Twilight Imperium Strategy: The Xxcha Kingdom
Twilight Imperium is one hell of a big game. Over the past few months on this blog, we have explored a few big games, and my gaming group likes to have a few we go back to regularly. We’ve been exploring Gloomhaven, Blood Rage, and Scythe. Twilight Imperium, it has to be said, is the biggest of all those games. It is possibly bigger than half those games put together. In fact, Twilight Imperium is without a doubt the biggest game we have ever played.
With that in mind, I thought we would start taking a look at Twilight Imperium strategy, breaking the game down into the different factions. The upside is there is a lot to write about. The downside is that we’ll only be able to get a game in once every two months or so. So – err…this may drag out.
Needless to say, we will be talking about Twilight Imperium Fourth Edition.
So, now that you’ve subscribed for regular updates (insert smiley emoji here), let’s take a look at the game itself. For this article, I want to focus on the political strategy for The Xxcha Kingdom because, although I haven’t played all that often, I did notice a potential strategy that had me get to 10 points. I didn’t win, thanks to someone having a lower initiative and also managing it in the same round with metagaming getting in the way, but it still worked. This is the political method using The Xxcha Kingdom.
Actually, the strategy can be almost entirely applied to any race, bar the specific points about using the Xxcha Kingdom special abilities. With that in mind, let’s talk Twilight Imperium strategy.
Twilight Imperium Strategy: Playing Politics
The Xxcha Kingdom
Before we begin, let’s look at The Xxcha Kingdom and the whole mentality of the faction/race/species. The Xxcha Kingdom is described as political in the world of Twilight Imperium, with two very interesting faction abilities. The first of these is Peace Accords, which allows them to take control of a non-occupied neighboring planet after they play the first or second action of the Diplomacy strategy card, assuming there are no enemy ships in the same sector.
The second ability, Quash, allows them to veto one agenda during any political vote. It will be discarded and the next one in the pile will be voted for instead.
These, it has to be said, are not the most useful abilities in the world as, within the world of Twilight Imperium, the official political sections are not hugely influential. Occasionally something comes along that can shake up the whole game, but more likely than not the majority of the players will agree on the best course of action. Of course, this depends on the group, but that is what we found when we played.
The Diplomacy card ability, Peace Accords, is great if there is room around you or if you have more than one front. If, however, you remain clustered in one area then it isn’t the most useful. If you are getting attacked then the odds are there isn’t room for you to start claiming territory. This is possibly why The Xxcha Kingdom was considered one of the worst species in the earlier Twilight Imperium games.
They do have an amazing quote though –
To fight without cause is not the way, human. Curb your anger. Let us walk through the gardens and consider how to proceed.
In other words, peace all the way. No fear though, there are still plenty of strategies available, and even the above abilities can act in their favour in a few different ways. To understand what those are though, we need to talk about trade commodities.
So, this is where it gets interesting. There are, essentially speaking, three core commodities in Twilight Imperium, and through understanding those (plus some basic negotiation skills) we can develop a strong political strategy. These are:
- Commodities and Trade Goods – The physical cash within the game. Having a wealth of these is beneficial for anyone.
- Political Favour – For this, we are talking about the promissory notes on one hand; however, we are also talking about verbal deals as well.
- Planets – This may sound counter-intuitive, but actually planets are great resources, the greatest of resources in fact, and can be negotiated with.
Through having a selection of all three it is possible to take over the game without anyone really realising it. Why? Because it is possible to take the game over without having a huge physical presence on the board.
“Okay, what? Hang on a second Luke,” I hear you saying, “are you suggesting that in a military conquest game we don’t care about ships or planets?”
Well…yes, and no depending on the number of players. Yes, I am suggesting that in larger games (4-6); however, with 3 players it is worth holding onto what you have, just to keep the influence and resources. You need enough players there to be a threat to other players, so much so that for the majority of the game you can hide in the shadows.
I, err, wouldn’t actually recommend playing as The Xxcha Kingdom in a three player game.
Using Envoys and Establishing Trade Relations
One way to ensure players know you don’t mean militaristic business is to use envoys. Rather than building fleets, it is worth building Destroyers or Cruisers to go out and come close enough to the other players than you can establish trade relations. Assuming you aren’t playing really suspicious or mean people this should be more than easy to do. For instance, in a six-player game, you can see my two envoys opening trade. I had contact with all the other players at different points.
So, looking at the map above, with all six players in play, you can see that three envoys have opened trade with the purple player (worth noting that the envoy was there before he appeared on my doorstep), the black and yellow players, and the red player.
Understanding Planets as Commodities
Usually, especially towards the start of the game, players are not willing to leap into combat just because almost all players are equal. This means it is possible for all players to expand, and with the Xxcha Kingdom this is even more possible. By choosing the Diplomacy strategy card and using the Peace Accords, it is possible to expand one step further than you may be able to. This then forms the basis for a planetary commodity, where you can offer to give players planets you have (rather than have them wage war) in exchange for goods, services, or, better yet, promissory notes.
