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Twilight Struggle» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Quite frankly, I find this game below average at best rss

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Øivind Karlsrud
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dragon0085 wrote:
I have never played a game so needlessly complex for nothing amounting to a string of very small decisions. There are games that are 'complex' but the decisions are kept to a more managable frequency and have actual large impacts. This game is a collection of many hard decisions that take a long time to decide, and have to be made over and over, which each individual one only having small impacts.

Please spare me any arguments that are 'learn to play' or 'the game is #1 therefore you are wrong noob' or that because 'its sold a lot the game is therefore its a perfect game', because I could counter that 'sorry' or 'monopoly' or 'risk' are are vast sellers and unlikely serious gamers would rate those well.

I am interested in some actual discussion because I have played a lot of games 'more complicated' but worked, and I have played a lot more simple games that are more fun, coherent, and not this tangled mess.

Whether the rules in TS is complex or not is subjective, I guess, but for wargamers it doesn't get much simpler than this. I don't really play eurogames much simpler than this, either. So your first point is hard for me to understand. I understand the second and third point, but I think it means you are over-analyzing things and are probably more prone to analysis paralysis than I am. I usually need to spend some time reading the cards at the beginning of each turn, but after that the turn goes rather quickly. Me and a friend consistently manage to play two games in an evening. At first I didn't bother trying to analyze all the possiblities, and used my intution instead. Now that I know the game better I am able to analyze a little better, but I still don't let that slow me down. Just play the card which seems best at the moment and be done with it. If you need to analyze all possibilities, even as a new player, you probably end up having long and boring sessions, and TS probably isn't the game for you.
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dragon0085 wrote:
The game would be infinitely improved by say something like 5 common events, of which there were multiples, and perhaps 5 special events that there was only 1 each.

This would defeat a lot of the purpose of CDGs. Those of us who like CDGs like to have all those specific events, not just a few generic ones. I guess you don't like the genre.
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dragon0085 wrote:
Thanks for the people not jumping to criticism, I will explain my point, to the others who just insult me as being too dumb to get it...nice one shake

Here is an example of two highly rated games: Puerto rico and Race for the Galaxy, both have some passing similarities to this which I will illustrate.

Our group finds both of these games great, played nearly every time. PR is simple but complex, and RFTG is slightly more complicated but ultimately simple: build a space empire.

I like PR and RftG too (I like TS more, though). But to me, those games have a much bigger analysis paralysis problem than TS. RftG is so much about getting a good engine with good combos going, and my group spends a lot of time trying to optimize.
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I understand someone not enjoying Twilight Struggle. That's subjective.

I can't understand someone saying it's an objectively bad game.

It's like Jimi Hendrix. You may not like his music, but it'd be ridiculous to argue he wasn't a good musician.
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dragon0085 wrote:


This is exemplified for example for a card that as as the US player it helps USSR, for every of about 5 mideast countries they control they get 1 vp. Now this requires the player to look at card, read first country, find first country, determine if this is controlled, tally it up positive or negative, move to 2nd country, find 2nd country, determine if they have control, add to ongoing vp value if card is played, go to 3rd country...AND THIS IS ONE CARD! For one turn! It is utterly insane how much of a time sink this is. You figure out this one card, and like point 2 above, this is one mere choice. Say this round it doesn't look good, now something slightly changes in mideast, you have to roughly figure out all of this again...only for a short 2nd turn!


This is severely overwrought. I can understand that the game can appear complex and maybe even impenetrable at first glance, especially if you are playing across a skill gap, it is a game that richly rewards repeated play and there is just no getting around the entry level time commitment if you really want to enjoy the game fully.

In the example I quoted, however, control of a country is immediately obvious visually, or it should be if you are placing influence tokens correctly. It's kind of like people crying that figuring out dominance of tiles in dominant species is too mathy, I can't really understand some objections people raise and you have to consider at a certain point it may just not be the game for you.

That being said, I would absolutely urge you to give this one a few more goes, when it clicks it is truly an incredible experience!
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Paul Heron
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dragon0085 wrote:

#2 Too many decisions: This plays into 1, but on a single turn there are far too many decisions that take far too long to meaningfully analyze that have ultimately little effect, but unless actually made will result in suboptimal play. Each turn the player has to look at all of there cards, decipher what exactly would happen by playing them, and then calculate a vast decision tree of 'if I play this, and he plays this...'

The game could be overwhelming at first, but really only if you're obsessed with 'optimal' play from the word go.

It's arguable whether there is such a thing as truly optimal play in TS anyway - you compared the game with poker, and now it strikes me that that comparison is actually valid in a different way. Both games feature bluffing, dissimulation and misdirection. Such 'mind games' constitute more an art than a science.

