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TwilightImperium is an epic empire-building game of interstellar conflict, trade, and struggle for power. Players take the roles of ancient galactic civilizations, each seeking to seize the imperial throne via warfare, diplomacy, and technological progression. More information [at Wikipedia] and [Board Game Geek]. A [sample game] may also be of interest.

Thoughts on the game

If you like complex space empire building / wargames that go on for 4-6 hours then this is your lucky day.
Make sure that you play with the variant making the role that gives 2VP only give 1VP.  Otherwise that's way too strong. --Angoel
(a bit of background for other people) There is a card called ISC that gives 2VP to whoever has it each turn. Given that you only need 10VPs to win, and the the 'secret missions' you get at the beginning of the game are only worth 2VP many people seem to think it is over powered and ruins the game. Although there are others who disagree. The TI3 wiki has a [page where someone summarises the problems] as they see them. I think if we're going to change the game mechanics on the first game we need general concensus from whoever is going to play ;-) --RobHu
Speaking from my experience of the game, it thoroughly distorts the gameplay.  If you have first choice of actions, you take ISC, if you have second choice of actions, you take the action that gives you the first choice next turn.  This stops a lot of the interest in which action to take, etc.  It also distorts the victory - I won the first game I played by being first player and so being first to get the imperial card twice - which, when combined with an action card which allowed me to take it for the third time gave me the win.  The position on the board was largely irrelivant.  --Angoel
StuartFraser just did basically the above to win his first game too, with the Imperial card set to 1 VP. My board position was almost entirely useless.

AC's thoughts before playing:

AlexChurchill, writing on 1st Feb 07, hasn't played any games of this yet. However, I have read the [sample game] linked above. That seems to be a very good tutorial - I'm particularly impressed with the way they explain things like activating systems or exhausting planets in depth the first or second time they happen, but after that just say it happens without going into the introductory detail again.

So, having read that tutorial, here are some thoughts:

AC's report after playing one game:

That was mostly good fun. It was longer than I'd expected a 3-player game to be. (6 hours after galaxy setup, 9 rounds, and the rules force the game to end by round 10.) There are a variety of strategies, some of which will be more viable for different players based on racial special abilities and/or randomly-dealt secret objectives.

We played with the variation that made the Imperial card only give 1 VP rather than 2 (and a goal of 8 VPs rather than 10). And concluded afterwards that the card was still overpowered. StuartFraser won the game, despite having the poorest board position since about round 3, by virtue of having taken Imperial the most times. The board and technologies and so on are all very interesting, but if their connection to victory is as tangential as they seemed in our game, there's a problem. I now agree that an entirely different Imperial card would be better, one that doesn't give a VP for free. Thus, of those listed on the [TI3wiki page], Imperial8.4 doesn't solve the problem; [Imperial8.6] looks definitely interesting; there are other options like  [Imperial8.7] and [Imperial8.9], which is just strange (everyone except the player using Imperial has the opportunity to take a VP, but the player using Imperial gains benefits for each player who does).

I like the empire-building and technology aspects of the game. I like the passing new rules aspect, and would probably take the Political card more next game (action cards can be quite strong as well). I like the way you can upgrade your troops with technologies and things. I like all the means of obtaining VPs except for Imperial. I like the way trade agreements provide a (minor) incentive not to go to war.

As was possibly predictable, I really dislike the dice-rolling mechanic for resolution of combat. I don't think there were any combats in our game where the overall outcome went against the odds, but they certainly threatened to, and SF did seem to get bad luck on the d10s (as is traditional for him). If anything would discourage me from playing another game, this would, unless it were houseruled into something deterministic. (Which would be initially easy, but get quite tricky quite quickly if you started trying to translate "All your foo get +1 on their combat rolls".)

It'd also be (he says with some trepidation) interesting to try the game with more players, as I expect the dynamic would be /very/ different. (Unfortunately, it'd probably also go on for even longer...)
I more or less agree with everything you've said (except for the dice mechanic bit). I think when/if we play again we ought to start earlier in the day. I think it would be faster next time (with the same players), although not massively. --RobHu

