I have a group who is willing to play Twilight Imperium and really likes it, but is, as a whole, quite exasperated by how long it takes. We’ve implemented most of the variants and rule change suggestions to keep the game short. For players looking for those suggestions, check out Jim Lederer’s suggestions file.
Despite cutting out the fat from the rules, the game is still running too slowly. Why? Because we tend to lose the thread of the game. Our group really likes to talk. A lot. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Socializing keeps the group happy, brings people together, and gives something for people to do when the game isn't occupying their full attention. It's a big reason I play board games more than video games. I'm as guilty of talking too much as anyone else in my group.
But, this is a particularly problematic for a game like Twilight Imperium. The active player is constantly changing due to threaded turns, and the game doesn't even have a consistent order of play -- usually gameplay is done in strategy card order, but when a player takes a strategic action, it suddenly becomes clockwise instead. Add the fact that strategy card order changes constantly, and it is very easy to lose track of whose turn it is. At that point, we start chatting, and when we start chatting, we get more likely to lose track of whose turn it is. You undoubtedly see where this is going.
So, as a remedy to this, I’ve come up witha proposal: jobs to keep the players engaged during gameplay. The idea is that these jobs will keep players focused on the game. Players will still be able to talk when not actively engaged, but there will be less danger of losing the entire thread of the game. This will hopefully result in faster games, and happier players.
Gameflow tracker - This person’s job is to make sure that a player knows immediately when it is his/her turn. This is the single most important person to keep the game moving.
- When a player’s turn comes up, the manager should announce “Player X’s turn, Player Y on deck.” The active player then announces the type of action they are taking.
- When a player is doing a transfer action or a tactical action, the manager should immediately notify the next player that they have the option to take their turn if they do not need to see the end result of the previous player’s turn. This is particularly common when a player is building.
- When somebody takes a strategic action, this person is responsible for making sure the other players take the secondary action if they wish. Often this can be done concurrently with the initial strategic action.
- This player is also responsible for directing traffic during other times, such as the assembly or political strategic turn, the status phase, and the strategy phase.
- This player should consistently be on the lookout for ways to step up the pace. Gameflow should not be stopped unless absolutely necessary. Rules checks can usually be approached with common sense, and altered after the fact if found to be incorrect.
Rules arbitrator - This person is responsible for answering general rules questions and looking up rulings on the FAQ or on BGG if necessary. This should be the person is most familiar with the game, as they can answer most queries without consulting the rules.
Build monitor - This person is responsible for double-checking players’ builds against space dock build limits and resource expenditure. When building, players set aside the planets and trade goods used for resources, as well as units built. They then show the build monitor the build, and if the build gets approval, the ships go on the board.
Combat moderator - This person is responsible for keeping a running combat value and abilities tally for ALL players’ units. This involves checking all values at the beginning of the game, modifying for racial abilities, and altering as necessary when technologies are purchased. The combat moderator should be able to be quickly and easily set up a battle board when space or invasion combat occurs, and should have a full grasp on all other combat abilities including pre-combat items like anti-fighter barrage and bombardment.
Card manager - This person is responsible for managing action cards, political cards, and objectives. They maintain and check currently enacted laws, assign victory points for claimed objectives, artifacts, and bonuses, and distribute action cards and political cards.
If there are more than five players, you can either split the roles, or you can just allow the other players to get a free ride from everybody else's work. :)
As a side note, it would be really awesome if there was an Excel file or application that could automatically calculate the to-hit numbers for all units. Something that has checkboxes for the techs and races, and would spit out to-hit numbers for each type of ship. As a bonus, it could also have a battle flow that would dynamically add steps as techs and races complicated the battle flow. There’s a few tools out there now, but all of the ones I could find either don’t account for all expansions or don’t have both techs and races accounted for. Perhaps someday when I have a free weekend...