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How to Play Twilight Imperium Guide

Check out our easy to read how to play Twilight Imperium online guide

Players: 3 to 6 | Game duration from: 240 mins | Game Complexity: EASY How to play Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition rules in simple steps Twilight Imperium: Fourth Edition rules pdf / rulebook

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What is the goal?

Players will barter, plot and wage war against one another complete objectives
The goal is to gain 10 Victory Points to claim the Imperial Throne and win the game.

Game setup 

First Twilight Imperium game setup (some components are not used during the first game)

  1. Randomly select one speaker who will go first (player takes the speaker token)
  2. Speaker randomly assigns Factions (and faction sheet)  to each player
  3. Players take their faction-specific components
  4. Players choose a colour and components that match their colour 
  5. Players place their planet cards face-up on faction sheet
  6. Players create game board – the layout is based on the number of players
  7. Place Custodians Token on game board on Mecatol Rex
  8. Shuffle action, agenda, stage I objective, stage II objective, and secret
    objective cards into separate decks
  9. Create separate piles near the game board for trade good, infantry, and fighter tokens.
  10. Place each of the eight strategy cards faceup
  11. Players gather starting technology and starting units listed on back of faction sheet and places cards faceup near faction sheet and starting units on home system. Each player places:
    • 3 command tokens on tactic pool
    • 3 command tokens on fleet pool
    • 2 command tokens on strategy pool
  12. Each player prepares objectives by
    • Drawing 1 secret objective and keeping it hidden 
    • Placing victory point track with 0-10 side face up and putting their control token on \”0\”
  • The Speaker draws 5 Stage 1 objective cards and places them facedown in a row above victory point track
  • Speaker draws 5 stage 2 objective cards and places them facedown in a row below the victory point track
  • Speaker reveals 1st 2 stage 1 objectives


The game is played over a series of Game Rounds. Each round has 4 phases:

  • Strategy
  • Action
  • Status
  • Agenda

Strategy Phase

  • Players take turns selecting a strategy card that provides a unique action phase action
  • Beginning with the speaker and continuing clockwise, each player chooses a strategy card and places it faceup near the faction sheet
  • 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 this number, starting with “1.” This is the Initiative Order.
  • The speaker places one trade good on each strategy card that was not chosen. During future strategy phases, a player gains those trade goods when they choose the card 

Three and Four-Player Specific Rules

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.

Action Phase

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

During the action phase, players take turns in initiative order.

The player taking the turn can perform one action. After each player has taken a turn, player turns begin again in initiative order. Initiative order may repeat several times within a single action phase. The action phase does not end until each player has passed .
There are three types of actions:

  • tactical
  • strategic actions
  • component actions

A player may pass an action after they have done their strategic action. When a player passes, their turn is skipped for the remainder of the action phase. After each player has passed, the game round continues to the status phase.

Tactical Action

Players move ships, initiate combat, invade planets, produce units, interact with the gameboard.

  1. ACTIVATION: You activate a system by taking a command token from your tactic pool and placing it in that system.
  2. MOVEMENT: You may move ships into a system from any number of other systems. Ships can also move ground forces from one system to another.
  3. SPACE COMBAT: If multiple players have ships in the active system, they resolve space combat.
  4. INVASION: You may commit ground forces to land on planets in the active system. If another player has units on those planets, the players resolve ground combat.
  5. PRODUCTION: If you have a space dock in the active system, you can produce units by spending resources.
1. Activation
  • During activation, a player chooses one system to be the ACTIVE SYSTEM for the tactical action
  • Players cannot activate a system that already contains one of their command tokens but may activate a system containing other players\’ command tokens
  • Command Tokens are required to activate a system
2. Movement
  • Each ship has a movement value printed on its faction sheet and indicates how far it can travel to reach the active system
  • The following movement rules need to be obeyed:
    • A ship’s movement must end in the active system
    • Ships cannot pass through a system containing another player\’s ships, excluding fighters
    • Players cannot move units out a system containing one of their command tokens
  • Ships with capacity value may transport a number of fighters and ground forces, in any combination, up to the ship\’s capacity value
  • Transported ground forces and fighters move to the active system along with the transport ship
  • Active player’s ships may pick up and transport ground forces and fighters from systems they pass through that do not contain any of their command tokens

Some system tiles contain wormholes. There are two types of basic wormholes–alpha and beta. Systems that contain identical wormholes are adjacent to one another.


