What: unbelievably epic sci fi civilisational royal rumble
How long: a colossal 6-10 hours
Who: only the most committed of players
Where: buy it here if you’re American, or here if you’re in the UK
Why we recommend it
Twilight Imperium is different to what we usually recommend. Very different. I’m not even sure if we actually recommend it or if we just think we do.
The most important thing to know is that it takes about eight hours to play. EIGHT. If that puts you off already, then turn away now. Crack out your copy of Coup or Super Rhino and move on with your life.
For those of you still with me, you must be like me. Players will need to be naturally curious and unnaturally patient.
All of you take the role of a different galactic race, each equipped with wildly different capabilities and weaknesses, as well as rich, well-written backstories.
You’re positioned in a semi-randomly generated universe that means no two games ever take place in the same setting. You’ll start with nothing but a pair of planets, and a brief to control the galaxy. The problem is, it’s really not big enough for all of you.
Over the course of the next, well, day, you’ll be scrambling for new colonies and jostling for position as the leading race. That might mean harvesting resources and amassing a huge warfleet, intimidating your foes into submission or just swinging the threat around to get what you want.
It could be that you invest deeply into the intricate web of pioneering new technologies, gaining an advantage that can’t be beaten through brute force alone. Others will see this, and might start plotting secret assassinations of your political representatives, or pushing through devastating new laws to heavily tax use of your new technologies.
Perhaps your neighbours will form powerful new trade deals, enshrining collaborative alliances that you simply can’t compete with alone.
The range of options available to you will be overwhelming at first, but the beauty of Twilight Imperium is that there is always a way out; always an alternative strategy to pursue.
The game plays out as a complicated series of deals, threats, legislation, destruction, betrayals, wars, investments and other difficult decisions, combined with a sliver of luck that adds an element of thrill to scenarios that might have otherwise been foregone conclusions.
While chess is often held aloft as the pinnacle of competitive mental gaming, testing short and long term strategic thinking to the extreme, Twilight Imperium offers that recipe cooked to a crisp.
It’s difficult to think of any other game that offers such a test of concentration, intellect and strategy, and for those willing to invest the time not only learning the rules, but in the sometimes glacial pace of play, there is a rich and rewarding experience to be had.
There are few other games that feel so good just to be taking part, such that even being in last place gives the player endless opportunity to scheme, plan and plot their route to the top.
Players will inevitably feel involved until the final moment, and when that bell eventually does ring the playing group will feel that strange mix of relief and mutual bonding only earned during extended trials in the presence of others.
To begin explaining the rules in any detail here on Best Play would be farcical, but for those with an appetite for slow, cerebral and multi-layered board gaming then there can be nothing better.
Twilight Imperium is the Infinite Jest. It’s the Godfather. It’s the Dark Souls. It asks a lot of its players, but it certainly gives a lot in return.
Feeling bold? Support Best Play and use these links to buy it on Amazon.