This is a game of Twilight Imperium we played a little while ago, and I thought I'd put up a little write up for those that are interested in this game.
Aim of the game:
You score victory points during the game by achieving objectives. The game stops when someone reaches a certain amount of points, or when a Special "GAME OVER" objective card is revealed, or simply when you run out of time. Everyone was given a secret objective. Other "Public" objectives are revealed during the game, but achieving your Secret Objective is a massive boost and a sure way to take the lead. Objectives vary, but always involve capturing a system of some sort, so you will have to fight at some point. Luckily all the races are pretty balanced against each other and no one has a significant advantage over someone else.
Who was playing:
Alex: The Federation of Sol
The Humans. Their strength lies in their diversity: they are as adept at waging war as playing the political game or controlling trades. The humans are the jack of all trade, how original... However they have some pretty cool abilities, one of them being that they can generate ground forces practically for free anywhere (they breed like rabbits, charming...). Coupled with some initial technologies that favor ground forces, they can quickly become quite powerful in invasion combat.
Dave: The Barony of Letnev
The Barony is a ruthless military regime. Their poisened highly industrialised homeworld possesses immense resources, and they know how to convert these into deadly means of warfare. However they lack food and medicine supplies, which they have to acquire by other means... One of the agressive races of the game, these guys have the best starting system which will provide lots of resources to build fleets. They also have the ability to exchange trade goods for a boost in combat, which can be very powerful if the Letnev player is loaded. Their downside is that trading with them is not very attractive for other players, and they don't start with a lot of political power. It's up to the player to use his strength to compensate for that.
Nick: The Xxcha Kingdom
A race of giant space turtles! They are experts at diplomacy and less inclined to wage war. However they have learned to defend themselves and can be quite formidable in combat if stirred. A pretty balanced race, the Xxcha (bless you) Kingdom gets bonuses during the political and diplomatic phases. In case of agression they can also debuff their opponent for the first round of combat, which is a pretty strong ability since the first round is usually decisive.
Paul: The L1z1x Mindnet
One of the most mysterious races, the L1z1x ("el-one-zee-one-x") Mindnet is a race of hybrid organic-robotic beings. They claim to be the long lost heirs to the Imperial Throne, and have come back to re-take what they say is theirs. Another agressive race, the Mindnet starts with a huge amount of technology, and gets some massive boost to their Dreadnoughts (the most powerful ship in the game after the War Sun). They hit hard, but are really slow. Still, they will come at some point, and having a fleet of these at your doorstep is pretty unnerving!
Everyone has different starting technologies, ships, and home systems. Coupled with the racial bonuses, these determine to a degree how each race plays during the game.
1st phase: Expansion
The first few turns were dominated by Trade and Political shenanigans. After being left out from the first round of negotiations, The Barony of Letnev quickly showed they meant business by cancelling all trade agreements before anyone could rip benefits from them. On the Political side, the Federation of Sol played their cards quite well by passing 2 highly controversial laws, to the dismay of the Xxcha Kingdom. The first law made researching technology more expensive (good for Sol, as one of the later Tech allows a player to wipe all ground forces on a planet using a bacteriological bombardment; devastating when you rely on large ground forces and a small fleet), and the second Law forced every player to station troops in a system to maintain control of it, systems with no troops would revert back to neutral. Xxcha was Against it as they would loose too many valuable systems in the process, Letnev and L1z1x were For as it didn't disadvantage them, so the balance of power rested with Sol. Despite losing 2 systems in the process, Sol voted For! Little did the other races know (although at this stage they were starting to get suspicious!) that the Federation of Sol was secretly planning an invasion of the Xxcha Homeworld, so anything that could weaken them was a good thing. Note: we didn't read the Political Card very well, and didn't notice that it actual stayed in effect for the whole game! This clearly advantaged me (Sol) as I could generate troops more easily than anyone else, however we discovered this a bit late and decided to stick with it. It did affect the game significantly in the end and favored me, so my sincere apology to anyone if they felt cheated, I can only assure you that like everyone else I simply thought it was a one off.
