Knowing where the trap is - that's the first step in evading it.
Twilight Imperium Session Report: 16/10/11
Okay so 6 of us sat down to play Twilight Imperium, all for the first time. We knew it was gonna be a long night. After some intense grappling with the rules we finally felt confident enough to give it a run.
We handed out race cards at random. I drew The Naalu Collective and I was up against (to my left): The Sardakk N’orr, The Mentak Coalition, The Yssaril Tribes, The Xxcha kingdom and The Emirates of Hacan. A quick glance at racial characteristics resulted in everyone but the N’orr reaching for the rulebook.
Undaunted (well a little bit daunted) we moved to map construction. Most of us had basically realised that we wanted the good planets near our home system and so Mecatol Rex found itself surrounded by 4 blanks, a supernova and a single planet (I decided to save a blank to put on my side of the N’orr). We then proceeded to load up our home systems with our best planets and stick asteroids far away from us. Looking back I think we missed some tricks here. Firstly, I stuck two wormholes with planets near my home system and secondly someone else placed an asteroid one hex away from my home system. During the game I realised that having those wormholes both close by wasn’t worth the resources those planets gave me because it left me so open to attack. I also realised that whoever placed the asteroid had helped me out hugely – I had the tech which allowed me to pass right through asteroids but neighbouring Hacan did not, thus I didn’t really face much asteroid-based movement restrictions but I did have a one hex bottleneck where I could defend heavily against Hacan and completely protect my capital.
Turn 1: And so it begins
So the game kicked off Xxcha was the first speaker and they took the Imperial strategy, Hacan grabbed initiative and I (with not much to go on) lumped for political. I think N’orr grabbed warfare, leaving the Mentaks with science and the Yssaril with Logistics. I used my racial ability and went first electing to activate my strategy, the political card didn’t do much (allowing us to vote down a law when we had none in place), but the three action cards were a huge boon and set a game long trend of where I held a lot of decent action cards. Most people spent this turn colonising a nearby planet. I spent my influence to draw an extra command token, while most other players used the secondary Imperial strategy to build up their home planet fleets. At this point the game had been running for around 90 minutes (we spent a long time trying to understand those rules) and the Mentaks had to drop out for a dinner date (oh what comes between a race of people and galactic conquest!). We skipped their strategy and slightly altered the map, swapping out their home planet for a Nebula and respacing the board a little. We also came close to seeing our first conflict on the game as the rest of the board encouraged a Xxcha attack on an undefended Hacan carrier, but conservative play won out. Oh and the first public goal was to spend 6 trade goods. None of us had really figured out how trade worked so that didn’t do much at all.
Turn two: Onwards with one race down!
Turn two. Everyone had picked up a planet or two, most had built another carrier and maybe a cruiser and the only victory points were from the Xxcha’s imperial strategy. Xxcha started the turn by playing an action card to block Hacan getting imperial strategy. Unable to take initiative twice in a row they took trade and I grabbed initiative. I believe that N’orr ended up with logistics, Yssaril political and Xxcha warfare.
I kicked off by launching a destroyer / cruiser attack on a carrier / fighter in a nearby Hacan system. My destroyer failed to take down their fighter, but the cruiser made short work of both. Unfortunately, I could do nothing to the colonised planet in the system. Apparently initiating the first conflict of the game marked me out as a threat though, and I had to worry about co-ordinated anti-Naluu action from there on in.
The biggest shift this turn, however, was the decimation of poor Yassaril. When they activated their political strategy they drew the execution card (target discards half their action cards and suffers -1 to combat rolls for that turn) that I had carelessly placed at the top of the deck. Holding 4 action cards myself I panicked about being the target of this and turned to N’orr to propose that we use our joint influence to vote down the Yssaril and allow the N’orr to move in for an easy kill. The negotiation worked a treat and pitted Yssaaril against N’orr by the time the vote got round to me I could decide the issue. I elected to remain faithful to my agreement with N’orr, not wanting to annoy a powerful neighbour and noting that the Yssaril held 4 action cards to N’orr’s one. Things moved swiftly against the Yssaril. The N’orr moved in to destroy their poorly defended colony, leaving them with one fleet of any force on the other side of the map defending against the Xxcha.
The rest of the turn was mainly taken up with colonisation. The Xxcha built up well, while Hacan found himself hemmed in by expansion on either side of him. I awaited the Imperial strategy and built up in my capital allowing me to colonise two planets this turn. The N’orr, with a growing number of planets had a huge build and became the military power of the galaxy, but with so many resources around them weren’t a huge threat yet.
We also saw the first activation of the trade strategy and it was decided that the Xxcha, Hacan and N’orr would form an anti-Naluu trade syndicate in response to my aggression. In the end it mattered little as the trade strategy was rarely chosen.
Turn 3: Another race bites the dust and Hacan makes a move for Mecatol Rex!
