Thursday, 29 March 2007

Twilight Imperium III SE - How I didn't waste my cash.

Every year for my birthday, I host a game day. Now this in and of itself is no big deal, I often have friends over to play games and most of the time we spend a good chunk of time rolling dice or moving cardboard bits about. The birthday bash is a little different. Instead of the normal lets figure out what to play last minute, as all of our games nights usually are, I get to pick the schedule.

My usual plan is to use this to play the longer, more involved games in my collection that see little play time during the rest of the year. (This is most of my games) In the past this has met with mixed success. Two years ago I tried to play A game of Thrones, I failed. Part of this was my fault, I was not prepared enough to drive this game. I was constantly looking up rules and clarifying things. The other part is that this game sucks, and so combined it was a train wreck.

The following year I was a bit more timid, we played the new version of Conquest of the Empire, with the hacked up Struggle of Empires rules. This went over pretty well with most players liking it and saying they would play again. (we have not) This was a much simpler game and the experience, while good, left me feeling that I didn't try hard enough. (We did play Gangsters after this, so thats a bonus!)

This year, determined not to be a slacker, I went all out. The game was going to be Twilight Imperium III. A game I had owned for more than a year (got it 50% off at Borders clearence) and has resigned to probably never play. The inital press on the game and my bad experience with AGoT had me worried that FFg was going to be similar to Eagle in that I would have to try before I buy, due to the games being half-baked. This was before I saw what was added to the patch.... err expansion. Shattered Empires added all the right stuff to TI3, addressing most of the major complaints about the original and adding in just enough to keep it fresh.

So I picked up a copy ASAP and started learning the game. With my past mistakes as a guide, I knew there were a few things that had to happen before I played. First, I was going to know the rules to this thing inside out. I joined an online game at www.ti3wiki.org and began to learn the ins and outs of this system. Second, I was not going to over do it with the optional rules.
One of the mistakes I made with AGoT was that I included too many options, It slowed the game too much and I lost pace, people got bored and it all went south. Determined to not do the same thing again, I spoke to anyone who would talk to me about the game. I asked what options were the best. I read through session reports and tried to see what players liked and disliked. I talked ro Rober Martin, and he insisted that I use the Age of Empires option. (This turns the objectives up at the start of the game.) Also I knew that the simulated early turns were going to be a must. I wanted to use all of the new cards, so this meant using a house rule on the Bureaucracy card. (We added to Trade Goods to it, thanks again Rob)

Due to the fact that everyone playing was a newbie, I mandated that all were to read the rules or suffer that pain of me galling them a "sucker of a thousand cocks". I compiled a 3 page rules summary, a spreadsheet of all the races, a spreadsheet of the action and political cards, a picture of the mapboard, links to the full rules for both the game and the expansion, and pictures of each players pre-determined race mat and emailed everyone in the game.

We got going at 3pm, and I had set an end time of 8:30pm. I knew we would not finish and informed all the player that this would be the case. The idea was that we were going to see if we could learn the game, and if we liked it we would then be able to play again and cut the play time down. Everyone agreed and we got going. In the end it was a huge success, we extended the playtime until about 10pm and made it through 4 full turns and a part of the 5th (one player was able to get a large lead and so we didnt finish the 5th turn.) A good time was had by all. Not a single player disliked the game and all were willing to have another go at it. A success beyond what I could have hoped for.

So if you want some advice on how to play this game with a bunch of newbies... email Rob Martin :) I will be happy to help as well.

-M

16 comments:

Nonamnon said...

Malloc,

Thanks for a great post, and for putting in the required effort to enjoy TI3: Shattered Empire. I have personally enjoyed 5 plays of this gem since its release, and I love to know that the joy of galactic domination is spreading.

Ken Bradford said...

I used to try to count the ways TI3 kicks ass, but I lost count.


We played it last month with the expansion...man, I *thought* I liked it before, but Shattered Empires just puts it in a whole new plane of greatness.

We will never play without public objectives, fast start, the artifacts, and ISC II ever again. Incredible.

Mr Skeletor said...

I can't believe you dissed Game of Thrones.
That's a shootable offense.

the red phantom said...

Malloc,

I think that idiot Natus from BGG would actually have liked your report. I'm surprised you didn't get ejected from this blog for your heretical views!

At first glance, it sounds like a phenomenal amount of prep for a game you're not yet crazy about, but I'm doing about that much prep learning EE for a match this weekend. And if TI3 really delivers, that's a huge plus. I can't wait to play with the expansion.

Now when is Barnes & Nobles having that sale again? ;)

Malloc said...

Mr. Skeletor.

A game of Thrones is the biggest pile of glommed together game mechanics to ever be put in a box.