Whatever you do, if you want to do this tactic, always offer to back down for a small fee (as in they pay you) and you will vacate the planet ready for them to come in to take it. You need to appear as friendly, and offering a peace treaty early on can be hugely beneficial. Whatever you can trade to hold over other players the better.
Understanding Your Word as a Commodity
The other thing you can always trade is your word. This, for a lot of players, doesn’t necessarily mean a huge amount; however, the Xxcha Kingdom special ability of Quash is available on a promissory note. Better yet, it can be given as a verbal agreement. Never give away a promissory note unless you absolutely have to for the sake of a better deal (I feel like such a Ferengi right now), so give other players your word that you will Quash an agenda they don’t agree with if they agree to help you. Of course, always add on the caveat that this is unless it directly contradicts with your goals (which is really loose when you think about it) and you’re good to go. Sweeten the deal with a couple of trade goods, and all is well.
Remember, when playing a political game you aren’t really playing the game in its entirety. Instead, playing the player and using a bit of psychology can go a long way. Always be friendly, and try to emphasise how trustworthy you are. After all, it is better you get their promissory notes than their enemy, right?
What Do You Trade For?
Using the three base commodities you then need to know what to trade for, and for this, we need to understand the cards, both strategy-wise and the promissory notes.
Commodities are easy enough to come by in the game. The Trade Strategy, later on, will replenish no end of commodities, and you should have several planets in the bank.
Instead, there are five things that are really worth trading for, and they are in this order (1 being the most important, and 4 the least) –
- Cease Fire. Not only is this promissory note valuable for other players if you need to trade, but it is worth keeping just in case anyone wants to declare war on you. If someone knows you have their Cease Fire then they are far less likely to attack you. I would argue this is the most valuable thing in the game.
- Support for the Throne. With lots of players, this is highly valuable. It is a forced treaty in which you get a victory point. The catch is if you ever declare war on someone then you will lose the promissory note. That being said, play defensively and you can get as many victory points this way as there are other players around the table.
- Planets. If someone wants to trade a planet then take it. You can always trade it again at a later date and it will benefit you in the short run.
- Faction Specific Promissory Notes. Each faction has a specific note that gives you one of their abilities for a turn. They are worth collecting just to be able to either play factions at their own game, or trade them on to others who may need it.
- Trade Agreements. It gives you commodities. That’s valuable.
Anything else, especially Political Secret, isn’t really worth collecting. If you can veto something, that is more than any other race, so the Xxcha Kingdom have the upper hand in politics already.
How Do You Gain Points?
Point gaining is actually relatively simple for the Xxcha Kingdom as it is the same for every other race. There are criteria, but very few are expansionist specific. It is worth developing a few technologies along the way if you can, and it is worth keeping hold of at least six planets if possible. Keep in mind your secret goal as well.
Then, gain as many points as you can in-game. Remember the special ability of the Imperial strategy card, which allows for you to score objectives twice in a turn. Keep an eye on the two-pointers when they come out, and collect as many Support for the Throne cards as you can. These points are so valuable at the end of the game.
Finally, keep in mind with your scoring that it is worth pacing the negotiations a bit as if you do get too far ahead then the worst could happen.
Twilight Imperium Strategy: What is the Worst That Could Happen?
The worst that could happen, the absolute worst that it could be, is everyone decides to team up against you. This happened when I played as the Xxcha Kingdom because I got too far ahead of everyone else. I was four points ahead when they all focused on me, at which point my girlfriend snuck up and scored a load of points. Although we both ended the game on 10 points, she got the lower initiative and won.
That being said, as a nation with no military and no aggressive capability, who had just been nice to everyone (not that I am being bitter), I still managed to survive to 10 points and against the wrath of 6 War Suns. How did I do this? Well, two things. One was by the one guy who had strongly allied with me throughout saying he was going to target my girlfriend because otherwise, she would win. I was highly thankful for this as it divided everyone else.
The other way is by using the Ceasefires I had collated, having enough spare planets that colonising them was difficult for my enemies to take them over, and by choosing the Diplomacy strategy card. Through using these I was able to hinder my enemies long enough to survive three rounds. Granted this was my entire force when the game ended, but I survived nonetheless.
In the end, I came second, but only because the other players decided to let my girlfriend win, even though they had the capacity to destroy her, purely to spite me. Like I said, I’m totally not bitter though. Grrr.
So yeah, that is one option for playing a political game in Twilight Imperium. It’s not perfect, but it gives an idea as to another strategy that isn’t just conquest.
As we play I’ll write up more and more of these. Let me know what you think of Twilight Imperium in the comments below. Who should I play as next? What strategies do you like? What are your stories? Let me know, and, until the next article, love the game.