Report after a second game

AlexChurchill writes: We played a second game of TwilightImperium on Sunday 26th August. This time there were five players: AlexChurchill, StuartFraser, Senji, Sarah and James. It was lots of fun. We played with Imperial8.6 as described below, which worked much better than the "1vp-Imperial" we used in our first game. We agreed to play to 8 points rather than 10, which meant the game lasted almsot exactly 6 hours.
It was entertaining that when we were about 3 hours into the game, a total of 1 victory point had been scored. This was by Sarah, playing the Jol-Nar Universities, and it was an indication of the way things were to go. As the other 4 of us expanded into the systems around us, Sarah headed straight to Mecatol Rex, getting there before Stuart could contest her for it, and scored 2 VPs for her Secret Objective. The Public Objectives that were turning up were quite technology-related, which helped Sarah a lot because of the Jol-Nar's technological superiority: her score was 4 while the rest of us were mostly on 1.
It was about round 5 before the first shots were fired. James had been mostly keeping himself to himself; Stuart set out to defend wormholes and lurk near Mecatol Rex; Sarah and I had both been feeling intimidated by the giant fleets of Senji as the L1Z1X Mindnet; lots of people were massing Dreadnoughts; but nobody had actually attacked anybody. Finally I took Warfare and took one dual-planet system from Senji, then moved again and stole his home planet, [0,0,0], from him, thus scoring my Secret Objective to conquer a neighbour's home system. Senji had been about to score his Secret Objective that turn (to have a ship at every system containing a wormhole), but you can't score objectives without your home system, so he was stuffed. I caught Sarah up at 4 VPs, although she shortly advanced to 5.
However, taking his home system turned out to be my downfall. Sarah had used Imperial8.6 to get herself a new Secret Objective, which she'd looked at and claimed "wasn't going to happen". But my capture of [0,0,0] seemed to change that, and so she apologised to Senji as she moved from Mecatol Rex into his adjacent colony containing his only other Space Dock. As the takeaway food arrived towards the end of round 6, Sarah was obviously itching to say something, and once everyone had passed, she declared "Before we 'pause' for food, I think I win." Sure enough, her new Secret Objective was to destroy one opponent's last Space Dock - and that together with the "spend 10 resources" VP, she shot up from 5 to 8 points and won. Amusingly, both she and I had the technologies to build War Suns, but I was the only one to have built one, and I didn't get to use it; she spent her resources on just winning instead.

This game went rather well, I felt (and not just because I was in second place out of five). Board position was a lot more relevant to the victory, but not Playing with 5 players does go a little slower than with 3, but nowhere near as much as I'd worried, because the phase of the game that goes "nobody attacks while everyone gathers neutral planets" was correspondingly shorter. Also I think people were playing faster - there was lots of deliberation, to be sure, but no one point where everyone was saying "Come on, $player!" Imperial8.6 didn't get taken very much, but the player who did take it the most won because of it, and I think people underestimated the power of its first ability. I have a proposal for an alternate Imperial that I'll put below. It was interesting that Technology was the one card that got taken every round, although Warfare and Trade were also popular (StuartFraser was the Halan, which meant there were lots of high-value trade agreements around). Next came Logistics, I'd say, with Imperial, Political and Initiative not being taken very much, and Diplomacy only being taken once.
-- AlexChurchill

Report from the January 2008 game

We played the game, and it was good. StuartFraser won, taking his TwilightImperium win ratio to 66%. The Age of Empire variant was very good. The Imperial8a seemed reasonably sane - at any rate, I think it's the first Imperial I've played with that I haven't had a significant urge to change. One Action card seemed absurdly strong (the one that lets you ignore a prerequisite for a tech advance, which resulted in two of us having Advanced Fighters); but then again, SF wasn't one of those, and he was the first to score his Secret Objective, winning the game.  --AC
With respect, I didnt have advanced fighters, my fighters were just +1 Race bonus and a+1 (cyberntics?)tech advance. I was increasingly frustrated that though I had achieved 4 of the pre-requisites to Adv Fighters I was still far from achieving this tech I was aiming for. AC effortlessly getting said Tech with an action card was indeed broken but We handed Stuart the game constantly attacking each other.
In fact I attacked Alex first and then couldnt see a way to gracefully retreat while the other two players began advancing on my borders, this lost me the tentaive lead I then had. A few poor decisions over action cards and an impossible Secret mission (take all planets in another players home system) crippled me, and continued fighting with Alex/stuart wherein I lost my own home system. ..but it was Great FUN to play. --LD?

  1. AC proposes replacing the Imperial (ISC) card with his Imperial8a as mentioned above. This will add more interest to people's Secret Objectives.
  2. AC also is rather strongly inclined to play with the official [Age of Empires] variant. In this, all the Public Objectives which will apply for the whole game are revealed from the start of the game, so you know what capabilities are going to be desireable.
  3. DR proposes using the following nerf for fighters (advanced or otherwise).  "Any fighters in a location beyond 6 per carrier or space dock take up fleets slots at a rate of 3 fighters per slot."
Well, non-Advanced fighters can't exist beyond 6 per Carrier / Space Dock / War Sun. So it'd only apply for Advanced Fighters. But yes, that seems sane. --AC
The expansion brings an erratad version of Advanced Fighters which basically does this, but more so. --AC
  1. DR also proposes using the Distant Suns options where the initial expansion out onto surrounding planets is slower, as it allows better tech advance before civilisations collide. CANCELLED
My initial impressions of Distant Suns are that it introduces a large extra amount of randomness into the game for no clear benefit. When one person can get 4 Trade Goods for taking a 3/1 planet, and another person loses their 4 invading Ground Forces and has to wait 2 turns before they get the benefit of the 3/1, that just seems arbitrarily unfair to me. If you really wanted to slow down planet conquests, I'd rather have each neutral planet start with one hostile ground force; but I think it's better to move on to the more interesting parts of the game more quickly - I really don't think slowing things down is what I'd be inclined to do. --AC
Yes, I can see having 1 initial native ground troop per planet would have the same effect but be less random.  I'm not actually convinced that the battle part is significantly more interesting than the logistics and manoeuvre.  However, if that is for you, can you suggest another way to allow more than one tech advance per turn perhaps?  Such as allowing you to get more than one tech (at 8 per tech) in the secondary effect?  In 6 hours we got through 3 or was it 4 turns?  That barely scratches the tech tree. --DR
We'd just finished round 5. We were speeding up. This was a much slower game than the past two, though, for some reason. The first game I played was nearly over at 4 hours, and finished at 6. The second took precisely 6 hours as well.
And I agree that logistics and maneouvre are the interesting part, but I think they're fundamental to the battle between players. Recall there are actually very few actual combats - we saw about 4 in 5 rounds? Choosing your battles is key (and a skill I'm not that good at yet). But I'd rather have the struggle between players be more relevant than die-rolls against neutral parties. --AC
Ok, I'll cancel that proposal and substitute:
  1. DR proposes that the wording of the secondary power of Technology be altered to allow multiple repetitions of the buying-a-technology-for-a-price
The expansion brings an optional alternate Technology card which lets the player choosing it get 2 techs a turn. --AC
  1. DR wonders whether the limit of getting 1 victory condition per turn is a good thing as it would make it harder for a player who had fallen behind to catch up.
Interesting point. It does have that effect, to a certain extent, although players were reaching the limit of the easily-scored objectives, which aren't enough on their own to get you to the winning score. I was in the lead for a while, but Stuart scoring his Secret Objective catapulted him to the lead by the end of the game. I do see your point, but I'm a bit hesitant to meddle with that part of the scoring system. It doesn't seem broken to me. --AC

