Twilight inscriptionI’ve always wanted to play Twilight Imperium, but the sheer number of players, the difficulty, and most importantly the length of the game kept me from doing so. Well, at least until Fantasy Flight Games announced a new game premiering at Gen Con 2022. A much more optimized version of their flagship IP called Twilight inscription? Sign me up!! Wait… is that a roll and write? And it still takes two hours? Seriously??

Despite my roller coaster of a game announcement, I was lucky enough to demo it at Gen Con 2022 with a few other BGQ contributors. It was a well put together demo that did exactly what demos should do – provide both an overview of the game and enough gameplay to decide if you’re going to enjoy the game. To be honest, I really enjoyed the game, but I wasn’t able to purchase it due to the limited amount available at Gen Con. The world moved on.

Fast forward six months and I’m lucky enough to have a review in hand. Now that I have the full version of the game, will I enjoy it as much as I did at the convention? Or did the over-oxygenated convention center affect my ability to accurately judge the demo?

Gameplay Overview:

Twilight Inscription is a competitive throw and write game for one to eight players, with games lasting from 90 to 180 minutes, depending on the number of players and their knowledge of the game.

Players choose one of 24 unique factions and try to dominate the galaxy over several events (rounds) drawn from the event deck. Each round begins with an event reveal. The way the round is played depends on which of the four types of events have been detected:

Strategy (most often) – players do the following:

  • Choose one of their four (yes, four) sheets to be the active sheet for that round. Four sheets: Navigation – explore the galaxy, Expansion – take resources and population from planets (remember RDA in Avatar), Industry – invest in faction infrastructure, War – expand your faction’s military forces.
  • Strategic events provide resources on the card – spend them on your active sheet.
  • Six dice are rolled (three black, three focus dice), providing more resources for the round. The resources from the three black dice, as well as any focus dice unlocked with technologies obtained in previous rounds, are spent on the active sheet.

War (four in-game events): Match the strength of the left side of your armada with the neighbor on the left and do the same with the neighbor on the right (this is handled by simple AI for two players or solo). The winner gets a bonus and the loser gets a fine.

production (three in-game events): Players claim to trade goods based on how advanced their industry is – yes, it’s that quick and easy.

council event (three events during the game):

  • The agenda card is read aloud.
  • Votes are cast by spending a voting asset for each vote cast (also handled via simple AI for two player or single player games).
  • Votes are announced.
  • The agenda is decided depending on whether it is accepted or not.

Depending on how the event deck is randomized, the game ends on the 23rd or 25th event. The player with the most points officially dominates the galaxy! Congratulations!

Twilight Inscription gameplay
The four-sheet system in all its interstellar glory!

Game experience:

I have always enjoyed acting and writing, but Hadrian’s Wall made me fall in love with them. It was much more complex (in a good way) in terms of choice and depth. When I saw Twilight Inscription, my eyes widened like in a cartoon. It had FOUR marking sheets (Hadrian’s Wall only had two). It also promised more direct interaction.

Which prompted me to leave Earth and rule the galaxy
Twilight Inscription offers many options. The four active sheets are a separate mini-game, but still interconnected. With navigation, you spend resources either on researching neighboring systems or on assets of researched systems on the galactic map. Planets claimed on the navigation sheet allow you to explore them on the expansion sheet, where you try to fill rows and columns on different types of planets to unlock resources. Assets found in Expansion will improve your industry by unlocking trade goods and votes (more on that later). In the Industry minigame, you start in the center of many nodes grouped together. You must either claim a node to unlock their asset or remove the node so you can progress further in the group. Why would you drop the node? Because you cannot claim a node unless it is adjacent to the canceled node. Sidebar – I have never used the word knot in a paragraph again for the life of me.

The final sheet is Warfare, where you spend resources to build one of four types of ships or infantry, each with its own form. Once complete, the figure will be drawn on a grid, potentially unlocking assets while increasing your military strength for the inevitable war(s) ahead.

Dice Dusk Inscription
Dice and chalk markers are included in Twilight Inscription.

As you can see, during strategic events, it’s not as simple as “I activate the expansion”. Okay, TECHNICALLY it’s that simple; however, since the event card opens BEFORE selecting the active sheet, you know what resources the event provides. Because it may be more profitable for you to spend resources on one sheet than on the other three.

