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Tabletop Game: Twilight Imperium
How many board games let you play as a lion? In space?!

The creative conquest of space will serve as a wonderful substitute for war.
— James S. McDonnell

The throne to the galactic empire is empty and several alien races put forth bids for it. Your goal is to guide your race to meet the conditions necessary to claim the throne and take control on the known galaxy/universe.

Twilight Imperium (now in its third edition) is a tabletop/board game that uses hex map tiles to build a new map for each game. The setting is a galaxy where a minimum of three players and maximum of six (unless you purchase an expansion set) can choose from among ten different alien races, even more with the expansion sets. Gameplay strategies may include battles, trade, politics, and/or any combination of these strategies. In fact, it is entirely possible and not all that uncommon to win the game without fighting a single battle, by earning points for accomplishing goals not related to combat.

The game set includes the map tiles, race sheets, ten-sided dice, several different types of cards (action, political, technology, and objective), plastic pieces for starships and ground forces, and many other extras. The ultimate goal of the game: To conquer the universe? To destroy your enemies? Nope: To get ten objective points.

The players begin the game by taking turns using the system tiles to create the map of the galaxy. Putting empty systems or systems with obstacles by your opponents and keeping all the resource-rich planets for yourself can lead to alliances or vendettas forming before the game really begins.Each player starts off with preset ships, resources, a home system, and certain special abilities. Markers dictate how many tactical actions can be taken in a round, how many strategic actions, and how many ships may be assembled into a fleet. Through the use of these tokens the player can move fleets, increase fleet size, or activate strategy cards. Objective points are collected by achieving certain goals or controlling certain systems, most prominantly Mecatol Rex, the former Imperial captial.Each turn each player chooses a strategy card that lets them perform a special action and lets all the other players peform a "secondary" action. Strategies aid in building ships, attacking, forcing cease fires, developing new technology, fostering trade, or most importantly: scoring victory points directly.

The Shattered Empire expansion set added several new races and enough plastic pieces to play the game with up to 8 players, along with lots and lots of cool optional rules.

The Shards of the Throne expansion added a few more new races, a few more cool new optional rules, and a more structured scenario covering the end of the old empire with a fixed map.

This board game features examples of:

