Thursday, 11 September 2014

From the Clouds - Twilight Imperium 3

Twilight Imperium 3

An epic space game. Utilises lots of components and table space. Extremely rich in theme. Encompasses not only space combat, but developing your race, where to expand too and particularly the diplomacy between everyone.

Each round you will select from a diminishing starting selection of 8 roles and select within the round just when you will enact that role. Their are lots of choices each turn, but you will try to always keep your options open and to limit everyone else's.

Designed by Christian T Petersen, with the art done by Scott Schomburg, Brian Schomburg and Tyler Walpole. Published by Fantasy Flight Games.

Art, Graphics and Components
Where to begin, the art is great! 

Each hexagon tile has a unique looking planet on it with a space backdrop, individually looks good but as a laid out galaxy, looks really amazing. The races look really cool and add to the understanding of the race you are playing. There are a handful of tokens with great art too, like the leader tokens. Primarily this is a game with great graphics, race logos, positioning of text boxes and all the strategy tokens. Resources and influence values are all really easy to see, looks good and very functional.

This game comes in a massive box, I have both expansions in it and it is filled to the brim. Loads of races, loads of tokens to assist with your race management and a massive wad of cards. Technology, political and action cards. Then you have the plastic. Ground forces, carriers, fighters, cruisers, war suns!, etc. Over 60 plastic models per player and that is a total of 8 players when you have the Shattered Empires expansion. Pretty sure that is over 500 pieces and I've painted them all. Took me 3 years of doing them on and off, do not want to paint anything for quite a while.

Rules and Initial plays
With the game being so meaty you are bound to have a long and complex rulebook, which you definitely have here. It is not a wargame rulebook but it is long and you likely will read the rules a few times before you grasp some of the concepts. They are however well laid out and there are a lot of diagrams. Do not rush reading the rules and expect to do something wrong. I played two entire games before I realised that we got the production rules wrong. That said we still thoroughly enjoyed the game. 

You can explain the core mechanics and then discuss the roles more in depth as they happen. The player boards have a summary that is really useful and the main boards planets have the prime details their to hand. After a full round, I would say that the players will pretty much understand the game at that point.

The core of the game play predominantly revolves around the action phase, do not get me wrong the strategy phase is very important. However in the action phase, is where you will be sat on the edge of your seat.

In turn you will all get to take an action. This includes building ships, moving units into battle, conquering planets and activating your strategy card.

You will be negotiating and threatening (In game) in this phase to keep your race in 'the race'. You are aiming to achieve certain goals to obtain victory points. Having a player on one side of you being an ally is extremely advantageous, but they will likely double cross you at some point.

You will have a player board, planet cards and technology cards in front of you. Choices like when to use these and how are what create this diplomatic space opera.

The diplomacy for me makes the game, having all these military options - which in its self would make a great game - is great but with parts like all the law cards and goods counters just adds to it all. Laws that change the game could come into effect, wormholes no longer being useable, players with War Suns paying a tax, etc. So not only do you want planets with production but also their influence to stay in a strong position for voting. Goods counters can also be used as bargaining chips as they can be freely exchanged and can be used as resources or influence.

Decision Points
Nearly each and every choice is a valid decision and relevant to the direction you take. Beginning with the strategy phase you have a choice that will dictate your entire turn. The strategy cards will boost you in that area when you play it, but also give the others a chance at a smaller boost in that area (Usually). However if you time it right you may be able to ensure people miss out on the opportunity.

When you exhaust planets for either production or influence, they are used for the remainder of the round, use them wisely. You can try and ascertain what your opponents are up to by looking where their strategy tokens have been allocated. When there is a token in a hexagon their ships are pretty much locked in place for the remainder of the round, use that knowledge to your advantage and if you cannot, be sure to tell who ever it helps, as long as its to your advantage and for a goods counter.

When you have a technology choice, you will have an array of options. Do you pick Cybernetics, boosting your fighters or XRD transporters, boosting your carriers? In the base game there is 24 technology cards and the expansions just add even more.

Summarising, make some time to play this game at least once. I'm not a big science fiction fan but this is my number one game. Primarily due to the narrative created in this game, from the word go until the end their is diplomacy galore entwined within a mechanically sound game. Games take a long time and you may get a few rules wrong the first time or two as I did. We all had the same rule applied to us and I do not feel it unbalanced the game as we had all been effected equally. 

Witnessing a player take an action that they just old another player they were not going to do is so rewarding, unless its against you!

I'm hosting a day of this soon, after feeling I could not play it because of been in the middle of painting the ships. I cannot wait to be totally engrossed within the Twilight Imperium universe for a day.

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