A periodic blog about Games, Books, Movies, Pop culture, Technology and whatever else I happen to feel like writing about...

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Easter Gaming: Twilight Imperium 3, Princes of the Renaissance

The long weekend proved to be too much of a temptation, and Colin, Cim, Mike and Hendy were all up for a game of Twilight Imperium 3. And we really tried to get a full game in, but both Mike and Hendy had to bail after only 5 hours, so we did not manage to finish yet again. Mike was in a strong position, and he was ahead in points, but Hendy had built War Suns and was looking to spread some death and destruction. Colin and I, as always, were waiting to attack the losers, and Cim, while he had control of Mecatol Rex, was building a large home army to stave off my encircling forces.

Of course, we did not start right at noon either, and we did have to teach Hendy to play, but we were pretty efficient. But, Twilight Imperium 3 is a monster game in the true sense of the word, and it requires a significant time commitment.

One thing I noticed is the way that the board developed this time. Some players were very disadvantaged as to resource planets close to home. I am starting to think that players should be able to place the two hexes on either side of their home world at the same time as they place their home system, choosing them from their initially dealt hexes. This would give at least two accessible systems to each player, and could help to even out the resource distribution.

Another idea that I am toying with is to automatically give control of the planets on either side of the home system to the players, so that the first few turns can be more streamlined. The game really starts getting interesting once the neutral systems are all claimed, and I think that this could make the game move a bit faster without having too many negative impacts. It would also allow players to build a few more ships early on, which could help to fuel the pace of expansion.

Another idea that I am toying with is to change the proscription against placing two blank systems in a row slightly, so that two players cannot place blank systems one after another. In this way, there should be more planets in the centre of the map, which should make for more competition for resources, and give players a reason to expand towards Mecatol Rex.

I have to say, even though TI3 is a long game, it is very fun. The interactions, both on and off board, are very interesting, and you really do get a sense of the grand scope of space conquest.
When Mike and Hendy were on their way out, I asked Cim and Colin if they were interested in a game of Princes of the Renaissance. The look on Mike's face was priceless, and I could tell that he really wanted to play, but family requirements were more important that day.

After some steaks on the barbie, Cim, Colin and I tried to out maneuver each other in POTR. The game has some similarities to other titles, most specifically Goa, as it is primarily a game based on auctions for scarce resources which are represented by tiles. I do believe that there will be even more competition in a 4, 5 or 6 player game, but even the 3 player game was enjoyable.

Once everyone understood how the game was played and points were scored, we tried to be the best Condottierre we could be. Of course, that meant that many battles were heavily influenced by bribery, and some battles were not fought to win, but to lose. Bids were frozen, often at zero, and players took advantage of other players' lack of resources to get some very good deals. Which all goes to say that we had a great game, and we are definitely looking forward to our next session of Renaissance warmongering.

After Colin left for home, Cim and I kicked back for some Battlestar Galactica, as the end to a very good day of gaming.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Twilight Imperium 3 - Or how to make your friends think that 5 DN's are "just visiting" Mecatol Rex

Earlier in the week, I put out a call to arms for Sunday afternoon at Foster Street Studios. I knew that I was going to have a free afternoon, as I would be back from Toronto, where I visited with Karen and her family before she flew back to SPALO.

Colin, Cim, Paul and I were in for some mayhem, and Mike asked if he could bring his girlfriend Julia along. We bent the boys club rules enough to let her in, and she managed to beat us down for it, but I digress.

Colin had brought Twilight Imperium 3 with him, and he was anxious to get the first game under his belt. But, he wanted to go over the rule one last time, so the rest of us played one of Mike's new acquisitions, Colossal Arena.

It was a good game, and creatures were falling left and right. in the end, it was Julia who had made the most profitable bets, showing that she definitely had a career as a sports promoter ahead of her. She then avidly took to the PS2 for some Champions of Norrath: Return to Arms, which seemed to be a hit.

Colin then started to edumacate us in the rules of TI3. We started by selecting our races and building the galaxy, and then we dived in. Of course, as none of us had played TI3 before, it took some getting used to the rules, but after a while, we started to get more of a feel for what we should be doing, as well as how the different mechanics fit together. There were a few comments of "This is like the Armed Settlers of Serenissima Rico", or something like that.

Unfortunately, Paul had to leave early, which left us with a dilemma. We decided to keep our individual races, rebuild the board for 4 players and start again. We paid a lot of attention to the board construction this time around, and it seemed that Mike (Barony of Letnev) and Cim (Yssaril Tribe "Gollum dudes") had the most favourable planets, along with two wormhole nexii that would take them into close proximity to both Colin (Mentak) and Me (XXCha).

Both because of geographic positioning and resource availability,. Colin and I soon formed an alliance. We each undertook to defend the nexii against Mike and Cim, and we tried to leverage the most out of our trade agreements, often not allowing Mike and Cim to form any. As we played on, and the home fleets started to swell, we could see that the peace we had known would soon be broken, especially once Cim took a sizeable force into Mecatol Rex, probably to obtain his secret VP.

Knowing that 2 VP would put Cim very close to victory, we did our best to dislodge him, but only Mike had the available forces to make the attempt. What followed was a battle of epic proportions, wherein the absolute necessity of a sizeable fighter screen was evidenced. In the end, Cim's forces were demolished, but Mike was left with only a damaged War Sun and two ground troops in control. Colin and I could smell the blood in the water, as our light, yet undamaged, forces started to make their way both towards Mecatol Rex and Cim's Home system.

At that point, we had to call the game, as it had taken us many hours to get to this point. but now, we grokked the game, how its systems intertwined, and I am sure that our next game will advance much quicker.

Though the game lasted many hours, it was enjoyable. As the pace of expansion grew, it was very tense watching what systems would be conquered next. Even the politics of the empire were interesting, and many votes came down to the wire. The action cards were nasty, yet flavourful, and allowed some very interesting things to happen.

TI3 is probably not a game for all groups, but if this all sounds appealing to you, then you should either buy the game or "convince" one of your friends to take the plunge. It is not a short game, and to call it a war game is to focus on only one part of the experience. It is more of an empire simulation, where the military aspect, while important, is not the only means of exerting control. I am sure that many players will try their best to avoid conflicts and to concentrate on other ways of earning VP.

And the lunch peperoni was also very good!