So in the 'What boardgames are you playing' thread I posted something like "I hate Twilight Imperium III. I play it every chance I get". (Well, I said 'every two years' but considering it's a board game that requires 8 people to give up an entire day, 'every chance I get' and 'every two years' are the same thing.)
Anyway, I thought I'd do a bit of a think and outline what it is I actually dislike
about the game, and what it is that keeps me coming back to the game anyway. Maybe this can help me define my tastes a little better, maybe this will help you guys say 'Oh yeah, [other board game] is exactly
what you're describing'. IDK. Maybe this is a waste of time! I'm still doin' it.
Anyway, what I like
- Space Opera! I love the theme. I love tons of alien races clashing on an epic battlefield. I love fleets of spaceships.
- Varied player races. Especially with the expansions adding in racial tech and race specific flagships, every race does feel different and has somewhat different strategies open to them.
- The plastic ships! I am a sucker for neat components, and these ships are pretty detailed.
- Strategy Cards & the fact that Strategy Cards are also initiative order. I've played other games that have similar mechanics (Puerto Rico), but I really like that they completely determine the order of play (As opposed to just changing who is 'first' player and going clockwise, as in Citadels), and I like that the 'secondary abilities' of the cards are sometimes quite different from the main abilities. (Not just like Puerto Rico where the player who picks a card generally gets a +1 to something)
- Command Counters! I think these are such a fun resource to manage. A resource that forces you to balance between how large an army you can have, and how many of two different kinds of actions you can take on your turn? That's neat, and I don't think I've seen anything like it in any other board game I've encountered.
- Tech tree! I'm just a nerd I guess. (Though, this can quickly become a negative if you're playing with players who don't figure out which tech they're going for early, so they look through the entire tree and take forever figuring out what they need every single time the Tech card comes up)
- Modular hex space map. Not revolutionary or anything, but I still appreciate it.
- The... idea of alliances and intrigue and politics and favors owed. I'm going to hit on this a lot in dislikes. But I do like it in theory.
- And... while it's certainly also a negative point, I do kinda like the fact that this board game is an event. Last time my friends and I played it it involved driving down to Virginia and spending a three day weekend at my friends house and spending all day Sunday playing.
So. On to why this game is tedious and by the four hour mark I'm like 'why am I playing this?':
- Politics in practice. Actually, I'm... like 85% sure this is just my group of friends. But every time a politics card comes up it's like instantly voted for or shot down with almost no table talk. Never does anyone offer anything to anyone to influence a vote. Like, in my mind Politics cards should be some of the most interesting and tense decisions of the game. They add more rules you have to deal with for the rest of the game! Like, I imagine a lot of deliberation between 'this will really screw over the guy in first but it might also screw me over later' or 'this is really good for me but really bad for everyone else... I need to bribe people'. But whenever we play the person reads the card and everyone's just like 'I'm okay with that' or 'that's dumb' and voting is over in like 30 seconds. Ugh.
- Player Elimination. Like, I'm not a big fan of Player Elimination in short games. In an 8 hour game? Like, someone gets eliminated three hours in and they're just like "Oh, okay I just I'll just awkwardly sit in the corner on my phone since my ride's still playing...". Luckily though, I've only ever experienced player elimination in the home stretch of the game (by the time everyone is sick of playing anyway...).
- Alliances. Maybe this is just me, but they feel way too fragile. Like, all you get for them is trade goods. Trade goods are nice but... if you're on a planet I want it's worth giving up a couple trade goods. Maybe I'm going too far in the other direction here, but I think it would be really cool if you could have joint 'allied' winners? Like, you don't start the game on teams, but alliances develop during play and then you get to coordinate to take out the other players, and if one of you manages to get to 10VP you both win? Probably unbalanced, but I just think it's more fun than 'Well you're in the lead now so I need to break our alliance to screw you over'.
- Combat. This is my main complaint. It's almost 100% RNG and you just sit there rolling D10's at each other until one of you retreats or one fleet is wiped out. It's not so so terrible in the beginning of the game, but it ramps up as fleets get bigger, and if you're not in a fight it's just 10mins of people across the table rolling dice at each other while you do nothing. I'm not adverse to dice for combat, I love plenty of board games that do it. But generally those games are all about minimizing your risk and maximizing the opponents risk, and you generally roll like, once per unit per turn? Like in Blood Bowl, you try to give your Blocking units as many +1's as you can and make sure you're hitting the most strategically advantageous opponent. And you can only block with each figure once per turn. But here, there are no pluses to give, There is no positioning advantage in terms of the numbers, and you Just. Keep. Rolling. If not for the fact that different ships hit on different numbers it would almost be as bad as Risk.
Also, since I'm here, some minor nitpicks. Not bad enough that'd I'd call them complaints
but if FFG ever released a TI4 they could use some looking at:
- The Naalu are always at '0' initiative order. I mean, it makes sense for them as a race being psychic I guess, but the whole initiative order from the cards thing is so cool, and they're just like 'nah'.
- Nekro Virus. They're a race that has the drawback of ignoring the Politics phase of the game. I mean, it's already hard enough to get my group to care about that phase then you go and give them a race that just lets them not care in character.
- The actual generation of the map can sometimes screw over players. I had a game once where one guy ended up with only one nearby planet, everyone just put their hazard and empty space cards around his starting zone. Did not end well for him. Had a game another time where there was just a straight line of 'empty space' cutting through the board. In fact, empty space tiles in general are kind of BS. Just put planets or hazards in every square.
- Too many bits and bobs. Comes with the territory, but I'm pretty organized (I have 3 Plano tackle box cases in my TI3 box) and it can still take a bit to find a random obscure token when we need it. Doesn't help that we have one player who always wants to play with ALL of the optional rules (We always talk him down to just like, 3 of the optional rules per game).
There. Hopefully that comes off as semi-coherent and not just as a giant rant...