Playing Twilight Imperium 4th Edition for the Second Time

This weekend I had the pleasure of playing Twilight Imperium 4th Edition for the second time. Prior to this, five of us had played the game once. The account of that sordid day can be read here. We hoped to correct a few rules (and most tactical) errors we had in our first game. For our second playthrough, we added a sixth player because nine hours wasn’t enough. The “experienced” players played the same races they had in their first game. The following races were in play with the Jol-Nar being new to the table:

Xxcha Kingdom (Jackie): Turtle People. Wait. Diplomatic Turtle People.
Federation of Sol (Me): Humans from Starship troopers.
Emirates of Hacan* (John): Space Lions. Like to make deals.
Barony of Letnev (Matt): Blue space vampire pirates? They look like royalty and can get lots of ships.
Sardakk N’orr (Mike): Bugs like Starship Troopers. Want to fight everything.
Universities of Jol-Nar (Zack): Smart creatures with too much tech.
*Emirates of Hacan are yellow in the game but yellow text is hard to see on a white background so they’re orange here.
 
The game started with the set-up seen below:
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The standard six-player map from the Learn to Play booklet was used. Set-up occurred the night before with each empty home system being assigned a D6. Going by point values from the last game, a die was rolled for each player in order from highest to lowest point values. So the first player to roll had six open spaces to choose from, the second had five, and so on and so forth. Compared to the last game, most players seemed content with the worlds available to them. For instance, I was pleased not to have a wormhole next to my home system.
I want to shout out the Midgard Creative Studio insert/organizer as without it, there would be no chance of us fitting six players around the table. I don’t know if I could play TI4 again without it.
The game lasted twelve hours. This was mostly due to a lot of space warfare. There was a minor break for lunch but that was less than fifteen minutes (shout out to Rachel for pre-made Ziti and being the hostest with the mostest).
We set the mood with a Spotify playlist. I told myself before this game I would take better notes for the inevitable write-up. The good news is I definitely took better notes than the first time. The bad news is they’re complete shit.
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Exhibit A: Why did I think this was helpful?
Anyways…
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Round One

Round one was the most peaceful of the game as everyone expanded out from their home system. Hacan scored the first and only public objective of round one by spending five trade goods. After understanding and using Hacan’s special ability in the last game, John came out of the gates wheeling and dealing for the entire twelve hours. If there was a way to facilitate a deal, John would ensure his space cats were apart of it. He didn’t necessarily mind who was going to win or lose as long as he got a piece of the action.

The Federation of Sol and the Barony of Letnev scored secret objectives on Round One. Sol had to have a presence in both the a-hole and the b-hole, which was relatively easy due to the positioning of their home system and taking the Warfare strategy card, allowing some colonization before moving again. Letnev was met with similar fortune due to their home system being near a Super Nova. They were able to park ships in three different systems near anomalies to score their first secret objective.

Besides scoring, the notable actions of the first round were Xxcha Kingdom and Letnev parking on planets adjacent to Mecatol Rex. While Letnev’s was for the secret objective, Xxcha had moved a sizable force to the gates.

As the Sol player, I felt pretty good with my opening moves. I was able to score my secret objective early and most importantly, without contention. I also had an understanding with my neighboring races about the area between us. I did notice the additional size of the six-player board though as I thought I’d be able to easily sit on Mecatol Rex’s doorstep on turn one but that was not the case.

Understanding the scoring also changed the game as players were much more protective of their commodities/trade goods and their resources.

Round One Scoring:

Emirates of Hacan 1

Federation of Sol 1

Barony of Letnev 1

Universites of Jol-Nar 0

Xxcha Kingdom 0

Sardakk N’orr 0

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Round Two

Round two saw further exploration and planet claiming from all races. Everyone was now sharing borders with someone. Xxcha stationed a cruiser adjacent to Hacan’s home system and moved a destroyer through the b-hole, placing them between Letnev and Sol. They also double-downed on Diplomacy, ensuring that their hold on a planet near Rex would not be a point of contention this round. Jol-Nar, the new kid on the block, slowly creeped towards Rex, wary of their Sardakk N’orr neighbors as their weakness, combat, was the bugs strength.

