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How to prepare for a session with 7 players who have never played before?

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#1 MagnusEngdal



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Posted 10 January 2013 - 10:27 PM


Hi everyone!
I'm new to Twilight Imperium. In fact, I'm pretty new to all board games. However, over the last couple of months a friend of mine have convinced me that this is something I will probably love. The more I read about it, the more I realize that he's probably right.
I have decided to go all in, and host a game night with 6 of my friends (a total of 7 players). None of us have played TI before, or are very experienced with board games whatsoever, but I figured we'll give it a shot anyways. I realize we have picked one of the most massive and complex game there is to start with, but TI is really the one that caught my interest and it's hard to go back from there.
Over the last couple of weeks, I have read the rule book twice for the main game and both expansions, watched a few 1-3 hour tutorials on YouTube and read a lot of guides I could find online. I don't actually own the game yet, but I'm planning to pick it up at my local store next week, along with one or both expansions.
We have at least 12 hours to play, probably more.
My question is what else I could do to prepare us for this massive experience? Also what expansions, game options, strategy cards and common house rules I should include? I know Shattered Empire is required for 7-8 players, so that's a given, but what about other expansion and all the optionals? What enhances the first time gameplay experience and what could possibly break it?
I really wan't to prepare as much as possible, to minimize the risk of a complete disaster and horrible first time experience with FFG board games.
All help is very appreciated!

#2 Shadow



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Posted 11 January 2013 - 04:52 AM

Actually twiight 3 is the ultimate final boardgame to learn.  But in 3 games, your players will be doing fine.


You must start off giving your players a quick run down of the rules and what they should be trying to do.  You do not have to try to explain every detail.

Then do 2 or 3 practice rounds or (just start the game)   The big thing to learn how to do Production at a space dock.

Do a practice battle.   Show there is a difference of precombat and normal space combat.  Use 1 or 2 action cards.

Do not mention every variant out there but a few of the simple ones to start with.  Artifacts gets them more in touch about the VP thing.  Leaders are fun but that is the hardest variant to go with.   Distant suns is too much for a first game, but many players really get into checking their luck out.  If really you do Distant suns, make sure everyone has equal amount of red and green distant suns in their area.   So they are very happy when they find something great and everyones laughs when they don't.

This about the absolute most you want to do for variants.  Artifacts gets them to focus on VPs.  Leaders to focus on parts of the game they like for the next game.  For example, if a players likes research, he will pick a race that has scientists.  If he scared of action cards, he will pick a race that has Agents.  Distant suns gets them into the mood for attacking your neighbor.   Find 3 enemy fighters on a planet, " who wants to roll those dice?"

Tell them this game has 3 parts to it.   Explain the terms Round and Turn.  This game lasts 6 to 9 rounds.

First 2 rounds is exploring and claiming planets, NOT fighting.

Middle 2 rounds is building your fleets and skirmishing with your neighbor for a disputed planet or VPs(Victory points).

Last 2 to 3 rounds is going for the win.  Players should have 5 or 6 Victory Points.  All deals with your neighbors can end anytime.  Everyone is going for the win.  Everyone's big fleets are attacking.

The deals with your neighbors was just to ensure you got 5 or 6 VPs.   Backstabbing your ally to "Win the game" is expected in this game.

Backstabbing an ally "early in the game" is considered foolish.  That is why the game gets complicated at 6 or 7 VPs;  you cannot fully trust your ally anymore.

The last 2 rounds is no longer about skirmishing.  Everyone is planning to move their biggest fleet to attack, usually to claim their Secret objective.  That usually is Mecatol Rex.   So your players need to move their main fleet close to that planet near the end of the game or they will lose.


Explain the counter stuff on the race sheet.  Why they always want 2 or 3 counters for strategy and 2 or 3 counters for the command pool.

And the biggest danger to them  is if conflict starts and  their fleet supply is too low.   A player with a fleet supply of 3 will always lose to a player with a fleet supply of 6.

A player friendly first half of the game and big fleet fighting at the last half is the way to do it.   Ask players to fight only when they have 5 or 6 ships.

That way they can see how the different mixes of ships are needed.

Biggest thing that new players need to know is they need some heavy hitting ships to make sure they get some hits every round  and they need 3 to 5 ships to take hits.   Many new players just make 2 Dreads, because they are impressed by how well they hit.  They do not realize how easy it is to wipe them out.

