Twilight Imperium‘s Shocking Conclusion

To catch up on all the previous action, you can see the whole Twilight Imperium series here.

When we last left off, the game had reached an uneasy stalemate, as a new objective that allowed whomever blockaded two enemy home systems first to win the game instantly entered play, and our players had to take a moment to consolidate their power. Justin had gone from aggressively expanding in previous rounds to aggressively retreating back to retake core planets he had lost (including his home world) to Greg’s swift invasion. Meanwhile, Greg’s left his own empire open to attack, and was working to reinforce his borders against anyone who may make a foray into his lands. Meanwhile, Janelle’s mighty military strength hung back in reserve, as she was unsure of where to send it, and Paul spent as many resources as he could to build up a huge armada. Like Janelle, Paul was unsure of where to send their strength, as just next door Josh had completed a massive, fleet destroying War Sun within easy reach of Paul’s planets, but Justin’s retreat left many planets open.

As the game entered Round 11, no one was entirely sure who would do what first, but a surprise action by one of the players ended up being the deciding factor of the entire game…


King Paul of Xxcha Says: After counselling with my generals, we determined that, with the threat of our extinction greater than ever, we must launch a new military offensive against the Federation with the goal of destroying their War Sun and crippling their military as best as able – we will not wait for them to enter our space with their horrific engines of war as the Mindnet did with the Sardokk N’orr. Our forces once again entered orbit over Everra, engaging in a fierce space battle and ground campaign with the Federation main fleet. Our fleet was all but destroyed, but not before inflicting severe damage too many of the Federation’s ships and damaging their War Sun severely. Meanwhile, our secondary fleet swept in and claimed some of the Federation’s undefended worlds. Our position appeared tenable, and our engineers predicted we would be able to quickly rebuild a defensive fleet, but I fear we may have only delayed the Federation’s inevitable assault on our worlds.

The Xxcha push another offensive.

It was at this time that one of my generals indicated that the Yin, having kept most of their forces in reserve around the Wormhole Nexus, held a significant advantage over many of the races, one that could clinch their claim to the Throne on Mecatol Rex by bringing the more aggressive members to heel. The Yin’s access to wormholes allowed them to traverse a significant portion of the galaxy with ease, and could possibly liberate the Sardokk N’orr ‘s home system from the Mindnet and blockade the very heart of the Sol Federation.

I contacted the Yin’s High Priestess directly to discuss the opportunity. She listened intently, but part of me felt she may have already known of the advantage she held. After dispensing some advice on how best to partition her forces, we waited with abated breath as the first of her ships engaged the Mindnet and the Federation.

As the other races scrambled for assistance to prevent the Yin from completing their goal, the Xxcha stood mute; we will not be the successors to the Throne, but we will not prevent someone as respectable as the Yin from rightfully taking what they’ve earned.

Paul the Player says: Oh boy. Well, in a way I was kind of doomed from the start, thanks to a misinterpretation of how the galaxy-building rules in Twilight Imperium work. Being blocked in by a supernova and an ion storm really worked against how quickly I could expand, and it was really frustrating to see other players out-produce and out-tech my empire while I was struggling to get anyone to simply exchange trade contracts. It also didn’t help that the Xxcha’s racial abilities are great to have during the political parts of the game, but since the other players were more interested in blowing each other up and climbing the tech tree than engaging in bureaucracy and passing agendas, they didn’t see much use.

One of the Xxcha's Armadas.

In hindsight, I should’ve given up on banking on a defensive, diplomatic game and gone straight for full warfare, focusing only picking up tech that made my ships fight better and putting the serious pressure on Josh. Especially since his territory was the easiest way out into the rest of the galaxy, and he didn’t seem to make much effort to keep me on friendly terms (seriously, blocking me out of trade early in the game was a real jerk move). I definitely shouldn’t have ceded Everra back to him once Justin put his massive military might on the board – I thought it would help against Justin, but since Josh (along with Janelle and Greg) quickly made short work of Justin’s advances without Everra’s help, I should’ve kept a tighter grip on it.

That was probably my first major mistake of the game, and given Josh’s tendency to overcommit his forces – taking out his completely undefended space dock mid-game being a prime example of his problems organizing his forces – I could have probably kept him on the ropes for a long while if I had . Lessons learned for next time; fortune favors the bold, and never give up what you’ve taken without a fight.

