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!


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