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A Twilight Imperium Battle Report

Because I am known to write battle reports from time to time – chiefly for Warhammer 40,000 or Age of Sigmar and on other websites – and I have now played The World’s Biggest Board Game, Twilight Imperium, twice now, I have elected to write a report of my last game of this huge, huge undertaking. If you aren’t a gaming fan, this may grant some insight one man’s obsession with narrative and with gaming. Or maybe it will be monumentally boring.

In any event, one of the things I like about games is the stories they create. I’m obsessed with storytelling, as you may guess, and games that tell stories are the very best kind. So, here I am taking my this 9 hour boardgame and turning it into a story. I will be eliding certain details of the game in the interest of streamlining and also because so many damned things happen in this game that I couldn’t possibly keep track of everything. But it will all make some sense in the end.

The Beginning

The Imperial Throne on Mechatol Rex stands empty, vacant these many, many years. Only the Winnaran Custodians sit in the Eternal City, maintaining the ancient mechanisms of rule for the day when they are utilized again. From an age of civil strife have emerged new aspirants to the throne…or, perhaps not so new.

The Kingdom of Xxcha (Played by John)

The peaceful reptilian species, learned and wise, are nestled in the galactic southwest upon the lush planets of Archon Ren and Archon Tau.

The Barony of Letnev (Played by Brandon)

Deep beneath the surface of the sunless world, Arc Prime, the ruthless Baron plots with his ministers to restore the Letnev to glory. Situated in the galactic northwest, they rest at the other side of a series of lush and fertile systems, ripe for plucking.

The Yssaril Tribes (Played by Dave)

A newcomer to the galactic stage, the once primitive arboreal species known as the Yssaril (think “Ewoks, only less fuzzy”) have emerged from their jungle homeworld in the galactic north having appropriated the technology of their would-be colonizers and with a huge network of spies and assassins bent upon ensuring they will never be subjugated again.

The Emirates of the Hacan (Played by Adam)

Their cluster of homeworlds in the galactic northeast relatively bereft of resources, the noble and leonine Hacan are a species of merchants and traders, known throughout the galaxy. They see it as natural that they should be the kingmakers in the Empire, as it is only through their efforts that civilization has persisted in these dark times.

The Mentak Coalition (Played by Fisher)

A loose confederation of pirates, privateers, and renegades based on the rugged Moll Primus in the galactic southeast, they are surrounded by asteroid fields and vast areas of empty space and uninhabitable, worthless rocks. They are free, though, and unwilling to bend the knee to anyone.

The L1Z1X Mind-net (Played by Myself)

Little do these newcomers know that the descendants of the last Imperial Dynasty – the Lazax – have re-emerged. But not as they were – no – as something far worse. Cybernetic beings of cold logic and long-burning hatred, they see the galaxy as theirs by right. Hailing from their secret planet in the galactic south, known only as 0.0.0, their arrival is a surprise to the other species, and one the L1Z1X plan on capitalizing upon.

A view from the Galactic North

Turn 1-2

The early objectives in the game were to conquer four planets of the same type and develop a variety of technologies, both ship-upgrades and pure tech. I, as the L1Z1X Mindnet, was fortunate enough to be in proximity to a LOT of cultural planets. The trouble was a lot of them were in the sphere of the peaceful, contemplative Xxcha. A deal was struck early on–we exchanged promissory notes for future ceasefires, to ensure a demilitarized border, and split the planets equally between us. My cyborg minions expanded quickly, conquering five planets in short order.

The other civilizations in the galaxy followed suit, to varying degrees of success, expanding their borders. The Hacan and the Yssaril, while trying to make a similar accord as the one between myself and the Xxcha, tried to split two planets in the Arrian/Meer system, which was a diplomatic arrangement that would cause both powers no end of logistical problems as they tried to keep their navies from shooting at each other (better, I think, to start shooting and have done).

