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Game review: Twilight Imperium 4th edition is the best epic science fiction board game ever

POSTED: October 11, 2017 9:00 a.m.
Ryan Morgenegg/

Each player has a starting board, ships and counters. The explorable galaxy tiles are in the center and can be configured differently each game. All together the game looks great on the table and will attract attention.

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Its been 20 years since the first version of Twilight Imperium was released. Over the years, it evolved into an epic and beloved board game. Players represent alien races competing for supremacy on a grandiose scale. This review covers the recently released fourth edition.

Twilight Imperium is an enormous board game. It takes up a lot of space on the table. It takes four to eight hours to play and can accommodate three to six players. It has a fair amount of rules and is loaded with components. For casual gamers, this game may be too much. For more serious gamers and war gamers, meet the love of your life.

The theme of Twilight Imperium is that of galactic dominance. At the center of the galaxy is a planet called Mecatol Rex. It is the capital planet of the former glorious Lazax Empire. It is the heart's desire of all the races of the universe because it represents power. Players take on the roles of various alien races fighting for control of the universe and the capital, Mecatol Rex. Who will step up and claim the throne?

Players can play 17 unique civilizations in the game. There are the hardened military armies of the Barony of Letnev, the endless waves of humans from the Federation of Sol and the cunning thieves of the Mentak Coalition, to name a few. They each have different starting resources and paths to victory.

Players will use combat, alliances, trade, politics and strategy on the road to universal conquest. To start, choose one of the 17 races and gather the starting components unique to that race.

For those who like variety, Twilight Imperium succeeds. Each time the game is played, 51 hexagonal tiles are used to create the board. These can be configured in thousands of ways. For example, the strategic resource planet near a player's home planet in one game may be on the other side of the galaxy the next game.

At the core of the game are the eight strategy cards that are selected each round. A round of Twilight Imperium begins with players selecting one of the eight strategy cards. These cards determine turn order and grant a unique special power. There is always tension in the game because players compete for the strategy cards they need each round.

For example, the politics strategy card allows a player to draw additional action cards and gives a player the speaker (first player) token while the technology strategy card allows a player to research technology in exchange for resources.

In the next phase of the game, players use the powers on their strategy cards. They may also explore the galaxy, take over new planets, engage in combat and use their command tokens. Command tokens can be allocated in three areas and allow players to take additional actions.

No gigantic space opera board game would be complete without combat. Basically, when the ships or ground forces of different alien races are present in the same area or space, combat can occur. The game includes 10-sided dice for combat. Depending on the unit in battle, a value must be equaled or exceeded to score a hit. For example, two ships are fighting. One ship hits on a roll of six or more. The die is rolled and the result is a one. Drat, a miss.

Some of the best visual parts of the game are the tons of colorful miniatures. When they cover the board, the table presence is amazing. There are miniatures to represent flagships, infantry, destroyers, fighters, carrier ships, space docks, planetary defense systems, dreadnought ships, cruisers and the dreaded war sun.

The final round of the game gives the players the opportunity to score points for completing objectives. These objectives can be public or secret. Secret objectives are fun because no one truly knows what goals a person is pursuing and an opponent will have a much harder time stopping a secret objective. An example of an objective might be to take control of a certain planet or build certain units. The first player to earn 10 victory points wins the game.

A look at the game box and all of its contents immediately gives players the feel that this game is epic. There are more than 354 plastic units, 450 cards, 700 tokens, 50 galaxy tiles, two rulebooks (including a how-to-play book) and a fabulous box insert to keep everything organized. Fantasy Flight Games thought of everything.

There is so much more to this game than can be outlined here. The rules for both the "learn to play guide" and the standard rulebook can be downloaded from the Fantasy Flight Games website under the support section.

I can't stop gushing about Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition. It is a game that transports players beautifully in time and space to a galaxy far, far away. If a person has ever wondered what it would be like to control an alien civilization in the midst of a galactic war, this is the game that does it the best. Hands down.

Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition comes with a strong "buy it" recommendation. Although it might not be the right fit for casual gamers, it is one that is of the highest quality and design. Find out more.

A note about fourth edition for owners of Twilight Imperium third edition

Owners of the third edition of Twilight Imperium may wonder whether it is worth purchasing the new edition of a game they already own. The game retails for $150, so it is more than an impulse purchase for most people. Overall, the game has been streamlined and the components upgraded.

For a detailed rundown of the differences found in the fourth edition, go to the Fantasy Flight Games website. For example, the website says, "Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition includes many components first introduced in expansions for the third edition of the game. Flagships, promissory notes, factions, strategy cards, special galaxy tiles and more return in fourth edition."

Twilight Imperium third edition was no slouch on quality, but a lot of improvement has been made over the past 12 years. Yes, all the miniatures are better in this edition. If a person wants the latest and greatest or a better version of the game, go for it. If a person does not own it, the choice is simple. Buy it. Buy it now.
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