The choice depends on the number of assets available in the game. There are 12 different assets to unlock, some of which have multiple types. While some assets have an immediate effect, others are stored to be spent later. This is what drives the choices and fun combos in Twilight Inscription. Trade goods are an example of expendable assets. They can be considered any of the three types of resources provided by the strategy card and die, and can be used during any strategic event. This really opens up your decision making space as by spending a trade good to expand you can complete a row on a planet earning a good that is immediately added to industry earning you ANOTHER trade good that you can spend to continue your turn or save for the next round. I really like the combo potential in Twilight Inscription!

Factions also affect the choices you make during the game. At the start of the game you are given three factions to choose from. Each faction has two types of abilities:
• Active ability – activated according to card requirements.
• Faction Ability – Activates when you unlock a faction resource.

Twilight board with inscriptions
My industry sheet is halfway through the game… I should have invested more in my industry…

The abilities are varied and I assume themed to the Twilight Imperium universe. The back of each card briefly explains the history of the Faction. I really liked the inclusion of factions as it provides more replay value as each faction plays differently and will affect your strategy as you play.

The last influence on the choice is played by the dice. Each round of strategy is different depending on the card drawn and how the dice are rolled. While you’ll know the resources you’ll get from the event before you choose the active sheet, you won’t know the outcome of the dice roll until the end. Additionally, focus cubes can be unlocked on each sheet. For example, if you unlocked a blue cube on the expansion sheet, every time you activate the expansion, you will receive resources from three black cubes and a blue cube. As you can see, dice randomization and unlocking focus dice will really affect how each turn plays out, and you may find yourself rethinking your short-term strategy round after round.

There’s something else I liked, but I can’t go into detail due to the word limit:
• The 32 sheets that make up Twilight Inscription are double-sided – one side is the same for each player and the other is asymmetrical.
• Public objectives for each sheet, which are chosen randomly at the start of the game.
• Eighteen relics (one of 12 types of assets) that can be obtained during the game.
• Struggle for ownership of Mecatol Rex, center of the Galactic Council, in navigation.
• Play while you learn guide really helped in learning the game.

Which made me wish I was playing Hadrian’s Wall
There are three reasons why I didn’t sell Hadrian’s Wall after playing Twilight Inscription.

Cards with Twilight inscriptions
I managed to photograph all twenty-four factions in the Twilight Inscription – they would never have been so close to each other had the Twilight Imperium not been at war.

First, I wish events were more random. The deck is made by dividing the cards into ten piles, five stages, and then blue or black cards for each of the five stages. These ten piles are shuffled separately, then you build a deck by alternating black and blue cards from stage five, stage four, etc., until the deck is complete. There are no additional event cards. You’ll see the same events every game, just in semi-random order. This really gives experienced players an advantage over those who are new to the game. In addition, some variability of events would be appreciated.

Second, the interaction between the events of Warfare and Council is not very deep. The Warfare event is like the 7 Wonders: match the strength of your armada against that of your neighbor and determine the winner. I wish it had more depth, like eliminating enemy ships if you drew a certain formation or special ability on the faction sheets. As for the Council phase, you simply spend votes on the outcome you want. No trading. I suppose you could promise not to do anything about Warfare in exchange for votes, but that would be a measure of your negotiating power. Again, I wish these events were more powerful.

Finally, I am concerned about the prolonged use of the chalk markers that come with the game. If you play games with two, three, or four players all the time, this won’t be a problem compared to those who play with more players, but eventually you will have to buy replacement markers, and they are more expensive than pencils.

Final thoughts:

I really liked Twilight inscription. It did not replace Hadrian’s Wall; however, owning Hadrian’s Wall shouldn’t prevent you from at least trying, if not buying, Twilight Inscription. This is an excellent video and recording. If you enjoy unlocking multiple items with combos, then this is what you need. Asymmetric factions and decks only add to the replay value of a game that, outside of the events, already had a lot of replay value. The interaction, while light, is the cherry on top. Finally, I liked the theme of the game as I am a sci-fi fan. I highly recommend Twilight Inscription, especially if you like to play and write.

Final score: 4 Stars is a unique game that offers direct interaction and the most possibilities (so far) in the history of throwing and recording.

4 stars

• Four-sheet system
• Combinations and assets to unlock
• Dice system
• Twenty-four unique factions

• The event system could have been more random
• The interaction was not as deep as I had hoped
• Long-term use of chalk markers

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