Seattle Cosmic Game Night, Saturday, 09 September 2002

Five for the Stars and Much, Much More!

Present for the extended, pre-Game Night, LongGameDay portion of the session were Paul_David_Unwin?, Timothy_Higgins?, David_Adams?, KC Deitrick, Lindsey Dubb, and Kathy Kizer. We gathered at Tim’s house in Mill_Creek? for a game of Twilight_Imperium?.

As I am writing this in March of 2003, some of the details are hazy, but at least I have a few pictures.


Twilight Imperium

Tim H. Mentak Red
Paul Xxcha Black
KC Letnev Green
Dave A. Hacan Blue
Lindsey Sol White

(Kathy helped dole out money and map tiles, and for this we thank her)

Twilight Imperium is really meant to be a six-player game. Every rulebook variant that uses fewer players has problems: the five-player map is unsymmetrical, leading to one player “pinched” between two others; the four-player map, as written, has too many planets, so the game is a conflict-free scramble for resources; three-players have problems similar to four-players, certain races become un/too viable, and certain cards become less useful; two players are simply better off finding a different game to play.

Fortunately, there are some workarounds. For five-player games it is useful to simply remove the unused portion of the six-player arrangement, by means of a special template, as seen in the pictures below. Thereby, each player is the same distance from his or her neighbors and the galaxy is symmetrical, if rather conical. I believe KC provided this ingenious player aid.

… and it was not good.

Thus equipped, we set about creating the playing field. We more or less agreed that our first attempt (see above) was fatally flawed, in that it left KC with too few planets to survive. I seem to remember that I wanted to give it a try, but relented when it was put forth that having one person eliminated or crippled early would not be very fair or fun. I snapped a picture of the map because I was rather proud of my ability to short circuit one wormhole placed near me, and tie Mentak and Hacan together with the other. Upon review, I noticed that we had violated a tile placement rule by putting two red tiles next to one another, so it’s for the best that we scrapped that board and tried again.

Roll o-over, I’m cro-owded.

After recreating the galaxy (see above), play proceeded apace, with the assistance of sometime banker Kathy, and the Twilight Imperium Manager (courtesy of Ruben van Vliet, and The Unofficial Twilight Imperium Site). T.I.M. is a nifty bit of software that more or less keeps track of everyone’s statistics, as well as the effects of certain technologies and racial abilities. It does its job so well that it fooled us into thinking that it was buggy when it stated that Xxcha had two more points of Influence than we could count. We shut the program down without saving, only to remember that Xxcha gets an extra point of influence for every Trade Agreement on the board. Dave/Hacan had played two Trade Agreements on his last turn, and the program was vindicated. We booted it back up, re-entered our data, and carried on.

The picture directly above shows the galaxy sometime after we had run out of neutral planets to exploit. The system directly south of the center had changed hands between KC and myself at least once by this time, and Tim had invaded the system to the right of my homeworlds and then swore to be peaceful, a promise he more or less upheld until the end of the game.

As for the actions of Dave and Lindsey, I am only vaguely aware that there was a lot of negotiating between them about who was going to be allowed to have ships where. I’m not sure what has become of Lindsey, but perhaps Dave can provide some interesting details.

The Dawning of a New Age

As often seems to happen when I play Twilight Imperium, it was necessary for me to leave before the game could be completed. The group had agreed to end at or around 5:00 and to declare winner whomever was farthest along the Progression Track.

The image above shows the map as it appeared in the final stages of the game. I (Xxcha) had made an incursion into Letnev space, taking two of their planets with the help of orbital bombardment. This brought my total to seven, which, if I could hold them, would be enough to raise me by one step on the Progression Chart to Empire, just short of the rulebook winning level of Imperium Rex. Tim’s Mentak forces had taken ten planets and his scientists were rapidly acquiring technology, putting him at Empire level as well.

When two players are at the same Progression level (say, if they both meet the conditions for achieving Imperium Rex on the same turn), certain tie-breakers are invoked, the first of these being Influence. The Xxcha, with their bonus from Trade Agreements, were ahead in Influence the entire game, meaning Tim could win only if he could keep Xxcha from retaining seven planets by the end of the turn.

Tim had one fleet with bombardment capability within range of two unshielded Xxcha worlds, and it looked as if he would be able to swat the political lizards from their sunning spots. At that point, however, Dave played a card called Signal Jamming from his hand, preventing Tim’s dreadnoughts from moving and handing me the victory.

Dave’s act of kingmaking earned him a fair amount of enmity from certain quarters, as I recall, and I was too surprised to thank him properly at the time. Thanks, Dave. Sorry if this bring up any bad feelings that had lain dormant. Such was not my intention.

Comments from the other players?


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