One way to make a great expansion is to simply add one or
two rules that have a nice yet simple change to the game,
adding to its playability without wreaking havoc with the
original game. Another way is to
Add 689 pieces,
And fifteen different options, all of which can be added to
the base game.
Really, Shattered Empire (Fantasy Flight Games, 2006 –
Christian Petersen and Corey Konieczka) adds so much to the
basic game that I cannot imagine any fan of Twilight Imperium 3 disliking it. With tons of components, neat new
rules that add to the effects of the game, and more races
and players Twilight Imperium is simply getting bigger and
better. One might think that all of this expansion stuff
would tend to make the original game become a bloated cow;
but if anything, TI3 now is now more epic, more grandiose in
scope. Shattered Empire is one of my favorite expansions,
adding variety to an already great, varied game.
- Races: Four new alien races are added. The Clan of
Saar gets one trade good every time they acquire a new
planet, but their true power is their mobility. Their space
docks can actually move and have a production value of “4”,
severing their need for any one particular planet. I enjoy
their ability to migrate easily, made even more possible by
the fact that they don’t even need to hang onto their home
world! The Winnu aren’t anything exciting, they seem to be
the “Jack of all Trades” race. They can always use their
home planet’s influence in elections, they are immune to a
powerful action card, and they have a slight edge in
technology. This is all well and good, but I like aliens
with an edge. The Yin Brotherhood has that edge, as they
can take control of opponent’s ground forces when invading,
send their destroyers and cruisers on suicide missions, and
reverse the influence and resource values of one planet once
per turn. This makes them a trickier race to use, but
tremendously fun and thematic – the nation of telepaths.
The Embers of Muaat are likely to cause ire when they first
show up in a game – they start with a War Sun! This sounds
overpowered – and make no mistake, it IS powerful – but
while their entire strategy revolves around the use of War
Suns, they are perceived as a threat because of this. This
really puts them at a disadvantage in the metagame, but a
good player can overcome this. Every game I’ve played with
the expansion has seen these guys in play, but I’ve yet to
see them win. Still, they start with a War Sun!
- Players: Two new colors of units are included, gray and
orange. While the extra color options are nice, what’s
really impressive is that a seven or eight-player game is
now possible. This may be too epic for many people, but an
eight-player game is really impressive, and enough hexes are
included to add another ring to accommodate this massive
game. I still think the game is best with six, but why
should the game be discarded when there are eight around?
- Action and Political Cards: In the spirit of diversity,
a pile of new action cards and political cards are included.
The action cards help add some action to battles, something
that makes them more exciting. Examples include:
There are also several new politic cards that add more
variety to the deck.
- Direct Hit: destroys an opponent’s damaged ship. No
longer will players glibly take a hit on their dreadnaughts!
- Courageous to the End: Allows a ship to fire off two
shots when destroyed.
- Technology: First of all, there are several new
technologies added to each player’s deck. The best, I think
is the Automated Defense Turrets, which gives Destroyers a
+2 and an additional die on their anti-fighter barrage.
This helps offset the powerful fighter strategies that some
take – you see a lot more players stocking up on the
destroyers now. Nano Technology is also important, as it
keeps War Suns and dreadnoughts from being targeted by
action cards. (Not the Direct Hit card above). But better
than these new technologies (far better!) are the
race-specific technologies. These technologies are
expensive, costing an additional amount of resources above
the normal cost; but they have no perquisites and are quite
powerful. They also help further differentiate between the
races. Examples of the race-specific techs are:
Players can ignore their special techs, but most players
I’ve seen build them as quickly as possible, since they
basically add another "power" to the race – often a quite
- Hacen: They can spend one command counter a turn to gain
six trade goods, then give two to another player.
- Sardakk N’orr: They can roll one die for every casualty,
killing two opponents for each “10” rolled.
- Saar: Their Space Docks have their production capacity
increased to five, along with a fighter capacity of five and
one extra movement point.
- Artifacts: If players choose to play with these, eight
artifact tokens are shuffled face down and placed on
different planets. When a planet is captured, the tokens
are revealed. Four are worthless and discarded when drawn;
the other four make that planet worth one victory point. As
you can imagine, this causes players to fight ferociously
for these planets. I almost always include them in games,
simply because they cause more fighting and action, and keep
players from sitting in their zones contentedly.
- Shock Troops: A repeated novelty from an expansion to
the second edition, shock troops are included, coming from
two sources. Any regular ground force that rolls a “10” in
battle is upgraded to one if they survive; and the planet
Hopes End can produce them, which makes it one of the most
contested planets. These troops are massively powerful
(hitting on a “5” or higher) but also must be taken first as
casualties. Still, their presence means that more ground
assaults will likely occur, as these elite soldiers can
really dent a player’s forces.
