The giant TI box and pair of expansions had rested comfortably on the shelf for about six months until I finally worked up the nerve to punch and organize the components. After a long process of detaching all of the plastic mini’s and punching cardboard, and sorting cards, the game was ready for play.
I sent out an invite to a couple of friends to set aside a Saturday in January to try out Twilight Imperium. I purposely kept the invitation list small so that we could learn the game and possibly even finish it in the same day. We landed on a group of 3 players, including myself.
About a week before the big day, I sent out a copy of the rules and we hashed out some decisions about optional rules via a Facebook group.
Finally, Game Day had arrived. Jeff and Joel showed up around 2:00 PM and we picked races, and setup our fleets. We reviewed some of the rules and talked over the variants we would use. It was probably around 4:00 PM when we started our first turn. As expected, the first turn took a long time to get through as we frequently returned to the rules for questions and clarifications.
With a break for dinner, we finished the game around midnight, putting the total play time at around 7 hours. Here are my thoughts based on the first play:
1. One fairly major rule that we played incorrectly was around the player order. Jeff’s race had the ability to act at initiative 0, which meant he was the first player each turn. Our mistake was taking player turns clockwise from him. The order should have followed the value on the selected strategy cards.
2. The starting position on the 3 player map seemed to heavily favor one player. Specifically, this player had a gravity rift adjacently to their home world which allowed him to quickly develop the tech to increase the movement speed of his fleets near the rift. Using this benefit, he quickly arrived at Mecatol Rex and started grabbing victory points.
3. We played with the distant suns option by placing one of the domain counters on each of the planets. In hindsight, not putting this counters on the systems closed to the starting area would probably have been a better idea. As it turned out, one player was able to gain a permanent 3 votes by having a lucky domain counter. This wouldn’t have been a problem later in the game, but was perhaps a little unbalanced early on. The fact that this advantage went to the player who benefited from the Gravity Rift in #2 compounded the problem.
By the time the game ended, the scores were actually very close, as this game has the natural tendency to dog-pile on the leader while those trailing can catch up.
I really had a good time playing this game despite finishing last.
Fun – 9/10
Strategy – 7/10 – fair bit of randomness that is mostly offset by the length of the game.
Theme – 10/10 – this game is likely one of the most thematic games available.
Components – 9/10 – components are near perfect, subtracting a point for non-painted mini’s.
Mechanics – 8/10 – most of the mechanics are fairly streamlined. lots of referring back to the rules impacts the overall experience.
The game has such a broad array of options that can be added\subtracted\modified to fit the desires of the gaming group. I suspect that playing with more than 3 players would dramatically change the experience. I would highly recommend this game for experienced gamers who do not fear marathon gaming sessions.