In the West, the Letnev stumbled on early objectives, starting a failed border skirmish with the Xxcha and having planets annexed out from under its heel by careful peace treaties pursued by the patient, reptillian Xxcha. It played a variety of action cards dispatching emissaries to the Custodians of Mechatol Rex, feeling out the idea of the Baron of Letnev one day occupying the Imperial Throne.

End of Turn 2 (Approximately)

Turns 3-4

Up until this turn, the galaxy was fairly peaceful, despite the L1Z1X developing improvements to its Super-Dreadnought technology (the much-feared Super Super Dreadnought!). That changed, however, when the Yssaril made the bold move to land troops on Mechatol Rex and claim the planet for their own!

The diminutive forest dwellers were welcomed as heroes for a new era as they marched through the grand Imperial square and the ambassador, clad in loincloth, climbed the podium and uttered the first words the people of the Imperial planet would hear from their new rulers: “YUB YUB!” It echoed from the stately facades of the buildings, and the revelry went long into the night (reports of cannibalism and playing makeshift xylophones out of their enemy’s helmets is unconfirmed).

In response to this insult (a slave species? Claiming the Senate? Outrageous!), the Baron of Letnev sent a punitive fleet to the Tar’Mann system, wiping out the Yssaril garrison there and claiming the planet. This was followed by the grand armada of the L1Z1X, led by its flagship, the 0.0.1, blockading the space around Mechatol Rex by destroying that Yssaril fleet. Alas, their moment in the sun was fleeting, at best, and never again did the Yssaril reach such heights.

What was strange was that the L1Z1X did not invade Mechatol Rex. In their (my) arrogance, I considered all other civilizations a minor threat, at best, and claiming their toy – the Imperial Planet my people had abandoned so long ago – held little interest for them. This was short sighted. Nevertheless, the Grand Armada invaded planets belonging to the Hacan next, crushing their fleets and claiming a series of planets good for mining rare minerals needed to sustain the L1Z1X war machine.

This new war was accompanied by a new and strange alliance. The Mentak Alliance, long a thorn in the side of Hacan trading interests (and stealing trade goods from them multiple times every single turn), made common cause with the sinister L1Z1X Mind-net, striking at Hacan outer systems in exchange for access to specific world needed to improve their technology. The L1Z1X, seeing the space pirates as a useful nuisance, used the distraction they caused to extort their home system with a ceasefire promissory note. This was again unwise – better I had negotiated for the Support the Throne note for a free victory point, but oh well.

The Hacan made an attempt at a counter-attack before this happened, trying to invade the Lodor system, only to have it smashed (at great cost to the L1Z1X fleet), exiling a lone dreadnought to the asteroid-strewn badlands around hostile Mentak space.

Meanwhile, in the galactic west, the Letnev and Xxcha, reaching an uneasy truce, made steady gains in material, technology, and political power.

The Grand Armada strikes the Hacan!

Turns 5-6

The Mindnet Wars served to exhaust the Hacan, the Mentak Alliance, and even the mighty L1Z1X itself. The war essentially ended with the Hacan conquering the Mentak homeworld of Moll Primus and the L1Z1X, no longer interested in the Hacan or the pirates, now that the minerals had been extracted, abandoning the two minor powers to their fates.

In that time, however, the Letnev had grown steadily more powerful. With a huge industrial base to draw from, a steady truce with the Xxcha, and the Yssaril too weak to interfere directly (despite their many legislative riders and political ploys on Mechatol Rex earning them resources), the Barony seized control of the Imperial Planet and essentially controlled the Senate for some time, with no other power trying to dislodge them.

The L1Z1X took action against them in the Tar’Mann system, destroying a Letnev Fleet and claiming the planet. In their arrogance, however, the cyborgs had not fully reckoned on the Letnev’s strength – all the move did was anger the mighty Baron. Now, the formerly floundering barony was the most powerful civilization in the galaxy, amassing accolades and prophesies from the halls of Mechatol Rex, which they had established as their own capital.