Other thoughts

StuartFraser notes that the game is AxisAndAllies? InSpace, without prearranged starting points. This is a GoodThing, because AxisAndAllies? is kind of not balanced. (As a corollary, WarSuns? are overpowered).
Yes, yes they are. --SF after playing.

Whilst TwilightImperium is fun, StuartFraser is becoming more and more convinced that there's a much faster, slightly simpler, and far more entertainingly violent wargame which could break out of it readily enough. DaybreakDictatorship sounds like a good name. I'll try and invent it as I get progressively more bored.

Group conventions

Initial experiences suggest that having the Imperial strategy card give any amount of victory points for free is too powerful. So AlexChurchill suggests a different card should be used instead of the printed Imperial. Looking at the options on the relevant [TI3wiki page], Imperial8.4 doesn't solve the problem, so I'm not mentioning that. Here are the other options I've seen. Comments are encouraged!
Its Secondary is the same as always.
Its Primary offers the choice between the following options:

Arranging to play

We have played this twice, and it was good. We now propose to play again. If you're interested, list your initials against the days below that you could be available to play. I think we'd be aiming for 3-5 players. If we have more interest than that, it's entirely possible that we could run two games within a week or two of each other; AlexChurchill would probably play on only one of them.
Duration: the game is liable to take 4-6 hours. If the game starts at 3pm (say), we'll probably order some pizza/curry/Chinese? in the early evening.
Rules: AlexChurchill received the [Shattered Empire] expansion for his birthday (thanks, RobHu!) So he proposes to arrange another TwilightImperium session, using some of the variants in the box. Shattered Empire is a box of [15-20 different variations on the base game], more or less any of which may be mixed and matched. So as well as deciding when to play, we also have to decide what rules to play with.

I've listed some of the notable rules below: I propose that when people add their initials to the dates they can make, they also add their initials beside rules they'd like to try out. We can finalise the decision on the day of the game, and it's not necessary to comment below if you're not sure - we can figure it all out on the day.

[New Races]: AC
Age of Empire (reveal all objectives from the start - we've played with this before): AC
Simulated Early Turns (skips over turns 1-2 - might speed things up): AC
Race-Specific Technologies (each race has one tech that only they can buy, with no prereqs but it's more expensive than other techs): AC
Reworked Tech Tree (four new technologies, a couple of fixes including a more balanced Advanced Fighters): AC
Artifacts (some planets have an extra VP attached to controlling them - might speed things up): AC
Imperial II (new ISC card which doesn't give 2VP): AC
[New strategy cards 1-8]: (DR expressed an interest above in something similar to Technology II)
Shock Troops (Ground Troops randomly get upgraded to have +3):
Wormhole Nexus (one off-galaxy planet hex that connects to all wormholes): AC
Facilities (you can build things to enhance the production or influence of your planets):
Tactical Retreats (to systems you control): AC
Distant Suns (all planets randomly give you a bonus or penalty):
Custodians of Mecatol Rex (Mecatol Rex has several hostile GF defenders):

Add your initials by dates you'd be interested in.
Saturday 21st June: AC ET
Sunday 22nd June (2pm onwards): AC ET JN
Saturday 28th June: AC V ET JN
Sunday 29th June: AC V ET JN
Saturday 5th July: V ET
Sunday 6th July: V ET JN
Saturday 12th July: (AC) V
Sunday 13th July (2pm onwards):  V JN
Saturday 19th July: AC V ET
Sunday 20th July: AC V ET JN

Okay, let's make it Saturday 28th June, from 1pm.

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