Saturday, September 23, 2006

Twilight Imperium 3: A Friendly Afternoon of Galactic Conquest

Carlos and his family were nice enough to host a game of Twilight Imperium 3 at their home today. Chad, Rob, Carlos, Carlos' son Alex, and I gathered around the table for a 5-player session of epic galactic conquest. The race assignments were:
  • Carlos: Xxcha
  • Alex: Hacan
  • Chad: L1Z1X
  • Rob: Letnev
  • Ben: Jol-Nar
We built the map and set up the objectives using the Ancient Throne (1 VP Imperial Strategy Card only if you occupy Mecatol Rex) and Age of Empires (all objectives revealed at start) variants. We drew the Game Over objective card early in revealing the objectives, so the game was only going to last 7 turns.

Very quickly it was clear Chad and I were not going to be the best of neighbors. We tossed action cards at each other to blow up and sabotage various things on either side. Chad made an early move into some neutral worlds between us, and I had to zap his forces back to vapor with my long range defense cannons. Rob, Carlos, and Alex were having squabbles amongst themselves as well. For the first few turns everyone was pretty much even.

During the early turns I convinced everyone to feel sorry for me, the poor defenseless fish people, and the group was nice enough to make me the beneficiary of a couple very nice imperial senate laws. Then for the first 4 turns or so, someone always picked the technology strategy, which enabled me to also use it for free (my racial special power). Soon, my high technology began to pay dividends, and I was able to plant a massive landing force on Mecatol Rex with a sizeable fleet guarding the skies above. Cries of, "He's running away with it!" sang about the room.

I continued to pepper my nemisis Chad with evil action cards, and I picked Diplomacy for two turns to keep him honest. Rob launched a strike against Carlos, and it seemed those two would be well occupied on that side of the board. Chad continued to bide his time, slowly building his armada. I was quite pleased with how Alex seemed to take a good deal of pleasure in attacking his Dad, further tying him up on the sidelines.

So, the last two turns arrived with me 2 victory points ahead of everyone else and having a firm armored spaceglove around Mecatol Rex, squeezing it dry like an overly ripe orange for every drop of influence and resources. I began to write my victory speech and order the champagne. Next thing I know, alarms on Mecatol Rex were clamoring and my radar screen was filled with jump signatures looking ominously like those of Chad's evil race. A huge fleet of dreadnoughts surrounded with a swarm of smaller vessels engaged my peaceful forces, still hung over from the night's celebrations. Being a weak fish-like people, my forces suffered a -1 modifier to all combat rolls. His forces were on mine like the proverbial wolf on the fold. One after another my battleships blossomed in rainbow plasma novas as millions of fish people went to the big fishfry in the sky. His marines showed no mercy as they burned down fishmen, fishwomen, fingerlings, and eggs alike. It was terrible I tell you!

The final turn arrived with me wanting revenge for the smelly stench of burning dead fish coming from Mecatol Rex. I christened the galaxy's first War Sun the SS Chad Spanker and pointed it back towards Mecatol Rex with a massive warfleet in tow. Unfortunately, I just didn't have enough time. The final victory point claiming phase rolled around Chad claimed enough VPs to tie me. Then, with a triumphant flourish he turned over his secret victory condition card, which he confidently displayed he had earned to advance a final 2 additional VPs. Argh!!

A great game all in all! My sincere thanks go to Carlos and his family for hosting this monster game and being such gracious hosts. Congratulations to Chad on his solid win and to each of my opponents on their skilled and spirited play. This is truly a game I could play every week, and I can't wait until the expansion arrives a few months.

PS: I think the Ancient Throne variant worked very well. You really had to earn the use of the ISC, and it just felt really right. I think the game still worked very well with 5, and I think I'd like to try it even with 4, where each person gets two strategies per turn. It really helped that everyone had a pretty good idea how to play, and I never felt like the game was taking too long.

PPS: We screwed up one rule at the beginning of the game when setting up the map. We forgot to reverse directions after going around once in placing our map hexes. This helped me (player #1) and hurt Chad and Rob (players #5, and #4). I guess it wasn't too big a factor since Chad won anyway, but still...

12 Comments:

At 8:37 PM, September 23, 2006, Blogger Ted Kostek said...

Sounds like an awesome game. I'm jealous!

Even though I wasn't able to join the fun, I'd still like to thank Carlos for hosting this event.

 
At 11:45 PM, September 23, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

Well, I really didn't want to attack Carlos or Alex (Carlos' son who by the way, played REALLY well). After I saw the massive forces Ben and Chad were moving towards Mecatol Rex, I thought my only hope lied in completing my "secret objective"....which was control all 4 worm holes. Problem was 3 of them were around Carlos and 1 was on Ben's path to Mecatol Rex. Of course, the best I did was control 3 out of 4 (BEN had a HUGE force on the final wormhole I needed). Still, with that fourth wormhole, the best I could've done was tie Ben when he was winning, but it didn't happen. I probably could have bribed Carlos to prevent him from attacking me, so that I could focus on the wormholes. Of course he didn't know about my agenda (ie the wormholes) so he attacked me as I was settling down around the wormholes. In the end, I ended third out of 5 with Chad and Ben in the lead.

