We’ve come a long way, Your Excellency. You’ve become acquainted with the galaxy surrounding the ruined throne-world of Mecatol Rex, you’ve learned how to command your fleets and transfer forces between systems, you’re familiar with a variety of strategies, and you know how to issue commands to your Leaders, give referendums to your Representatives, and hire Mercenaries. But all of these are mere building blocks on your path to victory – how do you walk that path?
Victory in Twilight Imperium is not necessarily contingent on having the most planets, beating an opponent into stardust, or even acquiring the most Trade Goods (currency that can be used for production or influence). Victory comes in the form of Objectives. Players are competing to be the first to achieve a certain number of Victory Points. The means to earn those Victory Points are dicated by cards that define different Objectives. Some are Public, and some are Secret.
Public Objectives are made available to all players throughout the game, one at a time. These vary from having a certain number of Technologies and spending Influence, to occupying systems or even Mecatol Rex. At the end of each game round, any player can claim one of the available Public Objectives. A player who takes the appropriate Strategy can also claim one, giving them an edge in Victory Points. Temporarily, at least.
Secret Objectives (and their smaller cousins Preliminary Objectives, available in the expansions), on the other hand, are dealt to each player at the start of the game. These are worth more points than the starting Public Objectives, but are more focused and harder to obtain. Often they will bring players into direct conflict. Like Public Objectives, they must be claimed at the end of the round. Finally, it is worth noting that neither Public nor Secret Objectives can be scored if the player’s Home System is occupied by another player.
There are other ways to acquire Victory Points, be they ancient artifacts or unique finds uncovered on distant suns, but for the most part, the Objectives are what you want to aim for. Watch for them when they appear, and plan your strategies accordingly. Best of luck, Your Excellency!
Pictured: The Admiral (top), General (center left), Agent (center right), Scientist (bottom left), and Diplomat (bottom right).
You may think, Your Excellency, that taking control of the galaxy is a lonely prospect. Looking at your home system and the expanse of space spreading out towards the throne world, huge fleets floating silently in the void, environmental hazards callously standing between you and your goals – it can be rather daunting. Thankfully, you aren’t as alone as you seem. You can and will have assistance, even if you have to pay for it.
Twilight Imperium provides options for several ‘minions’, as I like to call them. Not military units per se, they are supplemental facets of your bid for dominance. The systems they add to the game are rather straightforward, but can take a bit of explaining, so let’s begin.
Each race can include three ‘Leaders’, luminaries of your people that help you in various ways. Like your Ground Forces and PDS units, Leaders are always considered either on a planet or being carried by a ship. However, a Leader can be transported by any kind of ship, and never counts towards the ship’s capacity. Leaders are powerful, but fragile: they can be captured or killed if their transporting ship is destroyed in a Space Battle, or if an Invasion Combat in which they’re involved fails. Captured leaders can be ransomed and sometimes executed, provided you are unable to rescue them. Let’s leave out the particulars of such operations for now, and learn about the five different types.
Scientists increase technology discounts provided by planets, add to the build capacity of nearby Space Docks, and add to the defenses of a planet their own, preventing bombardment from War Suns.
Diplomats delay incoming invasions and allow fleets (with permission) to pass through enemy space.
Generals allow re-rolls during Invasion Combat, make bombardment much more difficult, and give a bonus to defending Ground Forces.
Admirals give the ship they’re on one extra die, increase the movement of a Dreadnaught they occupy, and prevents defenders from retreating (unless they also have an Admiral).
Agents help invading Ground Forces avoid enemy PDS fire, allow you to take over enemy Space Docks and PDS units, and can be sacrificed to take the role of a ‘Sabotage’ Action Card, preventing an opponent’s Action Card from happening.
When the Assembly is called, instead of voting on referendums yourself, you can send a Representative. You are, after all, a very busy potential potentate. At the start of the game, you will get three Representative cards. Each one adds a number of votes and sometimes have special abilities, like gaining you extra Trade Goods or forcing someone to vote a certain way. Most of them are Counselors, but some are either Spies or Bodyguards.
