Twilight Imperium 4th edition has quickly become one of our favorite board games of all time. It is an intense, complicated game of intergalactic negotiations and space combat for 3-6 players by Fantasy Flight Games.
The game is at its absolute best when you have a full table of 6 players, using 37 hexagonal galaxy tiles to create a perfectly symmetric galaxy around the central planet Mecatol Rex. Each of the 6 players has a home system (seen in the picture below as green-backed tiles) and a tentative pie slice of the galaxy including the two systems (tiles) en route to Mecatol Rex and the two other systems adjacent to the home system, all outlined in red below. After listening to Space Cats Peace Turtles podcast, we now call this area a player’s “homeslice” because it’s obviously the perfect term. Here’s a picture of your homeslice (highlighted by red hexes), as well as the “equidistant systems” (blue hexes below) which are simply equidistant between you and your neighbor on either side:
The problem, of course, is that it’s so difficult to find a time when all 6 people can play TI for 6-8 hours. More often, you’ll negotiate weeks in advance and only be able to come up with 4 or 5 players.
Due to the geometry of the hexagonal board, the 4 player game is also symmetric and gives each player an equal pie slice of the galaxy. The 5 player set up, however, poses a slight problem because it cannot be symmetric using the recommended number of tiles. This means that some players are closer together (more difficult to take surrounding territory), while some are farther apart with more space to develop. The game instructions attempt to even out these imbalances by having the crowded players start with 2 or 4 trade goods (basically the currency of the game), depending on how crowded they are, while the players with the extra-roomy homeslices get no trade goods (see below).
Despite the clever attempt to even out the asymmetry with money, this creates some interesting problems and imbalances. The player who starts with 4 trade goods has a radically different strategy incentive than those who start with none. Those with the roomy homeslices are incentivized to turtle (the strategy in which you secure your homeslices and defend it without emphasis on foreign conquest), while those with the smaller slices are forced to struggle with each other for resources.
We tried this setup several times and still had a blast playing TI, but we were a little miffed about the weird imbalances created by the non-symmetric setup.
Then our problem was solved when we heard podcast episode 21 of Space Cats Peace Turtles on their House Rules and game setup. They mentioned a well-known alternative game setup for 3rd edition that they also use when playing 5 player games in 4th edition. We call this alternative setup the “5 player galaxy splicing setup,” and the gist is this: you setup the board just like you would for a 6 player game (left below), then you simply take out one homeslice AND one of the equidistant systems adjacent to that homeslice. The remaining equidistant system in that area simply becomes the new equidistant system between the two remaining adjacent homeslices on either side of the galaxy splice. The resulting 5 player map (right below) makes each faction’s home system equidistant from its neighbors.
This is brilliant, but the only problem is that it’s hard for newer players to visualize which hexes are adjacent to each other with the gap above. That is why we created our own galaxy template to fill in this area and also show which hexes are adjacent in this set-up. And we’re going to show you how to create your own!
- Piece of navy blue cardstock, size 12″x12″ (or another color of your choosing. Go crazy!)
- Silver Sharpie paint marker
- Optional: bowls of various sizes for tracing curved lines (or something useful like a drafting compass but we aren’t fancy enough for that)
1. Assemble a 6 player map with your Twilight Imperium hexes. Then, remove the hexes indicated in red in the picture below (one homeslice), as well one of the two blue hexes on either side of the homeslice (these are the “equidistant systems”). We advise removing whichever equidistant system is the most boring or least valuable, because you want equidistant systems to contain big, fat, juicy, valuable, luscious planets that will inspire space warfare, negotiations, secret agreements, and intergalactic backstabbery!
2. Assemble these 7 highlighted hexes on top of your card stock in the same shape as above.
3. Trace an outline of the outer border of the hexes onto the card stock.
Pro Tip: This step is much easier with two people, one to hold the hexes and cardstock in place and another to do the tracing. So craft with a friend!
4. Now we need an outline of the center hex location. Have your crafting friend hold the down the hex that is in the center of the 7 highlighted hexes (see picture above). Then carefully remove the other 6 highlighted hexes, keeping the center hex in place. Trace the border of this center hex onto the card stock (making sure not to move the card stock), and then remove the center hex.
5. What you should have now is a complete border outline of the galaxy template on your card stock, along with a hex outline in the center. Cut along the outer border of the traced area. Now you should have a galaxy template that looks like this:
6. Now you will draw on the arrows showing the flow of movement between the hexes. We made a draft template of the arrows on a scrap piece of paper to help us keep track.
This is the step where you can be as OCD (or not) as you would like. You can freehand the lines here to match the pattern above, or do some more exact measurements for them.
Since Kristen was involved in our project, we went the way of the OCD-ness of rulers and using bowls as templates for the curved lines. We marked the halfway point of each side that had a line pointing to it (the hex sides are 2.25″ long, in case you were wondering. I know you were) and then used a ruler or the side of a bowl to draw the line.
Pro Tip: Want to avoid having silver Sharpie on the side of your bowls like we do now? Put some painter’s tape around the lip of the bowl before you use it for tracing! That way you won’t end up with toxic Sharpie particles in your food (like us). The sacrifices we make for gaming…
7. Use your ruler (or not! live on the edge! or “off the edge?”) to trace the center hex outline on the card stock. Now your galaxy template is complete!
8. Add your galaxy template to your game board and put the center hex (whichever equidistant system you saved) in place. Admire your beautiful handiwork.
9. Find an adorable Space Lion and challenge him (or bribe him with treats) to a game!
We hope you enjoy your new 5 player galaxy! Share your finished galaxy templates with us on Instagram (questfriendsgaming), we would love to see them!