Tiago Perretto
Brazil
Curitiba
Parana
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Thinking about my next move.
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So, if my only options are these, then I shall...
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About Twilight Struggle:

1) What is it?
Twilight Struggle is a two players card-driven wargame (some dispute this last part) in which the whole Cold War, from the early war to the late stages of the fight between URSS and USA.

The goal here isn't, however, battles on themselves, but win in the global match. Players are fighting to have presence/control/dominance in each of the continents, doing coups, realigning the political and economical loyalty of countries, spreading influence, racing in the Space War, while trying to really NOT starting a full-fledge nuclear war.

There is a great deal of back and forth, as every card played mess with the board state in some way, from a small nuisance to a complete change of pace and OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?

Twilight Struggle presents a most solid design, offering completely different play styles and perspectives, accordingly to the nation played. And this is achieved not by giving special abilities or unique decks of card to each side - the pool of cards is the same and so is the rules for both sides.

This battle of wits doesn't play fast (around 180 minutes, but I have seen plays went to almost twice) and has a steep learning curve - not that playing it is terrible difficult, but playing well, and preparing to what will come next, and know (or antecipate) the possibilities for the other side, will take quite a while.

Overall, Twilight Struggle isn't a game one should enter lightly, and but it does offer a strong experience and each game will tell an unique story.

2) How do you play?
The goal is to reach 20 points during play, or have more points after the final scoring, if the game reaches the end of the final turn in the Late War.

The game is played in several rounds and each round is composed by several turns. In each turn the player must play a card, and most of the the time it will be used it either as an event or for its operation points. If used for the event, the person will do what the text in the card says. If used for the OP, the person will use the number on the card to attempt coups, realignments, increase influence, etc.

Also, each round one card can be discarded in the Space Race.

Finally, some cards will be for scoring. These cards can't be held in hand between rounds - they must be used in the round they are drawn.

Usually the player can keep one card in hand, as the number of turns in a round is less then the number of cards in hand.

If URSS or USA reaches 20 points at any point during the game, the nation that did it will win. If none do during the play, there will occur a final scoring of all the regions, and the nation with the most points will be the winner. It is possible to also end the game by scoring Europe while have Control of it - the nation that controls Europe wins outright.

3) Which are the decisions made during play?
So many. So, so many. Everything point in the game is truly a decision point. Most revolve around which card to use, when and how. And these have a number of correlations - timming, board state, the connected event, the number of OP, the cards already used and possible cards still in hand, etc - that the tree of decision is huge.

The learning curve is steep, as knowing the deck and the possibilities is key in doing well. Also, since the sides play differently (URSS has more strength early on, USA has more in Late War), is very useful to know when and where to push.

4) What are the good things in the game?
- Excellent design, enough to entertain for many plays, without the need of expansions;
- The theme has a strong presence alongside the mechanics;
- Plays tend to be tense and are able to create a nice narrative each time;
- High replay value;
- Filled with decisions throughout.

5) Which are the bad news?
- Language dependent;
- Limited to 2 players;
- A more experienced player might be locked and in either usually playing "soft" and not enjoying the experience as much, or crush the opponent, and likely causing some grief;
- In the several plays before actually being able to deal with the cards and be aware of them and the timming of the game, the luck of the draw and of the rolls will not only bother, but can be decisive.

6) How do you feel while playing?
Like being alone in a big kitchen when the restaurant is full and the orders keep coming in. You try to juggle everything: spread influence, battle for control of battlegrounds and countries, stay ahead in the military actions and in the Space Race, be in front in points and ready to score well (or prevent a good scoring) in any region of the globe. But the orders keep coming. There is food burning, and you can see where, but can smell the fire, while some meals are getting cold, waiting for you to make put the dressing or the finishing touches, however you simply can't make it there and not take the meat out of the oven.

You want to do it all, but won't be able. Even more, you might accomplish something somewhere, but at the cost of giving an event that will cost you dearly somewhere else. The balance of power is constantly changing, and you want to always be on top when the right time comes, and, yet, this moment may be up to the decision of your adversary.

Where to focus, where to pressure, where to give. It is relentless.

Tension reigns supreme in every round - not only because of what you can do, but also due to the limited pool of cards, which brings the knowledge that, if you aren't holding a given card until a certain point, it is definitely in your opponent's hand. And also comes from knowing that, at some point, you will have to give some great events to the enemy and score some places you truly don't want to. Not a game for the faint of heart.

And there will be those that will love this - many do. I, sadly, don't.

Twilight Struggle is a pretty good game, great even, however it demands an investment in learning its ways, to climb the learning curve, until one leaves the "luck" part of it, and I simply won't be able to give what it requires from me, as games of this sort is a one, two plays a year around here. Many people in my group that claim to love it can't play even once a year. Therefore, I fear I will always remain in the level of being bothered by a good roll in a realignment, or in a coup, or in the Space Race - specially when I don't achieve the same. The same works for the drawing of cards. Those that have the experience, can work around these problems, reverse the setbacks and get ready to the troubled times ahead. Yet, I'm not there and likely won't ever be, being destined to mediocrity and frustration.

This puts Twilight Struggle, which is already a type of game that doesn't particularly attract me (highly competitive for 2 players), in a situation that I can admire the efficient design, the strong thematic flavor, the tense tug of war, and know it simply isn't for me.

Yet, it might truly be for you. If able, give it a try.

Regards,


Image credit: arnaudel



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Rob D
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Don't forget, you also win if your opponent causes DEFCON 1 and Nuclear War.
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Marco Poutré
Canada
St-Jean-sur-Richelieu
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Yes... I still like 'em 35 years later...
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Always thought there was a character limit on thread titles.
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Jake
United States
West Hollywood
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100% true on knowing the decks and it needs to be played consistently to truly appreciate. I play it on a handful of times a year but will never get rid of it. (traded it once before and never again)

-Jake
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Alexandre Santos
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Yep, I think "relentless" summarizes well this game.

Still, if the player's level is too different, the results can be lopsided and tension softens (for the winner). I wonder how viable is it to play the DEFCON brinkmanship when you are hopelessly behind in scoring, to raise your odds of winning as the underdog.

Also, what kills this game for the masses is the long playing time, which is funny since in the designing notes the authors explain they wished to design a card-driven wargame that would fit in their busy lives
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Michael Valentine

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AlexFS wrote:
Also, what kills this game for the masses is the long playing time, which is funny since in the designing notes the authors explain they wished to design a card-driven wargame that would fit in their busy lives

Online, with experienced players on both sides, and it's easy to play a full game in about an hour.
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Alexandre Santos
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MichaelVal wrote:
AlexFS wrote:
Also, what kills this game for the masses is the long playing time, which is funny since in the designing notes the authors explain they wished to design a card-driven wargame that would fit in their busy lives

Online, with experienced players on both sides, and it's easy to play a full game in about an hour.

I know, but that won't help casual players. What really does help is that it's much easier for beginner players to become experienced with the AI and the digital implementation. I guess that it has given a shot in the arm of TS - the physical boardgame sales indirectly.
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