At the Assembly, each player chooses one Representative and sends them in face-down. Starting with the Speaker and going around clockwise, any Spies that were sent are revealed and their abilities resolved first. If the target of a Spy is a Bodyguard, it may also resolve an ability as a result of being targeted. After all Spies are resolved, non-Spies are revealed in the same way. Players can then offer one another Promissary Notes before voting occurs. These are special, binding agreements that may help a player get what they want out of the Assembly. Either way, if a Representative is assassinated or otherwise killed (by a suicide bomber, for example), he or she is removed from the game entirely. Bodyguards cannot be assassinated, but can die by other means.
Attracted to money and opportunity, Mercenaries are available for hire to anyone activating the Trade III Strategy card. When executing the primary ability of Trade, the active player looks at the top two cards of the deck of available Mercenaries, chooses one, and returns the other to the bottom of the deck. Each Mercenary card has a corresponding token, with one side for Space and the other for Ground. The active player places his new hire Ground-side up on any friendly planet. Mercenaries can switch between Ground and Space during a Tactical or Transfer actions, as well as specifically from Space to Ground during Invasion Combat.
While they can add to your forces and abilities, Mercenaries cannot hold planets on their own. Any planet robbed of its Ground Forces reverts to neutral even if the Mercenary survives. Some Mercenaries have Evasion, allowing them to live longer in combat. However, if your Mercenary is killed, both the card and the token are removed from the game.
We’ve looked at the core concepts of Twilight Imperium‘s Tactical Actions, the different Strategic options, and now we’ve covered Leaders, Representatives, and Mercenaries. The biggest outstanding question remains:
The Strategy Cards, as compared to an ordinary Reference Paw.
The galaxy is a dangerous place, Your Excellency, and it is always changing. With the Lazax Empire gone and so many leaders vying for power, the situation is as mutable as the stars themselves as they wheel in their courses. If you mean to prevail, you need to draw back from the tactical view and see the galaxy as a whole. You need to plan around and ahead of your opponents. You need the right strategy.
Last week, we discussed the very basics of Twilight Imperium, in the form of Tactical and Transfer actions. But I also mentioned these large, trapezoidal cards that determine the order of play in a given round. These are Strategy cards, and they have a pretty large part to play as the game progresses. As previously discussed, you can activate your Strategy card when it’s your turn instead of taking a Tactical action or using an appropriate Action Card. It does not have to be the first thing you do in the round. It is also worth noting that you cannot pass your turn until after you’ve activated your Strategy for the round.
I’m going to go over the broad categories of each Strategy, and then highlight some specifics from the expansions. Note that most of these cards have primary and secondary abilities. While the primary ability usually applies entirely to the player using the Strategy, other players can use the Secondary ability, in clockwise order from the active player, usually by spending a Command Counter from their Strategy Allocation area.
What follows is a breakdown of all 8 Strategies, what they do, and how you can benefit from taking the card in question.
1 – Initiative/Leadership
In most circumstances, the biggest benefit to taking this Strategy card is that it allows you to go first in the round. In the base game, Initiative lets you claim the Speaker token, which means you also go first when choosing the Strategy next round. It also saves you Command Counters when executing secondary abilities on other player’s Strategy cards.
Leadership, on the other hand, grants its user new Command Counters. The secondary ability lets all players spend Influence to pick up more, including the active player.
2 – Diplomacy
There are times when words are more powerful than weapons. Diplomacy allows the player to ease some of the pressure they may be feeling from their opponents in a direct fashion that does not involve combat. The basic game lets the player force a peace between themselves an opponent for a round, and allows the other players to refresh previously exhausted systems. The expansion’s Diplomacy II instead allows the active player to establish a Demilitarized Zone for a round, marking a system so that NONE of their opponents can activate it. The card also allows for the peaceful annexation of an unoccupied system.
3 – Political/Assembly
Ah, politics. A process simultaneously more civilized and more vicious than warfare itself. In Twilight Imperium, there is a deck of Political Cards filled with agendas from bans on weapons research to dispensation of resources to another player. The basic Political Strategy lets the primary player manipulate the deck after they resolve the top card, as well as providing Action Cards and Command Counters. Assembly, on the other hand, offers the active player the choice of taking the Speaker token for themselves while naming another player to resolve an agenda, or resolving one of their own agendas while naming someone else as Speaker. This is also where players can refresh planets when using Assembly.
And then, there’s the option for Political Intrigue, which I will go into next week.
