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Twilight Struggle
A game 2 players designed by Jason Matthews and Ananda Gupta.


"Overcoming the Cold War required courage from the people of Central and Eastern Europe and what was then the German Democratic Republic, but it also required the steadfastness of Western partner over many decades when many had long lost hope of integration of the two Germanys and Europe."
― Angela Merkel


Introduction
On the 5th of June, 2014, GMT Games launched an ambitious Kickstarter project in partnership with Playdek to bring about something many Twilight Struggle players have long wanted: a digital version of this great game.

One of the optional rewards above and beyond the basic pledge to get a digital copy was a limited collector's edition (CE). The price? $150. A caveat about that price is that that it ostensibly includes an eventual digital copy, which depending on your platform could have been anywhere up to $35. That caveat is a rationalization though, because I and I expect many of the many of the 1219 people who ponied up for the CE didn't do it for the sake of the digital edition.

The original projected delivery date was March 2015. A series of delays, mishaps, and mistakes delayed the CE, and it's only been shipping since January of this year, 10 months later. The digital edition is still vapourware.

This review is about the CE and only the CE. I haven't played with the Twilight Struggle: Turn Zero expansion/promo yet, and they deserve a full separate review, which I will get to in due course.

This review is also not about how to play Twilight Struggle. For that, I refer you to my previous reviews:

Game: [Roger's Reviews] Deluxe Twilight Struggle: A Comprehensive Review
Chinese Civil War: The Chinese Civil War (official designer variant from C3i #21)
Late War Scenario: Welcome to the Late War, would you like fries with that? (TS scenario from C3i #19)
Geeklist: A metalist of my Twilight Struggle contributions

The CE was advertised as coming with the following components:

Game Box: a wooden box with a hinged top

Cards: The cards will have a new and unique graphic layout, especially for this edition of the game. The CE will also include sleeves for all cards.

Map: We’re going with an even thicker, more durable map than the one that’s in our Deluxe Edition (and our players like that one a LOT!). And like the cards, the map is going to get a completely new graphic treatment for the CE.

Counters: We are upgrading from cardboard counters in the CE to give you guys high-quality, stamped wooden pieces.

Miniatures: The CE will include five metal miniatures to adorn several of your game tracks and add some cold war theme to your game play! We’re keeping the type/identity of these miniatures to ourselves for now. We want to surprise you!

Rules and Player Aids: This is an area where we’re pretty much going with what we already have in the Deluxe Edition – thick paper/cards, full color throughout, with perhaps a bit more thickness and better coating.

Dice: You’ll get two custom molded plastic “thematic” dice. We seriously considered metal dice, but all the ones we’ve ever used tend to flake from impact over time, so we decided to go with some high quality molded dice instead.

A Fabric Bag: To hold the game pieces.

Certificate of Authenticity: Signed by the Designers


The Good
The box is gorgeous. The red wood is a lovely colour, the gold lettering is nice, and it's lined in black felt. A nice touch I wasn't expecting was that the bottom of the box has felt on it too. This means this nice wooden box won't scuff or scratch your table when you're unpacking your game.



The new map is very nice too. I like it much better than the coffee ring board.



The stamped wooden counters are awesome too.





A critique that was raised by people before the product even came out was that the stamped blocks don't have a differentiated colour to show control of a country. It's worth remembering that the original game didn't have differentiated counters - that was an improvement that came with the second printing and later deluxe printings. I said I was going to wait until the game arrived to make a judgment, and now that I've played with them, I don't feel it's a problem. There are cubes to mark control if you need it.

The Acceptable
The cards have a nice new graphic look. They're clear and readable. There is one card that was apparently misprinted (Brush War), which I'll talk about later. The sleeves that came with the CE are very nice. They're thick clear sleeves and should endure many hundreds of plays.



The certificate of authenticity is a nice touch. It looks like one of those standard certificates that you get with the digital signature printed on it, but that's ok.



The miniatures were a controversial subject when GMT announced they were reneging on their original promise of metal figures in favour of resin ones. I admit that I was disappointed too, but the resin figures that came with the game are quite heavy and have a nice heft and feel to them.





The fabric bag is perfectly serviceable, but I won't be using it to store the pieces. Some folks have suggested some trays, and I wouldn't be surprised if one of the companies that makes wooden game box inserts doesn't come up with something to complement the contents.

The Bad
The rules have a few issues that have survived multiple printings and editions. Pagination in the table of contents has some mistakes. There are (still) typos.

A bigger issue for me is that the Late War Scenario still hasn't been corrected. The scenario was created when the space race track still had "The Eagle has Landed" at the final space in the track, but that changed with the deluxe printing and the scenario has not been updated since.

