A friendly game of Twilight Imperium

A few weeks ago I played my first game of Twilight Imperium (Fourth Edition). It was fantastic.

We were six players, most had played the third edition before. As I was quite hyped before the game, I had read up on the rules, watched a let’s play or two and listened to a podcast dedicated to the game.

(This is a bit of a play recap, so if you don’t know anything about the game you might be confused.)

The setup

We had a standard map, so everyone had a decent pie slice. We randomized the places and I got one with a clear path to Mecatol Rex, but I didn’t think I would ever get there.

The map.

Each player could choose between two random factions, my choice was between The Universities of Jol-Nar and The Mentak Coalition. I was fairly lucky, since before the game I had a few factions I wanted to play (Jol-Nar, Hacan, the Barony and Nekro Virus), and besides many people say Jol-Nar is a pretty good faction, so the choice was easy for me.

The other chosen factions were The Embers of Muaat and The Yin Brotherhood, who were my neighbours, and The Naalu Collective, The Barony of Letnev and The Nekro Virus. I was thinking the Naalu would have a good shot, since the person who plays them is a bit of a power gamer (I do have a little power gamer in myself as well).

The beautiful starting units of The Muaat.
The Muaat player’s reserve units.
Ready for action.

Early game

We went through the rules and then we went out for lunch. As the shady person that I am, I spent some time trying to convince my Muaat neighbour we should be trade buddies, and maybe even trade support for the throne (to give each other a victory point, which we’ll lose if we attack each other).

He was a little reluctant, but we did establish a pretty great trade relationship. Each of us picked Trade several times, and we always traded everything we could. We didn’t trade support for the throne, but we did trade a ceasefire.

Instead I traded support for the throne with my other neighbour, the Yin Brotherhood. And I also gave him the faction promissory note, which I sold to anyone who wanted it. I heard the phrase “feed everyone, which will feed yourself” in the podcast, which I tried to embrace as much as I could.

Movements during the first round. I’m yellow, the Yin is purple, the Barony red, the Naalu black, the Nekro Virus green and the Muaat is blue.

Altogether I had a fantastic early game. I had made peace with both of my neighbours, and I was getting a ton of money. I even scored a few early points, keeping me in the lead or tied with the leader.

Mid game

My good luck continued. I kept getting more money while avoiding conflict, and I had built up a pretty sizeable fleet. I was a bit confused though, because I had heard on the podcast that rushing to Mecatol Rex was a common strategy, and several people in our group even said that they wanted to take it early. But none had done this so far.

So that’s what I did. And I had a big enough fleet to hold it, probably for a couple of rounds. I did make a mistake though—I left the planet closest to Mecatol empty and my neighbour, my friend and ally, parked a stupid looking ship there. Which I of course couldn’t attack without losing a victory point (grumble, grumble).

I was really scared of holding it, because I was spreading myself fairly thin and I was expecting people to build up their death balls and root me up. So I started reinforcing it with PDS’s and built more units via a space dock I placed there.

All the while I was still trading, and making good deals. I also got the tech where I get four trade goods whenever anyone activates my system, and I had an open deal to anyone that they could activate a system of mine and I would give them three of the trade goods (keeping one for myself). With this I was able to have the biggest death ball on the board, sitting on Mecatol Rex.

By this time I had made a deal with the Naalu for their promissory note (which I’ve heard is extremely good—game winning good) for my promissory note, telling him I would be researching War Suns. I was thinking I should not go for War Suns… But I was sitting pretty on Mecatol, thinking I could build a bigger death ball than anyone and then cruise to victory. So this is what I did, I built a War Sun and I felt I had a huge lead.

Late game

My main worry was the Yin flagship. Which, if you’re not familiar, will blow up everything when it dies. So even if we were allies for now, if I ran away with the game too much he could just decide to say fuck it and nuke my fleet (which he after the game admitted was his plan all along). This is why I was actually planning to move away with my fleet, and just leave some ships and a ton of ground troops to defend it.

But the Naalu guy appeared to save me. He went for a suicide mission to kill the flagship (earning a victory point) and made me relax. In a funny trade he then gave the Yin enough resources to rebuild the flagship… But I figured I had a small window to breath in.

Of course, then the real disaster struck. I didn’t know this, but there’s an Agenda that players can vote on, and if it passes there’s a 50% chance everything on Mecatol Rex will be wiped out. And it popped up, and of course everyone voted for it to pass. And of course my death ball got completely destroyed, and I lost control of Mecatol.

(It’s my eternal regret that I didn’t take a picture of this amazing moment.)

It’s pretty cool that something like this can happen… But I wasn’t very happy at that time. In fact I was quite unhappy (fucking idiotic game!!), and it seemed like the game had slipped out of my hands.

I struggled on, and somehow, I was still in the game. My fleet was growing, and I had Dreadnaughts with great upgrades, and I could even reclaim my planet next to Mecatol from my “ally” who had parked there for most of the game (we still had each other’s support for the king though). Disappointingly for me we had only a single research objective, but I was still tied for the lead.

The last round came around, and I stole the Naalu zero initiative token. The Naalu however could’ve still won with Imperial (which he had taken many times during the game, something I should’ve prioritized more) but the Nekro used an action card to force him to change (which he btw stole from me). This was quite upsetting to the Naalu—who really hates kingmakers—so he decided to take over his home planet, for revenge I assume, instead of taking my home planet.

Action during the final round.

In the end I had a small chance of victory: to take control over four hazardous planets, and I had only three. I tried to stall out, but was running out of command counters, so I had to take a shot. I took a system across the board, to get me my four planets, but the Naalu guy could still attack me and kill me. (If I had planned better I could’ve taken an extra planet from the same system, but I had only a single infantry.) He thought he could attack me later, so he did something else first. But I had an action card to place one of his tokens there, making him unable to attack that system.

I thought I’d won, but I told him my winning condition (BIG mistake) so he made a last ditch effort to take back one of my hazardous planets. I managed to defend, thanks to a research I had which we both had forgotten about. And thanks to the Naalu token I was allowed to score first and snag the win. The token really was game winning.

The really good thing about this game was that 3-4 people could’ve won this round, and it all came down to initiative order. Very close game, and extremely fun (it would’ve been fun even if I didn’t win mind you).

The state of the galaxy at the end of the game.
The ending score. Jol-Nar at 10, Barony and Naalu at 8, Muaat and Yin at 6 and Nekro Virus at 5.

I’m so looking forward to the next time I get to play this game.