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Subject: Twilight Struggle - the Prequel rss

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Christian van Someren
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Are you a fan of Twilight Struggle, but tired of all that Cold War nonsense? Then Democracy Under Siege may just be the game for you!

The Premise
Before the glory days of Democracy and Communism fighting it out on the world stage in Twilight Struggle, there was a third powerful force to be reckoned with: Nazism. In Democracy Under Siege, players take on the roll of one of these 3 Ideologies and vie for greater control and influence in a pre-World War 2 world. By staging Coups, waging Wars, supporting Uprisings and performing Political Actions, players try to pull Nations into their sphere of influence to grant them access to more Resources and Victory Points.

The Mechanics
Democracy Under Siege is quite straightforward on its surface: Each turn, every player plays 1 or 2 cards. Cards can provide an event (some require a successful die roll to activate) and/or Political Points. After resolving events, players take turns spending Political Points to perform various actions, such as deploying Military Resources to quell an Uprising in Greece, or luring the president of Poland into an one-sided trade deal. After 3 to 4 rounds of card play, the next turn begins.

Sounds like Twilight Struggle? It is, sort of. But unlike Twilight Struggle, in Democracy Under Siege each faction has their own deck of cards which they must carefully manage in order to bring out the right cards at right time.

The Victory Conditions
In Democracy Under Siege, each turn represents 1 year of political and military intrigue. The game starts in 1933 and ends with the (inevitable) outbreak of World War 2, which may be as early as 1937 and as late as 1940. At this point the Ideology which has the most valuable nations aligned with them (i.e. Victory Points) is declared the winner.

Again, this sounds an awful lot like Twilight Struggle… But Democracy Under Siege has some interesting twists. In Democracy Under Siege you have 2 types of Victory Points: Military and Political. Military VPs build up over the course of the game and reflect the size of your standing army and certain territorial gains and military victories. Political VPs reset each turn and directly reflect which nations you currently have under your control. Of course, not all nations are equal, and stealing an opponent’s major ally can put a real dent in their plans (and their VPs).

Resource Management
Ultimately, a victory in Democracy Under Siege comes down to how well you manage your resources:

1) You have your Raw Materials / Factories / Oil which you use to build new Military Resources. Military Resources are in turn used to fight Wars and Uprisings around the world.

2) You have Political Points which you use to launch Coups, deploy your Military forces and pull countries into your sphere of influence.

3) You have a Reserve, where you can store 1 (or 2 for Democracy) useful event cards which you can bring out when the time is right.

4) Finally, you have Prestige. Prestige is a small game in itself. High Prestige gives you a greater chance to succeed on the events on your cards. However, you can also spend Prestige to give yourself die-roll modifiers and re-rolls, or even to change the order of play! Since all players’ event cards are revealed simultaneously each turn, acting first can be a great advantage since it could let you pre-empt your opponent (e.g. fighting a War before they have a chance to reinforce it). On the other hand, going last might let you play a card which cancels an opponent’s event without giving them a chance to react. Tricky choices abound.

OK, it’s a bit harder to make a Twilight Struggle comparison here, so let’s just get on with the conclusion.

In Conclusion
The game reminds me a lot of Twilight Struggle (obviously), where you go around the world performing events and dropping influence in key countries to try to gain control of key regions. However, having 3 different Ideologies playing tug-of-war on the Regimes Track makes for some more interesting decisions (e.g. do I pull Belgium away from Communism, but closer towards Nazism?).

I find the topic of Democracy Under Siege fascinating, the high level strategic scope of the game leads to a lot of abstractions, but you still feel as if you are “playing politics” on a world stage. What more is there to say? Personally, I would highly recommend this game if you want a high level geopolitical strategy game set in a pre-World War 2 world. The gameplay is smooth and intuitive (although it may take a few hours to knock out a game). The artwork and production quality of the new 4Dados edition is simply phenomenal. In short, great game, I hope it gets some more attention and I would be highly interested in seeing what this designer puts out in the future (what do you say, Luca?).
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Luca Cammisa
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Christianv wrote:
...I hope it gets some more attention and I would be highly interested in seeing what this designer puts out in the future (what do you say, Luca?).


What can I say, Christian?
First, many thanks for your nice review!
Second, that my next game is Rise of Totalitarianism, as you know, that is a more challenging "beast", eh eh But also some future design is in the pipeline... wondering about a pre-WW1 geopolitical subject? whistle
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Jim F
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Where the heck did this interest in WW1 come from?
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I'm looking forward to playing this game. It's on my to do list. Or my to do list where I nag my friend into breaking out his copy.
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Ric Manns
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This sounds similar to Triumph & Tragedy. Have you played them both? If so what is the comparison?

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Christian van Someren
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I haven't played Triumph & Tragedy, but I am familiar with it. I do think that these are two very different games. For one thing, DUS ends with the outbreak of WWII, so you never really have direct conflict.

I would also say that DUS is more focused on the political game, where military is treated more as another resource, whereas T&T seems to focus more on the "war" side of things and really abstracts out the political struggle.

Important for me, DUS is far more solo friendly, since T&T has so much hidden information.

DUS also has a slightly larger focus, including areas such as China, Japan and the Middle East. I'm not sure how much of a role resource control plays in T&T, but it is a key concept in DUS. For example, inciting a Coup (or trying to prevent such) in Persia or Iraq (or the Dutch East Indies) is a great way to "flip" a country to give you more access to oil, thus allowing more military production. From what I understand, T&T abstracts out the resource game to card play, and focuses exclusively on the European theater.

So, I think T&T might be better if you want more of a "war" game, whereas DUS is a better "political" game. But again, I've never actually played T&T myself. A better comparison might be the upcoming Cataclysm: A Second World War, but of course I haven't played that either
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