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Jol-Nar Fleet

Chancellor Greg of the Jol-Nar says: The worst possible permutation has occurred. We deduced that the Yin Brotherhood was preparing a massive strike but our statistical models were insufficient in predicting exactly what that tactical action might be. The leader of the Yin portrayed herself as a long-suffering leader who merely wanted to exist on the planets near their home system. The conflicts we engaged in over Tiamat and Hercalor and Lesab were costly, but they were mere skirmishes in comparison to the masterful and aggressive fleets of the Yin.

As our engagement with the Mindent had come to a close, I withdrew the main fleet led by the J.M.S Hylarim to the ion storm located near Mechatol Rex. From here, due to the proximity to the gravity well recently discovered by the humans, this fleet could be called upon at a moment’s notice to strike at a large number of systems. Production of another War Sun and a fleet of dreadnoughts to counter the Yin was under construction on Jol. With these two large fleets in a good position to respond to any threats or to take advantage of any situation, I was confident. Too confident.

We truly did not know what the Yin planned. They waited until all of the fleets in the galaxy had expended their fuel. Then the Yin used their strategic position in the wormhole nexus to attack two targets simultaneously: The former Sardakk N’orr home world and the home world of the Yin’s staunchest allies, the meager humans of the Sol Federation. The space battles above these home worlds was anti-climactic, with superior numbers and firepower resulting in easy Yin victories. Having established control of the space above three home worlds, including their own, the Yin convinced the Galactic Senate to accept Yin Hegemony.

The University of Jol-Nar remains open. We accept the government of the Yin in principle and hope we are allowed to continue our research. I’m sure the Yin representatives en route to Jol now will be arrogant and pompous in their victory, and that they will demand any technology with a military application immediately.

We will acquiesce. For now.

Greg the Player says: This was my second game of Twilight Imperium and I have to say I enjoyed it much better than the first. The addition of the two expansions, and the revised strategy cards, made a huge difference. The long war variant and the larger map – even though we goofed on some hex placement rules – made for a more interesting game because it didn’t have to be finished in an evening. That’s the great part about playing long strategy board games like this in an office setting: you can let them breathe. And we did.

I had a complex relationship with my frenemies of Justin (Mindnet) and Janelle (Yin). I was hamstrung by a secret objective that was both really difficult to achieve and that forced me pick a neighbor to backstab. The “Merciless” objective was to take out the last space dock of one of my neighbors. So not only did I have to kill their expansion but also their homeworld. I failed in turning the tables on Justin’s Mindnet fully, and wasn’t able to recover fast enough to deal any significant damage to the Yin before Janelle used their position and firepower to win. In hindsight, I probably should have continued the first war with Janelle until I had satisfied that objective before turning in Justin’s direction. In any case, I learned a lot about Twilight Imperium and I am looking forward to playing it again!

The Mindnet is overcome by overwhelming Yin forces.

Galactic Standardized Unit Of Temporal Measurement 001111

Command: Access 001111

Status: Retrieving directory

Status: Offsets: Server: 0. Local system: -000001. Galactic Variance: +000001

Response: Connected to Galactic.Mindnet.Advancement

Error: Does not compute… Does not comput… Does not compu… Does not comp… Does not com… Does not co… Does not c… Does not… Does no… Does n… Does… Doe… Do… D…

Command: Offline

Log out: Integrated Turning Host Protocol “Justin” Subserver Galactic Mindnet Advancement Algorithm

Justin the player says: Well, they say that hindsight is always 20/20, but in all honesty I feel like I let this one get away from me. A lot of this I went over last week in The Quiet Before the Storm in Twilight Imperium, but I was pretty happy coming out of the early game. We’d managed to carve up the galaxy into smaller fights, and most importantly I had convinced Tito to put pressure on Janelle’s empire. Even from the start I felt like Janelle had a huge advantage, her surrounding planets were plentiful and her racial ability meant she could adapt them as needed. While it didn’t come up, what I think really got Tito and I scared was that the Josh/Janelle alliance could have infinitely abused the rules to pass the speaker token back and forth because they were to each other’s left and right.