- Custodians of Mecatol Rex: This option is easily a
“must”, in my opinion; as it places some automatic forces on
Mecatol, forcing anyone who wants the planet to fight dearly
for it. Since Mecatol Rex is important for many objectives,
this keeps the first player to snag it from having too great
an advantage, since they now must build up a bulkier force
to capture it.
- Facilities: For one resource, a player may add a colony
(+1 influence) or refinery (+1 resource) to any planet.
Planets can only have one, but it’s a nice way to spend an
extra point to improve during the game. Refineries are
built quite a bit more than colonies, as players are often
struggling to get every resource they can.
- Simulated Early Turns: TI3 can take a great deal of
time to play – much of it in the first few turns, which can
be really long with little excitement. This variant allows
you to skip that and basically play the first two turns
simultaneously, allowing players to take over nearby planets
and build up a little. This is highly recommended, as it
allows a game to “get to the good part” faster.
- Variant Strategy Cards: Nine new strategy cards are
included, which allow a player to switch them out with the
originals. One can use only new card or mix and match them
out if they want. Here are my thoughts on each.
- Leadership Strategy (1): This allows players to get
command counters, which is useful; but I found the original
card better, if only because it allowed the taker to use
secondary abilities for free.
- Diplomacy II (2): This one is a hard choice from the
original card. The first forced a single race to be at
peace with you. The second forces a single system to be a
piece. I’m almost of the mindset to keep both in a game and
allow the chooser to pick which one they want, as they are
both viable in different situations.
- Assembly (3): This one is light years better than the
original Politics card. Players, when using this card, now
keep a hand of politic cards and can play agendas that suit
them when choosing the card. This makes the game much more
fun, adding quite a bit of negotiation.
- Production (4): This allows the player to build twice in
one system. This is convenient, especially for those who
enjoy massive armies, but I think I liked Logistics better.
- Trade II (5): This gives a player three trade goods OR
they can cancel two trade agreements. Everyone then
receives trade goods for their trading agreements, but one
less, if they aren’t the active player. This card is very
similar to Trade I, with open negotiations, but it allows
goods to get to the table quicker, so I prefer it.
- Warfare II (6): This allows a player to place a token in
a system, giving all their ships +1 movement and +1 combat.
This seems to be more fun and effective than the “move and
attack twice” of the original card, but I could use either
one in a game and not mind.
- Technology II (7): This allows a player to take a tech
for free then purchase an additional one for eight
resources. Everyone else can build one for six resources.
This is a very nice replacement for the first one, as it
encourages more tech. And with all the new technology in
this game, that is a must!
- Bureaucracy (8): This card allows a player to pick
between the two top objective cards on the objective deck.
Big deal. I’ll never use it.
- Imperial II (8): Instead, I’ll use this one, which gives
a point to the player who controls Mecatol Rex, and allows
players to build at Space docks they’ve already activated.
Now, I never had a problem with the original Imperial card –
I liked the timer it added to the game, but this should
satisfy those who don’t like it.
- Space Mines: Tired of pesky ships coming through your
system? Players can now use cruisers to lay space mines for
one resource in a system. Ships that come through that
system now take a hit on a roll of “9” or “10”. While not
powerful, it does add more variety to the game; and those
who like defensive systems may find themselves using these
along with their PDS.
- Refresh: Some planets, such as Hope’s End, have a
refresh ability that allows a player to exhaust them to gain
something. Usually this is better than using the resources
of the planet (like two free ground forces or two fighters)
and causes these planets to be contested. There are also
two trade stations included, which cannot be captured by
invasion, instead defaulting to the player who controls the
- Size: There is more included with the game that I
haven’t mentioned: new objective cards, a wormhole nexus,
etc., but I think this should you give you a basic knowledge
of what is in this expansion. Even if a player only used a
few of the available options, they should be quite content
with the contents. Everything manages to fit in the
original box, although it’s quite heavy now; but you might
find that setup takes a lengthy time at this point.
I adore the original TI3, although I think that it can be
quite lengthy; and each game is an “event”. This expansion
is exactly what the doctor ordered, however; as it addresses
many of the perceived problems in TI3 (“fighter power”,
“turtling”, “Imperial card”) and allows players so many
choices that it can all be a bit overwhelming. I use
thirteen of the fifteen options, and sometimes introduce
them to new players. (Why not go all the way?) But really,
the game is incredibly fun without the expansion. With it,
it’s nigh perfect.
"Real men play board games"