The surprise of turn two was Sol moving a lone cruiser into Mecatol Rex’s airspace near the end of the round.

Scoring ramped up after round two as all players scored a public objective and Xxcha tied for the lead by achieving their secret objective of being near an opposing player’s home world.

Reading the table, it appeared that while combat was on everyone’s agenda, they didn’t want to be the first person to strike for fear of being labeled a warmonger (very Civ-esque). The movement of the cruiser was to either goad someone into taking out my lone ship “while it’s weak” or scare them off Mecatol Rex indefinitely. I tried to work a deal with Xxcha as they came through the wormhole as they needed to be next to another player’s home system but nothing came of the deal so I ended up cutting them off, which was a moot point as they were able to park next to Hacan’s system.

Round Two Scoring:

Emirates of Hacan 2

Federation of Sol 2

Barony of Letnev 2

Xxcha Kingdom 2

Universites of Jol-Nar 1

Sardakk N’orr 1

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Round Three

Round three saw Mecatol Rex inhabited by the Federation of Sol. It wasn’t the only big move of the round either as Hacan moved an empty carrier into the home system of Letnev and Sardakk N’orr took control of the a-hole from Xxcha. Sol and Jol-Nar had an unofficial allegiance as Sol left the entire right side of their system undefended, which let Jol-Nar spend another round stockpiling ships and units. Jol-Nar was quickly creating a highway to Rex.

I easily took Rex but knew I was on shaky footing. I was lucky that two large fleets were at Rex’s borders (Xxcha and Letnev) and the table understood that if one moved on me, the other race would clean up the scraps. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything about it. My fleet limitations kept additional ships away and while I could stockpile infantry, Jol-Nar had researched the biological bomb that would make them obsolete.

I also knew I was taking Rex and was fairly certain no one would stop me this round. I should have taken Imperial. It wouldn’t have given away any plans.

With the taking of Mecatol Rex, we saw the Agenda phase come into play. The first agenda was straight forward as we voted for a stage II objective to be revealed early but the second objective caused some contention. Sol had the majority of votes and the speaker token. The agenda was regarding races being able to pass through the Nebula. As that was adjacent to Rex, Sol was adamant that they did not want it to occur. As the players realized their votes couldn’t overcome Sol’s, Jol-Nar played an assassinate card that removed Sol’s power for the vote. The nebula was now a superhighway.

Having not seen the assassin card before, this was equal parts awesome (love chaos) and terrible (hate chaos). I worried that I overextended myself and not knowing the gaming demeanor of my closest neighbor was troublesome. Them having minus one to hit helped alleviate those fears a little but I just couldn’t get a read on them.

Round Three Scoring:

Barony of Letnev 4

Federation of Sol 3

Universities of Jol-Nar 2

Emirates of Hacan 2

Xxcha Kingdom 2

Sardakk N’orr 1

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Round Four

Round Four saw the true allegiances of the galaxy start to take hold. A battle raged in the a-hole between Hacan and Xxcha.

Sol worked a deal with trade goods that would have the Barony play their Technology card early. That allowed Sol to score a public objective and score Rex, as they took Imperial. This put them in a tie for the lead and made them public enemy number one as they had an easier route to score points.

The first agenda vote went towards making Sol’s private objective public (mostly so they couldn’t score it again) and the second was a vote that would halve the amount of infantry and fighters produced. Sol voted hard to have this passed as they had an easy way to get infantry but the Speaker broke the tie the other way.

The agenda phase was much more civilized compared to our last game. I was also bummed the vote on infantry/fighters didn’t go my way. That would have been huge for me.

Round Four Scoring:

Federation of Sol 6

Barony of Letnev 6

Emirates of Hacan 4

Universities of Jol-Nar 4

Sardakk N’orr 2

Xxcha Kingdom 2

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Round Five

For the first time in any of our games, a War Sun was constructed.

The War Sun was great to see and didn’t bother me as much as I thought. That was an incredible blunder on my part. I figured the minus one to hit for Jol-Nar would be sufficient enough to negate some of the awesome powers of the War Sun but hitting on four’s is still amazing. Not taking that emerging fleet seriously was a huge mistake. Like seriously. Holy shit. War Suns = Bad.