Here’s how it would work: Let’s say Josh currently has the speaker token, because he gets first pick in the strategy phase he takes Assembly and Janelle takes whatever last pick she wants. During his turn, when he activates Assembly he elects Janelle to be the new speaker. The turn resolves and we’re back to strategy phase. Janelle takes Assembly and Josh takes his choice of second pick. This time around Janelle gives Josh speaker and then the whole process can repeat itself. So every other turn the alliance gets their pick of second strategy, though Janelle has to endure a last pick and take Assembly every time, but they get to bully through a number of politics supporting themselves as well, since the table couldn’t match them in influence yet.

Otherwise, things were looking great for me. I had expanded a little recklessly, but it hadn’t bitten me like it did for Louis/Jon. I had even managed to secure a valuable 3/0 world from Tito that should have normally been his without going to war over it. So my economy was rather quickly unmatched on the board, which I was able to maintain with some degree of secrecy. I think everyone knew I was quite the powerhouse, but I was up into 20+ resources a turn very early in the game – though Null certainly helps that by being a 5/0 planet. This placed me in a prime position to capture my secret objective and flipping a card that let me move a fleet again that turn sealed it. With Tito off fighting heavily with Janelle, I sent my entire fleet to surprise attack the Sardakk homeworld in one turn.

Justin reacts to Janelle's sudden invasion.

Once I started eating up the valuable Sardakk planets I should have basically sealed the game right there. I was so flush with resources that I built two War Suns right at the end of a round basically because I didn’t have enough else to spend all the resources on. I knew that I needed to be very careful from then on. I had brazenly painted a big target on myself. What I should have done was sit on my massive industry and ride out the rest of the game capturing objectives while protecting myself with fleets that would be unmatched for several more turns. What killed me though was that one of those objectives ended up being related to holding Mecatol Rex, currently in Josh’s control. My big mistake going forward from here was that I kept moving my fleet as one giant mass of dreadnoughts and War Suns. I needed to instead divide them into smaller fleet. Even if they wouldn’t dominate as completely in combat, I could certainly absorb the losses.

That giant fleet smashed Josh’s fleets and the remaining Sardakk forces, not wanting them to be a thorn in my side for the rest of the game. This however left the bulk of my forces really far away from my homeworld, and that’s when the rest of the board struck with a flurry of attacks and action cards. I made another critical mistake here in not taking the highest initiative card in order to produce at my homeworld before Tito was able to attack it. With my homeworld taken away, my actions were pretty limited because you can no longer claim objectives. And with Tito’s fleet being quite sizable I was once again moving my whole fleet together, sans a few cruisers and my slower flagship protecting my Sardakk worlds.

This is ultimately what led to Janelle being able to swoop in and capture two homeworlds for an instant victory as I couldn’t sufficiently protect the homeworld I had taken from Louis/Jon. I still had a lot of fun playing and writing up the Mindnet logs in server speech. Second place is still first loser though, so the Mindnet are going to go sulk and compute Pi to the millionth decimal or something.

The Yin move onto the Sol Federation's home system.

Commodore Josh of the Sol Federation says: With a firm military grasp on Mecatol Rex and our researchers finally discovering the low-gravity construction capabilities requisite for producing the gargantuan War Suns, our engineers and citizens rallied to produce our first near Sol itself. The project was completed ahead of schedule, but the war mongers that ransomed Everra have declared our defensive posturing as an act of aggression, and renounced our mutual armistice. Sadly, every one of Everra’s liberators will face certain death, as our resources are already expended, and we have no way to reinforce their position. The Sons of Sol have declared the Xxcha a permanent enemy of the people, and will stop at nothing to exterminate them from our galaxy.

Breaking: The Sons of Sol have been betrayed once again, this time at the expense of all our galactic ambitions. Our once-friendly trading neighbor, the Yin, has abandoned our decades-long history of peace and friendship, and sacked our home system to further their own aims. Despite the vocal objections of our representatives, the Galactic Senate has seen the Yin’s ruthlessness and villainy as strength, and declared them leaders of the new galactic empire.

Josh the Player says: I was fairly pleased with how the game went overall. When I first looked at my Secret Objective, I was fairly convinced that it was impossible. When it was torn out from under me, that notion was confirmed. But after some politicking and negotiations, I managed to complete it, and declared an immediate moral victory, even if nobody else recognized it.

The battle for Jord, the Sol Federation's home system.

Three things I learned from this game: Never leave your home world undefended. Trust nobody. Never assume something works like it says it works.

