Me (Sardak Norr), Ben (Ghosts), Josh (Hacan) and Emma (Mentak).
All of us had played several times before except Emma who was new to the game. Rules:
- Choose one SC each for each round
- All SE strategy cards, except Warfare from base game. Use Imperial II.
- No leaders, mercenaries or reps
- Promissary Notes
- Assembly works as follows: active player gets one Action Card and the Speaker token and picks one of the four public agendas to vote on and one to discard. These two are replaced at the end of the vote. Active player gets +4 votes PLUS another 4 votes for each Bonus counter on Assembly.
- three one-point objectives revealed at the start of the game, with another added each round. Two-point objectives added on round 4.
- Artifacts. I can't stress enough how much these improve the game.
- Objectives related to technologies removed from the game. I think this also improves the game a ton.
- Control the Wormholes removed from the game.
Objectives were (in rough order of appearance):
Spend 3 command counters
Spend 10 resources
Win a battle against a GF
Win a battle against 3 ships
Spend 4 TGs, 3 resources, 3 influence
(one I can't remember)
Win two battles against 3 ships
Spend 20 resources
Spend 20 influence
Spend 12 TGs
I won't go into big details. Usual early expansion, although I had to live with the good and bad of having a lot of empty systems between me and my neighbours. That meant I was not threatened much, since there were not many systems to fight over, but I was also short of resources for all of the game. Once I fully expanded, I had access to around 10-11 resources. By contrast, the other three had access to around 15-18 resources.
As Sardak, one of the worst races, I decided before we started that my early focus would be to create a PDS perimeter with Deep Space Cannon and Defence Grid to ensure that any attack would have to come through a lot of PDS fire, with the 4-6 PDS shots hitting on rolls of 4+. That was a pretty serious disincentive for the others and it worked pretty well. The idea was even better when I got a Prelim Objective which was to simply get all 6 PDS on the board!
I took Warfare on round 1 and 2, in order to take MR first, and then take Imperial II for the VP. There were only two real artifacts in the game, with one on MR and another in an adjacent system, and I held both for a while, so I got an early VP lead.
My big mistake happened when I claimed my Prelim Objective and then realised I actually only had 5 rather that 6 PDS on the board, so I had to unclaim it, but then everyone knew what it was and did what they could to cause me to not get the 6th on the board - I did not claim the Prelim Objective until several rounds later.
Ben, as Ghosts, expanded far and wide, and had the largest resources base. Ben was mostly peaceful early, except for a couple of raids in order to destroy two cruisers and thus claim his Prelim Objective.
Emma, as Mentak, expanded slowly - she had a lot of double and triple planet systems near her base - and built up a big fleet.
Josh, as Hacan, focussed on trade early but then lost his way somehow as he got stuck between Ben's mobility and my raw power. Josh made an error by causing a vote on an agenda which gave everyone a tech belonging to a trade partner. I got Sarween Tools, which gave me War Sun on the next Technology turn, and even though I had low resources, I still got both Suns on the board, keeping them together for 6 dice hitting on 2+ with Duranium Armour - a tough combo! From then on Josh really got smashed - he had to keep a strong fleet to stave off the treat from me (which I smashed anyway, without losing anything), which meant Ben chipped away at his planets on the other flank.
I found it very hard to get my key tech - Exotrireme - costing 10 with the Tech secondary - and got it too late in the game to be very useful.
Earlier, Ben had held MR for a turn or two, before I got it back. Ben did a deal with Emma to pass a law which gave him a VP (Lord of MR), giving her a Promissary Note of -1VP to win). Ben was claiming VPs most turns, whereas I stalled for 3 turns not claiming anything while I messed around trying to get my Prelim Objective and holding the Artifacts.
With Ben looking close to a win, form claiming the 'spend 20 resources' objective, Josh and I took several of his best planets, but in order to do so, I abandoned MR and Emma took it, and then claimed her Secret Objective (MR, 3 space docks, 5 dreadnaughts) and another 2 point objective and suddenly she was in contention, now going form 4 to 8 points and needing 9 to win!
Ben claimed a 2-point objective to go to 9 points while I was on 7.
Emma got the 1 VP she needed (win a battle against 1 GF) and I also got the 3 VPs I needed from my Secret Objective and another 1 VP objective). However, on that round, Ben took Political, waited for Emma to spend all her resources on shoring up her home base, and than called for Voice of the Council and got the one point to win the game!
I was pretty happy with Sardak Norr this game. They are a boring race, but once you have some ships on the table and some good supporting techs, they are pretty strong, although they are really one-dimensional. My problem was lack of resources and the mistake with claiming my Prelim Objective. I think my theory of basing my defence on PDS rather than ships was sound.
The lack of resources meant I could not get the Exotrireme tech out fast enough, or my Flagship, although its not a great ship really, with movement of only 1.
Emma played well for her first game, although she was not really aggressive enough. Josh had a bad game - he did not seem to know how to play Hacan and got caught between Ghosts and Sardak. The fact that Emma really did not put a lot of pressure on Ben and me meant that Josh was under more pressure.
Ben won for the second time in a row. Ghosts are good but they need to be opportunistic, since they have little raw power, which is Ben's play style anyway so it was a good match.
Rules wise, I think in future we will play that that the bonus votes cannot be applied to the Voice of the Council vote.