I finally got a chance to play Twilight Imperium 4th edition so I figured I'd do a write up. We had 5 players and it was a blast.
For race selection, we used this website about a week before the game http://www.mygurps.com/TwilightImperium.html and selected 3 choices per player. Here's what it rolled up for us (underlined is what we chose):
Yellow (Eck (me) ) may choose from The Clan of Saar, The Naalu Collective, or The Nekro Virus.
Green (Devin) may choose from The Barony of Letnev, The Mentak Coalition, or The Winnu.
Blue (Matt) may choose from The Federation of Sol, The Yssaril Tribes, or The Xxcha Kingdom.
Black (Eric) may choose from The Ghosts of Creuss, The L1Z1X Mindnet, or Sardakk N'orr.
Blue (Alex) may choose from The Yin Brotherhood, The Emirates of Hacan, or The Embers of Muaat.
To save time, I setup the map before hand since I was hosting. I went with a 5-player symmetrical design and tried to balance out tech specialties, resources, influence, and planet types. Here's what I came up with. See the future pictures for how that red section gets essentially "cut-out" for a 5 player game.
With a mostly balanced map, we rolled to see who would get first pick of starting locations. And the last person to choose was awarded the Speaker token. One other house rule we played with was the Speaker would get to pick the 6th Strategy Card. The secondary ability on the 6th card would get triggered after the Speaker activated his Strategy Card.
Round 1 start
And then we started playing. It was a pretty standard set of early turns where people moved out and claimed a few systems. The only thing of special note was the Mentak (Green) chose Warfare but instead of claiming more of his central pie slice, he instead claimed the contested planet between him and the Hacaan (Purple). This led to immediate border friction and posturing between the two races. Green was there first, but Purple felt pinned in behind the Gravity Rift (black hole).
I feel like the Naalu (yellow) are late bloomers so I was quick to make friends with my more combat focused neighbors. Here's what we looked like after Round 1.
Round 1 complete
I made a deal with the L1z1x (black) player to allow me to claim the green tech specialty planet and move out of the system so he could have the bigger resource value world. The green tech specialty would allow me to get my racial tech Neuroglaive faster and make it so I could hold my own versus all those dreadnaughts. We also exchanged Ceasefires.
I couldn't quite take Mecatol this round so I moved adjacent to claim that victory point and set me up for next turn. I made sure to get Sol's (blue's) permission before taking that world and gave him our border planet to solidify the peace.
I also traded my racial promissory note to the Mentak which allowed him to move first in the next round. Giving him a slight edge with the coming conflict of the Hacaan's (purple's) fleets. And I bought a sabotage card from the Hacaan which helped fund the war efforts. Publicly trading for a sabotage was great since it made people less likely to play action cards against me.
Round 2 Complete
Round 3 was very tense. L1z1x (black) chose Imperial, but his dreads could only move 1 (at the start). I delayed my move as long as I could so he was low on tactical counters. Then when he upgraded his dreads, I activated Mecatol Rex. At this point he stated multiple times that if I did that, he would roll through my territory. But this was the same turn I got Neurogalives. I told him I was no longer afraid of his fleets, Mecatol Rex was mine, but I would not strike first. He was still low on counters so he couldn't really do anything but stew this turn.
While this was going on, the Hacaan (purple) got pinned in by Mentak (green) and Sol (blue). The space cats started massing a big fleet and told the Mentak (green) player he was coming for him. Blue claimed a few more planets and a couple of points.
Round 3 complete
L1z1x (black) started an arms race with my peaceful Naalu (yellow), threatening me the entire time. Not much was exchanged besides words however. Black was still token starved so he couldn't attack me without crippling his own position thanks to Neurogalive.
Big things were happening on the other side of the board. The Hacaan (purple) used an action card to connect Alpha and Beta wormholes to threaten the Mentak's (green's) homeworld. In response, the Mentak moved their speed 3 cruiser fleets through the Beta wormhole and took the Hacaan's homeworld.
My daughter was wandering in and out of the game all day. She was in the room around this time. After the game she asked me if green attacked purple with his cruisers because she saw he could sneak through... #ParentingWin
Blue started moving his fleets towards Mecatol but I made some sweet deals just to get his ceasefire.
Round 4 complete
The Mentak (green) counter attacked the Hacan (purple), but the space cats played skilled retreat. Then they retook their homeworld. The Federation of Sol (blue) started moving towards Hacan (purple). L1z1x (black) built up a ton of PDS and upgraded them meaning I couldn't go crazy in his backyard.
The glorious Naalu (yellow/me) made a series of plays over this round to gain 5 points.
Imperial - held mecatol +1
Imperial - (Public Objective) Held 6 non-home system planets +1
Secret (Action phase) - Win a space combat versus a player with the most points +1
Secret (Status Phase) - Own two faction technologies +1
Public (Status Phase) - Own two unit upgrade technologies +1
So I went from 3 points to 8 points in one round. I still had the Speaker token so I'd get first choice of strategy card, and as the Naalu I would get to act first no matter which Strategy Card I chose. Nobody could take Mecatol from me this round since I had waited so late in the turn to make my move this turn.
I knew there were action cards or agendas that might be able to mess me up, but the only thing that popped up was Seeds of an Empire. Voting on that either the first player would gain a point, or the last player would gain a point. I was scared for a moment because I thought first player might lose a point.
Round 5 complete
We didn't bother playing out any of round 6 because I was going to choose imperial, score a point for Mecatol, and score a point for one of the objectives that they couldn't take from me.
Victory Naalu (yellow/me)!
The Naluu Collective - 10
The L1z1x Mindnet - 6
The Mentak Coalition - 6
The Federation of Sol - 4
The Emirates of Hacan - 3
Fourth edition is much more streamlined than 3rd. The 5 player game took 8 hours including a break in the middle for pizza. Being the Naalu and going from 3 to 8 in one turn and then winning the first action of the next turn was really impressive, but it also felt a little bit unfair. Hanging out at 3 points, people didn't feel I was a big threat so they never felt the need to stop dealing with me diplomatically. But I was also on Mecatol Rex for the entire game and nobody attacked me there once. So I don't feel too bad about winning. I liked our 6th card house rule, and I also liked the 5 player wedge cut out. Most of the others didn't like it however, because they felt like it took away too many planets. I don't think they realize that with a 6th player we'd have someone else occupying space AND we'd also have to deal with 5 blank tiles so there would be EVEN FEWER worlds.
I know people had fun though because they're already asking me when I'm hosting another round. Maybe we'll play the 14 point game soon.