Monday, November 7, 2011

Twilight Imperium- At Last!

No matter what sort of store you like to shop in there are basically cheap items, typical items, and then a few over-the-top and absurdly expensive items. You may buy a six pack of Sam Adams every week and always glance musingly at the $100 bottle of champagne, for example. I've been shopping at gaming store now for thirty years or so and there have always been certain games that fall into the same category. Games so large and expensive that they are only purchased by the elite gamer, the ultra hard core gamer. For me the epitome of that sort of game has been Twilight Imperium. The cover art is superb. The box is gigantic, it seems to weigh fifty pounds. I never met a person who had purchased it or played it or even looked in the box. At the same time it's in its third edition, so Someone must be playing it. Well this weekend that someone was me.

Joking aside, Twilight Imperium (TI) is a game well known for its complexity, number of components and playing time. I got a chance to play it at Vermont's Carnage gaming convention. Suffice it to say that TI actually surpasses its hype. It's a terrific monster of a game. I don't think I could easily describe the game mechanic in any detail. In brief, players manage an alien civilization that is part of a huge galactic organization. They take turns making decisions regarding their race and accumulating victory points for various achievements. The player with the most points wins the game.

The beauty of TI is that there are dozens of ways to rack up victory points, including exploring space, fighting and conquering, trade, technological development, and politics. This game is about as open ended as any boardgame I have ever played. It's a trade boardgame, it's a miniatures space battle game, it's an exploring game and a civilization development game. Each player can direct their race in the way they see fit and play by the style that suits them best. I don't think I can imagine another boardgame with that degree of flexibility- ironically Race for the Galaxy comes close.

That being said, one could imagine that the price you pay for that design is insane complexity but the rules for TI are, well, not insanely complex at least. It's not well suited for rank beginners but people comfortable with boardgames can be playing comfortably fairly quickly. At our recent game I started play sleep deprived and sick and still picked up on play within about a turn.

Finally, everything about this game screams quality of design. The art is fantastic. The alien races are well conceived. The rules and "color" writing is top notch. After three editions the publishers have ironed out this game and produced a fabulous product well worth the price.

The only caveat to TI is really the playing time required. I suspect a full game is a ten hour affair. Certainly not a dull ten hours but ten hours nonetheless. This is not going to be played every month unless you have a certain lifestyle not featuring, say, work and children.

I would whole heartedly recommend Twilight Imperium for gamers who enjoy science fiction and have some time to play. The rules could be managed by interested teens and the victory options allow all sorts of playing styles to lead to success. Truly an epic and amazing game!

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