In their anger, they marshaled the forces of the senate and their power as Speaker to have the L1Z1X ambassador publicly executed (and I lost all my action cards). The, as the Mind-net plotted its revenge, the Xxcha violated the ceasefire at Resculon – war, now on two fronts! And no mere merchants or pirates these, either – the hardened, sophisticated fleets of Letnev and Xxcha, bolstered by years of prosperity and steady growth.

Turn 6 (approximately)

Turns 7-8

At this point, lagging on victory points and spread too thin, the mind-net (i.e. myself) realized that it had left itself far, far too vulnerable. The Letnev struck, driving my forces out of Thibah, and my counter attack destroyed their fleet there, but could not re-take the planet. I needed to weaken the Letnev and keep my ships in range to support my home systems when the Xxcha attacked. So, I gambled everything on one last, big battle – a full invasion of the key Letnev system of Mornar Xuul.

It was my flagship, two super-super dreadnoughts, a carrier full of infantry, and four fighters against a Letnev dreadnought, two destroyers, and three fighters. My fighters were wiped out by the destroyers in the initial volley, while I had to work through his own to get at his capital ships. Despite being outnumbered, I destroyed the Letnev fleet, but not before a lucky shot from a Letnev Dreadnought destroyed my flagship and, thereby, wiped out my own bid for hegemony.

The Xxcha marshaled themselves for a last-turn invasion of my homeworld while the Mentak Alliance won a stunning victory over the Hacan to reclaim their own homeworld. By this time, however, the Letnev were unstoppable. They scored a last 3 victory points in one turn and won the game. The Baron of Letnev was crowned Imperial Emperor, the threat of the L1Z1X was ended, and the Xxcha, seeing the wisdom of peace over warfare, joined the Letnev in Mechatol Rex as advisors.

Post Mortem

This is a huge, huge game and so I can’t possibly comment on every little decision made. I can, however, theorize what I did right and what I did wrong. Now, I’ve only played the game twice and this is the first time I tried to play aggressively (last time I took the slow-build strategy that the Letnev and Xxcha employed in this game and won as a result). Aggressive play is really difficult, since you have to keep moving around and it is really easy to get spread too thin and to find yourself working too hard for VPs. I think threats and extortion was the way to go, but in the future I’ll be sure to extort Support the Throne cards instead of Ceasefires.

Not landing on Mechatol Rex was a mistake. It represents a potential 1VP per turn, is way easier to defend than other distant systems, and I should have taken it when I had the chance. I also should have tried harder to become Speaker and, therefore, possibly grab the Leadership Strategy card. I was working with a dearth of command tokens for most of the game, hence why my forces were so bare by the end.

Anyway, despite 8.5 hours of gameplay, we all had a great time and we look forward to doing it again soon. Except I probably won’t be writing too many reports. This is way harder to keep straight in your head when compared to a mere game of Warhammer 40K.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone who came out to play! I now return you to your regularly scheduled musings on fantasy, scifi, and writing.

 

 

The Last Hours of Kryptmann Gore

Author’s Note: This is some introductory and conclusionary¬†fluff to a battle report I wrote for one of my many Warhammer 40K boards. I think it’s a fun little vigniette in its own right, so I’ve put it here. If you are interested in the battle report itself (or curious about how 40K works), I’ve placed a link. Again, no infringement of Games Workshop’s copyright is intended.

Kryptmann Gore, Archheretic and architect of the Glorious Revolution, shivered in the cold morning dew. He had spent the last four days sleeping in the back of a ramshackle Chimera with the remnants of the Lustborn command staff–some of his first converts to the cause. They were all couching amid the ruins of a small trading post nestled in the rugged highlands of Hasturia’s northern continent, their eyes bloodshot and their moods iritiable. The drugs–both combat related and recreational–had run out yesterday, and already the withdrawal symptoms were taking their toll. Kryptmann knew one squad had died already from the effects, and another two had deserted over the night. “The fools,” he muttered, hugging his sodden coat closer to his body–Lysander and his Astartes would run them down and kill them before they cleared the first ridge.

“What are we waiting for, Kryptmann?” General Hortense asked in a ragged voice, his cheek twitching.

