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Subject: In the end it's just Unsatisfying rss

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Brad Jones
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For all the hoopla over this game being "just like" the cold war there is one aspect that just makes wins feel cheap and unfortunately they happen a lot! There are just too many times when you're forced into nuclear war by the draw and this is something that should be much more avoidable (at least to be a satisfying game). In the cold war no one was(is?) ever forced to push the button. You can always just keep making concessions, no matter how sickening they may be.

Game example: The DEFCON is at two. Your opponent has two cards left, they both move the DEFCON down. Your opponent has no choice other than to start a nuclear war. That's not much of a win. Or example two: The DEFCON is at two. Your opponent again has terrible cards. They play a card where you get to make an ops move. You CHOOSE to start a nuclear war (through a coup as opposed to adding influence). But you win?!?! I've played a bunch of games and this is the ending a large (>40%) amount of the time. It's basically a game of keep the DEFCON at 2 and see who gets unlucky in card draws. That's not a lot of strategy in my opinion. And at the very least, it's SUPER UNSATISFYING. It's not like I strategized them into a corner with my amazing coup play, they just drew crappy cards.

If creating a sense of ennui was intentional by the game makers as an attempt to put you in the heat of the decision making process during the cold war, then congrats, but I think as a game maker, making a game where the players can get a W and not feel bad about it would have been a better goal. There's simply too many hours when at the end of the game BOTH players go "Crap. That's not cool. We just spent a bunch of time to get to this point."

It does say "The only winning move is not to play." Guess I should have listened.
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Matt Tonks
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OriginulDawg wrote:

Game example: The DEFCON is at two. Your opponent has two cards left, they both move the DEFCON down. Your opponent has no choice other than to start a nuclear war. That's not much of a win. Or example two: The DEFCON is at two. Your opponent again has terrible cards. They play a card where you get to make an ops move. You CHOOSE to start a nuclear war (through a coup as opposed to adding influence). But you win?!?! I've played a bunch of games and this is the ending a large (>40%) amount of the time. It's basically a game of keep the DEFCON at 2 and see who gets unlucky in card draws. That's not a lot of strategy in my opinion. And at the very least, it's SUPER UNSATISFYING. It's not like I strategized them into a corner with my amazing coup play, they just drew crappy cards.

You're entitled to your opinions & rightly so, but on your two examples what I would say is that if your opponent leaves himself in either of those two situations then he only has himself to blame for losing the game like that. It's dangerous to hang onto cards like that if DEFCON is at 2 or even 3

In that kind of situation you should be getting rid of cards which could nobble you like that early (or on the Space Race) rather than leaving it until you find yourself in a hole you cannot get out of.
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chearns
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Eh, I made mistakes like that in hand management in my first games, but never since. Avoiding auto-loss is an important part of the skill of playing the game, although I can see how when you first start playing it seems like luck (based on card draw). Essentially, the person who lost due to nuclear war, needed to take care of those cards earlier. Needed to foresee the risk that holding on to them brings.

That being said, this may be a skill you're not interested in developing and that's fine.

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Dimitris Paraskevopoulos
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There is much strategy to avoid begin a nuclear war and much more to trap your opponent to begin one. Maybe in your examples there was ways in earlier turns to avoid losing like this.

All defcon aspects is a major part of the gameplay and all these hand management strategies is what makes TS unique compared with other CDGs.

In my opinion this is the "cold" from the "cold war"!
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Alex Drazen
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If you're seeing games end on DEFCON 40% of the time, that is WAY too high.


Here are all of the cards that affect DEFCON when triggered as an opponent event:

Duck and Cover (3)
We Will Bury You (4)
Soviets Shoot Down KAL-007 (4)

And here are the cards that your opponent could use to affect DEFCON by playing operations:

CIA Created (1)
Lone Gunman (1)
Grain Sales to Soviets (2)
Tear Down This Wall (3)
Ortega Elected in Nicaragua (2) - only if US has influence in Cuba

And here are cards that could "trigger" a card that affects DEFCON:

Missile Envy (2) (only if played as event)
Star Wars (2) (only if USA ahead on Space Race)
Five Year Plan (3)

(Summit, How I Learned to Stop Worrying, and Olympic Games could be triggered by Grain Sales or Missile Envy).