4 – Logistics/Production
Since the role of the Logistics card (providing Command Counters) is taken by the Leadership card in the expansion, we have Production instead. The active player gets to produce units at one of their space docks without activating the system. The secondary ability is similar, but limits production capacity. It’s a very straightforward Strategy.
5 – Trade
The base game of Twilight Imperium and each of its expansions all have different versions of this Strategy. In all three of them, players negotiate to exchange Trade Agreements, and collect Trade Goods from those agreements to supplement their resources. The base game is a bit harsh in that players using that card’s secondary ability must spend one of their precious Command Counters to get the goods. Shattered Empire does way with that portion of the card, and seems rather friendlier. Shards of the Throne includes Mercenaries in its Trade Strategy, and I’ll give a primer on who they are and how they work next week.
6 – Warfare
War in Twilight Imperium is all about Tactical Actions, moving your fleets and armies into position for the perfect strike. The basic Strategy card lets you take back one of your Command Counters used for a Tactical Action, allowing you to use it again elsewhere, while secondary players can move some of their smaller ships. Shattered Empire instead introduces us to the High Alert token, a far more visible way to get your point across. Placing a system on High Alert means all ships in that system get bonuses to movement and space combat. The token can move with the fleet at the player’s option, or it can remain there as a deterrent for any potential invaders. Secondarily, the improved Warfare Strategy lets players move ships, regardless of class but limited in number, without activating their destinations.
7 – Technology
This Strategy Card is how players expand the technological repertoire of their burgeoning empire. The card in Shattered Empire lets the primary player do so more quickly, while the secondary ability is cheaper for the other players. There is a simplified tech tree I’ll make available to you, courtesy of someone over at Board Game Geek. You may find it useful for planning purposes.
8 – Imperial/Bureaucracy
Twilight Imperium is won by its Objective Cards. Some of them are Public Objectives anyone can claim if they meet the requirements, while others are Preliminary or Secret Objectives specific to the individual player. The Imperial strategy lets the active player reveal one of the Public Objectives, then grants them free Victory Points, while the secondary abilities allow for the production of units. Bureaucracy, on the other hand, grants no free Victory Points but instead lets the active player manipulate the Public Objectives, and lets them score one if they can, something not normally possible before the end of the round. This allows for more flexible and, arguably, more fair play, while keeping up the pace of the game. Which is important when the game takes up your entire day.
With this knowledge, you are now prepared to play most of the game! All that remains is to break down some more specifics.
Greetings, Your Excellency! You have been chosen to lead your people towards victory on the galactic stage. The Lazax Empire has been overthrown, and Mecatol Rex is yours for the taking. Perhaps. You must command vast armies, immense spacecraft, ambassadors, trade envoys, and the very industries of the planets of the former empire to defeat your noble rivals or, at the very least, beat them to the punch. Fortunately for you, I am here to help you. I am your humble tutor, and this is Twilight Imperium.
Twilight Imperium is an expansive board game, for between 3 and 8 players, that is best described as a space opera in a box. Each player assumes control of one of the races who were formerly a part of, or interested in usurping, the Lazax Empire. From your home system, in one of the galaxy’s corners, you will head out to achieve objectives, gather resources, build your forces, and defeat the other players. The first player to a designated amount of victory points is the winner! If you want to sit down with your friends and create your own science-fiction epic, vying for power and making backdoor deals to achieve your aims, this is the game for you. Just… put aside a day for it. Yes, an entire day. Maybe more than one if you have 8 players. But we’ll get back to the timeline later; let’s talk about how you play.
For this tutorial, we will use the Federation of Sol.
Each player, including you, will get one of these command cards. It’s a reference sheet, a repository for the various counters you’ll need, and a description of your race, its background, and its mentality. When the galaxy is mapped out, which is a mini-game in and of itself, one player will start the game with this, the Speaker token, indicating that they kick off the start of a round of Twilight Imperium: the Strategy Phase. Starting with the Speaker, each player chooses one of these eight overarching Strategies. I’ll go over them in detail in a future session, but all you need to know for now, is that the Strategy cards determine the order of play for the round. So, if you choose Initiative (or Leadership, if you’re playing with the expansions, which you should), you will go first in the round, even if you are not the Speaker. But regardless of where you are in the turn order… what do you do when it’s your turn?