“The shuttle won’t land until we secure the landing area.” Kryptmann snapped. “You’re the damned general–you should know that!”

Hortense rose, his face pale with what Kryptmann assumed was anger, but realized was nausea. While the former High Commander of the Lustborn Legions vomited in the grass, Kryptmann looked at the small, pale man in the flight jacket who had appeared in camp the night before. “You’re certain your master’s ship is undetected?”

The pirate smiled, showing a decidedly imperfect set of teeth. “Low orbit, limited energy signature–the blockade won’t pick us up for hours.”

“But we’ll still have orbital support?” General Hortense groaned over his wretching, “We need orbital support!”

The rest of the command group nodded, shivering and weak with need. All their red-rimmed eyes fixed on the pirate and Kryptmann. The pirate smiled again, “You’ll get enough. We have a Valkyrie with Imperial transpoder codes that’s inbound, and I’ve got a link to an artillery satellite–you’ll have support.”

The vox-man, Barent, jumped as his device came to life. Pressing the earphones to his head, he turned pale. “Sir,” he reported to Hortense, “It’s them…they’ve found us.”

The little group sprang into action, the terror they felt at the nearness of their foe enough to overcome their paralyzing drug-withdrawal. Kryptmann, the only man present not shaking with nausea and chills, licked his lips and stepped inside the chimera. “Not a chance, Lysander–you’ll never catch me alive.”

Read the Report of the battle here.

Kryptmann’s lungs burned almost as much as the tears streaking down his cheeks, but still he ran. The rest of the command group was with him, he thought–he could hear their panicked breaths and hurried footfalls around him and behind him, but they were laden with heavier equipment and armor than he, and they were falling behind.

In front of Kryptmann stretched a broad, beautiful valley of tall grass and scattered trees, all spread beneath a perfect sky of aquamarine. He felt, somehow, that the universe was mocking him.

There was a hiss and an ear-splitting pop as the first bolt hit home, killing the vox man–Kryptmann could tell from the timbre of his scream. Another shot didn’t follow for a few seconds, but when it did it killed the general with equal efficiency. “Bastards,” Kryptmann thought, “They’re taking their time with us. Emperor forbid they waste ammunition.”

Pop! Another man down. Kryptmann tried to count in his head–how many more before they got to him? His stomach churning with terror, he willed his legs somehow to pump faster. His ragged breaths were now tinged with gasps of pain.

Pop! Another garbled cry, another dead follower…

Kryptmann risked a quick, panicked look behind him. He only glimpsed five golden-armored giants, moving in perfect unison across a sea of green grass. A split second later, the arch-heretic’s hip exploded with a pop and a shower of bone-chips and blood. Kryptmann screamed and pitched forwards into the grass and rolled down the slope, limbs flopping like dead snakes.

He came to rest in a shallow gulley, facing up at the clear, perfect sky. The pain was so intense it was all he could do to breathe and moan in agony. His eyes were swallowed by the broad, blue expanse above him, and it was all he could see or think about for a long, long time. Gradually, he realized he wasn’t dead. There was the briefest moment of hope, but then he remembered something. Something very important.

The Astartes didn’t miss a kill shot unless they meant to.

Kryptmann waited, gasping in pain, until he felt his doom approach. Lysander’s heavy steps made the ground shake a full minute before he appeared over him, the Captain’s huge, scarred face looking down upon him like a god sitting in judgment. Kryptmann managed a smile and grunted, “Come to gloat?”

Lysander’s voice was as cold as winter itself. “I promised you when this began that I would kill you with my own hands, wretch.”

“You…you don’t intimidate me, you oaf. You…you mindless stooge…” Kryptman growled.

Lysander planted a huge, armored boot on Kryptman’s chest. “I always keep my promises.”

“You’re nothing but a servant. I…I was a god amongst men!” Kryptman managed, spitting blood through his teeth.

Lysander shook his head very slowly. “No, you were but a man. A man among rats.”

A moment later, the Captain’s golden gauntlet descended, and Kryptman lost sight of the sky.