Falcon 2018 September 28, 29, 30 in Stamford, CT
Five of us set aside a Thursday for our initial playing of Twilight Impirium's third edition. None of us had played any of the prior versions, and of the five only Kyle and I had an opportunity to at least have checked out the game beforehand (one aborted attempt at a two-player game, and one artificially shortened three player game that barely lasted two rounds). Fortunately Emo had also had an opportunity to review the rules and was a great help in teaching the game to Eric and Rob who were learning the game cold.
The races were randomly distributed as follows (around the table):
Csigs: The Mentak Coalition
Emo: Sardakk N'Orr
Kyle: The Emirates of Hacan
Rob: The Federation of Sol
Eric: The Barony of Letnev
Since most of the players were unfamiliar with the game, we thought it would be best to randomly distribute the tiles rather than building the board ourselves. This resulted in a few oddities that affected game play:
1) The corresponding wormholes were too close to each other to be of any real value, and never entered gameplay.
2) Sardakk N'Orr ended up being behind both the supernova and nebula.
3) Sol had an inordinate amount of empty space around their homeworld, especially to their left.
All these things affected game play to some degree, but we all agreed ahead of time that we didn't yet understand the game well enough to make changes to the board.
GAMEPLAY: Since we were all relatively new to the game, I'm certain we made a number of tactical (and possibly rule) errors. So instead of focusing on a turn-by-turn log of how each player proceeded, I'm going to make some observations about our attempts at learning the game. Perhaps other new players can learn from our (many) mistakes!
The Board - I would not change the fact that we randomly distributed the tiles, because it was our first time. With experience, however it was easy to see how the various obstacles and planet groupings affected gameplay. In the future, we will always build the map as per the instructions.
The Learning Curve - In learning the game, the biggest points of confusion seemed to be the "activation" of systems, the distinction between Transfer and Tactical actions as well as the difference between Strategic Allocations, Fleet Supply and the Command Pool. Also, most of the players struggled with remembering all the various options that each of us had (e.g. differing technologies, racial abilities). Especially me! I know I may have hampered myself in one battle by forgetting my Hylar V Assault Lasers.
The Military - At the start of the game, most of the players were drawn toward building up and advancing militarily, and along the technology tree as it was an easily recognizable goal. None-the-less, after several hours of enjoyable 'military' play and conquest we realized that this wasn't really earning us any Victory Points ... to quote one of the players "This is NOT Risk!" The group had played many, varied types of games before but something about TI:3 brought out a military conquest mentality in the group.
For example: The first public objective card involved controlling planets with each of the three technology specialties. Mentak and Letnev spent most of the game fighting over neighboring systems to accomplish this one goal. Eventually, it dawned on both players that an easy compromise could have been reached back in the first round and both races could have moved on and focused on other objectives rather than trying to blow the other one to oblivion.
In the end, our game session lasted about six and a half hours (although account for a bit of explanation time at the beginning, some hesitant play as we familiarized ourselves with the first couple of rounds plus a leisurely break for lunch). We only finished five full rounds and no player had more than four victory points (and most of those were from selecting the Imperial Strategy Card).
None-the-less, we chalk this session up to a learning experience and I'm happy to report that ALL of the players were bitten by the wide variety of choices and strategies, and the great flavor to the game. Twenty-four hours later, several of us were still discussing the game and what we'd do differently next time. And (best of all) we're committed to playing it again, and soon.