If you're not operating under Red Scare/Purge, all of those cards can be sent to the Space Race except for CIA Created/Lone Gunman. And most of them (if 3+) can still go to space even under Red Scare/Purge, as long as you are not too far along the space track. You could also take the risk of headlining one of those when DEFCON is 3 and hope your opponent's headline does not affect DEFCON (this is a risk). You can also use the China Card to hold two cards if you're in real trouble. And the USSR can often safely dump CIA in Early War (if they have no BG influence outside of Europe/Asia/Middle East), or on an AR1 at DEFCON 3 with minimal problems.

USA wants to get either Aldrich Ames Remix or Ask Not... which will allow them to discard a card - or cards - safely (Aldrich Ames, you would play as the final AR, as long as you don't play the China Card or SALT Negotiations that turn). USSR will have a much harder time avoiding DEFCON suicide - more bad cards and fewer ways to deal with them. There is also the "Discard Held Card" space on the Space Race which can be helpful (but it is risky to get there).

Short of a combo of Red Scare along with Terrorism, the majority of DEFCON suicide situations should be avoidable with careful play, but that does mean learning about the cards and their interactions.

I've played dozens of games and the only opponent I ever saw lose on DEFCON was the Steam AI. I'm not saying it's impossible to get unlucky. Yes, the USSR could, theoretically, draw a hand of CIA Created + Duck and Cover + KAL-007 + Star Wars (with USA ahead on track) + Five Year Plan + Grain Sales. Practically speaking, they should not end up with more than one or two of these cards on any particular turn -- which is one reason why holding on to the China Card and not throwing it around willy-nilly is important. Space one, hold the other, or play China Card. Other than some edge cases, that should be enough to get by.

If you don't like the luck element, you don't like it. But 40% is wildly unrealistic. I'd say fewer than 1 game in 10 should end on DEFCON. Anything above that is most likely the fault of poor play, not poor design.

And, while you didn't mention it, you must really hate the Wargames card, too, then... anyone ahead in the Late War by 7 VP or more has a coin-flip chance of winning a game they might lose in Final Scoring... as long as they draw Wargames.
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Matt Gustafson
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Space Race

I'm a novice with 30+ games, but neither me nor my opponent has experienced this scenario.
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Mark J
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" I've played a bunch of games and this is the ending a large (>40%) amount of the time."

Then you're playing it wrong.
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Robert Ahearne
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+1 to the posters after the OP. I've only played TS 3 times, but I don't understand the OP complaint at all.

It is entirely in a player's control whether they let themselves end a round with the only 2 cards in their hand being cards that can lower DEFCON. So there's no "cheap win" about that.

Similarly, while I can see making a thematic objection to a player winning by lowering DEFCON to 1 on the other player's turn, it's a known situation both players need to keep in mind in their strategizing. If it's your only option, you made choices that left yourself open to that when you could have chosen otherwise.
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Matthew McGeehin
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OriginulDawg wrote:
For all the hoopla over this game being "just like" the cold war there is one aspect that just makes wins feel cheap and unfortunately they happen a lot! There are just too many times when you're forced into nuclear war by the draw and this is something that should be much more avoidable (at least to be a satisfying game). In the cold war no one was(is?) ever forced to push the button. You can always just keep making concessions, no matter how sickening they may be.

Game example: The DEFCON is at two. Your opponent has two cards left, they both move the DEFCON down. Your opponent has no choice other than to start a nuclear war. That's not much of a win. Or example two: The DEFCON is at two. Your opponent again has terrible cards. They play a card where you get to make an ops move. You CHOOSE to start a nuclear war (through a coup as opposed to adding influence). But you win?!?! I've played a bunch of games and this is the ending a large (>40%) amount of the time. It's basically a game of keep the DEFCON at 2 and see who gets unlucky in card draws. That's not a lot of strategy in my opinion. And at the very least, it's SUPER UNSATISFYING. It's not like I strategized them into a corner with my amazing coup play, they just drew crappy cards.

If creating a sense of ennui was intentional by the game makers as an attempt to put you in the heat of the decision making process during the cold war, then congrats, but I think as a game maker, making a game where the players can get a W and not feel bad about it would have been a better goal. There's simply too many hours when at the end of the game BOTH players go "Crap. That's not cool. We just spent a bunch of time to get to this point."

It does say "The only winning move is not to play." Guess I should have listened.

