Space Opera in a Box: A Beginner’s Guide to Twilight Imperium

Space Opera in a Box: A Beginner’s Guide to Twilight Imperium

January 21, 2019 Off By Ruel

When I learned that Twilight Imperium was a space opera in a box, it went to the top of my Must Play Bucket List. I love science fiction books, movies, and especially board games, and the more I learned about Twilight Imperium the more I wanted to play it.

Then I heard the horror stories from some of my gaming friends: how one player prone to AP would extend games into the 12-hour game play mark. How there’s so much to remember on your turn. How you could play several games during the time you play one game of Twilight Imperium.

I typically play games that last around an hour or so to play. So how did I end up playing and loving a game that can take all day? How did I become a part of the TI4 cult, as my buddies would say?

Read on for a few things about one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, board game ever produced.

Epic Game Play

Twilight Imperium is an epic game of galactic conquest. You play as one of 17 different factions vying to become the next ruler of the universe. You’ll build up your faction’s fleet of ships, explore nearby systems, and travel further out in search of a way to become the one to sit upon the throne of Mecatol Rex. You win by simply scoring 10 victory points. It’s not that easy, of course, and you’ll have to use a combination of military victories, economic bargaining, and political maneuvering to score those points via public and private objectives.

More Than A Sum Of Its Parts

At its heart TI4 is a 4X game (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) with variable player powers, area control, set collection, and a small bit of dice chucking. Negotiation and politics are thrown in the mix, too, but what makes TI4 great is the way it takes so many mechanisms and makes them all part of a cohesive whole.

Role Playing For Non-Role Players

It’s easy to get into the spirit of the game. Even if you’re not the most diehard role player, you’ll quickly find yourself acting like the leader of a budding space empire. Whether it’s negotiating alliances with other factions or going into combat with your sworn enemies, it’s hard not to announce your turns in the most epic manner possible.

Not As Intimidating As It Seems

Even with so many different things going on, player turns are surprisingly fast. You perform one action on your turn. That’s it! Of course, figuring out whether it’s tactical, strategic, or from an action card, and when to do it is the tricky part. An in-progress game looks a lot more intimidating than it really is once you’re playing. 

An All Day Game That Doesn’t Feel Like It

While I always plan for an entire day, games usually won’t last that long, thanks to Fourth Edition streamlining a lot of the previous edition’s bloat. My last game was at the full six-player count and we finished in exactly six hours. You’re not just making your moves then waiting for others to finish theirs; you’re constantly engaged, watching other’s moves and plotting your course to victory. I’ve played in a 10-hour game where the only thing that dragged was the delivery time of our food order. 

Unique Experience

For my money, there’s no other board game that matches TI4’s epic scope and combines it with such smooth game play. With 17 asymmetrical factions, a modular game board, and a multitude of agenda cards and public and secret objectives, every session is a unique, one-of-a-kind experience that you’ll be talking about for years to come.