Twilight Imperium 4X
Three to six (eight, with ‘Shattered Empires’) players can play. Each player randomly selects a race to control. The players are each dealt a number of system tiles which they place one at a time to construct the galaxy map, with Mecatol Rex at the center. The players’ home systems are placed around the periphery of the map.
A first player is chosen randomly. That player is given the “speaker” token and is allowed to choose a strategy card for the turn first. In future turns the first choice of strategy card is given to the player who chose the “Initiative” strategy card in the last round. Each player, starting with the Speaker, chooses a strategy card for the current turn (two cards if there are 3 or 4 players). The strategy card chosen determines the order in which the players will act during the current turn, provides a primary ability that the holder of the strategy card will use during the turn, and a secondary ability that the other players may use when the primary ability is activated. There are eight strategies – Initiative, Diplomacy, Political, Logistics, Trade, Warfare, Technology, and Imperial. Any unchosen strategy cards receive bonus tokens which encourage players to choose them during the next strategy phase.
Each player, in turn order, then takes one action. Actions can either be strategic – which involves using the primary ability of their strategy card – or tactical – which involves building and moving units and combat. Each player must use their primary strategy ability at some time during the turn, to allow the other players to use the secondary ability of that strategy. Players are limited in the number of actions they can take during a turn by their supply of command tokens, which are divided between strategy (used to access the secondary action of other players’ strategy cards), fleet size (limiting the number of ships that can occupy a system), and command pools (used for tactical actions). Players continue taking actions in turn order until each player has passed.
Units and technology can be purchased with a combination of planetary resources and Trade Goods. The Trade strategy allows players to exchange Trade Agreement cards, which then allow their holder to earn Trade Goods when the Trade strategy abilities are used.
Combat plays much like Axis & Allies. It is fought in rounds with each unit rolling one or more 10-sided dice to attempt to score “hits” on the enemy player, who is allowed a counter-attack with all their units before choosing which units are destroyed.
Many aspects of play are modified both by the special abilities of the race the player is playing and by advanced technology the race controls. The Political strategy card can also introduce various laws that further modify game play. Players vote on these laws using the political influence ratings of the planets they control.
The players also receive Action Cards each turn which can be used to tip the balance in combat or to gain other advantages for a turn.
At the end of each turn the players have the opportunity to score victory points for one public goal that has been revealed and/or for their own secret objective (each player begins the game with one random secret objective). The first player to achieve 10 victory points is declared the new Emperor and wins the game. There are a few other public goals that allow a player to win without having to score 10 victory points.
Most games take four to six hours to complete, although games with six players or those new to the game can take longer.