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Object of the Game

Throughout a game of Twilight Imperium, players will barter, plot, and wage war upon one another to complete objectives. The first player to accumulate 10 victory points claims the Imperial Throne and wins the game.


  • 17 Faction Sheets
  • 6 Command Sheets
  • 51 System Tiles
  • 354 Plastic Units
  • 8 Strategy Cards
  • 8 Ten-Sided Dice
  • 1 Victory Point Track
  • 59 Planet Cards
  • 40 Objective Cards
  • 80 Action Cards
  • 50 Agenda Cards
  • 41 Promissory Note Cards
  • 1 Speaker Token
  • 122 Technology Cards
  • 1 Custodians Token
  • 62 Unit Upgrade Technology Cards
  • 2 Creuss Alpha/Beta Wormhole Tokens
  • 1 Naalu "0" Token
  • 2 Nekro X/Y Assimilator Tokens
  • 48 Trade Good and Commodity Tokens
  • 272 Command Tokens
  • 289 Control Tokens
  • 49 Infantry Tokens
  • 49 Fighter Tokens


During a game of Twilight Imperium, each player's units are represented by plastic figures. There are three types of units: ships, ground forces, and structures.


Ships represent spacefaring units. Players use these units to engage one another in space combat and expand their empires to new systems.

Ground Forces

Ground forces represent foot soldiers. Players use these units to invade planets or defend their own territories.


Structures represent military installations built by an empire to support its war effort.


A player's personal supply of unused units and unused command tokens is his reinforcements. When producing units and gaining command tokens during the game, players will take those components from their reinforcements.

Systems And Planets

The game board for Twilight Imperium is formed using modular system tiles. Each tile represents a single system in the galaxy, which may contain one or more planets or other celestial bodies.

Placing Units On System Tiles

When a unit is placed in a system, it is placed in one of two areas on the tile. Structures and ground forces are usually placed on planets, while ships are placed in space-the star-filled area surrounding the planets.


As players move about the galaxy and expand their empire beyond their home systems, they will gain control of new planets.

When a player gains control of a planet, he takes that planet's card from either the deck of planet cards or from the player who controlled it previously and places it facedown in his play area.

Each planet card displays two values: resources on the left in yellow and influence on the right in blue. Players spend resources to acquire new units and technologies. Players spend influence to gain command tokens and to vote during the agenda phase.

If a player ever controls a planet, but has no units on that planet, he places one of the control tokens that matches his faction on that planet to mark that he controls it.

First-Game Setup

When playing for the first time, players perform the following steps to set up the game. Some components are not used during the first game, and are explained in detail at the end of this booklet.

1. Determine Speaker:

Randomly determine one player to take the speaker token. This player is the speaker and will go first when the game begins.

2. Assign Factions:

Each player controls a faction with unique strengths and weaknesses. Each faction has a sheet which shows the attributes and abilities of that faction's units as well as abilities unique to the faction itself. Gather the following faction sheets:

  • The Xxcha Kingdom
  • The Federation of Sol
  • The Emirates of Hacan
  • The Barony of Letnev
  • The Sardakk N'orr
  • The Universities of Jol-Nar

The speaker deals one random faction sheet from the list above to each player.

3. Gather Faction-specific Components:

Each player takes the following components that match his faction:

  • 1 home system tile
  • 17 control tokens
  • 16 command tokens
  • 2 technology cards

Each player's faction-specific components contain a faction symbol that matches the symbol on his faction sheet. Each player places his faction sheet and all of his faction's components in front of him. Return all unused faction components to the game box.

4. Choose Color:

Each player chooses a color and takes the following components that match his chosen color:

  • 59 plastic units
  • 1 command sheet
  • 25 technology cards

Each player slides the edge of his command sheet under his faction sheet and places the other components nearby.

5. Gather Starting Planet Cards:

Each player takes the planet cards that correspond to the planets in his home system and places them faceup near his faction sheet.

