Twilight Imperium: The Races Article Series: The Sol Federation
For a long time I have wanted to write an article series on something, kind of get deep into a particular topic (game) and peel as many onions as I can. Given my love affair with Twilight Imperium I have decided to do a series on the Races of Twilight Imperium. I have about 7 years of experience with Twilight Imperium, I have played every race in the game many times and while I don’t consider myself a definitive authority on the subject, I do win at this game often so I think I at least have a clue what I’m talking about (I hope).
The focus of this article series will be an in depth look at every race in the Twilight Imperium game set including all the expansion races. I will look at each of their racial abilities, starting conditions, planets, racial technologies and pretty much anything associated with the race. Offer up some advice and tell a few tales about my experience with each race. Each race will get its own post.
So without further delay, let’s get our hands dirty.
THE FEDERATION OF SOL
The Federation of Sol is probably a race that I have played more than any other but it’s not because I favor them in anyway, just kind of luck of the draw. I have chosen them as my first race in this article series because I think they are probably one of the most newbie friendly races in the game with straightforward abilities and good all-around statistics, I think the term sturdy defines them best. They are flexible and this is their strength and they have no real weaknesses to expose, which again makes them more approachable by novice players. My favorite aspect of the Federation of Sol is their solid foundation as a defense race that can easily be managed into a near impenetrable fortress.
“As an action, you may spend one command counter from your strategy allocation area to place two free ground forces on any one planet you control”
“During the Status Phase, You receive one extra command counter”
This first ability is actually much stronger than it suggests. Of course 1 command counter for 2 ground forces is not a particularly great trade off, but the ability to place them anywhere allows you to strengthen planetary holdings without the need to transport units or build space docks. This allows you to over time build up considerable defenses on the ground; something I find in Twilight Imperium games is not a particularly common thing to do and most races towards end game will have neglected the majority of their planets. The Federation of Sol strategy allows you to create an extremely powerful and flexible defense, while also allowing you a strong offense when needed as ground forces should be available wherever you need them to be collected by your carriers and particularly your flag ship if you are using the shards of a throne expansion. If played well by end game rounds you should have a sufficient planetary defense on most of your planets to deter aggressors and this is what makes these guys so great for newbies.
Here is the kicker however; this really isn’t the most powerful aspect of this ability. In fact the ability to stall using strategy allocation tokens is the real power house here. Anytime you don’t want to act you simply build some ground forces and let other players spend their command pool while you buy your time. To make this effective you are going to have to go after that Logistics or Leadership strategy cards as the case may be more often than other races might need to, but the benefits you reap from these extra command tokens strengthens you each round and offers the opportunity for you to deny key actions to your opponents via stalling. An even better way is to acquire sufficient influence to purchase these during secondary’s of said strategy cards.
The fact that you earn an extra command token each status phase means you generally have a 6 command token advantage over other players in the course of the game. This is quite significant and while you should be focusing some of your resources on building up ground forces, it is also an opportunity to build up fleet supply. I personally like to always take this extra token each round and place it in fleet supply so that by round 4 or 5 I’m sitting on 7 or 8 fleet supply. Slowly grinding out a powerful air force to match my powerful ground force with a proper PDS defense grid and your talking about a defense no one will want to swap paint with.
Really the potential for a powerful fleet with a powerful ground force by end game allows the Federation of Sol player to buy his time, work the victory points and know that if anyone does make the poor decision to invade they will have their work cut out for them. This is why the Federation of Sol is best played from a defensive position and they have the racial ability to really support that.
Staring Conditions and Statistics
Given their racial ability the addition of Cybernetics and Anti mass deflectors might seem off beat for a race so focused on ground forces, but if you note on the technology pre-requisite chart you are only one tech away from Gen Synthesis which gives your ground forces 1 +1 to combat rolls and the potential to regain casualties 50% of the time. This of course is significant for the SOL and something that is practically automatic for you to take, but not necessarily as my first tech. In fact thanks to their racial technology, the addition of Cybernetics actually makes them quite dangerous in the sky as well (more on racial techs later).