  • All Planets Are Earth-Like: Averted: Each planet has its own unique description. Not that the descriptions have much real effect on the game.
  • Asteroid Thicket: Special technology is the only way to get through systems filled with asteroids.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: You winning the game means you become The Emperor. A good one, we hope.
  • The Battlestar:
    • The WarSun ship. Oddly similar to the Death Star from Star Wars.
    • Most of the race-specific Flagship units from the second expansion also qualify as Battlestars.
  • BFG: Certain weapons upgrades.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The Sardakk N'orr
  • Bilingual Bonus:
    • Pax Magnifica Bellum Gloriosum, the Latin motto on the box, translates roughly as "peace is magnificent, war is glorious!"
    • The name used for the Earth, Jord, means "earth" in the Scandinavian languages. Not the Earth, mind, just earth.
  • Binding Ancient Treaty: One of these falling apart is the background for the game..
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: A few races qualify. The Arborec are sentient plants, the Ghosts of Creuss are sentient energy patterns from another dimension animating suits of armor, and the Embers of Muaat seem to be living flame.
  • Body Horror:
    • The L1Z1X were derived from the Lazax, only they have altered themselves cybernetically so far that they aren't really the same race anymore.
    • The Arborec from the Shards of the Throne expansion definitely count. They're a race of sentient plants that infest the corpses of other races with their spores, turning them into zombies they can use to communicate. The race description suggests this practice has led to them developing imperial ambitions through osmosis.
  • Brain in a Jar: The Hylar of the Universities of Jol-Nar. Or dare I say, the Universities of In-Jar?
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Played so straight it hurts. Also highly depends on how many parsecs per hex. Though one hex includes planets explicitly stated to be in different solar systems
  • Cat Folk: The Lion-like Hacan.
  • Cool Starship: The Dreadnought and the WarSun are both dreadfully awesome.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Inverted (mostly). More is nearly always better, except that a few Action cards that will have you shooting your own fighters and the like.
  • Conveniently Close Planet: It would make playing the game rather difficult if this were not the case.
  • Corralled Cosmos: Subverted if you have extra players using the expansion, but mostly played straight.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The L1Z1X Mindnet are a completely cyborg race that seem to have lost touch with their original race characteristics. Rather reminiscent of a certain Star Trek species...
  • Cyborg: The L1Z1X.
  • Dangerously Genre Savvy: You know that you can take advantage of fighting strength, political tactics, and trading to manipulate your opponents so that you get what you want and win the game. Your opponents know it too.
  • Deflector Shields: Defense weapons that you can set up on captured planets double as shields to prevent bombardment.
  • Divide and Conquer: A reasonable strategy if you control politics or trade.
  • Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Totally averted. The seat of the empire's throne lies on another planet called Mecatol Rex.
  • Fantastic Racism: Almost every race has another race that they absolutely cannot stand, though that's only in the background fluff. Anyone can ally with anyone in the actual game.
  • Fantastic Science: Most acquired technology in the game.
  • Fish People: The same race that count as Brain in a Jar.
  • For Massive Damage: Most ships (except two) go down in one hit. Somehow a single shot from a fighter can take down much larger hits. Ouch.
    • Of course, the fighter tokens may represent squadrons of fighters rather than just one.
    • There are certain action cards that let you take down one of the two-hit ships in a single hit as well.
  • Galactic Conqueror: One possible way to achieve victory.
  • Gambit Pileup: Likely to happen with several opponents trying to out-think each other.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Averted: The cyborg race is actually completely non-human.
  • Hive Mind: The L1Z1X Mindnet. MIND. NET.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Most of the races.
  • Impossible Task: Some of the secret missions can look like this, and a few rare combinations will make them actually impossible (like the mission to capture all the wormholes: impossible if there aren't any on the board).
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Huma- I mean, Terran- erm, Those People From Jord are seen as latecomers to the galactic scene. They're pretty good at making lots of ground troops but don't have a whole lot of other advantages over other races.
  • Interstellar Weapon: Planetary defense systems can be upgraded to fire at adjacent hexes. It's not very powerful, but it's fun.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Most of the smaller ships (and the regular ground troops) require you roll an 8 or higher on a d10 to obtain a hit on an enemy ship, especially when they haven't been upgraded. Be prepared to do lots of rolling before you hit anything.
  • Intrepid Merchant: the Hacan (Lion guys) have this as their hat.
  • Kill Sat: The WarSun type ship.
  • Landfill Beyond the Stars: One of the netural systems, "Garbozia", is described as this. The name is something of a giveaway.
  • Lost Colony: A few of the planets that are unclaimed when you start the game are said to have belonged to certain races at some point in history.
  • Massive Race Selection: Ten in the regular game, four more in the first expansion, and four more in the second.
  • Mechanical Monster: The Nekro Virus is an offshoot of the L1Z1X Mindnet obsessed with rendering all organic life into a fine paste, then dumping the paste into a gravity rift.
    • You Will Be Assimilated applies as well, but only for tech if the Nekro Virus player blows up an enemy unit in battle he gets to copy a technology belonging to the unit's owner.
  • Mle Trois: Requires at least three people to play.
  • Mental Fusion: The L1Z1X Mindnet, a race suspiciously similar to the Borg from Star Trek.
  • More Dakka: Several ship types and ground troops (especially if you are playing as humans Terrans) seem to encourage you to make as many as you can.
  • My Death Is Just the Beginning: since each race has a limit on the number of each type of ship they have on the board, a resource-rich race which has all of their ships of one or more types on the board, but poorly placed, may deliberately get into battles just to destroy some of their own ships (or even, in extreme cases, scuttle the ships without getting in a battle) just so they can rebuild them at a more advantageous location.
  • Naming Your Colony World: Although the game makers were nice enough to name all the planets for you, they certainly used several of the methods here.
  • Not Worth Killing: Probably a good idea if you don't want to start a war with everyone. Unless you like that sort of thing.
  • No Warping Zone: Certain map hexes restrict movement of ships.
  • Numbered Homeworld: The L1Z1X Mindnet have their homeplanet numbered as the galactic center: "[0,0,0]".
  • One-Federation Limit: With enough expansions, you can have an Empire, Barony, Federation, Emirates, Universities, Mindnet, Kingdom, Coalition, Collective, Tribes, Clan, and Brotherhood: although not all of these will be in play in single game.
  • One-Hit Kill: With a few exceptions, most units need to only take a single hit to be destroyed.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: The Barony of Letnev race look suspiciously like vampires. They even have super-strength and the aristocratic air to them. And they're pale!
  • Our Wormholes Are Different: Yes. Wormholes.
  • The Plan- You might want to be capable of everything in this list if you want to win.
  • Planet Terra: The planet itself is called "Jord" (Scandinavian for "earth") but the faction is known as the Federation of Sol.
  • Playing Both Sides: It will probably happen.
  • Proud Merchant Race: The Hacan.
  • Random Number God: The dice can certainly ruin all your plans if they don't cooperate.
  • Recycled INSPACE: Duh.
  • The Reptilians: Actually more like snapping-turtle-folk. But they're in there. The joke is that the name of their race (Xxcha) is actually just the sound of a jaw chomp transliterated into English letters.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens:
    • The Yin Brotherhood, a group of religious fanatic clones. They can convert others and employ suicide ships.
    • The Nekkro Virus as well, with their crusade to exterminate all organic life.
  • Shout-Out
  • Small Universe After All: See Conveniently Close Planet above. A three player game will only feature 27 systems, and some of those will be empty. It's still called a galaxy though.
  • Space Cold War: Pretty much the point of the game.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: Map edges. But it is a tabletop game, after all. Possibly justified in that all races want to get to Mecatol, which is in the middle, not expand outwards.
  • Space Fighter: Check.
  • Space Marine: Human ground troops. Surprisingly useless for space battles.
  • Space Pirates: The Mentak Coalition race.
  • Space Station: Certain expansions have a few of these built into the map hexes.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: There are the standard types here, but you won't necessarily have all of them depending on how you decide to play.
  • Starfish Aliens: There's the Arborec (sentient plants), the Nekro Virus (insane machines), the Ghosts of Creuss (other-dimensional energy wisps) and the Embers of Muaat (living flame).
  • Sufficiently Advanced Alien: A few races start off with more technology bonuses than others. One race gets bonuses for the acquisition of technology.
  • Telepathic Spacemen: The Naalu.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: Certain technology allows you to create ground forces on one planet, then transport them to another.
  • That's No Moon: The WarSun.
  • Trigger Happy: A few races seem to be intended for war over politics or trade.
  • 2-D Space: Kind of required, what with the whole board game thing.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Slaughter, trick, or trade with your opponents so that your race controls the throne of the galactic empire. Then everybody is happy!
  • Variable Player Goals: Each player gets his own Secret Goal, worth 2 points. The second expansion offers a new set of "Preliminary Goals" worth 1 point each.
  • We Have Reserves: If you have sufficient resources, you may be tempted to use this as a tactic. Two races also have a shade of this in their special rules: Humans raise additional ground troops, and Yin Brotherhood employs suicide tactics.

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alternative title(s): Twilight Imperium
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