(3-6 players, 4-8 hour* playtime)
*Actual time may be much longer!
Twilight Imperium is a fabulous marathon of a table top game, one that requires an entire day, a fridge full of snacks, and friends who can endure the ups and downs of galactic interspecies negotiations.
I played Twilight Imperium for the first time on Boxing Day 2019. We had six players, five of whom had never played the game before. Full of greasy breakfast and eager to learn, we chose our races (I took the Emirates of Hacan, aka Space Cats) and set up our galaxy, defending our home planets with miniature spaceship Destroyers and Cruisers. At that point we checked the time; two hours had flown by, and we hadn’t even started the game.
The game itself feels like it moves quickly. There is a lot of strategy involved, so even when it is not your turn, you’re likely gaming out moves, checking your technology tree, and calculating how many Dreadnoughts you can afford. It’s complex, and I would recommend playing with at least one person who is familiar with the game. But the endless options draw you in, and it feels amazing when the game settles into your bones and you start intuiting what the best play is.
We wound up playing for thirteen hours. Yes, you read that right. We started at 10:00 a.m. and ended at 11:00 p.m. Some players lagged. Others pretended to do so, waiting until the last minute to run a carefully thought out play, only to be defeated in the end by a lone planet bound Infantry. I won, though admittedly it was in large part because of my alliance with my girlfriend, who played as the Mentak Coalition (aka Space Pirates). It’s likely that I’m biased by my glorious victory, but the thirteen hours was definitely worth it. Others must have agreed, because we played again less than a month later.
- Enormous Replay Ability. Especially because you create a new galaxy every game by laying out space tiles as advantageously as possible.
- Multiple Ways to Win. There are public and private goals that earn players victory points, meaning you can lean heavily into technology, war, trade, or expansion in your bid to accumulate points.
- Allies. You can play the game as cutthroat as you like, but at some point, it’s likely that you’re going to want to ally with another player. Often this is the person who shares a trade agreement with you, but the benefits don’t have to stop there. Guard borders, vote together, and when the time is right…stab them in the back to claim Mecatol Rex for yourself!
- It is really, really long. If that doesn’t make you salivate, you should probably give this game a pass.
- When it isn’t really, really long, it’s because of a sudden death card that can feel unsatisfying when played. This happened the second time I played Twilight Imperium. We finished in “only” seven hours, but it was because a card was drawn that said whoever had the most victory points at that moment automatically won. Some people might put this in the pro section, but when I’m seven hours into a game, I want to claw my way to the finish line.
I recommend Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition to Uber Nerds who love strategy, intricate game pieces, and a deep emotional investment that can withstand hours of play.
Have you played Twilight Imperium?
Share your thoughts in the comments below!