Turn 3 began and the Yssaril, heavily weakened already had to head home. We preserved their pieces and systems as neutrals who would defend but not attack. Strategy picks kicked off and I took Imperial, while N’orr took science, Xxcha took initiative and Hacan took warfare. We later realised that with 4 players we were supposed to take two strategies each, but having played under this misconception for the next few turns we didn’t alter it.
I began (as always) and decided that I would hold off playing my strategy card for as long as possible in order to try prevent diplomacy allowing everyone else to build twice. I colonised another couple of planets, built in my home system and moved in strength towards the Hacan home system. Meanwhile Hacan took a lone carrier and made a run for Mecatol Rex using the warfare card and settling there. N’orr moved slowly towards the Yssaril home system and grabbed the first in a line of techs towards the dreaded Death Star, while Xxcha squeezed Hacan, grabbed some useful planets and built up.
I think I was the only one not to get a tech this turn (having spent my production on much needed fleets) and it left me as the only player in the game without Hylar Assault Laser (+1 destroyers, + 1 cruisers). The only major conflict this turn was to come as Hacan built in his home planet and played an action card to remove the command token there and attack my raiding fleet. Luckily for me I was saved by diplomatic immunity.
We saw the next public objective – finally – and it was to control Mecatol Rex for an entire cycle. With no carriers nearby to challenge the Hacan they were sure to get it!
Victory point count was: Naluu 2, N’orr 0, Xxcha 2, Hacan 0
Turn 4: It gets serious
Turn 4 and Xxcha surprisingly elected to pass on imperial for science! Hacan who were next up grabbed logistics (I think) and I was able to get Imperial a second time in a row, I hesitated as I had hoped to use the secondary imperial strategy to build this turn, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The N’orr took initiative.
I didn’t do much this turn, colonised one more planet and made a single military manoeuvre. By now I was joint weakest in fleet size with Hacan and hoping to save up command tokens to avoid having to take logistics. I had finally got some science specialist planets and decided to take Statis Capsules as my first tech (allowing cruisers to carry a ground troop). The N’orr used their moves to attack the Hacan fleet above Mecatol Rex, completely obliterating it but unable to take out the ground forces. They also colonised more planets to establish themselves as the biggest producer and influencer in the galaxy and sent an ill-fated attack squandron to the Yssaril home planet (they failed to bring any fighters and despite no fleet presence had their carrier shot down by PDS before they could land ground troops). Xxcha were in a very powerful position at this point and used their strategy to get deep space cannon then played a combination of action cards to ignore the requirement of sarween tools and grab the war sun tech. Even my action card forcing them to exhaust half their planets was not enough to halt them. By now Xxcha had massed troops on the Hacan border and were fast-approaching the wormholes that gave them easy entry in to my home system.
Hacan made a big move at this point launching an all-out attack on my fleet with a dreadnought / cruiser / destroyer combo. Unfortunately for them, the battle was a disaster. Defending with two cruisers and multiple fighters I played an action card to score two immediate hits on their fleet (killing the cruiser and hitting the dreadnought). A combination if my fighter bonus and cruiser firepower then tore their remaining attackers apart at the loss of a mere fighter.
Everyone else got a free big build in their home systems and we had another public objective to spend own 5 non-home system planets. Which N’orr and Xxcha were able to claim immediately. Meanwhile the Hacan got the Mecatol Rex public objective.
Victory point standings: Naluu 4, N’orr 1, Xxcha 3, Hacan 1
Turn 5: Hacan home world under attack!
Turn 5 saw the N’orr take their first Imperial strategy. The Xxcha selected logistics strategy, while Hacan took science and I grabbed initiative.
My plan this move was to aim for my secret objective, so I launched an attack on the Hacan home worlds. After wiping out their fleet I was able to conquer one of their home planets, but I had unfortunately miscalculated how hard conquering all three planets would be and wasn’t really that close to the secret objective.
Meanwhile N’orr moved slowly over to the more populated half of the galaxy with a huge string of worlds behind him. He also sent out another raid towards the Yssaril home worlds and got one step closer to the war sun tech. Xxcha still declining to engage in conflict sent out more colonising fleets and continued a steady military advance, including grabbing the last remaining Yssaril colony. They also built their first Death Star. Hacan built heavily in their second starbase in order to try and regain their capital and proceeded to expel my invading fleet and leave my single planet conquest stranded. The science strategy saw Hacan pick up Deep Space Cannon to target my fleets in surrounding hexes and I grabbed Neural motivator to keep me well stacked with action cards.
The next public objective was to hold three techs, which N’orr and Xxcha grabbed, while I took the 5 planet objective.
Victory Points: Naluu 5, N’orr 4, Xxcha 4, Hacan 1
Turn 6: The end is near
I took the Imperial strategy card with speaker, making it a lot of turns since I had a strategy card outside initiative and imperial. N’orr took science, while Xxcha took initiative and Hacan took diplomatic.
I colonized one more planet by jumping through a wormhole and built heavily in my home sector, after Hacan played the diplomatic card to block any conflict between us. Hacan continued to hold Mecatol Rex and spent their effort building up a huge fleet to push back against me. The Xxcha brought their Death Star to the frontline and built another, while capturing the other ends of both wormholes. N’orr, if I recall, managed to also get the tech for a death star and promptly built one while surrounding my latest colonising fleet and moving towards my home planets.
