8.31.2013

Twilight Imperium After Action Report

 
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 cannon-fodder fighters plus some bad dice on Greg's part won the day.



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)

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.


8.22.2013

Twilight Imperium After Action Report - Prologue

The board being set-up by my dad and me

I'm still working on the recap of our epic game of Twilight Imperium from 29 July. In the meantime, I'll give some shots of the setup (done the night before) and a rundown of the players and their races.

Nicholas Wansbutter - Barony of Letnev - the most geektastic member if our company alongside Stephen. I not only have episodes IV - VI of Star Wars memorized, I have by far the most war gaming experience. I knew I'd have a target painted on me, but also hoped to use my reputation to intimidate and keep at bay less experienced players while I try to neutralize Stephen with a blitzkrieg. The Barony of Letnev fit this plan and my usual aggressive play style well.

Richard Wansbutter  - Emirates of Hacan - retired executive -- now consultant -- in the agriculture industry, and also the man who got me started with science fiction, history, and board gaming. The Emirates of Hacan were a natural choice -- my dad basically is a Hacan based on their race sheet! He's a bit rusty in the war gaming department since I left home a decade ago, but he embodies his favourite motto: "age and deceit will always win out over youth and ability". Plus I was to share a border with him. Would blood prove thicker than water or would I have war on two fronts?

Greg Seguin - Federation of Sol - life insurance salesman and novice board gamer. I saw Greg as a bit if a wild card. He isn't even a geek like the rest of us (I believe he hasn't even seen Star Wars) but he's a good sport and manfully accepted my invite. He read lots of strategy guides before the game (unlike some more "seasoned" participants) so he was not to be underestimated. He'd also voiced the intention of being very aggressive with the humans.

Matthew Zepf - Universities of Jol-Nar - Editor-in-Chief  of Brav's Index, frequent guest on Swords and Space Radio and general sci fi aficionado but relatively inexperienced in war gaming. Or so he claims. He was vocal in his pre-game conviction that he'd be eliminated early. He chose the Hylar on my advice, the reasoning being that he had naught to fear from me in the early game and I'd keep Stephen busy giving him time to tech up, plus I'd read in the forums that they're considered a strong race.

Stephen Heiner - L1Z1X Mindnet - entrepreneur, journalist, playboy, globetrotter and a geek to rival my own nerdiness. A cunning warrior and a good friend. I knew that we must be cautious. He chose the L1Z1X at the last minute (he advised me by text while my dad and I were setting up) and I knew he was going to be ready militarily for me. But he was way late leaving Kansas and therefore didn't have a proper night sleep before the game and hasn't read much about Twilight Imperium until shortly before the game. Would it give me an edge?

Have to say that's a fine-looking group. Any of these handsome gentlemen would make a fine Emperor of the Galaxy. Stay tuned to see who ultimately came out on top!

Here is a shot of the board after set-up was complete, ready to go (click on the picture for an enlarged version). My position is at the bottom/centre of the picture, then going clockwise from there is my dad, Greg, Matthew, and Stephen.


8.19.2013

Bits and Pieces 7

Started my first real vacation since last summer today. Got some chores done around the house and hoping to get back into the writing and revisions over the next two weeks. Being able to sit down and catch my breath has left a few things bouncing around my head.

1. Toronto mayor Rob Ford has been relentlessly hounded by the media since his election, owing to his conservative politics, or so I'm told by my friends who live in Toronto. A few months back the Toronto Star (better known as the "Red Star" because of its strong leftist writings) claimed that they'd received information about a video allegedly showing Mr. Ford smoking crack but have never produced it. The most they've been able to make stick to him are some phone videos from "Taste of the Danforth" where the mayors has apparently had a few drinks and is enjoying himself but is far from falling-down drunk. Funny how Bill Clinton can get fellatio while conducting business as the president and it's all good, but people are calling for Rob Ford's head over what, to me, is harmless enjoyment of a couple beverages. Here's the video:
 

2. I found a neat website the other day that gives a list -- depending on where you live -- of upcoming sighting opportunities of the International Space Station. This Thursday it will be passing over my location at 9pm so, since I'm on vacation, figure I'll let the children stay up a bit later and do some stargazing. Now that I live in the country the view is great. Here's the link: spotthestation.nasa.gov/sightings/ 

