Board game reviews, news and commentary.
Twilight Imperium Frame Showdown
The Component Proponent
Updated: Friday, Sep 27, 2013
"Brief" is not among the words that I would use to describe the epic, space-opera strategy game that is Twilight Imperium. Games can take the better part of a day (perhaps weekend). But, it's such a rich world, I don't really mind the time.

What I do mind, is this: all the planning, plotting and conniving that you've been meticulously weaving all day is about to reach its strategic crescendo, but then, someone bumps the table a little too hard, and WHOOMPH! the galaxy is sent spiraling into chaos and all that hard work you've put into the game is, if not ruined, at least severely smeared across the table.

That's why a while ago I made a Twilight Imperium frame out of foamcore board. It helps keep the game's tiles in place. It's not perfect: it's big, the spaces for the tiles are a little lopsided, and it actually only fits on one table in my house, which isn't even necessarily the table that I use for gaming. But when it comes to preventing Galaxy Smear, it gets the job done.

But then, just this last week, I stumbled across a forum thread about frames for keeping game tiles in place. I posted a message, half-jokingly saying that if someone developed a frame for Twilight Imperium, I'd buy one in a minute. Soon came a reply with a link to the Lyris Laser Studio website, where I was introduced to that very thing in the form of their Galaxy Frame, a customizable wooden frame, specifically designed for use with Twilight Imperium. I got the opportunity to put my money where my big fat mouth was, placed my order, and within a few days, my very own laser-cut Twilight Imperium frame arrived!

But, how does it measure up to my foamcore frame? Is it more awesome? Less awesome? Let's compare them head-to-head to find out.

First off, the Lyris Laser Studio's frame pieces are 1/8th inch thick wood. They're not going to bend, buckle or warp like a paper frame could. But, my foamcore frame is thick enough that it doesn't buckle either, it just has a tendency to randomly fall apart where I had to join its various pieces with duct tape. Random fall apart, yes; but buckle, no. So, I'm going to count this one as a tie. For this round, my masterpiece retains its comparable awesomeness.

Next, the Lyris Laser Studio's frame is designed to allow its size to be customized. Simply add or remove frame pieces to adjust the number of tiles in your game. Dwarf galaxy, giant galaxy, you got it. And if you're playing on a rectangular table, you can even make an oblong one to better fit the available surface area. Not to be outdone, my fantastic foamcore frame can... can... can just sit there being big and cumbersome. Alas. Sorry foamcore frame, you... you are defeated. You are dead to me now.

So, the final verdict is: the Lyris Laser Studio frame wins. And deservedly so. It includes 18 pieces: 6 straight pieces, 6 curved corners, and 6 extensions that add an extra hex to each side. Using the pieces included, I'm able to create maps ranging from 7 to 75 Twilight Imperium tiles.

The Galactic Frame was $30 from the Lyris Studio website. I believe they're located in California, and the shipping to me, in Oregon, was about $6.

If I had to come up with some constructive criticism for the frame, it'd be that:
  1. Some of the pieces could have used a second coat of paint.
  2. It didn't come with any assembly instructions.
Sure, the pieces fit together easily and snugly, but the first time I assembled it, I had some sort of lapse in the Geometry Section brain, and it took me a while to figure out how to make a hexagon with these pieces. Fortunately, as soon as I remembered that I just needed six identical sides, I had it assembled within minutes. A piece of paper with a little sample diagram to help you assemble it correctly would have been appreciated. But, if my biggest complaint about this experience is that I couldn't remember how to make a hexagon, then that's just trivial.

In conclusion: Is it worth buying one for yourself? That all depends on whether you're going to use it, and if you want a portable, relatively sturdy way to keep you game tiles in place. But, I'll tell you that I am ecstatic to have discovered this. I've been pining for a Twilight Imperium frame for years, and this is far better than anything I could have developed on my own.

Thanks for reading. I'm Chaz Marler, and I've been your Component Proponent!
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