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Hope you like blurry photos!

In other news, Letnev took Rex. Hacan backstabbed Xxcha as Xxcha was fending off a battle from the N’orr. Jol-Nar also unsuccessfully attacked N’orr as they felt their red neighbors getting a little too close for comfort. From Round Five onward, there were multiple battles each round. Some would be one-off skirmishes and others were to establish dominance. The photos might not reflect it but a lot of alien creatures lost their lives on July 7th.

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The noteworthy agenda vote was that all holes, a and b, were now the same and could be traveled freely through.

The pivotal moment of the game was the construction of the War Sun and me ignoring it.

Round Five Scoring:

Federation of Sol 8

Barony of Letnev 7

Emirates of Hacan 5

Universites of Jol-Nar 5

Xxcha Kingdom 3

Sardakk N’orr 3

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Round Six

F**cking Jol-Nar built a second War Sun.

N’orr went heavily on the offensive this round as they raged wars with Jol-Nar, pushing his advances back to his home world and two separate attacks on Xxcha. One resulted in a victory at the b-hole, solidifying the scoring of an objective, and the other, while unsuccessful, severely reduced Xxcha’s hold on a system near Rex. This was just a long round of space combat.

The Agenda phase saw no prerequisites needed to construct a War Sun pass and each player had to destroy a PDS.

With Rex out of reach and only one objective even remotely possible, I thought I was out of the game. I had no benefit (that I could see at the time) of attacking Jol-Nar and worm-holing anywhere didn’t provide me any value. Letnev failing to cash in on their occupation of Rex was also an oversight in hindsight as they would have eased closer to ten points but also put a larger target on their head.

The loss of a PDS didn’t impact me much personally. In the two games I’ve played, I’ve never invested in them. Maybe having one (or more) would have helped me later in the game. I guess that’s something I’ll look into for game three.

Round Six Scoring:

Federation of Sol 8

Barony of Letnev 7

Emirates of Hacan 6

Universites of Jol-Nar 5

Xxcha Kingdom 4

Sardakk N’orr 4

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Where we stood
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Round Seven

Round Seven saw Letnev take pot shots with their PDS as Sol tried to pass nearby. Letnev launched the attack to score a secret objective but was disheartened to see the effects of the successful hit be relegated to the shadow realm with the playing of a card. A second attempt resulted in the exact same result. Letnev did not take the failure sitting down (Literally. He stood up and paced around).

Jol-Nar played a card that killed the recently enacted War Sun agenda, much to the dismay of the table.

Hacan, who had been wheeling and dealing all game so they could profit off of the wars of others, traded with Sol, netting Sol a total of ten trade goods which would score them a stage two objective and net them ten total victory points. When the trade was made, no one had realized for a few moments what had occurred until Letnev mentioned it. They say Sol still harbors deep resentment towards Letnev to this day.

Everything was all good until the next moment.

Jol-Nar had accidentally left some command tokens from the previous round on the board so where Sol thought he was safe, they were in fact anything but. Chalking the error up to a rookie mistake, Jol-Nar was now in range of Sol’s home system and charged in, eventually taking the system with a wounded War Sun. This was the only way the table could find a way for the game to not end. This ensured Sol scored no points this round.

Sol quickly reengaged with Jol-Nar at his home system, destroying the wounded War Sun. Sol was now prepped for a massive land assault that they would easily win. Jol-Nar played Parley, a card that had been ‘sold’ to them by Hacan as an apology for their trade, which halted ground combat. Jol-Nar remained in control of Sol’s home world.

Jol-Nar continued the assault on a nearby Sol system, suffering heavy losses but resulting in Jol-Nar establishing more dominance on the Eastern side of the board.

The Agenda phase was inconsequential.

The Sol player could not be reached for comment regarding this round.

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Round Seven Scoring:

Federation of Sol 8

Barony of Letnev 7

Universities of Jol-Nar 7

Xxcha Kingdom 6

Emirates of Hacan 6

Sardakk N’orr 5

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Round Eight

Round Eight was more of the same.

Sol took back their home system…

…only to lose it to Jol-Nar once again.