By the end of the turn, Xxcha and N’orr had fleets capable of exterminating all life, while Hacan were reduced to three hexes of control on the map. Both Hacan and I were able to take the tech objective however, while the new public objective required the spending of 10 resources and was immediately claimed by Xxcha and N’orr.
Victory points: Naluu 8, N’orr 5, Xxcha 5, Hacan 2
Turn 7: The Xxcha mobilise against the Naluu
Turn 7 dawned with the realisation that the game was now a race between Xxcha and Naluu (me). The Xxcha made a convincing case that I was the main threat and a galactic pact was made to fight me. But with only 2 victory points needed it would be a tough ask to stop me.
The Xxcha unsurprisingly took the imperial card, Hacan had to take initiative and so I took diplomatic for self-preservation reasons. N’orr took warfare making them a huge threat.
I began the turn by playing diplomacy to prevent the Xxcha attacking me. My plan this move involved me sending out two raiding parties, one of which failed miserably to dent a weak N’orr force defending a rich colony, while the other was able to swoop in and take one of the Yssaril home planets. Having realised my secret objective at this point this posed a huge threat. Meanwhile the Hacan pushed their powerful fleet out to capture my nearby colonies left undefended and make a warpath for my home system. They were interrupted by a Xxcha fleet that jumped through a wormhole to block them off. Apparently the Xxcha were going for a wormhole secret objective. The N’orr sent a large force to combat my fleet in the Yssaril home system and decimated it, also finding time to capture 2 or 3 planets off me. The Xxcha advanced their death star around the asteroid belt and were poised to destroy one of my two main fleets in the next turn (while N’orr closed in on my home system).
The public objective required 10 influence points to be spent, but with no one taking the political strategy it was unlikely to happen any time soon.
By the end of the turn I had lost a lot of equipment and colonies, but a big build shored me up and I was able to claim the 10 resources public objective.
Victory Points: Naluu 9, N’orr 5, Xxcha 7, Hacan 2
Turn 8: Now or Never
This was the last big push to take the Naluu down before I could take the Imperial strategy card. Hacan took the Imperial strategy, while I took initiative, N’orr took warfare again (which they should have left for the Xxcha) and Xxcha took something, which gave them a bunch of bonus token trade goods (possibly political) and we were off!
I started with a slew of action cards. Two hit my home system and one other to give them no fleet limit for the turn and one hit the Xxcha death star to render it unable to move this turn (place a command token). I then built up to defend 3 key locations. The Xxcha were unable to hit me with anything much after my action cards but they did make a play for all four wormholes (which we knew was their secret objective at this stage). The Hacan had wiped out my outer colonies and advanced towards my home planet but couldn’t get past the asteroid belt & Xxcha fleet on the wormhole. Their only move now was to launch an attack on Xxcha and despite a heavy hit of action cards they could get past the Xxcha death star and found their fleet obliterated.
It was down to N’orr. They hit me hard in one of my 3 colony sectors, but I abandoned the colony and used my retreat power to jump away to my home system. A good decision because they proceeded to exterminate the entirety of planetary life in that sector with a Death Star action card. Before the N’orr could activate their warfare card I cut off their route to my home sector with a cruiser and forced them to attack my second major colony. Despite their victory my home system was intact. I went to make my final move – confident of victory – and elected to try a capture of Mecatol Rex with my last command token, only to have the N’orr declare diplomatic immunity in that sector.
Much to the Xxcha’s horror I used my move to instead hit their wormhole fleet and take it out.
As they later pointed out this cost them the game as they had been about to spend 6 trade goods for a public objective and claim their secret wormhole objective for the win.
Instead the turn ended with my home system intact and I was able to take the Imperial strategy card and play it first up for the win.
Final scores: Naluu 11, N’orr 5, Xxcha 8, Hacan 4
I know this report has relied upon my flawed memory so apologies there. The game was my first foray into rules and strategy of TI, but I enjoyed it! What did surprise me was the sheer complexity of the game and the time taken to play it. I think it’ll have to be one of those rarely played games that has a whole evening devoted to it!
Nice and very well detailed. Glad you enjoyed it. That's an amazing amount of combat for a base TI3 game. Well done!
One note, however. The public objectives that say "I now spend..." mean exactly that. You spend your resources, influence, trade goods, what have you, during the claim objectives phase. You don't get credit for what you spent earlier that turn so you basically have to save up for it during the action phases.
We made the same mistake our first couple of times playing.
Knowing where the trap is - that's the first step in evading it.
Ah. I guess that makes the objectives a bit more challenging. Thanks for the clarification.
As for the combat, I'm not surprised we overdid it compared to normal. I think with none of us having much knowledge of effective strategy we all thought of the main thrust of the game as being about galactic domination. It is apparent now that aiming for complete conquest is very hard and also not the most effective way to win.