[The Gentleman Nerd is a weekly column written by Jason McMaster and is dedicated to the more discerning tastes of the refined dork. Due to Jason's extreme nature, most of his columns will be subtitled 'Why I Love...' or 'Why I Hate...' - in case you were wondering.]

Twilight ImperiumSo there I am, standing in my foyer with a glass of Everclear and Pepsi in my hand, speaking to a giant. It was one of those moments where you’re not sure if it’s the alcohol that’s making you see things or if you’re actually talking to a man who had to stoop to enter your house. Luckily for me, this one didn’t want to grind my bones to make his bread. Well, not in a literal sense.

After taking in this frankly bizarre sight, I noticed that he carried two things in his hands: a cooler full of Smirnoff Ice and a copy of Twilight Imperium. This giant was here to drink malt liquors and engage in intergalactic combat with me and my friends. My vision quickly becoming muddled by my drink, I mustered an enthusiastic “Tally ho!” before heading to the dining room.

What happens next is what Brian and I both agree is the best part of any new board game: setting up the board. I don’t know what’s so entertaining about placing cardboard, cards and plastic markers in a certain order on a table, but it always make me smile. Maybe it has something to do with my Culinary degree. Every chef instructor’s mantra is “mis en place,” which means “setting in place,” and it’s the action of placing all of your ingredients where they belong for quick access and efficient use. After a few years of hearing that statement, being made to define that statement and working in a restaurant named after that statement, you start living that statement.

As a side note, there are several types of board gamers, and you’re never really sure which one you’ve got until you can observe their habits in their natural setting. The new guy was a fidgeter. That means that whenever someone sets down a drink within a certain radius of the game, the fidgeter must move it. This can lead to a little unintentional ballet of sorts. I set down a drink, he picks it up and moves it and then I drink from it and set it down again. Round and round they go.

Twilight ImperiumOnce the game was set up and the square dance was over, our large friend started to explain the rules. Now, you’d think that drinking would inhibit my ability to understand the complex workings of Twilight Imperium, and maybe it would were I a lesser man, but luckily I’m a master of inebriated gaming. After listening to the rules for a few minutes I piped up and made the comparison to Master of Orion 2, and I think that rings true. This is basically Master of Orion 2 in the form of a board game. I’ll demonstrate by a quick explanation of the rules.

The game is set up so that the objective planet, Mecatol Rex, is in the center. After that planet is set up, each player takes turns placing the hexes around it in a circular manner. Once all the hexes are placed you begin the game. The game basically consists of conquering planets, which give you bonuses to research and money. Sound familiar? Even better, there’s a tech tree and the tech has requirements that must be fulfilled before you can buy other techs. These techs allow you to build bigger and better ships and improve your planets. This will help you along your way towards getting the most victory points and achieving your secret objectives.

Once the parallel to Master of Orion 2 was drawn, I completely grasped the game. The problem, however, is that I was the only new player who had ever played Master of Orion 2. Without a frame of reference, or some background in this basic style of game, the rules for Twilight Imperium are extremely daunting. That’s not to say that it isn’t good or fun, but it’s just quite a bit to take in all at once. In fact, it was so much to take in that our first game only made it to turn three and that took about six hours. Not exactly what we were expecting where we started at 8.

Twilight ImperiumSo, at around 2 A.M., we had to call it quits. Who knew that giants had bed times? Everyone helped pack up the game and I bid them all good night. Sarah had already gone to bed for the night and the house was quiet. It was just me and the cats.

After everyone left, I sat in my dining room table, reading over the rules for Runebound and thinking about that night’s gaming. Other than the fact that I really like the board and the pieces, I wasn’t too sure if I really enjoyed the experience. Most things are subjective, of course, and under different circumstances I think I would have enjoyed myself more. The rules and inner-workings of the game are pretty intriguing, if not dense. I know for a fact that we’ll play the game again, and I hope to have a better time then.

As I turned off all the lights in our house and headed up to bed, a thought kept coming back to me. “Who had driven to my house? Was it the giant or was it Brian?” I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like if it had been Brian. He has a small car.

[Jason McMaster is a freelance writer who has written for Gamasutra, GameSpy and several other publications. He’s currently working on a few small projects and updating his blog, Lamethrower, as often as he can.]