Some system tiles contain anomalies. These restrict movement and have special rules.

  • Asteroid Field

    Ships cannot move through or into an asteroid field.

  • Nebula
    • Ships cannot move through but may move into a nebula.
    • A defender’s ship in a nebula applies +1 to each of its combat rolls.
    • A ship moving out of a nebula has a move value of 1.
  • Supernova

    Ships cannot move through or into a supernova

  • Gravity Rift

    Ships that move through or out of a gravity rift applies +1 to their move value and then rolls one die; on a result of 1–3, the ship is destroyed.

3. Space Combat

Space combat occurs when multiple players have ships in the active system.

Space combat steps for each player

  1. Anti-Fighter Barrage

    You use Anti-Fighter Barrage abilities.

  2. Announce Retreat

    You may choose to retreat but it will not happen immediately. Retreat occurs at the end of the round.
    If retreating ground forces on planets,  you must move them from planets to space area during this step.

  3. Make Combat Rolls

    You roll one die for each of your ships in the active system. If the result is equal to or greater than the unit\’s combat value, it is a HIT. The total number of hits is used in the next step.

    If a unit’s combat value contains two or more burst icons, you roll this number of dice for the unit instead

  4. Assign Hits

    For each hit produced by your opponent, choose and destroy one of your ships. Destroyed ships are removed from the game board and placed in your reinforcements.

  5. Retreat

    If you announced a retreat, take all your ships from the combat and place them in an adjacent system. The chosen system must not contain ships belonging to another player and must contain either a planet you control or at least one of your units. Otherwise; you cannot retreat.
    If the chosen system does not contain one of your command tokens, you must place one token from your reinforcements in that system when you retreat.

If players have units remaining in the combat after the retreat step, perform another round of combat starting with the \”Announce Retreat\” step.

When all units on one or both sides have been destroyed or retreated, play continues to the Invasion step.

4. Invasion 

If you are the active player, you can invade planets in the active system by performing the steps below:

  1. Bombardment

    If planets in the active system contain an opponent’s ground forces, you may use your unit\’s  \”Bombardment\” abilities in that system. This may allow you to destroy some of the defender\’s units before landing ground forces.

  2. Commit Ground Forces

    You may decide which ground forces you wish to land on planets. You take any of your ground forces that are with your ships in the space area of the active system and places each one on the planet you are invading.

  3. Space Cannon Defense

    If another player has a PDS on any of the planets you have committed
    ground forces to, you may be able to destroy some of those ground forces before landing. 

  4. Ground Combat

    Ground Combat occurs when multiple players have ground forces on the same planet. Combat is resolved in the order of the active player’s choice.
    Ground combat occurs over a number of rounds consisting of 2 steps with rules similar to Space Combat:
    1. Make Combat Rolls
    2. Assign Hits
    After assigning hits, if multiple players have units remaining on the planet, they engage in another ground combat round.
    When one or both sides of the combat units have been destroyed, proceed to the next step.

  5. Establish Control

    You gain control of each invaded planet that contains at least of your ground forces. When a planet is invaded. take the corresponding planet card and place it in your play area exhausted and destroy any structures belonging to other players

5. Production 

You can produce units using your space docks in the active system. 

Production of units
You can produce any of your faction sheet units by spending resources equal to the listed unit’s cost. When produced, take units from reinforcements and place them in the active system.

Total cost of production
When producing multiple units at a time, the cost values of those units are added together to determine the total cost.

Space Dock unit production limits
The maximum number of units you can produce during this step at each space dock’s is based on the “Production” value. You cannot produce more units than the combined production values of your units in the active system. 

Units with 2 icons
If a unit’s cost has 2 icons, such as the cost values of fighters and infantry, you produce 2 units for the indicated cost. When producing these units, each individual unit counts against the production limit.