One rule they did correct/fix though was an obscure corner case which set off an extended and acrimonious debate over held cards. If you're unaware of this corner case, you'd easily gloss over it, but the rule update is the second bullet point of 10.3.1 in the updated rules.

The dice are were a last minute save. There was a fan made set of dice for Twilight Struggle that many people have bought to make their game nicer. I've bought them myself. The dice that originally came for the CE were... well, they were six sided dice. But even GMT didn't like them and ended up spending money on replacing them with... drum roll please... the original fan set.

Then there's the Brush War card. The Brush War card is a Mid War card. It's listed in the card manifest of the CE as a Mid War card. But in the CE deck, it's printed as an Early War card. This kind of mistake is hard to reconcile.

Final Thoughts
Twilight Struggle, the long time #1 ranked game on BGG, and still #1 ranked wargame on BGG, is the all time bestseller for GMT. Last time I'd asked GMT they told me that they'd printed 80,000 copies of all editions, and that was before the most recent reprint that was used to refill the distribution channel and meet their Kickstarter commitments. With the recent reprint, it might even be 100,000 copies. Impressive.

In pretty much any sense of the word then, you'd have to call Twilight Struggle the GMT Games flagship product. Given that lofty status, does the CE measure up as an exemplar? That's the $150 question for Kickstarter backers, and the $200 question for the MSRP copies that will be made available in another month or so.

I would have expected the CE to have been very carefully overseen and edited to make sure no avoidable errors like the Brush War card would have slipped through the cracks. Nor the map printing error that was caught after the fact, but before the game was shipped. As it is now, the final product is almost right, but has a few glitches that speak to rushing to get it out the door.

The blame for this I lay squarely on the Kickstarter campaign to fund the digital edition. The idea of the CE was born to help fund the campaign, rather than being a product unto itself. I can't help but feel that had GMT simply said they were going to make a Collector's Edition and made it a P500 product, that they would had enormous demand and interest in it, and that they could and would have taken the time to make it just right.


Thank you for reading this latest installment of Roger's Reviews. I've been an avid board gamer all my life and a wargamer for over thirty years. I have a strong preference for well designed games that allow players to focus on trying to make good decisions.

Among my favourites I include Twilight Struggle, the Combat Commander Series, the Musket & Pike Battle Series, Julius Caesar, Maria, EastFront, Here I Stand, Napoleon's Triumph, Unhappy King Charles!

You can subscribe to my reviews at this geeklist: [Roger's Reviews] The Complete Collection and I also encourage you to purchase this very stylish microbadge: mb
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Rick Thompson
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Excellent, and fair, review.

Hoping that GMT does something about the Brush War card, but if they don't, it won't be the end of the world. It's regrettable that it was misprinted, but it's still playable.
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Thomas Leitner
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Very nicely written review.
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Brad Keusch
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Nice review!
Sucks it took them so long to deliver it, and that it still wasn't perfect, but I would be fully happy with that product (I mean, we all know brush war is mid war, who really cares) and I wish that I had backed it at this point. That board is gorgeous, and I love the new graphic design of the cards, which I have on the turn 0/promo cards that I DID back.

Is the held card issue you are referring to when the USSR holds a scoring card that would otherwise cause them to lose the game on the final AR of the turn, in hopes that the US will lose the game on THEIR last action? I always assumed and played that they are perfectly in their right to do so, and would then lose at the actual end of the turn. Is this how they clarified it?
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Great review. The mentioning of Brush War was particularly helpful since I've never played Twilight Struggle before and I never would have known about that :/

I think the real issue with the CE is that because things were rushed and everything was just thrown in a box with no insert, we got dramatically different experiences.

My replacement dice looked nice at first glance but my American die has swirls on one half from the pigment that makes it look like it's cracked. The Soviet die has streaks or tiny bubbles on all it's faces. So while they'll make do I'm eventually going to have to replace the replacements.

My Influence tiles look fairly good but I have a handful that are either double struck or off center so part of the star is cut off.

Aside from the Brush War card, I have a Promo card that has a misspelling (P1 says South Amaerica, so does the card shown in the Card Description sheet), and at least one scoring card (#1 Asia) that has a printing error on the back.

No insert caused both my tanks to come broken and all my minis were heavily chipped. My alternate Space Track was also damaged as was my rulebook.

At first I hated the sleeves but after seeing pictures and reading other people's experiences I realized mine came extremely warped. I couldn't even get my cards in them without fear of totally ruining them. But after warming them with a heat gun and putting them under weight they straightened out nicely. I still find the edges to be uncomfortably sharp but I can probably trim them with a sharp blade.

Not the greatest of experiences overall but I'm glad that I can come to BGG and at least get things sorted out BEFORE I got this to the table
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The copy I took photos of and reviewed was not mine, but my friend Jonathan's. I'm eagerly awaiting mine.