6. Create Game Board:

Players create the game board using the diagram that corresponds to the number of players. Experienced players create a custom game board at the start of each game, as explained later.

7. Place Custodians Token:

Place the custodians token in the center of the game board on Mecatol Rex.

8. Shuffle Common Decks:

Shuffle the action, agenda, stage I objective, stage II objective, and secret objective cards into separate decks and place them near the game board.

9. Create Supply:

Create separate piles near the game board for trade good, infantry, and fighter tokens.

10. Gather Strategy Cards:

Place each of the eight strategy cards faceup in the common play area within reach of the speaker.

11. Gather Starting Components:

Each player takes the starting technology and starting units listed on the back of his faction sheet. Each player places the technology cards faceup near his faction sheet and the starting units in his home system. If a player has multiple planets in his home system, it is recommended that he place his space dock and infantry on the planet with the highest resource value.

Each player places three command tokens in his tactic pool, three command tokens in his fleet pool (ship silhouette side up), and two command tokens in his strategy pool. These pools are located on the player's command sheet.

12. Prepare Objectives:

  1. Each player draws one secret objective and keeps it hidden from other players.
  2. Place the victory point track near the game board with its 0-10 side faceup. Then, each player places one of his control tokens on space "0" of the track.
  3. The speaker draws five stage I objective cards from the deck and places them facedown in a row above the victory point track. Then, he draws five stage II objective cards from the deck and places them facedown in a row below the victory point track.
  4. The speaker reveals the first two stage I objectives.

Game Play

Twilight Imperium is played over a series of game rounds, each of which contains the following four phases that players must resolve in order.

  1. Strategy Phase: During this phase, each player chooses a strategy card. These cards provide players with powerful abilities to use during the action phase. Each card also has a number that determines turn order for the game round.

  2. Action Phase: During this phase, the majority of the game's action occurs. This includes moving units, producing units, resolving combat, and using strategy cards.

  3. Status Phase: During this phase, players perform cleanup steps in preparation for the next game round.

  4. Agenda Phase: During this phase, players vote on political agendas, which can have lasting ramifications in the game. The agenda phase is added to the game after a player gains control of Mecatol Rex.

These phases repeat in successive game rounds until one player accumulates 10 victory points and wins the game.

These phases are described in detail in the following sections.

1. Strategy Phase

During the strategy phase, players take turns selecting a strategy card that provides them with a unique action they can use during the action phase. First-time players may not know which strategy card to choose and should consult the strategy card overviews at the bottom of this page and the next.

Beginning with the speaker and continuing clockwise, each player chooses one of the strategy cards from the common play area and places it faceup near his faction sheet. After a player chooses a strategy card, it is not available for other players during this game round.

Each strategy card has a number between "1" and "8" in the upper-right corner. During the action phase, players take turns in order according to the number printed on their chosen strategy card, starting with "1". This is called initiative order.

After each player has chosen a strategy card, the speaker places one trade good on each strategy card that was not chosen. During future strategy phases, when a player chooses a strategy card that has one or more trade goods on it, he gains those trade goods.

Strategy Card Overview

1. Leadership: A player might choose this card to gain more command tokens, enabling him to perform more actions during the action phase.

2. Diplomacy: A player might choose this card if he feels threatened, to prevent other players from attacking his system.

3. Politics: A player might choose this card to draw action cards, increasing the variety of abilities that are available to him.

4. Construction: A player might choose this card to produce planetary structures, such as space docks and PDS units.

2. Action Phase

The action phase is the main phase of the game, during which players produce units, move ships, enact strategies, and interact with other players.

During the action phase, players take turns in initiative order. While a player is taking a turn, he is the active player, and he can perform one action. After each player has taken a turn, player turns begin again in initiative order. Initiative order may repeat in this manner several times within a single action phase. The action phase does not end until each player has passed (see below).

There are three types of actions: tactical actions, strategic actions, and component actions. They are described in detail later.

If a player does not wish to perform an action during his turn, he may pass. After a player passes, his turn is skipped for the remainder of the action phase. A player cannot pass until he has performed his strategic action, which is explained later. After each player has passed, the game round continues to the status phase.