The Sol wants Gen Sythesis for sure, but I believe XRD transporters to be a far better move to give your carriers more mobility, in particular since you start with two of them and Enviro Compensators and Sarween Tools are also high on the list really for any race but in particular if you plan to push fleet supply (which you should) you want to be able to max out both production and production capacity every time you build at a space dock.
As starting units go, frankly the best possible way to start is with 2 carriers, lots of ground forces (and ability to produce more) with a B-line next text position to XRD transporters which is exactly what the SOL get. You can’t ask for a better starting set of units short of starting with XRD transporters on top of it and while carriers are weak in space, by the second round thanks to your 4 production home world you will have sufficient defenses up to deter pretty much everyone in the early game.
Finally their 2/2 trade contracts might at first glance make them average but this is actually above average and you will never have trouble getting these traded out and often will end up with a 2/3 trade. Trade goods aren’t really a bit part of the Sol strategy, but it adds to their synergy and assists in faster development so take the opportunity when it comes, naturally. Note that with certain racial mixes however it may be better to deny trade contracts with the Sol, strictly speaking, they aren’t reliant on them as much as many races in Twilight Imperium.
Racial Technology and Other Game Components
The racial techs for the SOL fit in perfectly both with their racial abilities and ultimately with your strategy.
Spec Ops Training
Cost 5: Each time you roll a 1 during invasion combat you may re-roll the die, you must use the second result
Frankly this first one is not that necessary, because while you do want to strengthen and improve your odds, truth is that because you have a lot of defensive capability with this race your chances of ever actually having to use them is slim and in most cases you will have odds in numbers on your side when fighting on the ground anyway. Players tend to avoid ground force heavy planets, in particular the Sol who are likely already sitting on Gen Synthesis and creating nice PDS grids (more on that one below). I rarely take it unless I foresee a lot of combat in my future.
Mark II Advanced Carriers
Cost 4: Your carriers now have the capacity of 8 and gain the Sustain Damage ability
This one is a definite must and is actually a far superior tech to Spec Ops and its 1 production cheaper, in fact many TI3 players will proclaim this to be the best racial tech in the game. While defending your carriers is a great feature the strength of this unit is the capacity increase. While you might think this is to help move more ground forces, in fact you will primarily use it to build larger fighter fleets. With this tech a carrier with 8 fighters has the potential to take 10 hits! And that’s just one ship with a combined cost of 7 production using only 1 fleet supply in your fleet. That’s a powerhouse of defense that will scare the crap out of even war sun offensives with a half ass fleet mixture to support it, but create a well formed fleet and they are freighting on the board. Mixed with Cybernetics which you start with, you have some descent fire power as well. This is a great tech and it’s particularly effective with the Sol as it combos well with their ground force support as well. Just don’t forget those XRD’s to give your carriers more mobility.
The representatives you get for those of you with the Shards of Throne expansion are actually quite fair, but nothing special. They really don’t support a strong political round, but their abilities aren’t useless either.
Claire Gibson (Councilor) “If the political card does not resolve the way you voted, you may retrieve one of your promissory notes from a player who voted against you” This is actually kind of a sneaky one that works great against less experienced players but less so against vets. Promissory notes are sought after items but as the SOL you have the ability to get them back. Unfortunately this is a counselor and is destined to get murdered in the game at some point when people catch on so her ability ends up being very circumstantial. Plus simply owning her makes your promissory notes less dependable and people won’t take to kindly when you cut a deal and then pull the rug from under them shortly after.
Rev Hendrickson (Spy, Bodyguard) “Assassinate a representative, if the representative is a bodyguard he is not considered targeted” is kind of a freebie rep. Providing no votes you can try to take out those pesky counselors without the threat of reactive abilities from other bodyguards which is great but that’s about all he’s good for. Not much help during voting.
