Twilight Imperium Review

18:32 Fri 18 Dec 2009

I’ve only played this game twice. That accounts to something around twenty hours of gameplay, however, so reviewing it on that basis seems acceptable.

Twilight Imperium is a board game of galactic domination set in the aftermath of the collapse of an empire; players control races seeking to become the new Imperial rulers.

It’s a complicated game. The game board uses hexagonal tiles, which you have some control over placing during the setup phase. You control planets, ships, production, technological advancement, and resources. You also have cards that help your cause, and there’s a political aspect as well. Different races have different advantages and disadvantages.

About halfway through our Twilight Imperium game
The core game mechanic, after the board, is the selection of “strategy cards”. There are eight of these, and they’re drafted at the start of each turn, with first choice rotating clockwise as turns progress. These cards give you a specific ability for the turn, for example “Warfare” gives you the ability to (essentially) make an extra move with some of your units, while “Diplomacy” gives you the ability to enforce peace between you and another player for the turn. These cards also determine the order of play within a given turn. Perhaps the most critical of these in the base set is the “Imperial” strategy, which gives you two victory points. The object of the game is to reach ten victory points, so getting 20% of them is important enough that players will almost invariably select that strategy when they have a chance, which is one of the things I don’t like about the game.

The game is undoubtedly complicated, although perhaps not in the “look up lots of charts” way that some strategy games are complicated. The individual rules are for the most part relatively simple, but keeping track of them and just remembering how to make your way through a turn isn’t easy for beginners.

Yesterday I played a game with five players, and each turn took about an hour (about twelve minutes per player per turn). I think it would get a lot faster once players were more familiar with it, but in both of the games I played (which were separated by something like two years) players were initially very slow while trying to figure out how to play, and then very slow while trying to figure out how to play effectively.

Despite feeling that it’s complicated enough already, I’m tempted to try it with the Shattered Empires expansion, which apparently fixes the problem with the “Imperial” strategy.

It’s a game I would like to like, but I think that it would require at least one, and possibly two, more games, which I couldn’t see taking less than five hours each (optimistically), before I’d be able to properly evaluate it. I don’t think it’s a game I’d particularly like to own, which is unusual, even though I think I’d like to play it again.

It should be clear that only relatively hardcore gamers should try this. If you like board games, the 4X genre, turn-based strategy, a lot of depth, and games that take several hours, you should consider it.

I have to respect any game that can make me think, as I did after it last night, that I might have had enough gaming for the moment.

Leave a Reply