Races of Twilight Imperium
Space is an awfully big place. In order to fully reflect that, a space boardgame needs to be appropriately-scaled; hence Twilight Imperium, a game that comes in a box as big as a 1980s Hyundai and takes longer to play than it takes Frodo and Samwise to walk to the slopes of Mordor. Twilight Imperium is not for the attention-deficit crowd, nor is it for the non-committed gamers who would rather fast-deal a set of 5 or 6 card games in an hour. However, for those who few gamers who love a good challenge and are committed to excellence, TI:3 can provide one of the most epic board game experiences anyone is likely to encounter.
This weekend, I’m lucky enough to be heading to a local gaming convention in High Point, NC – the local MACE gathering of gamers – and even luckier to be taking part in an epic 8-hour Twilight Imperium session on Sunday. A couple of my fellow gamers who have never had the fortune to delve into the world of TI:3 asked for a quick summary of the races from the core game. Who was I to argue? Therefore, I present the Dice Hate Me guide to alien races (the first in a multi-part review of Twilight Imperium to unfold over the next few months). Enjoy!
The Barony of Letnev
Just as you’d expect from any group that allows themselves to be governed by a baron, this race of hardened military types would like nothing better than to pin most of the galaxy under the heels of their jet-black jackboots.
Game Advantage: The Barony can use Trade Goods to give ships involved in space battles and ground forces involved in planetary invasions a boost for a round. Just possessing this ability allows the Barony a lot of leeway in negotiating space for their fleets to pass through; however, it does make it a bit harder for the Barony to open trade agreements since most races don’t like the idea of helping the Barony stomp on their faces later in the game. Oh, and the Barony can also have one more ship than their current fleet limitations allow, so that’s fun.
Best Played By: Players whose idea of diplomacy involves the phrase “… or I’ll ram my seven-ship fleet down your throat.”
Sci-Fi Equivalents: Next Generation-era Romulans (and Cardassians)
The Emirates of Hacan
A mostly-gentle and genteel race of Lionoids that prefer trade and peace over militaristic might. Don’t underestimate the Hacans, though – through the power of their mighty trade agreements, they are far from pussycats.
Game Advantage: Trade, trade, trade. No player can veto open trade negotiations when the Hacan are involved, and they also receive more trade goods than other races. Trade contracts may not be broken for any reason, and the Hacans can also trade coveted Action cards with other races.
Best Played By: Hippies
Sci-Fi Equivalents: The Alderaanians (Leia’s people before the Death Star vaporized their homeworld – lesson learned)
Federation of Sol
Game Advantage: The Federation begins the game with a large number of ground forces. Because there are lots and lots of humans, they can multiply like rabbits and easily fortify ground forces on planets already controlled by the Federation. Yup, even more humans. The Federation also receives extra Command Counters, which makes commanding all those ground troops a bit easier.
Best Played By: Players who love the idea of throwing lots and lots of cannon fodder at their foes. See: Imperial Guard players in Warhammer 40,000; Ratmen players in Warhammer.
Sci-Fi Equivalents: Space Marines from Starship Troopers
The L1Z1X Mindnet
Game Advantage: Not only do the L1Z1X begin with a sizeable fleet and four very useful technological advances, they can also build Dreadnoughts (the second-nastiest ships in the game) cheaper than everyone else. Their dreadnoughts also receive bonuses during space battles and ground forces gain bonuses during planetary invasion. All those nasty bonuses from all the cybernetics are handy, but don’t expect to win the game through diplomacy – this race is scary and most races won’t help you for fear of being assimilated.
Best Played By: Programmers
Sci-Fi Equivalents: The Borg
The Mentak Coalition
Game Advantage: The Mentak start with a decent fleet which they can use to annoy the crap out of everybody. Before any space battle, the Mentak can fire a pre-emptive volley with their cruisers and destroyers that can destroy opponents ships before they get a chance at return fire. If that weren’t annoying enough, the Mentak can also steal trade goods from up to two players every round. Yes, every round. Hey, Mentak – good luck opening up trade negotiations, you thieving punks.
Best Played By: Players who live for a good backstabbin’
Sci-Fi Equivalents: Every customer in the Mos Eisley cantina, including Han Solo
The Naalu Collective
Game Advantage: A truly impressive starting fleet. The Naalu are also slippery little suckers – they always go first every round and can retreat from any space battle before it begins without suffering casualties. Their fighters also receive bonuses during combat, ensuring that most opponents are going to surrounded and swarmed to death by pesky little ships.
Best Played By: Players with the confidence to go first to subtly dictate the flow of the game
Sci-Fi Equivalents: Asari (Mass Effect)
Game Advantage: A fairly well-rounded race, if you can ignore the fact that they are repugnant insectoids. The N’orr start with a decent fleet and get a bonus during space battles and planetary invasion. This ability – and, indeed, the lack of any others – makes the N’orr a respected foe, but not altogether feared, which can make diplomacy and trade negotiations feasible.
Best Played By: Players who like to keep their options open – until it’s time to lay the hammer down and swarm for the hivemind
Sci-Fi Equivalents: Thranx (Alan Dean Foster)
The Universities of Jol-Nar
The brainy race known as the Hylar recognized ages ago that the true path to dominance lie in science and technology rather than brawn. The Jol-Nar seek to use their oversized brains to better serve their people – and enslave the rest of the galaxy for use in science experiments.
Game Advantage: Technology. The Jol-Nar start with some really useful technological advances, and can gain more fairly easy every time they execute the Technology strategy. The Jol-Nar don’t fair too well in a space battle, though, getting negatives on all their rolls. That’s ok, though, because any player not focusing on gaining technology for victory points when playing the Jol-Nar deserves to lose.
Best Played By: Thinky types
Sci-Fi Equivalents: The Shi’ar (Early development, before superior race induction)
The Xxcha Kingdom
Game Advantage: The Xxcha are in it for the long game – they get bonuses when executing the secondary ability of the Diplomacy strategy and are able to subtly manipulate the play of Political cards. The Xxcha are also a very defensive race in combat; opponents suffer a penalty on all opening rolls in space combat and planetary invasions.
Best Played By: Reactionary types and those who like to fly under the radar, slowly building a massive empire to crush their blustery foes
Sci-Fi Equivalents: The Drac (Enemy Mine, and the sequel novels)
The Yssaril Tribes
Long ago, the ancient race of the Lazax ruled the cosmos. In a back corner of the galaxy, the Lazax colonized the smallish planet Retillion, harvesting the delicious menn root that grew there. For awhile, things were fantastic on Retillion – until the sneaky, aboriginal, green goblins that lived in the shadows there systematically kicked some Lazax butt. Over the eons, the various tribes of the Yssaril adapted to Lazax technology and took the stars, using subterfuge, stealth and their superior spies to spread like vermin throughout the colonized territories.
Game Advantage: Subterfuge. The Yssaril are the masters of the secret attack and sabotage. They draw one additional Action card per round, which means they are privy to a wealth of surprise powers, advantages and tricks. The Yssaril can also sneak a peek at one other opponent’s Action cards each round, providing them with very valuable information which they can use to subtly kick some butt at just the right moment.
Best Played By: Information junkies and those players who like to play a conniving, cerebral game of cat & mouse
Sci-Fi Equivalents: The Ferengi
- Pub Play: Cathedral
- Launch Pad: In Space, No One Can Hear You Whimper
- Kingsport Horror: Further Delving Into Madness
- Chrononauts – Fourth-Dimensional Fun