Twilight Inscription Review

09 December 2022
Scribble for the Galaxy!

Twilight Imperium is the behemoth of board gaming; a vast, sprawling testament to the competitive willpower of players. No other game commands quite the same dedication of table space, time and human tenacity. In many ways, having played “TI” is seen as a badge of honour in our community, a mark of one’s commitment to the hobby.

The problem is: how often do you really have time for a 12 hour battle of politico-economic galactic warfare? The strengths of Imperium’s size and complexity are also huge weaknesses; a failing that Fantasy Flight have aimed to correct with their new roll & write game set in the same universe: Twilight Inscription.

Twilight Inscription sets out very clearly to tick all the boxes of the genre of “4X”. If you didn’t know, 4X stands for Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate; Twilight Inscription wears the concept on its sleeve as it hands each player four wipe-clean boards entitled “Navigation”, “Expansion”, “Industry” & “War”. The game splits into five waves, with randomized sub-round cards causing effects that impact on all players, with the aim being to build an empire and score achievements before your competitors.

Much like seeing its bigger brother laid out on the table, the first impression of Inscription is intimidating. The four player-boards are large and complex, with a field of new iconography connected to hundreds of boxes for you to circle or cross out. However, crammed as they are, the boards are actually quite self explanatory after the initial speed-bump of learning the mechanics. A simple reference card explains every icon, and nearly every box on the board operates with the exact same rules, which provides a consistent, understandable interface with the game.

Any similarity with Imperium does not run to game length, since Twilight Inscription can be played in two hours. Do you sacrifice some of the epic-ness in that reduction? Well, yes, but it seems a reasonable trade-off, as few of us actually have entire days or weekends free to dedicate to the art of fictional cosmic imperialism.

Along with the breadth of play, the feel of this game is very different too. There’s less of an impression that you are engaged in a tussle over the same piece of space here - player interaction is fairly limited. In theory, you could look over and analyse every decision your opponents make on their sheet. In reality, the dense complexity makes that difficult. You can tell, at a glance, what areas each player is generally focussing on, but ascertaining more than that would be intrusive and time-consuming. Nor would it be particularly useful; apart from warfare, your attention needs to be almost entirely on your own activities.

The plus side here is that player count has much less impact than is common. The box accurately promises a playtime of 90-120 minutes. We managed our first full two player game, including learning the rules, in just over two hours, and repeated play is much faster. I suspect at 8 players you might find that extends by half an hour or so, but nothing like the exponential change you see in many games. The solo and two-player variants also use a simple and effective AI that feels much better implemented than elsewhere.

Also, whilst its appearance of sci-fi super sudoku may put some off, don’t be mistaken-this is a well designed and well executed game. Even the markers for scribbling on player boards are higher quality than I’ve seen before. Similar wipe-clean games, like the insane-government-auctions of QE or draw-on-a-map-route-planner On Tour are let down by failing pens; not so here – the chalk orange on copies of Twilight Inscription may well outlive me.

The rule book is generally clear, precise and easy to follow – aside from a few, frustrating ambiguities and the fundamentally unforgivable lack of an index. Winning is defined by Victory Points, won through a point salad approach, picking up scores in tens of different areas. Is it best to focus on getting all the Votes on the Industry card, or spread out to score more widely exploring Planets and expanding your Asset count for a higher overall count? Or perhaps, as my friend Del proved, doing both at once, to utterly crush me.

Inscription is a very different game from Imperium but shares a core of strategic, enticing gameplay that provides ample experimentation and replay room for established gamers. Inscription relies less on in person interaction too, which may be a blessing to the less outgoing amongst us.



Conquer an entire galaxy in a single evening. Fun all the way from solo to higher player counts.

Buy a copy here

TRY THIS IF YOU liked Race for the Galaxy...

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Twilight Inscription is a little easier to pick up, and will appeal to those who enjoy drawing on their games, even if it doesn’t have the decade of expansion content that Race for the Galaxy brings to the table.

Read the full review here

Buy a copy here

Designer: James Kniffen

Publisher: Fantasy Flight Games

Time: 90-120 minutes

Players: 1-8

Ages: 14+

Price: £60

What’s in the box?

  • 33 Player boards
  • 98 Cards
  • 8 Dry-erase chalk markers
  • 6 Custom dice

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