Also, weighing up risks is a big part of the game, as is plain old luck.
You can't simply calculate your next optimal play as you can in many euros.

Yes, you have known knowns and known unknowns, so you can calculate from all those. But don't forget the unknown unknowns...

Discovering the unknown unknowns is what learning TS is all about...
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Joe K
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This is a troll. He rates it a 10.
 
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brgrdemonpart2 wrote:
This is a troll. He rates it a 10.

I had my suspicions, but still, unless he saw your post and removed his rating in the past hour, he doesn't appear to rate it at all in his collection.
 
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brgrdemonpart2 wrote:
This is a troll. He rates it a 10.

Ha, wow, is this laughably pathetic.

The difference between us, is I may not like your little game and that's opinion, but you are a LIAR and that is a FACT.
 
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Garcian Smith
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I'm a big fan of TS, yet I can very much understand your frustration with the game. It does take a long time, there is are a lot of different cards to remember to play the game well and often times the decision tree becomes overwhelming. And to your opinion, you are definitely in your right to have it. In fact, I appreciate a different opinion rather than a circle jerk.

To everyone else... let him have his opinion. Not everyone has to like TS and that's OKAY. Please lay off the fanboyism.
 
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dragon0085 wrote:
My gaming group bought this game based on the apparent claim of this game, and while it's not the worst game I have played I put it under the 50th percentile easily, this game has many flaws that kill any real fun and the game design choices were in many times horrendous. This review is about some of the game design choices, and not on the rules or any explanation on how the game is played.

I fully realize whenever someone criticizes something popular they will face tons of flack, but I am putting this out there simply for a counter to all the positives.

To get right to it, the game suffers from needless complication, decision paralysis, and being far too 'self referential'.

#1 Too complex: The general idea of two powers spreading influence and effecting each other is great, I like that. But this game goes far beyond that at the cost of playability.

The game has many different ways to add influence to take over a country, a fair amount are basically assigning the value on a card to the board, the problem is EVERY card has a DIFFERENT rule to it, meaning of the 100+ cards, every single one does something different, there is not simply look at cards and know what is going on.

It is kind of like playing poker if beyond just 8 of diamonds, this card as 'force every player to put 2 chips into pot' and 9 of diamonds 'the player to your right draws 1 more card', so not only do you have to figure out you hand, the pure number of effects is a vast negative. The game would be infinitely improved by say something like 5 common events, of which there were multiples, and perhaps 5 special events that there was only 1 each.


#2 Too many decisions: This plays into 1, but on a single turn there are far too many decisions that take far too long to meaningfully analyze that have ultimately little effect, but unless actually made will result in suboptimal play. Each turn the player has to look at all of there cards, decipher what exactly would happen by playing them, and then calculate a vast decision tree of 'if I play this, and he plays this...'

The easiest is to explain with a metaphor, say you have typical chess, but now each pawn has a special rule. Your leftmost pawn can move 2 spaces every turn, the next pawn can attack units in front of it, the 3rd pawn can hit 2 diagonals away... does all this add 'depth' or fun? No. It adds meaningless complicity. If these were the rules of chess each turn the player would be forced to decide 'if his front attack pawn moves here...or if his 2 spot pawn moves here...' there is simple too many things to account for that are meaningful or at all fun.

#3 Too much self reference: This is a huge time bog, there are multiple cards that require you to look across the board, seeing if the conditions apply. Whether a 'Nato' is in play, or whether USSR has influence here or there. There is not a simply 'glace at cards, know what is going on', instead it is look at card, figure out what it is referring to, figure out if it is in effect, ok well this card seems like it will work. But that was one card, there are 6-7 more to analyze in your hand.

This is exemplified for example for a card that as as the US player it helps USSR, for every of about 5 mideast countries they control they get 1 vp. Now this requires the player to look at card, read first country, find first country, determine if this is controlled, tally it up positive or negative, move to 2nd country, find 2nd country, determine if they have control, add to ongoing vp value if card is played, go to 3rd country...AND THIS IS ONE CARD! For one turn! It is utterly insane how much of a time sink this is. You figure out this one card, and like point 2 above, this is one mere choice. Say this round it doesn't look good, now something slightly changes in mideast, you have to roughly figure out all of this again...only for a short 2nd turn!

I have never played a game so needlessly complex for nothing amounting to a string of very small decisions. There are games that are 'complex' but the decisions are kept to a more managable frequency and have actual large impacts. This game is a collection of many hard decisions that take a long time to decide, and have to be made over and over, which each individual one only having small impacts.

Please spare me any arguments that are 'learn to play' or 'the game is #1 therefore you are wrong noob' or that because 'its sold a lot the game is therefore its a perfect game', because I could counter that 'sorry' or 'monopoly' or 'risk' are are vast sellers and unlikely serious gamers would rate those well.

