Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rex- More Twilight Imperium Awesomeness

After years of staring longingly at the mammoth and expensive Twilight Imperium boardgame I finally got a chance to play it. Happily it turned out to be one of the most awesome games I've played. It takes forever to finish, there are a zillion components, and requires a massive board and lots of players. Having said that, it is an epic space game with lots of ways to play and win and leaves you feeling like your time spent playing was worth every moment. Recently a sister game called Rex was released and we played it last week.

Rex is a rebadged edition of the old Dune game. Dune is stuck in license purgatory and the publishers of Twilight were able to obtain the rights to the game system and release it as Rex. The game depicts the final battle at the galactic imperial capital. Various races struggle to grab power or join a winning alliance and walk away the new rulers of the galaxy. Each race is different in how it plays and also in it's victory conditions. One race, for example, wins if no one else wins. Another can win just by guessing the winner before the game begins.

The principles of Rex are pretty straightforward. Players have troops which can move around the game board. They can generate income and use it to buy more troops or special weapons. When players fight they total up their number of troops committed plus any special weapons and the winner is the one with the higher total. Some regions of the board have special properties but the number of special or fiddly rules is remarkably small.

Two rules elements stand out. The first is that each race has significantly different special powers. The powers aren't complex but they do give each race a vastly different feel in play. One race has access to hidden information, one rakes in the income, one can swarm onto the boar from one location. They all seem balanced and they tie into the other exciting element.

Players can win the game in a number of ways. They can occupy key territories. They can formally ally with other players and win as a group. They can potentially ally with other players and then betray them at the last moment. "Betraying" is risky and can either win you solo glory or send you plummeting into defeat as a loser and a traitor. Much of the fun of the game is planning how you hope to win and then making that happen.

I enjoyed Rex. The components are fabulous. The board looks great. The rules are pretty simple. The only downsides are that the components are initially pretty intimidating and that the theme is tied into the Twilight Imperium universe. As a science fiction fan I don't mind that but I could imagine someone saying "who are these people, what's Mecatol Rex?" and if you have a player who needs to know every detail of the theme they may not enjoy Rex. Otherwise it's a great politics and strategy game and we have a blast with it.

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