Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Twilight Imperium: Rising Sol

Another Twilight Imperium game! 

This time, in order to cut the playtime down to a reasonable amount (i.e. 5-6 hours instead of 8-10) I arranged a game with only 4 players. This was a test to see if we could cut the playtime down and still have a fun game.

I was amping myself up to be Federation of Sol but Chad took it first so I picked the Emirates of Hacaan. Dave chose the Nekro Virus again in order to redeem himself from last game, while Twilight Imperium veteran Andrew joined as the Ghosts of Creuss.

The board setup. Hacaan blue, Ghosts purple, Sol black, and Nekro red. We debated using a smaller board by removing 8 tiles but decided to go rulebook setup this time. 

Trade kings.

The Ghosts in their wormhole waiting to pop out.

Will the Nekro Virus be a threat this game?

The extra large carriers of the Federation gear up for expansion.

Turn one and I score a victory point on a secret mission! Luck helped as supernova was right next to my home system.

After the first round, Sol and Hacaan had jumped out to an early lead in planets taking four each. Both Hacaan and Nekro eyeing Zohbat closely....

Round 2, Sol does a surprise move and buys their flagship, using it to take Mecatol Rex early! Nekro and Ghosts move in closer to the centre, meanwhile I took Zohbat and waited for the counter attack.

Worried that Sol will get an insurmountable foothold on Sol using their Orbital Drop abilities, I use warfare to free up my fleets and make an attack on Mectal Rex, destroying the Sol flagship and taking the planet. But on my right flank the Ghosts are on the move...

Ghosts making another fleet...

Nekro Virus moved in and took Zohbat while I was on Mecatol Rex, and then build Planetary Defense Systems (PDS) to make it more dangerous to come near.

With Mecatol in play, we had an agenda phase and despite me having the most influence thanks to Mecatol Rex, we ended up giving both elections to Andrew to prevent Nekro from getting a free tech. He predicted me to win the second one which I saved my votes for, and Sol had a political rider on the vote also picking me, so I went with Andrew to screw them both over.

Round 3 and thanks to Mecatol Rex and Imperial strategy card that I played early I pull even with Sol at 4 VPs. After that I abandoned Mecatol Rex.

Nekro takes Mecatol after I abandoned it. I need to rebuild this turn.

I mean, I really need to rebuild.

The Ghosts using the wormhole to sneak a planet for a victory point! While Nekro gets the "Ships in 2 systems adjacent to Mecatol Rex" point. Also note that the Nekro built their terrifying "All Nekro Ground Forces Fight In Space Battles" Flagship!

The Ghost's fleet continues to expand, adding their flagship!

Round 3, I've got a new fleet. Just in time as wormhole shennanigans meant a small Nekro expeditionary force appeared behind my lines.

By round 4 Hacaan and Sol are still neck and neck but Nekro has made a push to be only one point behind, and the Ghosts are climbing as well.

The second Sol flagship is on the board with backup, and aiming at Mecatol Rex...


...While the Ghosts are looking for weaknesses to exploit.

So here is where things get crazy. I was worried about getting double slammed by Nekro on one side and Ghosts on the other so I did some negotiations with Ghosts trying to get ceasefire, he countered he wanted my Trade Agreement and I said, I'd take his Support for the Throne for that. He agreed. Seeing that, Sol and Nekro felt that Ghosts and I had an alliance for all intents and purposes, so they exchanged Support for the Throne cards making a true alliance.

Sol having the Nekro Support.

But wait, there is more. I was scrambling for VPs at this point in the game so I bargained with Nekro to get a ship next to their home system for a secret objective, and he took my Support for the Throne. Since I was ahead of him, it felt like a fair trade of VPs to me, plus I could attack him and he could not attack me without losing the support.

To show their alliance, the war suns of Sol and Nekro showed combined colours. 

There is the carrier that allowed me to score a secret objective. Meanwhile, Nekro reinforced Mecatol Rex.

Fleet build ups on the other side of the map.


State of the board at the start of round 5.
Closer look at Nekro and Sol planets.
The scores heading into round 5.

So at the start of round 5 Andrew bowed out as it was getting late. Dave, Chad, and I evaluated the board and asked the question, what were the paths to victory? 

 The stage II objective that got flipped was "Own three unit upgrades" so Chad was within reach of ten. I could also do that objective but I had no more secret objectives so I had to take Mecatol Rex and score a point using Imperial which I picked first. Nekro picked next and took leadership so he could score first in the Status phase (and score three using the stage II as well as a secret objective) but Sol played a strategy card forcing him to pick a different strategy, allowing him to grab the leadership and scoring first in the status phase.

That put Nekro out of the running since tech was going to be picked (we each got two cards in a four player game) and Sol would win if the game got to the status phase. So the question remaining was could I:
- take Mecatol Rex from the Nekro fleet there
- hold on to the system despite a large Sol fleet counter attack
- hold on to the system until Tech was played so I could get the third unit upgrade
- and then have enough actions to avoid playing Imperial card before then.