I am interested in some actual discussion because I have played a lot of games 'more complicated' but worked, and I have played a lot more simple games that are more fun, coherent, and not this tangled mess.

Nice review. I really like TS, but can understand some people do not. And unlike some others, I too can tell from one playing whether I will like a game or not, so your position that you don't like it after one play is perfectly reasonable, and that is not going to change with more playings.

You've captured the essence of the game, and as some have said, that's what they like, it's clear that you don't. Your review is valuable to others with those tastes.

I take issue with the people that attack and say things that imply that you are just too stupid or lazy to understand Twilight Struggle. For instance when you later refer to Puerto Rico and Race for the Galaxy as complex games, you are criticized for that by TS fans that feel that somehow proves you can't grasp the goodness of TS. Those criticisms are unfounded. Everyone's view of what's complex is different.

I feel that those latter 2 are far more complex than TS. I can teach TS in about 20 minutes, teaching all those icons on RftG or having to go over and over the connection between the buildings and the shipping in PR is often not at all straight forward to many new players and takes much longer, and often leads to confusion. TS has just a few rules, with lots of implementation on the cards--kind of like Dominion and only a small step more complex than that.

If there are TS fans that are offended by their game being referred to as not complex, than that is on them. Again, I love TS, I play it face to face several times a week, but its not Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, or even Gettysburg. It's a simple game, with a few rules, but lots of decisions.
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To each its own. My wife, who is an avid gamer, liked TS at a first glance, and she beat me every single game we played - until she realized I was starting to remember cards and whether they had appear already or not. That killed the fun for her - she has a very bad memory (and it's a bit lazy for doing math in her head).

What I am trying to say is that it's really fine that you do not like the game, and that maybe even if you learn to play, there may be good reasons for you (see my wife) to not like the game (she moved from like to not like).

I love TS though
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dragon0085 wrote:

This is exemplified for example for a card that as as the US player it helps USSR, for every of about 5 mideast countries they control they get 1 vp. Now this requires the player to look at card, read first country, find first country, determine if this is controlled, tally it up positive or negative, move to 2nd country, find 2nd country, determine if they have control, add to ongoing vp value if card is played, go to 3rd country...AND THIS IS ONE CARD! For one turn! It is utterly insane how much of a time sink this is. You figure out this one card, and like point 2 above, this is one mere choice. Say this round it doesn't look good, now something slightly changes in mideast, you have to roughly figure out all of this again...only for a short 2nd turn!

This is what I like about TS. Sitting in this situation gives me a feeling of all the uncertainties that played out in the cold war. Leaders not knowing what the right decisions was, but simply had to make an best estimate - which rarely was really good. What I find so intriguing is that you rarely play a card and think this will bury your opponent. You play a card and hope that it was a reasonable play and just as you have played it you regret it, and when the opponent plays their card you regret it again. I really feel it captures the atmosphere of the how the cold war was.
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I'm another one who doesn't like the game. While it is well themed, and has lots of cool historical references, the strategy comes down to memorizing the entire deck of cards and knowing what has or hasn't been played yet. So it comes down to being cleverly disguised blackjack. Except blackjack is rated 11261th.

And from the description on the box, it really should be the kind of game I love.
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deinol wrote:
I'm another one who doesn't like the game. While it is well themed, and has lots of cool historical references, the strategy comes down to memorizing the entire deck of cards and knowing what has or hasn't been played yet. So it comes down to being cleverly disguised blackjack. Except blackjack is rated 11261th.

And from the description on the box, it really should be the kind of game I love.

I'd say it comes down to more than that. You need to decide what countries to play into, and where. Do you coup, realign, spread influence? When do you trigger non-recurring events? Which opponent events do you hold, send to space, or suffer the consequences of, and when? Do you push the VP track, hold out for final scoring/War Games, or try for a Hail Mary DEFCON victory? Plenty to choose from.

None of that really exists in blackjack, where counting the deck is a lot easier and has a significantly smaller decision tree. If you're using a counting system there's a 'correct' decision where the odds are known. In Twilight Struggle, that's at best an estimate. Sure, some things are obviously bad and obviously good, but not all of them are, and the luck isn't countable/dependent probability (you could roll all 6's or all 1's, whereas blackjack is limited to the cards in the deck).

If you don't like it, hey, I couldn't get into Indonesia or Liberté, two things that sure look like they'd be right up my alley. Sometimes a game doesn't work for you, but that's not awful - at least you learn about what elements you don't like. However, calling Twilight Struggle blackjack isn't just a stretch - you broke the whole bungee cord.
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alexdrazen wrote:
However, calling Twilight Struggle blackjack isn't just a stretch - you broke the whole bungee cord.

