One of my other passions is boardgaming, and it’s one I can’t often indulge in due to my new father status. So when I get a chance to game, I try to make it count. And trying out Twilight Imperium, the legendary ultra-long space wargame by Fantasy Flight, certainly qualifies as “making it count.”
I thought about reviewing it, but with a single game under my belt that would be premature (besides, Boardgamegeek has reviews aplenty.) Instead, as a new player, I’m best qualified to talk about the rather daunting nature of the game, and to suggest a few tricks for people who want an easier learning experience.
This Game Takes Six Hours. And That’s if Everyone Knows the Rules:
Okay. Let’s tackle the elephant first. That 240-minute “max time” figure from BGG is a filthy, filthy lie. Maybe if you ignore setup and cleanup, and if everyone plays quickly and orderly, you’ll finish in four hours. But throw in the actual time to get the table ready, to decide on which versions of the strategy cards to use, to pick races and to build the galaxy, and to actually put everything back in the box in a remotely ordered fashion? Schedule an entire afternoon, and you’ll be having a late supper.
If you have a couple of new players at the table, accept that in all likelihood you won’t finish the game. And if you’re planning to host an all-newbie game with your brand new box? Accept that the first game will just be a two-turn tutorial.
So… what can you do to mitigate this?
1-Have the game set up (as much as possible, anyways) before the players arrive. By the same token, handle all necessary meta-negotiations (like picking rules variants, etc.) beforehand. As a player, trust the game-owner to not have stacked the decks or whatever (and if you can’t trust the guy, just don’t play with him.)
2-Use all the efficiency tricks I’ll describe below. Seriously, with a game this long, every bit of time saved helps.
This Game is Chaos:
I have one rule complaint about TI, and that’s the ever-changing order of play. It’s really a pain to constantly try to figure out who’s next. Add to that the endless juggling of cards and tokens, and you have a recipe for extreme confusion and wasted time.
Managing that chaos requires everyone’s cooperation. Next time I play, I’ll suggest we nominate one person to handle play order, another to handle card drawing and discarding, yet another to distribute tokens, and so on.
There’s Like, So Many Rules:
In retrospect, the hour-long rules exposé I listened to prior to playing was unnecessarily long and detailed. TI is surprisingly easy to play once you get down to it… if you can remember all the little details and modifiers in play.
A lot of those you’ll just learn over time, but there’s one horrific mess that just calls for some improvement: the horrific mess that are the various combat modifiers that apply. Luckily, there’s an app for that (and a free one at that.) The Twilight Imperium Companion is definitely something I’d recommend downloading for everyone.
So… that’s my other other hobby officially represented on the blog. Next time, however, it’s back to writing.