I conceded that it was extremely unlikely I could do that all, or take Sol's home system to prevent him from scoring. If the Ghosts were still in the game they could have played King Maker by attacking Sol and preventing him from attacking Mecatol once I had it, but there was no guarantee that I could have held out on playing Imperial before Technology anyways.

So we agreed Sol won. Great game!

Thoughts

I am pleased how I did this game. My previous two games of TI4 ended up with me sitting out of contention both times. It feels like TI4 develops points faster than TI3 did and it took me two humiliating losses to learn that fact. After looking at TI3 objectives versus TI4 objectives I think that is a correct evaluation; the TI3 objectives are almost all harder.

That is not to say there weren't missteps. I feel I failed to leverage Hacaan's trading abilities enough, I think I failed to take Leadership ever, I failed to get more secret objectives, I failed to retake Zohbat which left me low on resources all game (I was only one to NOT get my flagship out).

But overall I did what you have to do: chase those VPs, try to get them every round, stay close to the leaders. I had a shot of winning, albeit a long shot. Had the Ghosts player been in the game still, things might have shaken out differently.

Looking forward to another game in a month or two!


Monday, July 08, 2019

Tabletop Simulator

My resurgent interested in Twilight Imperium 4th Edition took me down the rabbit hole into the community of online players that make use of Tabletop Simulator to play games online. Specifically the downloaded Twilight Imperium 4th edition version.
Image result for images: tabletop simulator twilight imperium 4th edition

I've been playing with it getting used to how to pick things up and roll dive and setup boards and its pretty slick. Can be tricky with the small pieces but with practice I'm sure it will be fine.

The big attraction is the thought of running a game with my friends over multiple sessions rather than trying to get a single game done in one sitting, which can be hard with 6 players needing 8-10 hours to complete the game! With Tabletop Simulator you can save state and pick it up again.

I've been told that as players get experienced the play time comes down to 1 hour per player, so we're hoping to play some more physical games with fewer players to get more practice. For example, I've got a 4 player game scheduled for this Friday after work with my friends. And I might try an online game with strangers (!) this Sunday afternoon. We'll see how it all goes.


Thursday, July 04, 2019

Divorcing EVE


Image result for divorce

Its been over 6 months since I've decided to quit EVE.

I say quit, but it feel more like its been a divorce from a 10 year marriage to a partner that I had a lot of great times with but the bad times just built up to a breaking point.
It was weird at first. Almost all the people I followed on twitter were EVE players and posting about EVE things, I still get EVE emails about expansions and deals, I still had to log in to try and sell stuff for investors.

It was like breaking up with someone but seeing them at the store, at the bar, at friends' houses... it was not a clean break.

And then I saw all the new Triglavian ships, the invasion excitement, and the frustration of the high sec freighter gankings was not as raw... missing the good times of roams, fleet coms, getting kills....

But recently I realized I had moved on.

The CCP selling skill points debacle. The null sec players complaining about the Drifter invasions attacking their structures and not seeing the parallel to high sec ganking (i.e. being forced into gameplay you do not want) and the whole kerfuffle.... and I can stand back without a horse in the race and just chill... yeah, I made the right decision for me.

The divorce is final. Can't say I'm happy about it but I definitely feel that I've moved on.

Good luck EVE pilots. See you on the other side.


Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Twilight Imperium IV - Rise of the Clan

I got together with my friends for another go at Twilight Imperium 4th Edition. The players:

Dave - Necro Virus - Black
Chad - Barony of Letnev - Blue
Brian - Clan of Saar - Yellow
Me - Yssaril Tribes - Purple
Udit - Mentak Coalition - Red
Clayton - L1z1x Mindnet - Green

We set the board up, randomly picked home starting positions, and got underway!

As usual, click to see full sized pics.

Mecatol Rex at the centre.

Coincidentally, everyone except brian had shirts matching their colours!

Starting forces, looking at a choke point where Lodor and the alpha wormhole are, and beside Mecatol Rex is the 3 resource Zobhat system. Mentak to my left, Saar to my right.

On the other side of the board, Nekro Virus between the L1z1x green and Letnev blue.

Clan of Saar uses warfare strategy card to expand quickly in round 1!

Meanwhile, everyone else expands more cautiously.


Round 2, and the Saar continue to be aggressive. I captured Zobhat like I wanted but the nearness of the Mentak makes me nervous. We exchange Ceasefire promissory notes to ease tensions. Meanwhile the Nekro get in the face of the L1z1x while the Letnev do the same to the Nekro. 

Round 3 and things are getting wild. Mentak rush over to cut off L1z1x from Mectol Rex while Saar take the strategic Lodor system in the asteroid field/supernova chokepoint, threatening my supply lines to Zobhat.

The mighty Saar empire.

And the Mentak build up for a confrontation with the L1z1x...

There was much negotiation about the fate of that Nekro cruiser trying to steal an early victory point with a secret objective. It succeeded for the record.

The Barony was feeling very boxed in by Nekro and Saar fleets, when suddently a ghost ship destroyer appears on the beta wormhole. The other end of that wormhole is right beside my home system.

