Thursday, May 10, 2018

Return to Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition

Its been at least 5 years if not more since I sat down with my friends for a game of TI 3rd Ed, one of the most intensive grand strategy board games in existence. 

There were 5 of us for this game, playing with almost all the optional rules from the Shattered Empire expansion. I was the Xxcha Kingdom (yellow), Dave was the Mentak Coalition (Orange), Clayton was the L1Z1X (blue), Andrew the Jol-Nar Universities (purple), and Chad as the Yssaril (green). 

Click to enlarge any of the pictures.

Game setup. I have less space being in the 5th spot so I got 6 bonus trade goods off the bat. Yellow and Green got 4, while purple and blue got more space. As you can see, there is a swath of systems with no planets cutting off purple from everyone else. This is crucial later on.

First moves. People with two carriers have an early advantage.

Turn 2. I ran into some native insurgents at the second planet I tried to take and lost all my ground troops. This not only stymied my early expansion, but left green free to take Hope's End beside Mecatol Rex, the only adjacent planet to the ancient imperial seat. Blue beings making aggressive moves by placing a fleet on a wormhole.

I was very frustrated and pinched between green and orange. I felt I had been dealt a fatal blow at this early point.

Is blue threatening green via the wormhole? Or purple?

Turn 3. I sent a new fleet on High Alert from warfare strategy card to take Tar'Mann in force, meanwhile the blue fleet started an eternal war with orange, the latter who held the upper hand after the first battles.

Meanwhile, the purple fish people build up ships and technology.

I don't want to start a war with orange as he is fighting blue and keeping blue contained; I worried if I struck at orange blue would get too strong. I didn't want to start a war with green as he was the only challenge to purple's growing fleets. So I decided to go for Mecatol Rex for that sweet 6 influence and hoping really to jump start a green/purple conflict.

Turn 4ish. Blue and orange's war gets bloody and blue's fleets get decimated. My secret objective is to take a home system so I decide to try for blue's weakened capital, but purple took the Warfare strategy (to deny it to me out of fear) so I could not get there right away. I attack instead the adjacent system while using Diplomacy to make sure Mecatol Rex cannot be attacked this turn. However, between when I attack the Sumerian system and when I can next move that fleet, blue builds at least twice in his home system and makes his defenses more than I can overcome. I retreat back to Mecatol Rex and fortify my position there to try and hold it as long as I can, still waiting for the purple/green war to erupt.

The peak of my power. Purple growing very advanced and very strong, and green's fleets are not threatening them at all much to my frustration. Meanwhile, blue retakes the space I held and starts a counter-offensive against orange.

The War for Mecatol Rex. Unbeknownst to everyone, both purple and green had secret objectives for taking Mecatol Rex (whereas I did not, but I knew from experience that someone must have). My large fleet seen in the last photo was engaged by a green invasion force, but the dice gods were slightly in my favour and I badly damaged the green fleet down to just two damage dreadnoughts, including killing the invasion force. Then, purple fleet swooped in and killed the crippled green fleet before having their ground invasion stalled by my diplomat. 

Meanwhile, orange and blue are setting up fleets for another round in their grudge match.

Next turn we see blue executing an end run around orange's front line fleet to attack an exposed flank. Orange would counter attack with everything in the system beside it, exposing it to a green attack who took it and three planet for a public objective about taking three planets in a turn.

Purple, having used a strategy card to secretly see the next public objective card, knows it says "Have fleets of at least 4 ships in two other home systems == Win the Game" and starts making plans for three turns to do exactly that, abandoning plans to take Mecatol Rex for his secret objective card. The plans start to come to fruition here as he uses warfare and the Mecatol Rex fleet to attack and hold blue's home system just after blue lost a battle to orange.

Here we see green's fleet that took the three planets for an objective point, putting him in the lead overall.

And here we see the other half of purple's plan as he swooped through an unguarded wormhole to blockade and conquer green's home system. 

And the stage II objective that let's purple win the game is exposed at the beginning of turn 9 (or 10?)! But he needs the round to get to the objective phase at the end of all the players' actions to claim it.
So here is how the game ended: green was in the lead with 5 vps (thanks to that three planet grab two turns before), and several of us right behind him at 4. However, the game winning public objective is up that give purple the win regardless was up and there was not a lot of fleets left to fight him and his advanced tech. However, green was speaker and picked Bureaucracy strategy card and with three Stage II objectives left, one of them was Imperium Rex which ends the game immediately, and the card lets the player draw two and pick one meaning there was a good chance green could pick up the Imperium Rex and win early.

However, the turn before all that happened I made a desperate play to try and take orange's exposed homeworld for my 2 point secret objective. He had only a damaged dreadnought and I had a destroyer and cruiser. Had I successfully taken out the damaged dread, I could land on the planet unopposed, claiming 2 VPs to put me in the lead ahead of green, thus meaning green would have had the choice of picking to end the game immediately if he drew the Imperium Rex card and giving me the win, or not playing it and letting purple win with the fleets in the home systems objective card.
Doesn't matter as the dice gods abandoned me and I could not kill the damaged orange dreadnought before it took out both of my ships.

Thus, green played the Bureaucracy, drew two objective cards and one of them was Imperium Rex. He played that one and being in the lead, won the game right out from under purple's nose.

Personal Analysis:

I let that early bad luck of losing my invasion ground forces against NPCs at Tarr'Man get in my head and I played too aggressively after that, although hold Mecatol Rex change the flow of the game and was nice having all the influence it gave. Had I turtled a little bit more, I might have had more stuff to throw at Orange's home system and get that VP lead later on.

The board layout was icky; had there been more planets to hold closer to Mecatol Rex, there might have been more fighting there and green and orange might not have squeezed me so much, and purple would not have been able to build up unopposed possibly.

Oh well, it was an amazing fun game and next time... *shakes fist*

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