Letnev moved within one of Hacan’s home system to try to score an objective, only to have Hacan retaliate due to the trespassing. Hacan was able to destroy all of Letnev’s fleet (including a War Sun that was built while the people of Sol’s world flipped governmental regimes) but they could not remove the ground forces of their foes.

Hacan’s inability to remove Letnev spelled disaster as the dice god’s laughed at their earlier market manipulation of war. Absolutely nothing went their way when it was time for them to finally fight. Plans to take Rex and score it were dashed rather quickly and like Sol before them, plans of victory appeared out of reach.

Xxcha fired shots at Hacan and N’orr and two instances of biological warfare wiped out the military inhabitants of two worlds. The universe was becoming an ugly place.

Most of my attention was on the fact that I had the ability to score points, but not the home system that would allow me to. There were other things occurring in the galaxy but I was focused on what was right in front of me. The technology of Jol-Nar let them perform actions that we hadn’t seen in our first game and unfortunately, I had no means to stop them or even blockade them.

Round Eight was also noteworthy as my phone finally succumbed to the life expectancy of its battery so if you thought my notes were shit before, wait until you see Round Nine.

Round Eight Scoring:

Federation of Sol 8

Barony of Letnev 7

Universities of Jol-Nar 7

Xxcha Kingdom 6

Emirates of Hacan 6

Sardakk N’orr 6

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Round Nine

Round Nine’s notes:

Sol attacked his home planet again and won. Worthy adversary.

Barony attacked Hacan again near their home planet”

That’s all the notes I took. Of more importance is the fact that Sol regained their home world. This did not matter at all as the Sardakk N’orr came from last to first and won the game as they took imperial, scored a two point public objective and then scored another two point public objective and a secret objective during the actual scoring phase to spring ahead. There were a ton of battles during this last round but as Sol secured their home world and got their ten points, they passed early to wash dishes as hour twelve dawned on them. If it would have been a tie, Sol had the upper hand due to the higher strategy card but alas, it was a moot point.

While the unprecedented swing from last to first was awesome, I’m still mad salty (in a competitive sense) about losing my home system to Jol-Nar. I only have myself to blame for losing my planet to some fish nerds.

Final Scoring:

Sardakk N’orr: 11

Federation of Sol: 10

Emirates of Hacan: 10

Barony of Letnev: 9

Xxcha Kingdom: 8

Universities Jol-Nar: 8

This was a long day. The sixth player didn’t add as much time as I’d thought but space combat did. We were constantly fighting one another and as each battle could impact a players turn, we just had to sit and wait it out. When we play a third time, I want to find a way to speed up turns. I don’t want to stress players out necessarily with a timer but even with our organization and reminders, twelve hours was entirely too long.

I mentioned in our first playthrough that I wasn’t the biggest fan of the voting but we stuck with it this time. The agenda’s were never as exciting as that first one we drew in our first game so voting never really became a point of contention. I’m unsure if we’ll try a different type of voting as I just can’t think of a fair way to ensure the Speaker remains valuable.

There is one aspect of voting that I want to improve upon. It shouldn’t be too difficult as it just involves me purchasing an additional item. I really want to get a gavel for the game so the speaker can bang it when it’s time to cast a vote. A small thematic addition that I believe could be fun.

The conclusion of this game was great as now it means we’re ready to branch out and try the non-starter races. I know our resident Hacan player has called dibs on the Nekro virus as it’s a complete 180 from the race and play style that he typically experiments with in games. I’m intrigued by Creuss but I’ve also got my eye on several other races as well. The Arborec look neat too.

I would also like to experiment building our own galaxy. I think I would rather try that at a lower player count first just to get the kinks out however. Speaking of lower player count, I also want to try that and see how much different a three-player game is compared to the five- and six-player slug fests we’ve endured.

I think TI4 will be a seasonal game for us. In the summer when it’s too hot to be outside and the winter when it’s miserable we’ll be prime days. We got burned by the forecast as this was the first relatively nice day and we were stuck inside for the duration of it.

All that being said, it was still a lot of fun. Twelve hours or not, you’re still playing with friends and while there were contentious moments, none of us harbor any lingering animosity towards one another. Except for me and Zack. Suck it Zack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author: Two off the Top

Just a guy that wants to talk about board games more than his future wife tolerates.

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