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Subject: A Eurogamer's 2-Plays-with-Wife Review rss

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michael humphreys
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Carney’s Point
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Twilight Struggle is a game that confounds me a bit. I think I can safely say it is an excellent game that both my wife, Janine, and I enjoyed very much. . . although. . . we shouldn't have.
Let me explain.

I'll begin with the standard description of the game's rules and components (interspersed with thoughts and feelings - b/c I'm that kind of guy) then end with a summary.

Rules - Rated

Being my first "wargame" rulebook and first one from GMT, maybe that is not bad (and also maybe not fair). I don't know, but I am used to the glossy and colorful rules from my "eurogames" - I mean, you only have to look at the first page of Caylus or Goa and you know right away that you just want to eat the whole book up. But TS rules are those black-&-white-each-paragraphed-numbered-decimals-all-over-the-place ones that gives a dry, textbooky feeling. Not, in other words, one I would wish to eat without loads of ketchup. snore

That being said, the rules are certainly servicable and relatively short (so I understand) for a "wargame" - 10 pages with somewhat smaller than normal font. The illustrations in the rules section of the rulebook are few, but give you an idea about what you will be looking at in the game - the Cards and Counters. The middle of the book has a detailed example of play with nice pictures (b&w) of what would be happening on the board. And the end has a great section describing, each in a paragraph, the History of the Card Events (explained shortly) - in other words, a little history lesson about "De-Stalinization", or the "Salt Negotionations", or the "Lone Gunman", or "Glasnost", or "Aldrich Ames", etc..

The complexity of the Rules, to me, was similar to that of either of the 2 games mentioned earlier, or Puerto Rico (also a wife and my favorite for the 2 of us). A difference being that in TS you have less options as to your actions on the (card)board.

In TS, one plays the Russians (my wife) and the other the U.S. (me) in, appropriately, a struggle for control of the world during the Cold War. And what is so simple (beautifully) about the game is that that is exactly what you are doing - trying to "control" Countries and Regions more so that your opponent (my wife). You play on a big board (takes up a whole table) of a nice, colorful yet simple map of the World.

How do you do this you may ask? Well, you Eurogamers out there meeple. You know El Grande (of course - one of our Holy Grails). And you know that you put little "caballero" cubes in regions of Spain, and attempt to have more there than your opponents when scoring occurs, so that you get more VPs. Well. It is basically the same idea.

You and your opponent each get dealt (from one deck) a hand of 8 cards (more later). Unless it is a Scoring Card, each card has:
- an "Event" that represents a true, historical Cold War occurance
- a symbol that says whether the event is associated with the U.S. or the Russian side (which it then likely benefits)
- and a number in that symbol (from 1 to 4 as far as we discoverd thus far) that represents your Operation Point (OP) value.

Each turn you and your opponent alternate playing a Card and either use the OP or use the Event.

If you use the Card for is OP, you can do so:
- to place out numbered (equal to the OP# on the Card) Influence Markers (square, "cardboard" chits) onto Countries (showing how much Influence you have there).
- to attempt (by each rolling a die and possibly adding some other points to it) to "Realign" a country (or countries) by making your opponent lose some of her Influence there.
- to Coup in one county in an attempt to push out your opponent's Influence and maybe even add some of you own (also by rolling a die - this time just you versus the individual Country's "Stability" X2, with you adding the Card's OP value to your die roll)
- to allow an attempt (with a die roll) to move along a "SpaceRace" track to garner VPs or special abilities

If you use the Card for the Event (which obviously would benefit you in some way) you simply take the action described on the card. These can be anwhere from removing opponents Influence in certain countries, to adding your own, to competing in Olympics (by rolling a die), to allowing (or disallowing) the play of other Cards, etc. These Events are the "Flavor" of the game.

And TS has that angst, that "darnit, what do I do?!"
- Do I use the Event? Or
- Do I use the OPs? And if so . . .
- What do I use the OPs on?

This is really where the game makes you sit and think (and groan). And for any of you out there susceptible to that Analysis Paralysis thing (like I am), this is also where the game can bog down a bit. You see, you not only have to think about what you want to use the Card for, you also have to think about what order do you use the Cards.

All this can actually be very frustrating and consternating (Janine and I both agree). Sometimes enough so, so that you actually have a little voice in your head cry saying that you don't like this, and to "just let me get back to our simple and very pretty 2-player Carcassonne Hunters and Gatherers" - which we play often). But we don't quit. We fight through that feeling. Because maybe in some ways it is that rare "hurts so good". I don't know.

And not only that, but you have to contend with Cards in your hand that benefit your opponent (with their symbol on it). Whenever you use a Card for its OP value and it is your opponents Event, the Event automatically takes place soblue. Your "release valve" is the SpaceRace track b/c when you use a Card for it, the Event does not take place.

When you get a Scoring Card, it must be played by the end of your hand (you often have one Card left over - as part of the alternating Phases of Card play). There are six Regions that are scored (most more than once throughout the game), with different value for those Regions. You get different amounts of VPs based upon your Influence status in the Region.

- You can have "Presence" in that Region by Controlling a country there.
- You can have "Domination" by Controlling more of the more important (Battleground) countries than your opponent (and at least one normal country). Or
- You can have "Control" of a Region by Controlling all of the Battleground countries.