2nd phase: Arming up and border skirmishes
In this phase, the empires had started to grow to the point were they encroached on their neighbor's. The Barony, Federation and Mindnet all fortified their positions with extra ships and space docks. The Federation of Sol were also massing ships on their border with the Xxcha Kingdom. Taking the less than subtle hint, the Kingdom built a massive defense fleet on their homeworld, to the detriment of their expansion plans. The Barony of Letnev used their intimidating fleets to negociate juicy trade agreements and were soon sitting on a huge pile of trade goods. They were also maintaining a strong influence on the political scene (not to mention the various "gentlemen's agreements" and black-mailing happening behind the scene!). The L1z1x, pushed back by the Barony's threats, had no choice but to expand in Sol space. A few encroachments followed and the Mindnet captured a couple of Sol systems. Busy massing ships on its western front, the Federation chose to ignore the small invasion fleet... for now.
3rd phase: All out war and victory
In the last phase of the game, all hell broke loose as players pushed to accomplish their objective. A first attempt at invasion by the Federation of Sol was thwarted by the Xxcha Kingdom by delaying the Sol fleet with a sabotage (one of the many Action Cards you can draw and use during the game). The Kingdom, feeling safe enough and desperately needing more systems under their control, divided their forces in 2 to make a push for the Imperial seat on Mecatol Rex (the planet in the center of the board, a lot of Secret Objectives involve taking it). The L1z1x, relunctant to push too far into Sol space, also moved towards Mecatol Rex in the center and were the first to capture the system. Shortly afterwards, the Xxcha Kingdom decided it was their time to shine and booted them out of Mecatol Rex's orbit in a brutal space battle involving no less than 3 L1z1x Dreadnoughts. The Xxcha managed to land ground forces and took control of the all important planet. Seeing an opening in the Xxcha's defenses, the Federation of Sol launched their assault. Despite a tenacious defense of the system, including an experimental battlestation and a minefield (more Action Cards), the Sol fleet defeated the Xxcha fleet after an epic battle that cost them three quarters of their own fleet. The invasion ground forces were intact however, and made short work of the few defenders on the Xxcha homeworld. Seeing the devastation, the Xxcha fleet in orbit around Mecatol Rex reversed course, headed promptly back towards their home system, and broke the Sol blockade. However they were unable to deploy ground troops and regain control of their homeworld, which stayed under Sol hands.
Meanwhile and without anyone noticing, the Barony of Letnev had built a massive Dreadnought fleet and had slowly crept in reach of Mecatol Rex. taking advantage of the vaccum left by the departing Xxcha fleet, the Barony annexed the system. A furious orbital bombardment wiped the Xxcha stationed on the planet and it fell without resistance.
The L1z1x, mysterious as they are, were moving fleets in a curious pattern. Avoiding direct confrontation, the Mindnet used fast ships to annexe systems containing wormholes, eliminating a Sol carrier in the process and cutting the Barony of Letnev supply route in half. Finally, the Mindnet massed ships near the last wormhole, but the round ended without them being able to move through it.
At the end of the round, players qualify for public or secret objectives. As the Federation of Sol had the initiative, they would go first. They revealed that their secret objective was to destroy one of their neighbour's last space dock and hold the planet. They scored enough points to win the game. If they hadn't done so or if we had played to 10 points, the Barony would have taken the lead by also achieving their objective: Capturing Mecatol Rex and having all their Dreadnoughts on the board. The L1z1x Mindnet were 1 move away from achieving theirs: controlling every system with a wormhole in it. Weakened by the loss of their homeworld, the Xxcha Kingdom were trailing behind. They came within a hair width of achieving their objective though: controlling Mecatol Rex and having 8 ships in orbit around it. However an oversight during combat reduced the attacking fleet to 7 ships and Nick couldn't qualify for his objective.
All in all, an epic first game! Everyone played their races to their strengths and in character. My hat off to Dave and the Barony for all the scheming, plotting and black-mailing! Well played, very well played
Looking forward to the next game.