 
At 10:26 AM, September 24, 2006, Blogger Brian said...

I think that with those variants, TI3 probably shoots up a point or two in my estimate. It still has issues, but it seems much better....

 
At 10:43 AM, September 24, 2006, Blogger Carlos Pena said...

I’m glad that everyone could make it out to my place. I had a great time hosting this game, but towards to end I started feeling a little under the weather. This is the first time I have played this group with a completely different group of people and I was blown away by the aggressiveness of play. I will need to completely rethink the way that I have been playing this game.

We used one of the official variants that I had not tried before, which also made my old way of play obsolete. The variant called “Ancient Throne” draws most of the conflict towards the center of the board to the planet Mecatol Rex. Taking and holding this planet is almost essential for winning the game.

While I did like the game with the use of this variant, I did notice that there were fewer battles than in other games of TI3 I have played. In this game I saw a few mega-battles for control of Mecatol Rex where as in other games I play there are many smaller battles scattered around the board.

Ben and Chad were probably to two “Super Powers” and they came to blows in some pretty impressive battles where Mecatol Rex changed hands. Rob and I were separated by a “Void” and we seldom saw conflict, except in a worm-hole that he was trying to capture. Robs fleet caused me and my son some nervousness as he came into our area of space. I could not convince my son to attack him for me because I had already betrayed his trust.

Perhaps we can try a less intensive game at my place next time. Puerto Rico?

 
At 2:28 PM, September 24, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

Chad, Rob, and I have played enough games against each other to know not to cut each other any slack. I'd recommend not letting players pick their races next time, because Chad and I definitely picked the onces right in line with our style of play.

Another variant that's frequently recommended (can't remember if it is official or not) is called Homeworlds: Players cannot claim any objectives unless they control all of the planets in their home systems. This prevents someone from simply doing a mass migration to Mecatol Rex and just letting their homeworlds get obliterated, which would seem pretty gamey to me.

 
At 6:43 PM, September 24, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

Carlos, as you pointed out, I also noticed there were very few battles outside of Mecatol Rex. But I don't know if that was because of the new changes...I haven't played this enough.

That was basically my argument a few times during the game: yes, I have a massive fleet close to you and Alex, but there was little reason for me to attack when the goal is to get the VP's shown on the public objective cards (none of which really required combat to accomplish). At one point I asked something like: "do you get anything for conquering your opponent's home world?". Chad was completely open to an invasion from me, but I had no reason to do it (and even less when he was the only one who could take out Ben, but that is besides the point). Did we miss something? I don't think so though. Still, great game.

 
At 8:26 PM, September 24, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

We didn't miss anything, but I think this is another good reason for the Homeworlds variant.

 
At 9:47 PM, September 24, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

Yep, agreed.

 
At 12:02 AM, September 25, 2006, Blogger Carlos Pena said...

I think Rob, myself and Alex could have spiced up the game by making certain that whoever controlled Mecatol Rex did not get a change to choose the ISC card. This of course would require a certain amount of trust and cooperation and would force us to expand our empires outward in order to acquire more points while at the same time trying to slow Ben’s and Chad’s accumulation of points.

One thing that I might consider altering in the Age of Empire Variant, which as you know, goes with Ancient Throne. Go ahead and reveal the Stage 1 Public Objective Cards as stated in the rules, but not the Stage 2 cards. Reveal these cards when the turn marker moves over them as usual. This way you still get that sense of mystery of when the game will actually end.

I always thought one of the cool parts of the game was the element of unknown when the game ending card is revealed. This was taken out in the variant that we played.

I’ll think about this more…

 
At 9:14 AM, September 25, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

Yes, the hidden vs. revealed objective cards option seems to be one of the more contentious issues among fans of the game. Having the objectives hidden adds an element of luck to the game that many people don't like. By blind luck you might just stumble onto satisfying hidden objectives just by being at the right place at the right time.

Now, as with card-driven wargames, once you know all the possible objective cards that might pop up in the future, you can, through skilled play, position yourself to be ready for them if/when they do come.

With hidden objectives, I do like having when the game is going to end be uncertain. I've always found last turn suicide charges to be kind of gamey. On the other hand, in this game a suicide charge gamble might actually be "realistic" because if you lose you're probably going to be severely punished by the new emperor...

So, the compromise variant you propose is interesting...

 
At 9:44 PM, September 25, 2006, Blogger Ben said...

BTW, Homeworlds is in fact an officially published variant.

 
At 10:53 PM, September 25, 2006, Blogger Rob said...

sweet...

 

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