Tactical Action

A tactical action allows a player to move ships, initiate combat, invade planets, produce units, and otherwise interact with the game board.

To understand a tactical action, players need to understand many other game concepts, such as movement and combat. For this reason, the steps of a tactical action are summarized below, but are not described in detail until later.

  1. Activation: The active player must activate a system by taking a command token from his tactic pool and placing it in that system.

  2. Movement: The active player may move ships into a system from any number of other systems. Ships can also transport ground forces from one system to another.

  3. Space Combat: If multiple players have ships in the active system, they resolve a space combat.

  4. Invasion: The active player may commit ground forces to land on planets in the active system. If another player has units on those planets, the players resolve a ground combat.

  5. Production: If the active player has a space dock in the active system, he can produce units by spending resources.

A player might not resolve all of the above steps during every tactical action. For example, a player may choose not to move units during the "Movement" step but may still produce units during the "Production" step.

Strategy Card Overview

5. Trade: A player might choose this card to gain trade goods and commodities, which he could use to produce additional units or trade to other players.

6. Warfare: A player might choose this card to allow some of his ships to move twice, or to build a unit and move it during the same game round.

7. Technology: A player might choose this card to research a new technology that would grant him a new ability or unit upgrade.

8. Imperial: A player might choose this card to draw an additional secret objective, granting him additional routes to victory.

Strategic Action

Each strategy card has both a primary ability and a secondary ability.

When a player performs a strategic action, he resolves the primary ability of his strategy card. After resolving this ability, each other player may resolve the secondary ability of that strategy card. The active player cannot resolve the secondary ability of his own strategy card.

After each player has had an opportunity to resolve a strategy card's secondary ability, the active player exhausts that strategy card by flipping it facedown. Players cannot resolve abilities on exhausted strategy cards, but the exhausted cards' numbers are still used to determine initiative order.

A player cannot pass during the action phase unless his strategy card is exhausted. This means that each player must perform a strategic action at some point during the action phase, which guarantees that each other player has an opportunity to resolve the secondary ability of that strategy card. A player who has passed during the action phase can still resolve the secondary ability of other players' strategy cards.

Component Actions

A component action is an action that is printed on a game component. Many action cards, faction sheets, and even some technology cards have component actions. Each of these effects is preceded by the word "Action".

Key Concept: Command Sheet

Successfully navigating the action phase in Twilight Imperium requires careful management of command tokens. When a player gains a command token, he places it in any one of three pools: the tactic pool, the fleet pool, or the strategy pool.

Tactic Pool

During the action phase, players may spend command tokens from their tactic pool to perform tactical actions.

Fleet Pool

Players place command tokens in their fleet pool with the ship silhouette faceup. Players do not spend these command tokens like the command tokens in their other pools.

Instead, the number of tokens in a player's fleet pool is the maximum number of ships, excluding fighters, that he can have in each system.

If a player ever has more ships in a system than he has tokens in his fleet pool, he must return ships from that system to his reinforcements until the number of ships in that system no longer exceeds the number of tokens in his fleet pool.

Strategy Pool

Most of the secondary abilities on strategy cards require a player to spend a token from his strategy pool to resolve the ability. Players will want to keep tokens in their strategy pool so that they can use the secondary abilities of the other players' strategy cards.

3. Status Phase

During the status phase, players perform various upkeep tasks, including repairing units and scoring objectives. To resolve the status phase, players perform the following steps in order:

  1. Score objectives: In initiative order, each player may score up to one public and one secret objective if he fulfills those cards' requirements. This is the main way in which players gain the victory points they need to win the game. Objectives are described in detail later.

  2. Reveal public objective: The speaker flips the next unrevealed public objective card faceup. The first stage II objective is not revealed until all stage I objectives have been revealed.

  3. Draw action cards: Each player draws one card from the top of the action card deck.

  4. Remove command tokens: Each player removes all of his command tokens from the game board and returns them to his reinforcements.