I know it's more complicated than that. But it still comes down to knowing what is left in the deck when you are deciding "Which opponent events do you hold, send to space, or suffer the consequences of, and when?".

I also don't really like Race for the Galaxy for similar reasons, but I really like Roll for the Galaxy.

I enjoy Innovation because the basic interactions are more intuitive, and you don't need to memorize all the upcoming cards to do well.
 
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deinol wrote:
I know it's more complicated than that. But it still comes down to knowing what is left in the deck when you are deciding "Which opponent events do you hold, send to space, or suffer the consequences of, and when?".

Getting to know the cards is a huge advantage in Twilight Struggle. Having said that, the game is not visibly worse/different on-line, where you can see at any moment which are the cards still in play.
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deinol wrote:
I'm another one who doesn't like the game. While it is well themed, and has lots of cool historical references, the strategy comes down to memorizing the entire deck of cards and knowing what has or hasn't been played yet. So it comes down to being cleverly disguised blackjack. Except blackjack is rated 11261th.

And from the description on the box, it really should be the kind of game I love.

Knowing the cards, how they interact with each other, influence on the board, and the different paths to victory is HUGELY important. Lots of memorization, however, is mostly inconsequential. First, you're allowed to look through the discard deck at any time if you ever don't remember whether a particular card has been played or not. Second, even if you handicapped a better player by prohibiting him from ever looking at the discard deck and pitted him against a weaker opponent who has all the time in the world to make decisions and can keep a complete written list of cards played or not played, then the better player will still win most of the time (and when they don't, luck will be the much bigger factor rather than failing to remember if a particular card has or has not been played).
 
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Matt Jolly
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It might be a great game (I don't think so, but it's only my opinion) but the whole "knowing the cards" thing is so exactly not like the Cold War that I find the theme only very loosely pasted on.....

Cheers,

Matt
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matt.jolly wrote:
It might be a great game (I don't think so, but it's only my opinion) but the whole "knowing the cards" thing is so exactly not like the Cold War that I find the theme only very loosely pasted on.....

Cheers,

Matt

Literally any game's theme is pasted on then, because you can abstract any mechanic to that point. Besides, do you think the leaders of the Cold War didn't try to predict and forecast global events, and come up with likely scenarios their enemy might advance? That's all you're really doing when you think of the possible range of cards people could have.
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Matt Jolly
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I agree - it was a cheap shot about theme. But that's not the point about knowledge I was making. The leaders in the Cold War couldn't know what cards their opponents might hold, and only got one play of the game, with a very considerable price for a catastrophic loss. This means that fundamental mechanics underpinning TS are emphatically different from the Cold War, including both the possibility of a replay and detailed card knowledge.

M
 
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matt.jolly wrote:
I agree - it was a cheap shot about theme. But that's not the point about knowledge I was making. The leaders in the Cold War couldn't know what cards their opponents might hold, and only got one play of the game, with a very considerable price for a catastrophic loss. This means that fundamental mechanics underpinning TS are emphatically different from the Cold War, including both the possibility of a replay and detailed card knowledge.

M

That seems more like a metagame than actual game mechanics, as replaying and player experience are external to the game itself.
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matt.jolly wrote:
I agree - it was a cheap shot about theme. But that's not the point about knowledge I was making. The leaders in the Cold War couldn't know what cards their opponents might hold, and only got one play of the game, with a very considerable price for a catastrophic loss. This means that fundamental mechanics underpinning TS are emphatically different from the Cold War, including both the possibility of a replay and detailed card knowledge.

M

So, are you saying that any game about the Cold War should be a "one-shot" deal with zero replayability?

You could make the same argument about any game based on a historical event. People only got one shot at the Revolutionary War, WWII, the American Civil War, and every other war ever fought. Do you undermine any war or historically based game because it doesn't completely reflect reality?
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matt.jolly wrote:
The leaders in the Cold War couldn't know what cards their opponents might hold ...

Of course they could. What do you think the CIA and KGB were doing the whole time?
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matt.jolly wrote:
I agree - it was a cheap shot about theme. But that's not the point about knowledge I was making. The leaders in the Cold War couldn't know what cards their opponents might hold, and only got one play of the game, with a very considerable price for a catastrophic loss. This means that fundamental mechanics underpinning TS are emphatically different from the Cold War, including both the possibility of a replay and detailed card knowledge.

M

They wouldn't know the cards in their hands, but they could predict a range of responses and reasonable actions from the enemy based on political and economic factors (the deck). It's not as if the Kremlin just threw darts at a board to decide what wars to start, just to keep the West on its toes.
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