Ronald Wiley (Counselor)” If you abstain from this vote gain 2 free ground forces on a planet you control.” This one I really like, in particular since many political votes become irrelevant to you so whenever you don’t care about the results pull him out for 2 free ground forces, a great trade off. While he gives a bonus of 3 votes, if you are interested in the results you’ll want to send in Gibson with her +4 votes instead. This one is good to hold on to and keep him safe and I often make a lot of noise prior to a vote I don’t care about via open statements like “I don’t care about this vote, I’m going to abstain” and other such announcements in advance so everyone knows that I have no interest in the vote and hence no one has interest in murdering this counselor.
The addition of flag ships has added a lot of umpfh to most races, but the Sol got kind of a middle of the road flag ship. The Genesis 1 is loaded with the Sustain damage ability 5×3 battle attack score which is outstanding and the best feature of this ship, basically like having 3 dreads shooting and then finally the circumstantial sweet spot ability “Ground Forces on this ship do not count towards capacity”. Really the part that makes this ship middle of the road is its mobility, with a movement of 1 it doesn’t make much of a transport even with its unlimited ground force storage capacity. The Sol generally ends up with a pretty mobile fleet, but this hog will slow you down. For 10 resources, you have to wonder if its not better to get that carrier with 8 fighters for 7 resources. It comes in handy, buts definitely a late build, part of a border defense fleet that doesn’t require a lot of mobility, preferably centrally located.
The Sol Federation always has a great opening round thanks to its 2 carriers and 5 ground forces. You will easily claim a minimum of 3 systems regardless of which strategy card you take. One with each carrier and then bouncing off one of the production secondary’s be it Imperial I, II or Production. If warefare I is in play, that’s your card for an extra system, if not you do well with Technology to grab those XRD transporters and if that’s not available go for the logistics card or leadership to grab those tokens because after all there is no time like the first round to start building up the foundation for your long term strategy.
Really picking strategy cards is why the Federation of Sol is so newbie friendly, they really do well with just about any card. It almost doesn’t matter what you pick, you’re always going to reap benefits that meet your long term defensive strategy. The only card really to avoid is the same ones everyone will avoid in round 1 like Diplomacy I if it’s in play or Bureaucracy. You certainly want to keep an eye on public objectives but in most setups you don’t know what they are in the early rounds so there is no point in guessing.
My personal favorite in the opening round is either production or warfare 1, with the Sol you don’t have to be afraid to expand too far, reach and grab everything you can. You are one of the few races in the game that is designed from the ground up to defend a large empire and every round someone doesn’t invade you, their opportunity to do so effectively will diminish.
Tips and Tricks
I like to play the Sol as they are designed to be played, defensive. I stay out of the squabbles over planets as production isn’t going to be a problem for you with a 4 production home world as a starting point, but I don’t whimper away from a fight if it comes down to it either, the Sol generally have very good sustainability in wars. Stock up on command tokens, stall hard and often using your ground force building ability and don’t be afraid to reach for Mecatol Rex with this race. You stand a far better chance of holding on to it than anyone else and the benefits of 6 influence to get even more tokens assures that you will have your bag on your card in later rounds in the game which is extremely powerful in the hands of the Sol. Build up that fleet supply and make everyone nervous with your military might.
I also like to push the Tech, in particular when seated next to less aggressive races. War Suns in the hands of the Sol Federation are deadly in combination with their Racial Technology (increased capacity and more fighters). In fact once you have a Warsun and your racial tech, I can’t imagine anyone would be foolish enough to try to start something with you.
Building PDS grids is a good strategy for every race and is hardly worth mentioning, position them centrally and make sure you defend them well. Make entering your space as risky as possible. Once its setup up, it’s all about the VP’s!
Finally and most importantly as you push this strategy, fight, scratch and kill for those points. Never hesitate to do whatever it takes and don’t worry about getting ahead of the pack, this races survivability, means people aren’t going to try to beat you tactically, they will be trying to beat you on points . If they come, they’ll be facing massive defenses, let them tear themselves against your military might while you calmly qualify for objective after objective. The Federation of Sol have great odds for scoring secret objectives, so think about it and think about it early. Mecatol is far easier for you to take and to hold on to, which covers more than half of the objectives. If its tech driven, start early and don’t spare too much expense, even a modest defense in the hands of the Sol is more than most races can afford to risk. Push the Bureaucracy card if you have a point waiting for you on the board, don’t be afraid to let lady luck play her part.
