And now ... the much anticipated session report of the first ever game of Twilight Imperium at the Wansbutter household. I'll try to condense seven hours of intense gameplay as much as possible. In the last post, I outlined the players and their races. To begin the game we each received secret objectives. I never did ask the other players what theirs were, but there were a few groans of "that's impossible". I received "Forceful" which requires I hold Mecatol Rex and have a space dock and four Dreadnaughts on it. Very doable, especially with the Barony of Letnev's industrial capacity, I thought.
The game began with a bit of an unexpected twist. Having the last turn, I expected that someone else would take Trade in the Strategy phase and therefore I would not be able reap the trade goods to built a first turn second space dock. But it was not selected, however, I held the course on my pre-game strategy and took "Warfare" so that I could get an early jump on the land-grab. This proved to be a wise move, I think, since it ensured that I got Mecatol Rex. Everyone else spread out as expected, taking the planets nearest them.
In turn 2 I had planned on taking the two planet system Mellon/Zohbat which was between Stephen and Mecatol Rex to increase my resources and limit his. However, given my secret objective, I elected to grab Mecatol Rex instead. He, of course, grabbed Mellon/Zohbat.
Things got lively very quickly when the Political Card made its first appearance this turn. In a boisterous first senate session, Stephen (assisted with a fistful of Mambas used to bribe Greg and Matthew) forged a voting block to secure the election of Lodor (held by me) as "Holy Planet of Ixth" meaning I could build nothing there. My father had tried to be the voice of reason, suggesting that everyone abstain so that no one lose a planet thus, to no avail. I pretended to be outraged over this (in truth I didn't care too much since my secret objective meant I'd be building on Mecatol Rex anyway). I was more distressed at the triple alliance that had been formed.
Stephen harangues the other members of the Galactic Senate
Convincing them that the Barony of Letnev is Dangerous
When I played the trade card, I used it to forge an alliance with my dad. He was reluctant to give up a 3 trade agreement for my one, but I convinced him that if we didn't band together the other three would annihilate us, plus I agreed not to take Abyz/Fria, a very resource rich system that I could have taken before my dad could. I also tried to break-up the alliance by making an agreement with Matthew telling him I'd overlook his voting at the assembly if he made an agreement with me. He took the offer and expansion continued apace.
In turn three I made a critical error. I launched a pre-emptive strike against Stephen/L1Z1X at Mellon/Zohbat, using ships from Mecatol Rex and Lodor. A combination of bad rolling and too much fighter canon fodder thwarted me. I learned the hard way that warfare is neither easy nor cheap in Twilight Imperium! Greg attacked the weakened Mecatol Rex but my ground forces held on and the capital remained in my possession by a hair.
The next couple of turns were a little more quiet as everyone consolidated and jockeyed for position. As Action Cards came out they all seemed to be directed at me. "Cultural Crisis" saw me lose a few ships, but the biggest blow was when the "Public Disgrace" card was played on me the turn I finally got my hands on Imperial in turn 5 (I had the last turn) and therefore I had to choose a different strategy card. This meant everyone else had received 2 VP via Imperial and it seemed for a time that I had no chance at victory and I considered my dad's request to give him some trade goods so he could get "I now spend 6 trade goods" so he could take an insurmountable lead out of spite. But I decided to take that VP myself since if I could get my secret I'd be tied for first with my dad and Greg (assuming they'd take Imperial in the next two turns) and would win on tie-breaks.
The Letnev showed their worth as I was able to rebuilt my fleet and stack tokens in fleet supply. I easily booted Greg's fleet out of Mecatol Rex's orbit and with a build limit of 3 on the capital, I was poised to achieve the secret objective. However, the L1Z1X and Hylar developed War Suns and built them:
Witness the firepower of this fully armed
and operational battle station!
We had agreed to end the game at 11 pm, but the company unanimously demanded to play one last turn. It was clear that the next one would be climactic with fleets amassed. Here is the game board just before this ultimate turn began:
To begin the fireworks, my dad launched a massive attack on the Federation of Sol with the considerable fleet he'd amassed with all his trade goods:
The clash was epic, involving seven dreadnaughts in total, but in the end by dad's ability to soak-up wounds with the
Meanwhile, Stephen and Matthew thought they had me where they wanted me. I had the largest fleet anchored by four dreadnaughts on Mecatol Rex, but they had between them four War Suns. However, they hadn't reckoned with the Diplomacy Card, which I had selected seeing their clear plan. Stephen's forces were stronger so I used the card immediately to prevent him from activating any of my systems. He was CHOKED by this turn of events. He and Matthew debated long how to deal with it.
Matthew and Stephen debate their strategy
(N.B. the bitter expression of Stephen's face thanks to the Diplomacy Primary)
(N.B. the bitter expression of Stephen's face thanks to the Diplomacy Primary)
Finally they opted for Matthew to throw everything he had at me in hopes of costing me some victory points, since they had correctly surmised that my private objective must have something to do with all the dreadnaughts I'd piled on Mecatol Rex. He hammered me pretty good, but the Hylar -1 to combat rolls made his War Suns just slightly less devastating, allowing me to hold on with four Dreadnaughts that had sustained damage but were still alive:
With this, turn 7 was over, and we called the game. In the Status Phase, I collected my secret objective and it seemed that my victory was complete:
In a three-way tie for first with five VPs it seemed I was the victor since I had the most objectives. Indeed, all of my 5 points were from objective cards, whereas 4/5 of Greg's and my dad's VPs were from the Imperial Strategy Card. HOWEVER ... we later realised that my dad/the Hacan had 6 trade goods that he could have spent on "I now spend 6 trade goods" this was missed in the excitement of my unlikely last-second victory because (a) it was midnight and we'd been playing for 7 hours, (b) it was our first game and this was far from the first thing we missed. In the end, it seems only fair that my dad gets to claim victory in our first ever game of Twilight Imperium given that mulligans were freely handed out and as the host I should have made sure the final Status Phase was played propery (it wasn't).
I claim a moral victory for getting 5 VPs off objectives and almost winning despite two players getting Imperial twice, two others getting it once, and me never getting it.
No matter what, it was a fantastically fun day and evening of gaming. Twilight Imperium is a truly great game. No sooner had it ended than everyone at the table was already talking about when the next game will be. My dad (who lives halfway across the country from me) has said this should be an annual event and I hope we will be able to "make it so". From reading other session reports, it seems that our group was a lot more militarily aggressive than some. I'm glad we were able to have some epic clashes BEFORE game end because of this, as opposed to some reports where massive fleets were built and I read captions on pictures saying "S*** is about to get real" and then the game ends before anything happens. The above-board stuff was easily as fun as what was happening on the board. Although it went against me, I will always remember that heated first senate debate. It was such that people were scared to take the Political Card in subsequent turns because of the intensity and possible results (not to mention the fact that with Mecatol Rex in my possession, I had enough influence to win votes single-handed). Thanks to everyone who came out for the game.
Special thanks to my dear wife who tolerated our game, and even sent the children in periodically with snacks and drinks.