After my first full game of TI:3 yesterday, I am pretty positive about this game. I am left with the impression of a big, epic universe.
As Carlos mentioned, we used the variant where all the public victory point conditions are known for the whole game, and I think this really contributed to the feeling of vastness. You are given some objectives and some starting resources, and then after that you are free to explore the galaxy. You can create a lot of technology, but that's not necessary. You need some armies, but you can build a huge war machine if you want. The freedom contributes to an impressive sense of scope and scale not found in your typical 2 hr euro. You can even ignore the objectives completely and just do whatever you want. You won't win doing that, but the look of fear on your opponents faces when your armada of war suns and dreadnoughts arrives might be worth a lot of satisfaction.
At the same time, you have a sense that the game doesn't end at the edge of the map, so to speak. During the game you'll have laws passed that change some of the rules. Those pesky politicians can't leave well enough alone! Luckily, the players have a lot of influence in the senate. In our TI:3 game yesterday we had a particularly irksome law passed that limited the production of each space dock to 2 units so workers could have a 20 hr work week. This had a significant impact on the last half of the game. The TI:3 universe has a lot of stuff going on outside your little corner.
Any good space game has a cool technology tree, and TI:3 excels in this regard. There are four tech areas, and about 7 techs in each area along with complex interdependencies. I cannot imagine that anyone could ever get all techs simultaneously. Certainly, you couldn't do it and accomplish much else in the game. Since each race has different starting technology, people will end up different technology, although some, like war suns, will probably show up in most games.
Finally, there's a wide selection of races with different abilities and special racial technologies.
Taking together the diverse objectives, the freedom of action, the large board, the potential laws, the expansive tech tree, and the many different races, you have a game of epic scope. These same things, together with the random board creation, ensure the game will never feel the same twice.
The only downside to this game is the logistics, but I can't see any way around it. Even just the game box is huge; storing this in the closet is not simple. Setting up and tearing down require some effort to be sure. Carlos had a great method to mitigate the table space problem. Each player gets their own 3 ring binder with cheat sheets and storage for action cards, political cards, and planets (it takes a big binder to store planets, but Carlos spared no expense.) Then there's scheduling an all-day game for 5 or 6 people. Still, these issues are more than compensated by the grand sweep of the game.
One minor thing I might change would be to use a few more objective cards to better fit the grand size of the game. We had 10 turns and 10 public objectives plus 1 private objective. At the end Dennis and I had done almost the exact same things. It would be nice to allow a bit more freedom. I think it would be cool to have more objectives than you can possibly accomplish, so that two people can be winning from completely different angles.
Not a game for every day, especially given the length. Once in a while, however, you need to try to conquer the galaxy. A smaller game just won't do.
Labels: TI:3 review