I mentioned the other day that I had a serious blemish on my resume as a gamer. I had never had the Ultimate Gaming Experience. Tired of hiding my head in shame, I was finally able to sit down at a table with my oldest son and three good friends and play Twilight Imperium, by Fantasy Flight Games. We were hoping for the 6-person game, but one of our friends could not make it… so 5 it was.
We were all in the same boat, never having played before. We all studied up on the rules ahead of time so we could have as quick a ramp-up time as possible. I’m very glad we did that – it would have been a very slow start if we were all learning from scratch at the same time. My friend, who bought the game, had done some serious work getting the box organized to make set-up as easy as possible. I’m also quite glad he did that… it is a very real-estate and piece-intensive game, and his organization of the box made a huge difference in getting the game set up and running quickly.
All that preparation did pay off, as we were up and running within about half an hour. The first couple of turns were predictably slow as we got a handle on how the game really worked in practice, but it started to move at a good pace after that.
And what a game it is! I will put up a full review sometime in the next few days when I get a chance to fully write it, but I can certainly say that I now understand why people get so excited about Twilight Imperium. It is just MASSIVE in scope and, given that we were really rank beginners, there is no doubt a whole level of depth that we haven’t even seen yet. The game took us about 7 hours to play through with a couple of pauses here and there for breaks, and ended up with me winning a tight game as Jol-Nar (a technology-oriented race) having never actually fought anyone! That was actually a really good thing, as it showed that there really are multiple paths to victory and that the game was certainly very intense, despite the fact that I wasn’t picking on my neighbours. We loved it… so much that we did the unthinkable…
… and started a second game back-to-back. Just to see more of what the game had, we put the five race cards that we played with in the first game and dealt out the five remaining, so we’d be playing entirely with new races that we hadn’t seen before. That game also took about 7 hours, but almost two hours were spent in back and forth over the last victory point (and win condition). My son squeaked it out at the very end by achieving his secret objective, and nobody saw it coming. It was great!
So, with that, our Ultimate Gaming Experience lasted about 14.5 hours, having started at noon and ended about 2:30 am. It’s been a long time since I’ve played a single game for that long – it was probably when I was my son’s age. That a single game can keep my attention that long in one span and leave me feeling sad that it was over is a testament to what it is. This will make it both onto my shelf and onto my Top 10 List soon enough (hint: expect to see an updated Top 10 List in the next week).
In all, I can see why people said that I haven’t really had the Ultimate Gaming Experience until Twilight Imperium. It really is a remarkable game and is quickly going to become one of our favourites. It will be challenging to get groups together to play such a long game very often, but it really is a cool experience, and delivers what gaming does best – an opportunity to connect with family and friends while playing out an epic back-and-forth struggle. If you haven’t yet had your own Ultimate Gaming Experience, I can’t recommend it enough. It takes you back to why you play board games in the first place, and does it with truly epic style.
Do you have a Twilight Imperium story to tell? Share it in the comments below!