The box is better than that of TI3, which I always found to be a complete pain, due to its length. It is a normal “large box” size, but deeper, so it will be easier to keep on the shelf.
It also has an insert, so no more bits banging around loose in boxes!
Some things that are clearly different from TI3:
- Trade has changed. There is still a Trade Strategy Card, but this simply lets the leader take 3 trade goods and all players generate “commodities”. But there is no actual trade at that stage. Instead individual trades can be struck whenever players are in adjoining hexes. Your race’s commodities are worth nothing to you, but when you trade them, they become trade goods in the other players hands.
- Politics has changed. There is still a Politics Strategy Card, which lets the leader claim Action cards, and manipulate the Politics deck. But the actual voting on Politics cards takes place in a separate Agenda round at the end of the turn, where two Politics cards are voted on every turn (once someone has taken over Mecatol Rex). This means that Politics will happen a lot more, I think, and as it happens at the end of the turn, then only players with unexhausted cards will be able to swing things their way.
- Although each player starts with a Special Objective, there are opportunities in the game to get more. The Imperial Strategy Card gives you victory points for controlling Mecatol Rex, but if you are not in possession, you can take another Special Objective instead. You can have up to 3 Specials, and can discard them, so if you get one that is clearly impossible, you are no longer stuck with it.
- There is no longer a Tech Tree. Each Tech card has a pre—requisite of 0, 1, 2 or 3 — so a Tech with two red pre—requisites can only be taken if you already have two red Techs. As with TI3, some planets give you a discount on this, but this now requires you exhaust the planet to use the discount.
There is a lot of stuff from the expansions that isn’t here, of course — variant strategy cards, facilities (colonies and refineries), shock troops, space mines, leaders, mech units, mercenaries and Space Domains/Distant Suns special tokens.
The only one of these I am going to miss is Distant Suns, but it wouldn’t be too difficult to either make up some tokens or come up with a dice table to do the same thing.
But there is good news too. The original game had 10 race sheets, and the expansions had 4 additional ones each. TI4 has 17 — I assume the race that has been dropped is the Laxax, who are used in the special “Fall of the Empire” scenario. This seems great value to me, and means the game keeps its variability.
They have also retained Flagships and Racial Tech Specialities, which were added to TI3 with the second expansion, but proved to be very popular.
All in all, it looks pretty good.