I know of issues with the Turn 0 cards, but since it's not part of the base game, nor the CE, but an expansion, I deliberately did not include any comments about them. I deliberately chose to focus on the CE only.
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As ever, this is a great review thanks Roger.

I expect GMT will send out replacement cards for errors and at some point out together a more upto date living rule set. Still, not perfectly done which is a shame!

Love the change to resin miniatures - they are easier to paint!
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Wendell
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Nice review, Roger.

I do like TS, but I won't be getting the collector's edition. I'm just not that into bling...
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These are the first encouraging pictures I see for the minis.
I really hope mines turn out to be in the same good shape.
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afafard wrote:
These are the first encouraging pictures I see for the minis.
I really hope mines turn out to be in the same good shape.

Ditto!
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paul cleveland
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Thank you for the review. I would totally drop a couple of Benjamins on a CE through P500. Improving the little details in the process would of course be an even bigger bonus. thumbsup


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If I may correct you on a point: The digital edition is not, at least in my opinion, vapourware - I have been playing the beta for a couple of months now. It is almost the finished article. The Gameplay is smooth, graphics are nice and although at the moment you can only play vs. other players online, there is no shrotage of opponents.
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wshiff wrote:
If I may correct you on a point: The digital edition is not, at least in my opinion, vapourware - I have been playing the beta for a couple of months now. It is almost the finished article. The Gameplay is smooth, graphics are nice and although at the moment you can only play vs. other players online, there is no shrotage of opponents.

I wholeheartedly disagree. Unless and until I can run the app on my iPad, it's vapourware. Also, Playdek's choice to run the beta via Steam on PC only thoroughly irks me.

Frankly, given how well TS is implemented on chantry-games.com, GMT might well have been better off giving him the money to try and figure out the AI part.
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leroy43 wrote:
Frankly, given how well TS is implemented on chantry-games.com, GMT might well have been better off giving him the money to try and figure out the AI part.

They did just that 5 years ago and got burned quite badly.
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I believe the good far outweighs the bad for this edition. I just got mine a few days ago. In fact, I think the Brush Card error is the worst of the bad mentioned here, and I'm sure GMT will correct that and send out the corrected card to all supporters. It's one of the things about them that makes them such a great company.

Wish they had corrected the rules that were mentioned but everyone's been playing the game so long now that it almost (but not quite) doesn't matter anymore.
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I know that GMT will replace the card, but my issue is not with their customer service, which is second to none in many respects, but rather that they are going to have to spend time, energy, effort, human capital, and money to correct a problem that could and this case especially should have been caught in the first place. I actually feel bad for them because this is production capacity that they could have used on getting their next projects out the door.

While I'm not terribly upset about the typos in the rules, I can't agree with the sentiments that "everyone has played it" so that this oversight doesn't matter. At least one person in this thread has already said they hadn't played TS before. I will grant however, that the minor rules typos that exist in this edition are very minor in comparison to the 10th anniversary edition of Ticket to Ride, which include the 1910 expansion tickets, but not the rules with which to use them!
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The fact that there are any typos, anywhere, after 8 print runs for the game, is really inexcusable. These errors just shouldn't even exist anymore.
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Bill Vargas
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The control markers seem to be etched but it seems the event markers are stickered. Is this so? If yes, did they come stickered or did you have to sticker them yourself?

Thanks
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The control markers are stamped, but they went with stickers for the events, and you do have to put them on yourself.
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Thanks for covering this title Roger.

TS is a game I need to better understand as my one play baffled me quite a bit.

But this edition doesn't sound like the time to jump on board.

I am a patient man and can wait years for them to get another CE right.
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The real problem of the CE seems to be that the Deluxe Edition has already set the bar quite high.
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gmilitaru wrote:

The real problem of the CE seems to be that the Deluxe Edition has already set the bar quite high.

Collector editions really are a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.
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gmilitaru wrote:

The real problem of the CE seems to be that the Deluxe Edition has already set the bar quite high.

Does it really, though? While the Deluxe Edition is better quality that the original editions of TS, it's now about par for the course for GMT's games with broader appeal.

The real problem was that GMT promised more than it turned out they could deliver for the price they were charging. In short, instead of pulling out all the stops for a nearly perfect product, like a Collector's Edition should be, they ended up having to cut corners here and there, and the result is a noticeably imperfect product.

On top of that, the details they did give up front were rather rough, so everyone imagined their own 'ideal', which is inevitably going to turn to disappointment.
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And another core card misprint that slipped by me - Another TSCE Misprint?.
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Thanks for the review and confirming my non-purchase decision a year and a half back. I am not big into bling. The only time that I would ever pull it out would have been to show my gaming friend(s) that they saved their money. I would have than put it away and we would have played my Deluxe copy. Better to spend the $ on 3-4 games that I do not already own.

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