If you wish to produce a unit but the unit type is not available in your reinforcements, you may remove one of your units of that type from a system that does not contain one of your command tokens on the game board and return it to reinforcements.

When you produce a fighter or infantry unit but have none in reinforcements, you can use fighter or infantry tokens from the supply instead. These tokens function identically to plastic figures of that type; however, they must be accompanied by at least one plastic figure of that type that matches your color.

Unit placement

Ships are always placed in the active system\’s space area. 
Ground forces are placed on the planet that contains the space dock that produced them.

Strategic Actions

Strategy cards have a primary ability and a secondary ability.

When a player takes a strategic action, resolve the primary ability. After that, each other player may resolve its secondary ability. The active player cannot resolve the secondary ability of their own strategy card.

After each player has had an opportunity to resolve a strategy
card’s secondary ability, the card is exhausted 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 their strategy card is exhausted. 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.

Three and Four-Player Specific Rules

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

Component Actions

Actions listed 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.”

Status Phase

 To resolve the status phase, players perform the following steps in order:

    In initiative order, score one public and one secret objective if card requirements are fulfilled.
    The speaker flips the next unrevealed public objective card faceup. Stage 2 objective is not revealed until all stage 1 objectives have been revealed.
    Draws one card from the top of the action card deck.
    Remove all command tokens from the game board and return them to reinforcements.
    Gains two command tokens from reinforcements and redistribute them on the command sheet by moving between their tactic, fleet, and strategy pools.
    Ready exhausted cards, including planet, technology, and strategy cards.

Agenda Phase

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

Players vote for outcomes on two agendas:

  • establishing laws and policies that have lasting
  • Voting on agendas 

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

The Galactic Council

This section contains rules for the agenda phase, which is added to the game after a player gains control of Mecatol Rex. The agenda phase involves heavy negotiation and political maneuvering.


The custodians token represents the caretakers that safeguard Mecatol Rex until one of the great races can claim the throne.

When custodian token is present, players may freely move units into the Mecatol Rex system, but cannot land ground forces on the planet.
To remove this token,  you must spend six influence immediately before landing ground forces on the planet.

When removing the custodians token, place it in your play area and gain one victory point. Since the galactic council can now convene on Mecatol Rex, the agenda phase is added as the last phase of each game round, including the round during which a player gained control of Mecatol Rex.

After the agenda phase has been added to the game, the galactic council votes upon issues that affect the entire galaxy. These issues are referred to as agendas and are represented by agenda cards. Each agenda card has text that includes a number of possible outcomes. Each outcome will affect the game, and players will vote for which outcome they want to occur.

To resolve the agenda phase, players perform the following steps in order:

    • VOTE
    • VOTE

To resolve an agenda, players perform the following steps

i. Reveal Agenda

The speaker draws one agenda card from the top of the agenda deck and reads it aloud to all players, including its possible outcomes.

ii. Vote

Each player, starting with the player to the left of the speaker and continuing clockwise casts votes in favour of a single outcome. When it is your turn to cast votes, you may exhaust any number of your planets. Each planet contributes a number of votes equal to its influence value.

The outcomes that a player can vote for depends upon the type of agenda:

The player commits their votes “For” or “Against” the agenda. The agenda card
will have different results according to the outcome that receives the most votes.

The player commits his votes for the player of his choice, including himself.

The player commits his votes for the planet of his choice. That
planet must be controlled by a player unless the agenda specifies otherwise.
When casting votes, the player announces the outcome he is voting for aloud.

For example,
a player may say, “I’m casting three votes to elect the Hacan player” or “I’m casting three votes against this agenda.”

A player can only vote for one outcome per agenda. For example, he cannot cast votes for two different players. He may, however, choose to abstain from the vote entirely.

During each vote, players may freely negotiate transactions with other players, even if they are not neighbours with those players.

Each player may negotiate up to one transaction with each other player while resolving the vote for each agenda. This often involves convincing players to vote for certain outcomes using trade goods or future promises.

iii. Resolve Outcome
Players count votes and resolve the outcome with the most votes. Each agenda will be one of two types: a directive or a law.

When resolving a directive, players resolve the outcome that received the most votes and discard the agenda card immediately.