Its a lame combination of Diplomacy (one of the greatest games ever), lord of the rings confrontation, and maybe a little Dune. It all looks like it should rock but the end product sucks.

There are 2 major flaws in this game. 1st is the power of the fucking boats. Those things can do anything. (and yes i used the ports) and 2nd is that there are not enough spaces on the map. Someone is about to win the fucking games every turn. So your alliances shift to prevent the winner every turn and for no other reason than if you don't you lose. Then for no reason at all after 10 turns the thing just ends. Its a mess. It should have been a good game and its not, its crap.

Nate (Natus) is spot on about this game. He may cast too wide of a net with the rest of FFg but for htis one he nailed it.

*Also note I read the 1st book and yeah it was violent and had some sex in it however, It sucked too, but thats another story.*

-M

Malloc said...

The B&N sale happens in Feb. Each year when they clear out hte games they had for x-mas.

I guess FFg didn't do well there. This year it was RGG and Alea games.

-M

hacksword said...

There are 2 major flaws in this game. 1st is the power of the fucking boats. Those things can do anything. (and yes i used the ports)

Boats are powerful, but that just encourages everyone to make them. If you don't want enemy ships raiding or supporting against your coastal areas, protect them with ships of your own.

and 2nd is that there are not enough spaces on the map. Someone is about to win the fucking games every turn.

I think this is a good thing. I'd rather play a game where you're engaged with other players right from the start, rather than having to spend several turns in the beginning to build-up, explore, and move across the map.

Then for no reason at all after 10 turns the thing just ends.

You have a point here. You need something to prevent the game from going on forever, but I wish they picked a more thematic reason. Maybe end the game after a certain number of Muster cards turn up; the Houses no longer have any troops they can raise for the war, or something.

HG

Malloc said...

hacksword said...

Boats are powerful, but that just encourages everyone to make them. If you don't want enemy ships raiding or supporting against your coastal areas, protect them with ships of your own.


So a game based on a book where boats are mentioned on about 3 pages becomes about who controls the sea? This also compounts the small map problem.


I think this is a good thing. I'd rather play a game where you're engaged with other players right from the start, rather than having to spend several turns in the beginning to build-up, explore, and move across the map.


Its not the player interaction thats the problem, diplomacy has tons of player interactions and the map here is much larger. The number of spaces needed to win is a larger % of the total spaces on the board.

The problem with AGoT is that alliances are usually based on nothing more than preventing a win. This is not player interaction this is a broken game!

Another problem I have with AGoT is that this game copies what so many other games do well, but poorly.

If I want negotiation I will play Dune or Diplomacy, if I want to flip cards to determine a battle I will play LoTR Confrontation. Diplomcay even does the secret move thing better. (This reminds me, I want to write an article on how the fact that armies don't get destroyed often in Dip makes it a great game, Imagine TI3 if this were the case.)

AGoT needed more testing and the Patch for this game fixed little and made the leader cards way too random. (and not a good random)

Mr. Petersen learned from his mistakes in AGoT. TI3 is a better product soup to nuts.

-M

Michael Barnes said...

Well, I liked AGoT a lot more the first three or four times I played it than the last three or four times...unlike games that reveal a lot of subtlety and possibility with repeat plays, AGoT tends to reveal more limitation and restriction- the end result is that the game takes on this odd "canned" feeling. I think it's a smart design and more or less I think Mr. Petersen was fairly successful in what he was going for...but it's not something I really ever want to play now.

TI3- Malloc's article really points out that having a little committment and putting a little effort into a more complex game yields a much more rewarding experience than following the popular "shrinkwrap to endgame in 90 minutes" truckstop hooker mentality that keeps a lot of the richer, more detailed games from hitting the table more often. The article also demonstrates how getting players actually involved in the learning process (versus merely teaching the rules) makes a HUGE difference.

Many famers today want instant gratification, they're no different or better than any other consumer...I've heard many, many times "I don't want to play a 4 hour long game if I have no chance of winning". Fuck that. Grow some god damn balls.

Michael Barnes said...

Clarification- "Famers" do indeed want instant gratification, but that should have read "gamers". Obviously.

hughthehand said...

I have not played any of the games mentioned above. I can add no input on the discussion.

But I still enjoyed reading it. Thank you.

Mr Skeletor said...

A game of Thrones is the biggest pile of glommed together game mechanics to ever be put in a box.

What a pile of absolute horseshit.
GOT is by far the most 'elegant' of FFGs entire line.
Boats may be strong, but they can't capture cities, so claiming they are overpowered is utter bullshit.
I have seen the game hit 10 turns once, so I have no problem with the end timer.
As far as the board being to cramped, all I can say is what the fuck? You would rather a game where it takes 3 turns before you can engage?
Shifting alliances every turn so you don't loose? Blow things out of proportion much?