They need small ships like fighters or destroyers to absorb hits.  The biggest secret to winning battles is not how many hits you can do but how many hits can you can absorb.  If your fleet will be wiped out by 4 hits, that fleet is going to die.


1.  Photocopy the tech sheet for everyone.

2.  Explain the race sheet and follow the actions listed on it.

3.  Demonstrate Production  

4.  Demonstrate a Battle.

5.  Demonstrate how to Conquer a planet.

6.  Demonstate how to postion your fleets.   Never move your big fleet first because it will get locked down.  Never leave your border wide open with your ally.

 Always, always leave a blocking destroyer in the way.   Your ally may have to attack you sometime in the game for his Secret objective.  Do not tempt him to do it early in the game.  You need your ally as friendly as long as possible in order to win. 

Your trade agreements your ally gets busted from the surprise attack and you have to move your main fleet back to chase him out and then back to to the front lines.

Chasing someone out of your territory takes 2 to 3 turns.  In a 6 to 9 turn game, that is too much of a distraction for your game plan.

Everything else will become familar by the end of the game.   The first game is mainly a practice game. 

Yes, the game is all about VPs, but blowing up your friend's fleet in an Epic battle makes the game worthwhile.

#3 Steve-O



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Posted 12 January 2013 - 02:00 AM

MagnusEngdal said:

We have at least 12 hours to play, probably more.
Most games of TI3 that I play end up getting called on time.  I once played an 8 player game to completion where about half of the players were already familiar with the game (myself included) and it took 13 hours.
If you're all newbs, yourself included, it will almost certainly take you longer than 12 hours to finish.  With that in mind, you may want to come up with some plans for meal breaks and potentially dig out some sleeping bags. =P  Also, make sure that wherever you set the game up is a place that it can be left set up for a whole weekend if need be, without getting in anybody else's way.
Also, if you value your sanity, you may want to set up somewhere far away from any TVs, computers or other distractions from the game.  If you can find a place that kills wifi/cell reception, even better. =P

MagnusEngdal said:

My question is what else I could do to prepare us for this massive experience? Also what expansions, game options, strategy cards and common house rules I should include? I know Shattered Empire is required for 7-8 players, so that's a given, but what about other expansion and all the optionals? What enhances the first time gameplay experience and what could possibly break it?


You may want to leave out Distant Suns (and the space-borne equivalent from Shards - Final Frontiers? - if you pick up that expansion).  In addition to speeding up the game, this will prevent one or two players from having terrible luck with the first few planets they explore and falling behind because of it.  It will reduce the epic feel of space exploration, but only a litte bit.

You may want to use Age of Empire (I think, the one where all the objectives are face up) as that will help new players to plan out their long-term strategy.

You should probably look up some fan-made reference sheets that can be printed out and passed around the table.  Also tech trees - try to find one that only includes techs from the expansions you end up buying to reduce confusion.  I don't think you need one of these for each player, but maybe 1 for every 3 players so they can be shared.

If you're a reasonably crafty type and you have enough time for it (doesn't sound like you will though), you may want to consider making some planet disks for each planet that show the planet's stats and can be placed on the actual planet on the map board during set up.  I did this a while back and it made a HUGE difference in terms of gameplay.

One of the biggest problems me and mine always had with TI3 was remembering to take the planet card for a planet we just conquered.  Either from the deck or from another player - the card is so dissociated from the map that we always forgot.  After I made these planet discs it was a no-brainer.  People just pick up the disk off the map if they're conquering a new planet, and they usually remember to fork it over if someone esle takes a planet from them.

#4 Fnoffen



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Posted 12 January 2013 - 10:37 AM

My best tip is to have ALL players at least read the rule books beforehand. Doing that is probably what let me win my first ever game. If possible it would also be prudent for all players to follow along with the 3-player tutorial that is available somewhere (Googleing "ti3 tutorial" should find it).

Pax Magnifica Bellum Gloriosum

#5 Archangelion



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Posted 12 January 2013 - 02:34 PM

I agree. There is really no good reason for any of your gaming group to not be able to go on to this website, download the PDFs of the rules, read them through, go to YouTube and watch the tutorial videos there and get a fairly good grasp of the rules. There aren't to many people anymore that don't have internet access. That way, the people that come over to your place are educated on the game before you play.