When resolving a law, if a “For” outcome received the most votes, or if the law requires an election, the law’s effect becomes a permanent part of the game. Players resolve the outcome and place the agenda card in the common play area unless the effect specifies otherwise.

If an “Against” outcome received the most votes, players resolve the text effect of the outcome and discard the agenda immediately.

If multiple outcomes receive the same number of votes after all players have voted, the speaker decides which of the tied outcomes is resolved.


Players resolve a second agenda following the same rules and
steps for step 1, “First Agenda.”


Each player readies all of his planet cards. Then, the agendaphase ends and players begin a new game round, starting with
the strategy phase.

Additional Rules

Action Cards

As you collect action cards during the game, you can use them to resolve powerful one-time abilities.

Each player can have a maximum of seven action cards. If it exceeds, you must choose which seven cards to keep and discard.

Each card indicates when it can be used at the top of its card. When used, you reveal the card, resolves its effect, and discards the card.

If an action card begins with the word “Action,” it can be used as
a component action during a player’s turn of the action phase.

Trade Goods and Commodities

Trade goods are the game currency that you use to produce units or bribe other empires.

You may spend a trade good as either one resource or one influence.

You may also accumulate commodities. A commodity represents a product that is plentiful within a player’s empire. Commodities have no inherent value but become trade goods when given to another player. Both trade goods and commodities are represented by opposite sides of the same token and exist in
values of “1” or “3.”

When a commodity is given to another, it converts into a trade good; the player receiving the commodity flips the token to its trade good side. 

Neighbours, Transactions and Deals

Neighbouring players can peacefully trade with each other.

If a player has a unit or controls a planet in a system that is adjacent to a system that contains a unit or planet that another player controls, those
two players are neighbours.

During the active player’s turn, the player may negotiate a transaction with one or more of their neighbours, even during combat.

As part of a transaction, the negotiating players may exchange any number of trade goods and commodities. The active player may negotiate only once with each of his neighbours per turn. After a transaction has been finalized, no other transactions may occur between those players that turn.

Players may negotiate transactions that go beyond a simple exchange of goods. These transactions are called deals.

Binding Deals
For example, you might move your ships into a system that contains another player’s PDS, and you might offer the owner of that PDS a trade good to refrain from using the “Space Cannon” ability. Because the effect can be resolved immediately, this deal is a binding deal. When a deal is binding, a player must honour their end of the bargain.

In this example, if the owner of the PDS agrees to this deal and takes the trade good, he cannot fire his PDS as this would violate their agreement.

Non-binding deals
Deals involving effects that cannot be resolved immediately are non-binding. For example, a player might offer another player a trade good to attack a specific player during a later turn. Because the effect cannot be resolved
immediately, this deal is a non-binding deal. The player who
was given the trade good, despite the terms of the deal, is not required to honour the deal.


During the game, players will gain technology in the form of technology cards. Technologies provide you with powerful abilities and unit upgrades. 

Everyone has an identical deck of technology cards, as well as a number of faction technology cards, were set aside during setup.

Technology colours
A technology’s colour is indicated by a green, red, blue, or yellow symbol located on the lower-right corner of the card. 

Each player begins the game with a number of starting technologies as indicated on the back of his faction sheet.
A player can research new technologies from their deck during the game. Starting technologies and any technology being researched are placed faceup in your play area.

After a technology is faceup, you own that technology, and it remains in
play for the duration of the game and their abilities can be used as described.

Technologies that have the word “Action” in their card text, you resolve these cards by using a component action during the action phase.

Unit upgrades technologies match a unit on a player’s faction sheet. When a player gains a unit upgrade technology, the card is placed over the
corresponding unit on their faction sheet.

The white arrows next to an attribute’s value on the faction sheet indicate that
the attribute will improve when its unit is upgraded.

When a unit is upgraded, all the player’s units of that type, both on the game board and in reinforcements, now have the attributes are shown on the unit upgrade technology.

Researching Technology

Players gain new technology by researching, usually by using the “Technology” strategy card. To research the technology, you must meet its prerequisites.