Drawbacks and Things to Watch Out For
It’s hard to define drawbacks of the Sol Federation because it’s very circumstantial, but most commonly people will try to deny you command counters, in particular experienced players. Nothing hurts the Sol as much as not getting the Command Generating Primary (Logistics and Leadership) and not having enough influence to work the secondary. If you find yourself short on command counters every round it creates a much bigger problem for you than other races, it’s your bread and butter.
Be careful not to overdo it. There is a balance between defense and over building. It’s easy for Sol players to overlook something as important as technology, in particular given that you are quite a distance away from getting Warsuns, in fact as far away as one can be at the start of the game. Finding yourself at a table full of Warsuns in the late game and not having them is an experience Sol players get often and while your defenses should be sufficient, with Warsuns out they are far from impenetrable. Unfortunately there are many other techs important to you as well so depending on how others are buying and who is in play you may need to make that B line for Warsuns yourself. Make this decision early.
Getting The Points
You have a good start on points statistically speaking. Trade good contracts cover trade good oriented objectives. A starting homeworld with 4 production is almost halfway to the typical 10 production or variation thereof type of production objectives. You start with 2 different color techs and a B line for War Suns with XRD will get you 3 of 2 of each color which covers several technological objectives all on its own. Influence may be a problem, but since you’re in a good position to get and hold Mecatol, you have a far better chance of finding the influence you need then most, but this is a weak spot with a 2 influence homeworld. Military objectives are a no brainer for you, you’re going to be as strong as anyone to achieve these. On paper you look good for a win as any race, but victory points can be problematic if you have a poor start, a fact that affects most races so that is neither here nor there.
In the Twilight universe there are many factors that go into making a race powerful and while the Federation of Sol isn’t overwhelming in any particular area, they are suited and in many cases above average in most. This gives them a definitive edge in many areas over other races that might be otherwise lob sided by specializing in a particular area. Twilight Imperium is an unpredictable game with many variables and even many ways to play, the strength of the Sol is as affected by these elements as any other race, but I believe them to be better equipped to handle the broad and generalization of a typical Twilight Imperium game.
I believe any race that has the ability to stall their turn is at a great advantage, which is exactly why races like the Yassaril Tribes are considered the most powerful in the game. Still by comparison, for a race that gets free command counters each round, their ability to skip turns and stall, while less dependable than the tribes, is sufficient to get the job done.
Their racial tech Spec Ops is also a key element that allows them to go from average to very strong and in my view it’s one of those automatic picks the first time you get the Technology primary. I believe politically they are sufficient, but I think I will error on the side of caution and call it fair. This is an element of the game to which the Sol have a hard time adapting unless circumstance places influence into their hands. In fact influence plays a key role in the Sol strategy overall and if you want to do it better, you must have influence, as this is the road to the acquisition of those very important commander counters. As such even though I call this a newbie friendly race, Twilight Imperium strategy is anything but newbie friendly and it takes a bit of skill and understanding of the game to manipulate your actions and strategies to function cohesively with the Sol. There is no good, broad strategy for any race, but the Sol is as close as you are going to get to one.
I have never run the Sol and found myself out of contention at the end of the game, you may not always win with them, but they have the strength to keep you in the game and give you a shot at the end and this is an important statistical fact for me that ranks this race quite well. I also like the fact that the Sol strategy exposes you to different elements of more complex strategies at a simpler and more forgiving level, like for example the importance of influence and its association with command tokens, or how to create a good opening round.
Finally I think that the Sol Federation is capable of playing in a game full of tougher races, which says a lot really given the abundance of races that find themselves at a difficult disadvantage with the stronger races in the game. It has no trouble matching the potential production giant that is the Hacan, or matching wits with the Tribes. Sure on paper it’s not as efficient as some of these power houses, but your certainly a lot better off than most races. Patience is the key to running the Sol, buy your time, act carefully and above all else get those defenses up!