Twilight Imperium is the best game that you never get to play. An enormous board game of conquest, politics, research, warfare, and exploration; it’s the standard against which other big, endless board games are measured. It comes with a good dozen alien species, with piles of little plastic miniatures and loads of different planets. Over the course of a game, you tell the story of the rise and fall of a mighty galaxy spanning space empire, as your species tries to seize the world of Mecatol Rex and crown themselves new Galactic Emperor.
But it’s a game that takes forever. I love Twilight Imperium. It’s one of my favorite board games. My group meets every three weeks or so to play a game – but in the months that we’ve played it, I don’t think that we’ve ever actually finished a game. It takes about forty-five minutes to just set it up, and while we play for a good five hours in each session, I don’t think anyone has ever scored more then eight out of the ten points you need to win.
So, when I look at Twilight Imperium, I think of it less strictly as just a board game experience. What I think it is more is a story engine – a way to do Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon Five at your table with your friends. You have a beer in one hand, about forty dice in the other, and you’re just having a great time.
The new expansion Twilight Imperium: Prophecy of Kings does that and more by adding in new mechanics that don’t just make a more entertaining and strategically rich game, but make your game more narratively interesting. Quite simply, it makes your table more fun.
I’ll get to what those systems are in a minute, but let me share one of those stories. I was playing as the Vuil’Raith Cabal, a group of extra-dimensional dinosaur aliens, and my forward stardock on the world of Lodor was under attack. The forces of the Xxcha Kingdom – very mean turtles – had sent their entire fleet, including two of the colossal War Suns, to take it so they could use the wormhole as a direct route to attack smy homeworld. I committed my own fleet, but we were outmatched and my ships were picked off.
But, Lodor was heavily defended on the ground and I had built planetary shields. Just before the Xxcha started to land their own troops, I used my Ghost Squad and my Decoy Operation to move nearly every infantry unit I had on the board to Lodor, and heroically repelled the invasion forces. My foes had orbit, but I had the planet. We were in a precarious stalemate as the turn ended.
And then the player to my right, the Embers of Muaat, moved in one of his ships and used his single use ability to destroy the entire system and replace it with a supernova tile.
I – and my buddy playing the Xxcha – lost pretty badly that game. But it was hilarious and more importantly, it was fun. As we packed up the game and tallied our meager points, the group of us were laughing and smiling, and weeks later we’re still talking about how much fun it was.
This game delivers so many moments that leave you with those types of memories. Like, once I was playing as the capitalist lion people, the Emirates of Hacan. I used my giant pile of money that I was sitting on, Scrooge McDuck style, to buy the ceasefire cards from every other player and I never had to fight a battle once that game. Another time I was the time-traveling spies of The Nomad, and my flagship was darting across the galaxy saving my allies in the nick of time. Or as the enigmatic Ghosts of Creuss, I straight up stole the planet Mecatol Rex, swapping it with another system right next to my homeworld. And so on, and so forth.
I’ve played better games, in the empirical sense, then Twilight Imperium: Prophecy of Kings. I’ve played games that have more complex decision making, more strategy, more depth. But I don’t think I’ve played games that are as much fun.
So, what does Prophecy of Kings add?
The expansion doesn’t change the game, fundamentally. It’s still the same game with all of its extravagant nonsense. There are still giant war suns, endless little planets and various alien species. What Prophecy of Kings does is just add more. More miniatures! More aliens! More planets! More laws! More technologies! More factions!
Okay, let’s be more specific. There are three big new additions in Prophecy of Kings. The first is the species: the Titular Kings, the Mahact Gene-Sorcerers, the demon dinosaurs of the Vuil’Raith Cabal, the enormous Titans of Ul, the enigmatic Nomad, and more. Hats off to the designers at Fantasy Flight Games, even in an enormous game like this the new species each feel unique. And despite using the same set of rules, the new factions make it so that it almost feels like you’re playing a new game.
Moreover, there’s a new board added on to the side of your central player board, where your Agent, Commander, and Hero can be slotted. While the former begins readied, the other two have to be unlocked in gameplay, and give you a frankly amazing ability. That’s how Muaat was able to turn my amazing, heroic soldiers into a flaming cinder, how the Ghosts of Creuss were able to steal a planet, and how the Mahact were able to cackle as they forced people near them to fight to the death. The new additions don’t fundamentally alter the strategy of the game, but they buy you an edge when you need it.
Finally, Prophecy of Kings adds a whole new exploration mechanic. As you encounter strange new worlds and new civilizations, you’ll find stuff. Sometimes it will make a world enormously valuable, sometimes it will send your soldiers scurrying away because they accidentally walked into a holy area, and sometimes you’ll come across valuable relics that can blow up planets.
Why this is a delightful expansion that’s really fun to play, there are certainly problems. The base game alone for Twilight Imperium is a hundred and fifty dollars. Prophecy of Kings is another hundred dollars on top of that. And remember what I said at the top of this review – this is a colossal game that you’re unlikely to get to the table that often, and when you do, you’re unlikely to finish it.
So I ask you, do you and your friends do think that you’re going to play Twilight Imperium regularly? Are you and your friends willing to go in together on the game and split the price? Are you willing to spend upwards of two hundred and fifty dollars on an experience that you’re going to get a lot out of it you can commit the time? If the answer is yes, then you should absolutely purchase Twilight Imperium: Prophecy of Kings. Otherwise just save your money.
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