Also, a note to you, it takes a good while to get the pieces of the game out of the box. Get some small clippers (go to Games Workshop or a hobby store, they have nice small ones that are meant for cutting plastic models out of model sprues, the plastic is very hard and as a result can snap if you aren't carefull, normal wire cutters are very bulky and can do more damage than good). I might take you an hour or so to get all the pieces out of their shipping media, if you buy new). Pick up something to put the pieces in, use either ziplock bags or a multi compartment storage container. Get some elastics to hold your tech decks and system tiles together. A good organized box will greatly decrease the time lost to set up. If your players can simply grab a bag that contains their fleet and tech deck, and a second bag that contains their race's command counters, control markers, racial techs, trade agreements and home system in them, it will stem the confusion and frustration that comes with having to rumage through the box's contents in search of all the different components that are needed. Having bags or small containers for the fleet colours, and for the race's playing pieces; and having a box or small container that contains your trade goods, troop and fighter tokens ect. that can simply be placed in the common play area will allow for a speedy set up of the playing pieces and speedy clean up afterwards. I had considerd purchasing a second set of the game (core and both expansions) just so I could paint the different fleets to show the racial colours and simply have a container for each race, so each player need only take the container that is marked for their race and will have everything that they need to play right there.

#6 Fnoffen



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Posted 14 January 2013 - 12:58 AM

Do please update us on how it went afterwards.

Pax Magnifica Bellum Gloriosum

#7 Cremate



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Posted 07 July 2013 - 02:36 AM

Just stumbled upon this thread - do tell us how it went!



On a related note, my advice to someone playing the game for the first time, with a table without anyone already knowing it well enough to be able to guide you through it, would be to do the following.

  • Use the preset maps found under support on FFG's website for the game. It ensures a fair and balanced start and it enables you to set up the galaxy before your friends arrive.
  • Either be ready to do a number of quick rulings based on the fiat of the one who've read the rules, as this game is so complex that it is packed with potential sitations that are not fleshed out in the rules, but depend on the FAQ and the Errata to be able to abdjudicate on. Alternatively you can pick up the Errata + FAQ from FFG's site for the game, but it is highly recommended to have the file at hand digitally, on computer, phone, or IPAD, so that you have an ability to search on key words instead of having to go through the 15 (or so) pages that they've grown to by now.
  • Cut down to a minimum of extra elements on the first play through(s), for instance Mercenaries, Leaders, Sabotage Runs, Representatives, Mines, Distant Suns, etc. These are all great stuff, and do hint at them to your fellow players to lure them into future games, but don't overwhelm them - and you having to explain them - in the first game.
  • And if you do use Distant Suns, consider using the version where they are divided into high and low risk (found in the rule book for Shattered Empire). As above, consider using the preset galaxy, allowing you to set it up, including the Distant Suns, in advance.
  • Get play aides - the Boardgamegeek.com has a number of great play aides for Twilight Imperium, including updated Tech Trees that makes it much easier than the old/outdated ones in the rule books, as well as various lists that distill a number of rules onto a few pages.
  • Have a good look at the combination of Strategy Cards that you decide one - they are vital to how the game plays out. It's a matter of preference, so I can only give you mine, though your group might prefer something different: 1:Leadership, 2:Diplomacy II, 3:Assembly II, 4:Production, 5:Trade III, 6:Warfare II, 7:Technology II, 8:Bureaucracy - in a first game exchanging 3:Assembly II with 3:Assembly, and 5:Trade III with 5:Trade II, to opt out on the Mercenaries and Representatives, to reduce complexity. The most crucial though is, in my opinion, to use the 8:Bureaucracy and one of the Assembly cards as 3, as this ties the board and the score board much better together solving a generally accepted weakness of the original game.
  • Most importantly, have fun! No, really! Take the complexity and any rule misshaps with a grain of salt at this stage, enjoy the storylines and go crazy in the interactions between the races (I'll never ever forget the memorable experience of my first game of TI3 - shortly after it launched years and a ton of play throughs later - on account of my silly waving of hungry fingers in front of my mouth passing for mandibles whenever I, as the Sardak N'orr, took to speaking to the Galactic Council... the focus of my speech challenged by how eatable all the others looked). It's already a monster of a game in length and doing it for the first time just managing the rules can give you quite a bit of a headache at the end of the session, so keeping atmosphere lighthearted is crucial ;)


Best of luck to any other daring boardgamers out there about to take on this game on their own without someone to guide them into the wonder of TI3.

Edited by Cremate, 07 July 2013 - 02:41 AM.

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