Round 4 and the Mentak make a sudden surprise attack! Using the alpha wormhole (aka the Zobhat Lodor bypass) he took a fleet over to Lodor and pushed the Saar off, right before I was about the make the same attack. He also moved onto Mecatol Rex for trade pirating, so now I'm surrounded by Mentak fleets and nothing else. I guess I'll research more tech then.

The Saar regroup from the Mentak assault and launch an offensive on Mecatol Rex, paying the influence for the custodians victory point and claiming the throne world in the process with their flagship. How will the galaxy respond?

Seeing an opportunity to score a victory point by having two fleets adjacent to Mecatol Rex, I launch a dreadnought and fighters through the beta wormhole to attack Letnev's flagship and destroyer, and after some intense negotiations (and promises of vendettas) allowed the Letnev flagship to retreat damaged but not destroyed. I had to plead with the Nekro virus fleets to give me until next round before he destroyed me.

The Saar's push to Mecatol has left the rest of their empire weakened, but the asteroid field becomes a huge boon as an unassailable citadel for them.

Round 5. The Saar extract revenge on the Mentak, taking one end of the alpha wormhole and cutting off lines of retreat for the fleet at Lodor. I build a space dock at Zobhat for later buildups.


Using warfare, the Saar push through the wormhole and crush the Mentak fleet at Lodor, while the Mentak move in to orbit Mecatol Rex.

The Saar are in the lead with 3, Yssaril and Letnev at 2, everyone else at 1.

During the agenda phase I was elected as the holder of the Crown of Emphida, giving me both a victory point and a target on my back as anyone who takes a planet in my home system gets the crown and the victory point. Yikes!

Nekro Virus attacked my dreadnought on the far end of the beta wormhole but terrible rolling allowed both dreadnought and fighter to escape, helping to secure my home system's back door a little. Meanwhile fleets build up all over the galaxy...

What are those L1z1x fleets going to do?

Meanwhile the Letnev prepare for their endgame.

The L1z1x make their big move attacking Mecatol Rex but do not take the planet.


The Mentak launch another assault against the Saar through the wormhole, this time two massive fleets clashing. The Saar are pushed off but the Mentak fail to take Lodor planet itself.

As the stage II public objectives come online, the Saar and the Letnev start to pull away from the pack. My investment in technology over the game is not paying off like I had hoped, with only one tech objective appearing.

The Nekro virus and L1z1xfight again over the border system of Starpoint. Will this cause the mindnet fleets to turn around?

Meanwhile, the Nekro virus continues its multi-front offensive by attacking the Saar strike force that sneaked in late last round for a victory point.

Entering  the final round, both Letnev and Saar are within striking distance, but Letnev is speaker and took the Imperial strategy card.
I've started my expansion into Mentak space too late to be a contender. Meanwhile, Nekro virus makes inroads against L1z1x while Letnev threatens Mectol Rex.


This was the handy Agenda Phase tool Chad made for managing the complexity of votes.

We're at the crux of the game. Chad (Letnev) is about to attack Mecatol Rex with two dreadnoughts and his flagship. He needs to get three victory points when he plays Imperial to win the game because if it goes to the status phase no one can stop Brian (Saar) from scoring 2 victory points first as he has initiative with Leadership. There is much discussion between the players who are out of the winning race about what to do. We could play spoiler on Chad by fighting for Mecatol Rex as well, but only point is ensuring Brian wins as none of us can win by doing so. We decide to stay out of it and let Brian and Chad fight it out.

So Letnev has his flagship and two dreanoughts on Mecatol Rex. Saar launches an attack before he can play Imperial to try and stop him, and despite superior numbers, he fails to win the battle! Without a direct hit to destroy the Letnev flagship which absorbs two hits and repairs every round, he lacks the lucky dice rolls to push through and is whittled down and forced to retreat. Has Letnev won the game?!?!

So exciting, the Letnev fleet holds the line!

 
So Letnev with Mecatol Rex held against Saar has two VPs to get with Imperial, but needs a third. There is a VP for taking a planet in a enemy home system and Saar has left their very unguarded. Letnev moved in with Dreadnought and two troops with a carrier, the bombardment killed one of two defenders, but the ground assault failed as the last Saar troop held on to win the game!
With that climatic battle finished, Clan of Saar claimed victory first in the status phase.

Thoughts:

I am frustrated with myself. I went into the game knowing I needed to try and score VPs every round and yet failed to do so. Instead of being aggressive I tried to go the Technology route at the expense of my fleets and while I had a tech advantage, only one of the public and secret objectives I saw had to do with owning technology. Thus my mid-game stalled as Letnev and Saar pulled ahead. By the time I was building fleets and making moves, it was already in the endgame for the leaders. The exact same thing happened last time! It feels like TI4 has less room for late game swings at the lead than TI3 where a late game push with dominant tech fleets and more takeable objectives on the map giving room for that kind of wait and see approach.

I'm not the only one who suffered from lack of aggressiveness. The Nekro Virus player, Dave, also acknowledged he could have been more combative early on.

All that being said, it was a great game, lots of negotiations, transactions, intrigue, recriminations, combat. And for the leaders to come down to two pivotal battles for the win? Epic.




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