Twilight Imperium: How to lose friends and sleep!

Having spent less and less time on playing and dojoing Warmachine, I find myself spending more time on different boardgames instead, and since I miss writing I thought that whatever is left of you readers might appreciate following my journey into other venues of nerdism (and either laugh at how far behind I am, or learn about some shiny new games you can play).

A couple of fellow Warmachine fugitives picked up a twelve year old game called Twilight imperium, and I’m absolutely in love. The game itself is MASSIVE and takes an entire day to play, preferably with six or more players (the game can be played with less, but some of the dynamics only really kick into gear at six or more). There’s a nifty video that takes you through the rules if you want, so I’ll mostly just talk about my experience with this gem of a game.

At first glance Twilight Imperium just feels like an incredibly complicated game of Risk in space, and to be honest the combat system feels a lot like Risk as well, but once you get into the actual game you find out that most of the game happens outside of the combat rules. There’s basically no way to win the game by brute force, but instead you win by a combination of trickery, bribes, threats, political votes, and the occasional last ditch kamikaze attack to try and gain those last few victory points before the game ends.

In the games I’ve had so far, every player has been jostling for position, control of neutral planets, trade deals with other players, minor border skirmishes with the neighbors in a super cramped galaxy, alliances that last for minutes or hours, and trying to force/trick the other players into battle against each other instead of you. The combat system itself is super simple, and very dice dependent so combat is ridiculously dangerous and consumes a ton of resources, which makes the threat of combat a much more effective tool than actually doing it most turns, but once someone commits to war the entire board explodes in grudges and all out assaults.

The humans of Sol system (red) took this game for Admiral Lamoron.

The political fuckery begins before the galaxy is even created, which is done in turn by the players, and enemies form before the first ships have even launched from the home bases. Every player takes turns putting down systems to fight over, and while having an amazing system just outside your home system is great, you might consider placing it squarely between your nearest neighbor and the guy on the other side of him, thus prompting a war between those two leaving you free to deal with your other flank.

There are asteroid fields, supernovas, wormholes, and a bunch of other systems you can try and use to fuck over your opponents, like having two wormholes left at the end of the galaxy creation process, and putting them right next to two other players home systems, thus creating a super highway for them to beat on each other. This can easily backfire if the other players are smarter, and you end up putting shit right next to your own home-world instead.

Old school graphics.

Planets you take provide resources that can be used to build more fleets, and influence that can be used to activate cards, vote in senate sessions, and all kinds of other things. The first game or two new players vastly underestimate the power of the senate (I know I did), but as I said before the game cannot really be won by brute force, and in most cases brute force is simply a tool to ensure other parts of your plan go as they’re supposed to.

In a game of Twilight Imperium you have to manage your neighbors, manage your technologies, manage trade alliances, manage the wars going on across the galaxy because of how they affect you indirectly by freeing up your neighbors to focus on you, manage the galactic senate, deal with the other players voting in galactic laws that fuck you over, and keep track of every other players plans, probable actions, all while trying to guess their objectives, dealing with neutral planets fucking over your invasion plans by nuking everything when you attack, or other players instigating civil unrest on your planets which can risk burning down your space docks (factories) or planetary defense systems.

Expansions are great.

I can’t stress enough how incredibly deep this game can be, especially with expansions in play, and every game I have opens up a new venue to victory. Every race you can play have subtle differences, starting systems, starting forces, and plays VASTLY different because of these (really, when you look at the slight differences you wouldn’t believe how different they play). Since it’s an old game a lot of you have probably tried it already, but if you haven’t I highly recommend giving it a shot, despite the fact that you have to dedicate an entire day to the game (9-11 hours have been the standard in our games).

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2 Responses »

  1. Was just checking in to see how you felt about wm&h these days, as I tend to agree with you on many points 😝

    This is a gem though, Twilight Imperium is pretty good fun, brings back some good memories that. IIRC the deep space laser (name?) development turned out to be a hassle but otherwise good fun

    • 4th edition has just been announced!

      I was going to quit after the WTC, but they’ve announced the dump of all theme forces in september-oktober, so I’m awaiting that information before deciding. The mercenary theme force that includes almost everything seems like a step in the right direction, though a weird one :D

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