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Jumping Into Twilight Imperium: A Beginner’s Log

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For a while now I’ve been looking to get into space games, but many of the ones I’ve seen just haven’t fit the bill. I’ve heard of games like Eclipse, Race for the Galaxy, and Cosmic Encounter, but I’ve not been able to try those out just yet. There was one game that was pitched to me that has always stuck in the back of my head, and that game was Twilight Imperium.

The game has a lot of buzz surrounding it, and it’s something that a lot of gamers don’t take to lightly when talking about. From what I can gather, Twilight Imperium is sort of the benchmark that other games of its kind are measured against. Whether that’s a good or bad thing I’ve yet to figure out, but it didn’t change the fact that I was intimidated by everything I’d heard about the game thus far.

On the surface the game had everything I was looking for – colonization, unit construction, space battles, exploration, and diplomacy. Honestly that’s all I could ever ask for in a space game aside from customization (which I later learned Eclipse has). You see I knew all this, yet the idea of playing the game still daunted me. From everything I was hearing, Twilight Imperium carried a lot of weight that just seemed too out of my range to get into. I was hearing things ranging from the game’s just too hard to it takes an entire day to play one session, sometimes more. As a father with a lot on his plate, this discouraged me a bit. In my heart I wanted to get into the game and experience its brighter sides, as I heard a lot of people also say it was fun once you got into it, but it all seemed too big.

Even though I had doubts about the game from what I’d heard I decided to learn more about it through online sources. I later found out that a lot of people felt the same way I did: overwhelmed with the magnitude of such a game. A lot of players did exactly what I’d done which is avoid playing the game simply because of that overwhelming sensation it gave off. It was then that I realized that if I didn’t at least try I’d be like this forever, and the chance for Twilight Imperium to become the game I’ve been looking for became my motivation for giving it a shot.

It turned out that a friend of mine picked up a copy of the game’s third edition through a gaming auction at our local game store. He got it at a huge steal and the game’s components were all in-tact. The guy who owned it previously took real good care of it, as he did with all of his games. This was motivation enough for my friend to give it a shot, which worked out well considered he’d dropped some cash on a new game. He organized a playtime for players to meet up, and before I knew it I was signed up to give my first try at Twilight Imperium.

Getting to the shop to set up the game I felt the tension rise. I couldn’t believe I was going to sit down with this hulk of a game. We planned a six-hour time block to get through as much of the game as we could, and I set out with intent to stay as long as I could. Luckily a lot of us showed up at the same time so we put some tables together and got to setting up the game.

There are a ton of components with Twilight Imperium. I can see where it looks so overwhelming considering the sheer amount of miniatures, cards, and other items that need to be kept track of while playing. Luckily the previous owner had everything organized together, complete with hand-made deck boxes for all the cards. This made things a lot more interesting, and I found myself eager to crack things open.

One of the players joining us was no stranger to the game, so he helped explain some rules and set things up correctly. Once we conversed a bit our game referee (the guy who basically watches over us, explains rules, and helps solve problems) arrived. He walked us through rules and helped us set up the actual game board.

At this point I was still nervous, but I felt more of an excitement to learn the game than anything. There was so much to do, and the overwhelming feeling sort of drained away and was replaced with an eagerness to get started. I was feeling a lot better now that I was surrounded by others who wanted to play too.

We were dealt our starting planet, which dictated what race we’d be throughout the game. I was lucky enough to pick up The Mentak Coalition, who are basically the space pirates of the Twilight Imperium world. We took time reading our player cards and going over the special abilities we had. It was a very open-type deal, and the excitement built. I was ready more now than I ever had been to dive first into this awe-inspiring space game. It was amazing that a tabletop board game could infuse someone with so many feelings and they’d not even played it.

Everyone got their starting race, and our referee explained how each little note on our player cards worked. We were dealt counters, explained how they were used, and after a bit more rules talk we took our first turn. The journey officially then began.

This is merely the first part of a saga that will continue over time. I wanted to post something that could serve as a starting point for my trek into one of the most famous games in the tabletop world. Something I definitely want to get across here is that when I sat down with other players and was walked through the rules of the game, I felt the overwhelming feeling I once had dissipate. As it went away it was replaced with something exciting that made me want to learn as much as I could about Twilight Imperium so I could just play to my heart’s content. I will say that, concerning the length of the game, I made it through a total of 5 hours, and they seemed to just fly by. I ended up having so much fun, and I definitely don’t regret sitting down with it.

Next time I’ll talk more about what happened in the game from a different perspective. I’ll try and cover some rules and explain some of the game’s core mechanics. Until then I will say this: if you’re letting any sort of intimidation or fear dictate whether or not you think you’ll like this game, I urge you to gather some players and give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.