But whatever. You stick to that fucking pointless exercise called diplomacy, I'll stick to the quality stuff.

Oh and as to your comment "So a game based on a book where boats are mentioned on about 3 pages becomes about who controls the sea? " - you might want to read past the first book before you claim to be an expert on the series.

hacksword said...

So a game based on a book where boats are mentioned on about 3 pages becomes about who controls the sea? This also compounts the small map problem.

Naval battles are more important in the later books. Sea superiority is a major plot point in books 2 and 4.

The problem with AGoT is that alliances are usually based on nothing more than preventing a win. This is not player interaction this is a broken game!

I disagree. In the games I've played, we make alliances just to have one less front to worry about. Besides, there was an article on this site about house rules a few days ago. If you think the map is too small, why not increase the number of cities/strongholds required for victory?

If I want negotiation I will play Dune or Diplomacy, if I want to flip cards to determine a battle I will play LoTR Confrontation. Diplomcay even does the secret move thing better.

I'll confess to never having played these three games. Maybe they really are better than Game of Thrones. My point is that GoT is one of my favorite games right now, regardless of any other game that I've played.

AGoT needed more testing and the Patch for this game fixed little and made the leader cards way too random. (and not a good random)

A Clash of Kings isn't an all-or-nothing expansion. If you don't like the new House Cards, don't use them.

Ken Bradford said...

I love Game of Thrones. It's been a huge hit for us.

The small board? That's freaking great, man! And it's great for the same reason the "fast start" rules in TI3 are great. Let's get past the "ooh, let's do a little land grab" phase and get to the meat of the game! I was (pleasantly) surprised at how often I found myself near the point of an opponent's sword--every move is critical. This is not a game for sloppy play.


The boats powerful? Yeah, they're strong. But they can't control cities, and count against your supply. Unless supply is just ridiculously abundant for you, this weakens you by land.

That being said, the ports are nice, just to prevents being boned by a superior fleet. You can raid their support all day without fear (maybe this point was missed in your game with ports...? Because with ports, ship support just doesn't happen. Raids go from "those orders I use when I have too many to issue" to "hey, get off my coast you Grejoy hosers!"


I like the non-random combat resolution. Yes, it is ripped wholesale from Confrontation, though I believe I've read somewhere that this mechanic was present in another game first (base strength + cardplay to determine overall strength). Dungeon Twister also takes this mechanic, to good success. It's derivative, but it works. It also adds a lot of strategy to the game where a dice roll would fail you, particularly in the scope of this game where relatively few would be thrown.


Diplomacy is used to stop the leader, but as mentioned to also help you craft fronts. It is easier to accomplish something in pairs than alone...think Greyjoy and Stark in alliance, sweeping South without fear of reprisal from each other.

I used to see these older guys playing Diplomacy at a game store several years ago...it was long bouts of furrowed glances at the board, furtive whispers, walking off to other places to talk to each other, then finally some actual gameplay took place as their orders were revealed.


The "meat" of Diplomacy is provided almost exclusively by the players, the actual game is so bare-boned and isn't functional unless the players push it along. In AGoT, I can at least accomplish something on my own if need be, instead of bouncing people off of each other all the times.


Also, AGoT doesn't seem to inspire red-faced rants at each other over betrayal...cripes, it's a 2-3 hour game. I prefer the feel of that to the 'culture' that Diplomacy seems to inspire.


Yes, I know I will have my AT badge revoked for these words about Diplomacy. Just speakin' my mind, though.


AGoT is by far the most elegant (oops) of in-house FFG designs and it, along with Twilight Imperium show that Christian Petersen does indeed have a knack for this whole game design thing.

robartin said...

I agree with Skeletor that AGoT is FFG's most "elegant" design. It is a really well put together game. I would love to love it. But as a Diplomacy player, it just doesn't quite have that epic scope and grandeur that I expect from this kind of game. I want to take over the world, and in AGoT it's more about using your limited forces as best as possible to claim important territories. While this certainly holds true to the book, it just doesn't pull me in like Diplomacy does. Granted, standing in Diplomacy's shadow is a tough spot to be in. Few if any of these games we're talking about will even be remembered at all in 50 years. So for me, AGoT is a near miss, while TI3+expansion is a home run almost knocked out of the ballpark.

volnon said...

I really enjoy coming here to see and read the words of the "who's who" of BGG. These are the guys that made that other site interesting.

One bit of advice, and I am sure I am not the only one saying this-

CREATE A REAL WEBSITE. THIS BLOG STUFF IS OK, BUT I REALLY HOPE YOU GUYS CONSIDER IT TEMPORARY AND MOVE ON TO BIGGER AND BETTER THINGS!

Until a true website is created, I will keep dropping in and checking out the word. All of you, keep up the good work!