Prerequisites are printed as a column on the lower-left side of each technology card and contain one or more basic technology coloured symbols.
Some technologies have no prerequisites and can be researched without owning any technology.

To satisfy a technology’s prerequisites, you must own a matching technology for each prerequisite symbol on the card you wish to research.

For example, a player that owns two red technologies may research the red technology “Duranium Armor,” as it has two red prerequisites. 

After the player researches the “Duranium Armor” technology, it satisfies another red prerequisite, as indicated on the lower‑right corner of the card; the next time that the player researches a technology, he may research a technology that has three red symbols as a prerequisite.

Unit upgrade technologies, unlike other technologies, may have prerequisites composed of multiple colours. Additionally, unit upgrade technologies do not satisfy prerequisites when researching the technology.

Technology Specialties

Some planets provide the player with a technology specialty. Technology specialties are extremely valuable and help players research new technologies.

If you control a planet that has a technology specialty symbol, you may exhaust that planet when researching technology to ignore a prerequisite that matches that technology specialty.

While researching technology, players may exhaust planets for
their technology specialty or for their resources, but not for both.

Planet Traits

Most planets outside of home systems have a planet trait. There are three types of planets: cultural, hazardous, and industrial.

Traits have no inherent game effect but are referred to by some cards and abilities.

Unit Abilities

Many units in the game have unit abilities that appear as bulleted keywords on faction sheets and unit upgrade technology cards. The rules for these abilities are as follows:


If a unit has the “Planetary Shield” ability, the planet where that unit is located is not an eligible target for other units’ “Bombardment” abilities.


If a unit has the “Sustain Damage” ability, it can become damaged to cancel one hit. A damaged unit is turned on its side but otherwise functions as it did previously.

A damaged unit cannot use “Sustain Damage” until it is repaired
either during the status phase or by another game effect.


A unit with the “Production” ability, such as a space dock, can produce new units. This ability is always followed by a value that dictates the maximum number of units that a unit that has this ability can produce.


The following abilities require a player to roll dice to determine whether or not another player’s units are hit:

“Anti-Fighter Barrage,” “Bombardment,” and “Space Cannon.”

Minimum die result for a Hit
These abilities are always followed by a number that determines the minimum die result required to produce a hit. 

Some of these abilities are followed by a second number presented inside parentheses. This number indicates how many dice a player rolls.

For example, when you use an ability that reads “Space Cannon 5 (x3),” roll three dice and each die with a result of “5” or higher produces one hit. If an ability that requires a roll does not contain a number inside parentheses, you only roll one die.

Hits that are produced by abilities are assigned immediately. When a hit is produced against your units, you choose and destroy one of your units.
You use each of these abilities at different times and can hit different types of units as described below:


A player uses this ability during the “Anti-Fighter Barrage” step of the first round of space combat. These hits can only be assigned to fighters.


A player uses this ability during the “Bombardment” step of an invasion. These hits can only be assigned by the bombarded player to ground forces on the
planet being bombarded. If there are multiple planets in the system, the active player must choose which of their units in the system are bombarding which planets before rolling dice.


A player can use this ability at two different times, as follows:

After the “Movement” step of tactical action, all players can use the “Space Cannon” abilities of their units that are in the active system. The player whose units the ability was used against must assign these hits to ships in that system.

During the “Space Cannon Defense” step of an invasion, the player who controls the planet being invaded can use the “Space Cannon” abilities of their units on that planet. The invading player must assign these hits to their ground
forces that are invading the planet.

How do you win?

Twilight Imperium 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

Players begin the game with one secret objective. 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 and shuffle it.

Objective Timing

Each objective specifies when a player can score it and is indicated directly below a card’s title. If a player scores an objective during the status phase, he must fulfil the card requirement 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 fulfils its requirements.

Scoring Objectives

Players score victory points when they fulfil an objective’s requirements at the time indicated on the card. 

When scored, advance your token on the victory point track a number of spaces equal to the value of the objective card\’s value.

Once scored, the player places a control token from their supply on that objective card to indicate that it has been scored and cannot be scored again in this game.

If a secret objective is scored, the card is placed face-up in front of the player before a control token is placed 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.

Imperium Rex

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.

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