  5. Gain and redistribute command tokens: Each player gains two command tokens from his reinforcements. Then, he may redistribute any of the command tokens on his command sheet by moving them between his tactic, fleet, and strategy pools.

  6. Ready cards: Each player readies all of his exhausted cards, including planet, technology, and strategy cards.

  7. Repair units: Some units may have been turned on their side during the action phase to mark that they have been damaged. Players repair these units during this step by turning them upright. This is described in detail later.

  8. Return strategy cards: Each player returns his strategy card to the common play area. Then, if the custodians token is no longer on Mecatol Rex (the planet in the center of the game board) the game round continues to the agenda phase. Otherwise, a new game round begins with the strategy phase.

Key Concept: Readied And Exhausted Cards

Many cards have a readied and an exhausted state. An exhausted card is flipped facedown, indicating that the values and abilities on the front of the card cannot be used.

During the status phase, all exhausted cards are readied. A readied card is flipped faceup, indicating that the values and abilities on the front of the card can be used.

4. Agenda Phase

After the custodians token has been removed from Mecatol Rex, a new phase is added to each round for the remainder of the game: the agenda phase.

During this phase, the galactic council convenes to discuss issues that affect the entire galaxy. Players vote for outcomes on two agendas, establishing laws and policies that have lasting repercussions.

Voting on agendas is described in detail later.

After resolving this phase, a new game round begins with the strategy phase.

End of the Game

A game of Twilight Imperium immediately ends when one player has gained 10 victory points. Players gain victory points by completing objectives. There are two types of objectives:

  • Public objectives: During setup, the speaker reveals two public objectives, and more are revealed throughout the game. Any number of players can score each of these objectives.

    Important: A player cannot score public objectives if he does not control all of the planets in his home system.

  • Secret objectives: Each player begins the game with one secret objective that he may look at but must keep hidden from other players. A player can score his own secret objectives but not those belonging to other players.

    Important: A player cannot have more than three total scored and unscored secret objectives. If he draws a secret objective and has more than three, he must choose one of his unscored secret objectives and return it to the deck. Then, he shuffles the secret objective deck.

Objective Timing

Each objective specifies when a player can score it, either during the status phase or during the action phase. This timing is indicated directly below a card's title. If a player scores an objective during the status phase, he must fulfill the requirement on the card during the "Score Objectives" step of the status phase to score that objective.

For example, if an objective states that a player must control six planets outside of his home system, he must control those planets when he scores the objective- having controlled those planets earlier is not sufficient.

Players can score some objectives by spending resources, influence, or tokens, as described by the objective card. To score such an objective, a player must pay the specified cost at the time indicated on the card.

If an objective's timing specifies "Action Phase", a player can score it during the action phase immediately after he fulfills its requirements.

Scoring Objectives

If a player fulfills an objective's requirements at the time indicated on the card, he can score it. To do so, he advances his token on the victory point track a number of spaces equal to the value of the objective card.

Scoring a Two-Point Objective

After scoring an objective, a player places a control token from his supply on that objective card to indicate that he has scored it and cannot score it again this game. If he scored a secret objective, he places the card faceup in front of him before placing a control token on it.

Important: Each player can only score one public and one secret objective during each status phase and each step of the action phase.

The Winner - Imperium Rex

The game can end early if no player has scored 10 victory points and there are no more objectives to reveal.

When the speaker would reveal an objective but cannot, the game immediately ends and the player with the most victory points wins the game.

If there is a tie, the player among the tied players who is earliest in initiative order wins the game.

Three- And Four-player Games

When playing the game with three or four players, players implement the following rules:

  • The strategy phase: After each player has chosen one strategy card during the strategy phase, players repeat the strategy card selection process until each player has chosen a second strategy card from the available cards.

  • Initiative order: Each player's lowest-numbered strategy card is used to determine his placement in initiative order.

  • Passing: A player cannot pass during the action phase unless both of his strategy cards are exhausted.

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