Strategy Cards, as compared to an ordinary Reference Paw.
The answer is simple: one of four things. (Five, if you count passing.) You can execute a Tactical action, Transfer forces between friendly systems, pull the trigger on your Strategy, play an Action card that designates you can play it ‘As an Action’, or you can pass. The round is over when all players have passed, and a new one begins. But let’s go back to that Tactical action, which is the beating heart of Twilight Imperium, the thing that keeps the game moving and slowly paints the galactic canvas, one brush-stroke of starlight at a time.
These are a few systems that could appear in your galaxy. Let’s say you have forces at Jord, your home system, and you want to move them to the Tiamat/Hercalore system. That takes a Tactical action. Take one of your Command tokens from the Command Pool area on your command card, and place it on your target system.
This is called ‘activating’ the system. You move your space forces first, possibly into a hail of defensive fire from Planetary Defense installations, and dealing with any combat in space. Then, you may move your forces from your fleet onto the planet, possibly with bombardment, and even more defensive fire, and engage in invasion combat. Once that’s done, you get any new planet cards you’ve acquired (face-down, so you can’t use them this round), your turn is over, and play proceeds. That’s a hostile system movement; how about if you have a friendly system to move to? Or build from?
It’s similar to hostile movement. You activate the system, move in your fleet and forces, and then, if you’ve controlled the system since last round, you can build a space dock there. If you already have a space dock, you can build other units here, up to a limit imposed by the industrial capacity of the planet the dock orbits.
To build, you have to exhaust (turn face down) systems with resources equal to the cost of whatever you’re building. In this example, we’re going to build two Cruisers at Jord. To pay for these Cruisers, each costing 2 resources, we first activate the system our Space Dock is in, and then exhaust Jord by turning it face-down. If Tiamat or Hercalor were ready, we could use them to build more ships or forces, but since we just got them this round, we can only exhaust Jord.
You can also do this as part of a Transfer action. Transfer actions are almost identical, but allow you to rearrange forces between two friendly systems, and build in one of them, but it consumes two of your command counters. And you need to keep that in mind, because you do not get these counters back. Not directly, anyway.
This implementation of tactical actions is part of what makes Twilight Imperium so brilliant. Downtime for the individual player is minimized. And even when it isn’t your turn, you’re going to want to see what your opponents are doing. Even if they’re light-years away from you, they might be building a fleet you’ll want to try and dilute, or guide your allies… if you have any… into attacking. You’re going to want to think two to three actions ahead, and time your movements as best you can, to obfuscate your true intent for as long as possible. For Twilight Imperium is much more than a game of moving plastic pieces and rolling dice.
scriv·en·er (skrv-nr, skrvnr)
1. A professional copyist; a scribe: “Gutenberg’s invention of movable type . . . took words out of the sole possession of monastic scriveners and placed them before the wider public” (Irvin Molotsky).
2. A notary.
Last week I gave an introduction to and brief overview of Scrivener. For reasons yet unexplained, I cannot get Scrivener working on my main PC at home. However, a version of the program works rather well on my Xubuntu-powered laptop. So I worked on importing my manuscript of Citizen in the Wilds into the program.
Scrivener can import and manipulate a wide variety of text files. Since the software includes a fully-featured text editor all its own, any formatting in the document will be preserved. It won’t carry over page breaks, and there’s a specific reason for this. Working with your writing in Scrivener has less to do with page length and chapter and really focuses on the organization and manipulation of your ideas.
Importing a file is very straightforward. Under the File menu, pick Import followed by Import Files. Select your text file and presto, it’s in Scrivener.
Once your draft is imported, you can drag it into the “Drafts” folder. From there it’s a matter of slicing it up. To make the ideas, scenes and narratives easier to understand and manipulate, you’ll want to seperate them. Find good places to break in the action, when the scene changes or the characters move on to a new topic, go to the Documents menu, mouse over Split and choose either Split at Selection to create a fresh document or Split With Selection as Title to have that fresh document begin with a particular word or phrase.
The week has been somewhat hectic and this is about as far as I’ve gotten with the manipulation of Citizen in Scrivener. But there will be more to come, specifically how the search option helps me look for repetition, the rearranging and dropping of story points and the power of inclusive editing.