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Balance of Jol Nar in a 4-player game

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I had a concern about the Jol-Nar that come up during our first playthrough, which was a 4-player game. With four players, every player takes two Strategy Cards to exhaust all eight cards every round... this means Tech SC is in play every single game round. This is the only number of players that result in all of the SCs being selected every round.

In the first round, our Jol-Nar player got Hyper Metabolism by cloning the Tech SC Primary, having Neural Motivator as a starting tech (green prerequisite), and ignoring the 2nd prereq. That effectively meant that they now got 3 SCs per round: two of their own, and by banking the extra strategy token of Hyper Metabolism every round, using it to clone the primary of the Tech SC from another player. This quickly resulted in a runaway tech tree, with Integrated Economy and War Suns not far behind.

We're not exactly experts at the game, so is there something we missed?  It seemed unstoppable in a 4-player game to have the Jol-Nar able to 1) Clone the Tech primary, 2) Have access to the Tech SC every round, and 3) Ignore a prerequisite for non-unit-upgrade techs.

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Posted (edited)

Nope, you didn’t miss anything - that’s those miserable Jol-Nar alright.  I personally can’t stand them; I got stuck with them randomly once in TI3 and a little piece of me died every time I rolled all those 7s, 8s and 9s that /should/ have scored hits.

Yes, I know fighting really (really, really) isn’t their strength and you can win with them without firing a shoot (and that’s how you win with them...) but I /like/ to fight.

And fighting’s honestly the best way to handle them; hit them again and again.  Drain their resourses, thus hobbling their ability to get anything done.  Seizing their home system is the best thing you can do; it doesn’t matter how many techs they have if they can’t score.

Woe be it to a neighbor of mine who chooses them; I despise them enough that I could easily be drawn into a Crusade to Purge Them from the Galaxy.

Edited by The BoogerMan

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Twilight Imperium has a few quirky things that have always just been part of the game.  Among them is this 4 player (all SC cards chosen) thing, then there is the 5 player (Uneven Map) thing.  There are a few other minor quibbles, but yeah its kind of part of the personality of the game.  Over the years people have created custom variants to deal with some of these elements.  For example alternative 5 player maps that try to make things more even... and 4 player Variant Strategy cards (in that variant there are 6 Strategy cards that cover everything and only one is selected by each player leaving two unselected cards).

I don't think that kind of stuff has been approached or adapted for 4e yet as the game is still relatively new but eventually the community will step up.

In general though, every race, benefits or loses something depending on certain "pre-game" conditions.  For example for some races its an advantage to play with fewer players (Like you pointed out with the Jol-Nar in a 4 player game), while other times they are less effective, for example Jol-Nar suffer a bit in a 5 player game, in particular if they are in the squash spot were fighting is more likely.

Its all part of the game.  If there is one thing that can be said about TI, its that its not really "balanced" by the strictest definition of the word, much of the balance of a typical TI games comes in the form of player interaction.  For example if you know Jol-Nar have a big edge in Tech in a 4 player game.... the other 3 players might be more reluctant to trade or help them at the diplomacy table.

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