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 of 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.
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.
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?
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.
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).
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.
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.
There is also an optional rule which allows some planets to be lost colonies when you first explore them. Unfortunately they may be some other race's lost colony as well, handing one of your opponents a free planet when you explore it.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.