greater dislike for the unbalance that it creates, giving players that go first and second a much greater chance of winning.


It sounds like you should move on the Bureaucracy Strategy Card and in fact the whole new set of strategy cards from the SE expansion. They are much better IMO and are another reason you really, really need to get that expansion.
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