1) I left Sol undefended once, and the Xxcha immediately swooped in, took it over, and destroyed my space dock, sacrificing their fleet to set me back a turn. This hurt my momentum a lot.

2) I was betrayed three times in one game. I will never trust another so-called ally in TI ever again.

3) If a strategy card says “Produce at any space dock” what it means is “Produce at a space dock that meets specific criteria that can only be found on internet discussion forums.”

I enjoy playing Twilight Imperium quite a bit, but the rules really could really stand to be codified to avoid the kind of confusion we saw throughout the game. How do Action Cards actually resolve? Is it LIFO or FIFO? Or can you not respond to action cards at all? If a Strategy card says “any X” does it override the rulebook’s standard restrictions for “X”? Dozens of little confusing things adding up over the course of an 8+ hour (in our case, six weeks) game are incredibly frustrating, regardless of how much fun the game is otherwise.
All that said, we collectively had a metric ton of fun, so I can’t complain too much. Here’s to hoping the Federation of Sol (or whoever I get next time) fares better on their next bid for galactic conquest!

The Yin's Home System, guarded by a War Sun and many ground troops.

High Priestess Janelle of the Yin Brotherhood Says:Our fleets drift through space awaiting orders. What will those orders be? We barely know ourselves.

The Brotherhood, bent on peace, was allowed anything but until recently. We have been forced to build up our fleets as much as our resources would allow with the early threats we faced, yet what do we do with them? The Jol Nar continue their occupation of the Mindnet homeworld and a war once more brews between the Xxcha and Federation. We try to stay out of their way and grow on our own terms, but we do not know how long that can possibly last. Perhaps, now might be the time to force a peace through offensive maneuvers while we are in the position to create one.

The Mindnet, seemingly forgetting about our fleet in the Nexus, remove the blockade of the wormhole across the galaxy. If we are to strike, it is now or never. It is then that we mobilize our forces and send them toward the former homeworld of the Sardakk N’orr to liberate those colonies from the Mindnet occupation.

Simultaneously, we swing our secondary fleet around toward the battle surrounding the Federation and quell their homeworld as well. In control of three home worlds, the galaxy now looks toward us to see what the next moves will be. We hope they will be receptive of the teachings of Darien and The Brotherhood and bring ultimate peace to our corner of the universe.

Janelle the Player says: After playing three games of Twilight Imperium, this was my first experience with all three expansions. It was also the first time I’ve played the long war on a large map. I have always found Twilight Imperium hard to learn and difficult to grasp a winning strategy, partially due to an ever changing map and being in control of a different race every game.

This game, I turtled and turtled hard, slowly placing my fleets in positions that would grant them the most flexible movement options as I acquired technology. One strategy I found the most helpful was to keep my fleet split up into pods of three or four, all turtled around the same planetary hex. It was this strategy that I built my ship producing space docks around. What this allowed me to do was soak an attack by Greg Tito’s Jol Nar and quickly respond with a counter attack from ships on multiple hexes, keeping my loses from an attack down to the absolute minimum while preserving a strong defensive strategy.

Janelle celebrates victory.

I was fortunately blessed with a planetary cluster surrounding my homeworld, allowing me to not stray to far and spread out – not that I wanted to regardless. As the game progressed and I acquired more technology, I slowly moved my ships into a position to utilize the wormholes for speed, allowing me to take advantage of win conditions as they were revealed.

The Wrap Up

The conclusion to this weeks-long game came suddenly and unexpectedly, as many of the players expected a general stalemate to last another few rounds. But with Paul restarting hostilities with Josh and drawing his forces (namely, his War Sun) away from his home system, Janelle was quickly able to move fleets in and blockade both Josh’s home system and Jon’s former home system. Not even a handful of Action cards that outright destroyed some of Janelle’s more powerful ships could delay her victory.

At the end of the 11th Round, Janelle claimed an instant victory through her aggressive actions, taking first place, while Justin came in second with 9 points. Josh and Greg ended the game with 8 and 6 points respectively, while Paul, poor Paul, ended up in last place with a meager 4 points.

With this, our first Let’s Play of Twilight Imperium is over! It was an interesting journey full of mix-ups with rules, tense political and military campaigns, backroom deals (literally, people often ducked into offices to discuss plans) and other shenanigans that hopefully we’ll do more of in the future.

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