Game Review: Twilight Imperium

Andrew Stephens, Tuesday the 12th of August, 2008 in Board Games, Science Fiction

Another Sunday, another board game - this time something a bit more ambitious This post was automatically imported from my old sandfly.net.nz blog. It may look a little weird since it was not originally written for this format.. Various ancient and powerful races are vying for control of the galaxy, some through aggressive conquest while others have more subtle methods. Vast fleets push their way through the inky voids between stars while each race uses whatever means it has at its disposal to further its secret ends.

Twilight Imperium has a fairly fearsome reputation as a ridiculously involved game. That reputation is well deserved - this game has everything. We had five players, and just setting up the board at the start of the game took as nearly an hour. Nearly every gameplay mechanic I have ever played or heard of crops up in TI - the board is created at the start of the game like Settlers Of Catan, each player picks a new role each round just like Puerto Rico, there is a technology tree like Civilization, both secret (like Risk) and public objectives, a political model, formal trade agreements, random action cards, both fleet and ground combat, etc, etc.

The sheer amount of stuff in Twilight Imperium is very impressive, and surprisingly the game is fairly easy to play. The instructions are the best I have ever seen, with clear explanations of what everything does. The core of the game is the stack of command counters that you spend during a round to make various actions. How you allocate these and what you spend them on makes up the bulk of your strategy. Each round took us between 60 and 90 minutes, but there is plenty for everyone to do at any stage so we did not get bored. That said, after the 4th round none of the races were particularly near the 10 points needed to claim victory so we called it a day.

Because of its complexity and sheer size, I could not recommend Twilight Imperium to anyone except those who have a few board-games under their belt and have the time and inclination to try something bigger. Those people (and they know who they are) are going to love it.