Enlarge / Mid-game: Blue’s bold rush to Mecatol Rex in the center basically sees its territory carved between rival powers (so, just like real life). (credit: Tom Mendelsohn)
Ever since its first edition was released almost 20 years ago, Twilight Imperium has been one of the most massive propositions in tabletop gaming. Over the years, it has only grown bigger with expansions and revisions.

A flawed work of folly and genius, its absolutely titanic third edition (known as TI3) is loved and feared in equal amounts, a base game that comes in a box that’s two feet long and nearly a foot across.

Confused beginners need 10 or more hours to play.
The game’s proposition is simple, but the execution is fearsomely complex.

Between four and eight players—but ideally six—build a galaxy and lead alien races who want to conquer it.

Along the way, you research military technologies, colonize planets, subvert the galactic senate, and smash dozens of small plastic space ships together in generally futile attempts at becoming EMPEROR of SPACE.

Think of it as the cardboard version of classic video games like Master Of Orion or Homeworld. When it’s good—with six people who know what they’re doing—Twilight Imperium is one of the best games there is. When it’s bad—after seven hours with only two people left who can possibly win and everyone else going through the motions out of politeness—it’s horrid.
Including the many options introduced in two expansion packs, which are each the price and size of most other premium standalone games, TI3 had begun to teeter under the weight of its ambition.
It is after all quite hard to gather six or eight people around a table when players can be knocked from contention a couple of hours into a game that lasts all day.

Combine that with roughly 80 pages of rules and hundreds of cards that break them—sometimes in ill-defined ways—and you have a game in which players are battling against each other’s mental and physical stamina as much as against any attack ships off the shoulder of Orion.
It was always designed to be too much, but it quickly got, like, too too much.
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