How you Control a country is by having more Influence there than the Country's Stability Number (all shown on the board) and by having more Influence than you opponent by that same number.

You mark your loss or gain of VPs on one Track - if you are in the positive, your opponent is in the negative (and vice versa). The game begins with the single VP marker in the middle (at Zero) of the Track. Cool idea.

A Rules complaint (for us) was that sometimes the Event on the Card was complicated enough to not quite be clear enough for our liking. And the Rulebook does not explain any of the Card Events in terms of illucidating their effect in the game. In other words, a FAQ would be useful.

Components - Rated

Not much to say here. Being a Eurogamer I love Wood and I love Cubes and I love Production Value. TS has quality playing Cards, and normal "cardboard" playing chits, and a thin "cardboard" board that folds up similar to a travel map (not that bad tho). In other words, it is all servicable but not much more (except the board does indeed look nice and all the countries have their true little flag next to them). The edges of the board can get little indentations in them if you handle it too often like your use to a great, heavy tri-fold Caylus-like board.

Summary

Well, I started by saying that my wife and I very much enjoyed playing this game and that is the out and out absolute truth. But looking at my Stars for the Rules and Components (which I stand by) and the fact that I am an Eurogamer and do not like too much Luck/Dice in my games even to where I won't play Settlers of Catan -gasp- anymore (let alone Axis & Allies), and have not had the heart to open up a Wargame rulebook with 50 pages of black-&-white-each-paragraphed-numbered-decimals-all-over-the-place you would think that I (we) didnt like the game.

- But we did

- And we both found ourselves thinking about it for days afterwards

- (And in between, because each game took us several days to complete b/c we only have the time our 2 year old Daughter is napping to play - when we are both home as well).

- And we both want to play again

Don't know what to tell you all out there. Maybe it doesn't make sense. Maybe it is simply much more than the sum of it's parts. But I am sure, one day real soon, Janine and I will take up that Cold War mantle again, and struggle for control of the World

- Rating
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Monte Jones
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There is a FAQ on the geek but not on GMT gamesdevil
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/fileinfo.php?fileid=21284
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mrbass
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stowcreek wrote:


Components - Rated

Not much to say here. Being a Eurogamer I love Wood and I love Cubes and I love Production Value. TS has quality playing Cards, and normal "cardboard" playing chits, and a thin "cardboard" board that folds up similar to a travel map (not that bad tho).

Great review.....I taught my wife it and another friend while I watched them play. She thought it took awhile but next time I'll play her and will knock it out quickly.

Yeah those cardboard playing chits I tossed. #1 they are way too small to keep track of so and so event occurred. Simply keep those cards that affect gameplay face up on the side of the board. #2 turn order move up then flip, move up then flip...way too hard to keep track of at 4am.

Instead I use about 8 red and 8 blue cubes for:

A) to keep track of Presence (top corner), Domination (middle), Control (bottom corner) for all regions at all times.

B) for action round....USSR at start of their action moves red cube on action track and blue cube when USA does an action.

C) Space Race track.....use two cubes. Still though when one has the "May make two space race attempts" I still need to track that though. I think I'm going to go to Michaels and buy Space theme toob which has many astronauts plastic figures to solve this.

I use 3 yellow cubes for the following:

A) VP track

B) Turn order (1 - 10)

C) DEFCON Status
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michael humphreys
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Thanks for the great suggestions. I could have a bit of my glorious wood with this super game. I will look into doing the same.

What about those stand-up, long blocks of wood, with a long groove in it that is designed to hold up cards? That would prob work well to show what Event Cards are in play.

Also thanks Monte for the FAQ lead. I will look it up.
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mrbass
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oh yeah forgot to say I threw in my Memoir 44 card holders into my Twilight Struggle box to hold up the cards for the player. I think 6 or 7 cards fit on them. Just just a couple in ones hand.
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Guy Riessen
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And thus you learn that if you can tear your eyes away from the shiny bits of eurogames, there are some extremely entertaining games out there, beyond the simple (but sometimes deep) gameplay of the euros

Components and rules continue to advance as wargames garner a wider audience, thanks mostly to the BGG and the internet in general--sometimes even with wooden bits (Columbia, Worthington Games, and GMT all have games with real, actual, honest-to-goodness wood--um that they make look like chits with stickers...but still...it is WOOD)! And MMP has been working on example filled, slightly more tasty, glossy, full-color rules! Still with numerical paragraphs but really, that is necessary for ease of rules organization and look-up--some of the more complicated euros would really benefit from a bit (ok a LOT) more organization in their rules!
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Jonathan
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I've noticed a real uptick in wargame component quality over the last few years. Although I didn't really like the game, I could look at the counters for Fire in the Sky all day long.
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That's Karl on the left. Eternity on the right.
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I love Melissa, but don't tell her. It's a secret if she can find this. Shhhhh....
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I'm in the same boat as you. I can't figure this game out! I've played once, it took HOURS, yet it's been a few days now and I find myself thinking about it IN MY SLEEP dying to play it again.

There is something intangible that I can't get my head around that is DRIVING me to play this again. As soon as possible. Excellent game.
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