3.  I booked a couple of new Swords and Space episodes, too: Childhood's End, and Twilight Imperium.

8.14.2013

5 Worst Speculative Futures to Live in

For my monthly movie, I delved into the collection of DVDs I'm holding onto for a friend and watched the little-known Christian Bale film, Equilibrium. It inspired me to do up another list (the first was ridiculous space ships, which has proved to be one of the blog's more popular posts), this time focussing on the worst futures to live in. There are a lot of dystopian futures depicted in film out there, and I haven't seen all of them, so there may well be some worse than what I list. But just for fun, I thought I'd throw down the five futures I'd least like to live in:

5. Megacity One - Dredd -After a nuclear war ravaged the earth, people have crowded into mega-cities. Mega City One stretches from Boston to Washington, D.C., an "unbroken, concrete landscape" with 800 million people crammed into it. You can imagine how crummy of a place to live it is already, but throw in the Judges who maintain law and order by summary executions, you've got a rather oppressive place to live in. Still and all, it's not ranked higher on the list because one can still live a relatively normal life here if he minds his own business. It's lot a lot worse than many tough metropolises in our world, although you can't get out of it because of the atomic destruction outside its boundary walls.


4. The Terminator Franchise - Another post-nuclear apocalypse future, although this gets ranked worse than Dredd's world because there's been a total breakdown in society and there is no civilization to speak of. Just small cells of "the Resistance" and other random groups who've banded together for survival. The machines that started the war constantly hunt the surviving humans, making this a pretty hellish future. But, the reason I don't rank it worse than #4 is at least the humans have for the most part banded together to fight the machines, and they are slowly winning that effort thanks to John Connor. It's bleak, but there's plenty to live for here.


3.San Angeles - Demolition Man - Some might think it odd to have a "utopian" future in this list, let alone ranked #3. The 2032 amaglamation of Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara is a utopia of sorts -- there is no crime, no violence, but there's also no freedom and no humanity. It's illegal for people to even touch each other. The police have cool uniforms (jodhpurs!), but this society would be absolutely intolerable to exist in with all the sappy-happy-clappy nonsense and nannystatism to the maximum. If given the choice I'd rather live in one of the nuclear wastelands above where one can actually be human and have real human relationships.


2. Airstrip One/Oceania - Nineteen Eighty-Four The communist hell-hole that is the world in Nineteen Eighty-Four would definitely be one of the worst places imaginable to live. As annoying as San Angeles, above, would be, one would still live in material comfort and you get fined for swearing rather than going to Room 101. Everyone lives in near poverty, is under constant surveillance by the Party (and their children who are encouraged to denounce parents unfaithful to the Party), constantly bombarded by propaganda, and totally unfree. It doesn't get much worse than this, but it's still not #1 on the list because you are at least still human here even if it's only within your mind.


1. Libria - Equilibrium -This is the world of Nineteen Eighty-Four taken to the next level. It's got all the bad stuff listed above (perhaps slightly better creature comforts) but made even worse by the fact that ALL artwork is outlawed and gets burned Fahrenheit 451-style and everyone is forced to take regular doses of emotion-suppressing drugs. Making everyone in society little more than drones living just for the sake of survival. To me, it is an even more depressing prospect than the Nineteen Eighty-Four world and therefore takes #1 on my list.


8.12.2013

Update for August


Nearly half-way through August and here is my first post ... it's been a very busy past month with work and personal matters. I did get a few things accomplished, and have a few things in the works to share with you soon.

  1. In July, I was guest-host on another episode of Catholic History with Charles Coulombe, this time chatting about "The Inquisition": http://www.blogtalkradio.com/restorationradio/2013/07/15/catholic-history-with-charles-coulombe-4-the-inquisition
  2. Also did a radio show on World War Z and the whole "zombie craze" in general: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/amdg/2013/06/26/swords-and-space-xiii-world-war-z-and-the-zombie-craze
  3. On 29 July we did have our big game of Twilight Imperium. I'm in the process of doing a short write-up. It was a blast and when I review TI, it will be the first board game reviewed worthy of the full 5/5 stars. Even the players new to boardgaming loved it so much that they refused to stop at the cut-off time we'd set, in order to do "one more turn".
  4. Also did a little bit of painting here-and-there of my Warhammer 40,000 stuff:
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