Your hand starts at several cards more than two. Why, then, did you not make moves before that point?

I agree that there are things unsatisfying about the game, but having poor strategy is not the fault of the game.
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Kristian Thy
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alexdrazen wrote:
And, while you didn't mention it, you must really hate the Wargames card, too, then...

I'm guessing he never made it to Late War before accidentally blowing up the world.
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OriginulDawg wrote:
Game example: The DEFCON is at two. Your opponent has two cards left, they both move the DEFCON down. Your opponent has no choice other than to start a nuclear war. That's not much of a win. Or example two: The DEFCON is at two. Your opponent again has terrible cards. They play a card where you get to make an ops move. You CHOOSE to start a nuclear war (through a coup as opposed to adding influence). But you win?!?! I've played a bunch of games and this is the ending a large (>40%) amount of the time. It's basically a game of keep the DEFCON at 2 and see who gets unlucky in card draws. That's not a lot of strategy in my opinion. And at the very least, it's SUPER UNSATISFYING. It's not like I strategized them into a corner with my amazing coup play, they just drew crappy cards.
You are missing something here, you should play some more. Lowering the Defcon to 2 at the right rhytm and then forcing your enemy to trigger nuclear war (e.g. by him giving you the ops move, as in the very good example you mentioned) is exactly one of the key strategies on how to win this game in an instant. And trust me, between experienced TS players it is never happening as a matter of unlucky card draw, but as a result of vicious tactical play, it feels almost like a checkmate in chess. For the same reason, between experienced players it is quite rare. Oh, but those rare moments when I manage to do it - it feels really satisfying, exactly like an early checkmate in chess. This game has a reputation to be a game design masterpiece, and for a reason!
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Matt Wilkens
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I'll go ahead and echo what others have said here. Most of the time, nuclear war can be avoided by good hand management. However, there are times where you don't have a choice and/or your opponent backs you into a corner through discarding cards and nuclear war is unavoidable.

For reference, I am keeping stats on a tournament which is currently running. As of now, I have the end-game reason for 117 games, and nuclear war caused the end of the game in 10 of those (8.5%).
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Øivind Karlsrud
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OriginulDawg wrote:
It's basically a game of keep the DEFCON at 2 and see who gets unlucky in card draws.
Others have already answered this, but I just don't understand how you can believe your own words here, when the game is so popular among hardcore boardgamers. You're not the first one to be frustrated by the fact that knowing the cards is important in this game, probably more so than in most card-driven games, but for the most part it is a game of skill, as any experienced player would probably show you by beating you at least 9 times out of 10. It's a game for people who wants a tight, competitive experience against others who also know the game well, it's not a game for those who expect to just jump in and do well, just because they have read a lot of history books. There's certainly a lot of history in the game, but it is a game. And part of the game is knowing which cards can blow up in your face.
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Joe Kong
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oivind22 wrote:

Others have already answered this, but I just don't understand how you can believe your own words here, when the game is so popular among hardcore boardgamers. You're not the first one to be frustrated by the fact that knowing the cards is important in this game, probably more so than in most card-driven games, but for the most part it is a game of skill, as any experienced player would probably show you by beating you at least 9 times out of 10. It's a game for people who wants a tight, competitive experience against others who also know the game well, it's not a game for those who expect to just jump in and do well, just because they have read a lot of history books. There's certainly a lot of history in the game, but it is a game. And part of the game is knowing which cards can blow up in your face.

Usually, it was not cards drawn but those few die rolls that frustrated me.

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Tom H
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Played about 15 times and the full nuclear option has only happened once or twice.

I don't think this is a problem.
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Riku Riekkinen
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stevekerr25 wrote:
For reference, I am keeping stats on a tournament which is currently running. As of now, I have the end-game reason for 117 games, and nuclear war caused the end of the game in 10 of those (8.5%).

Can there be resignations by DEFCON suicide?
 
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chearns
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tomster wrote:
Played about 15 times and the full nuclear option has only happened once or twice.

I don't think this is a problem.
When I made my initial reply, I was concerned that it would be party to an enormous dogpile. And, this being the internet, of course it was.

Whether or not this is a problem for us as people who love the game, doesn't alter the fact that it was a problem for the reviewer/OP. Could he play differently so that it isn't? Yes. But that doesn't mean he wants to, nor does it mean that his criticism isn't valid. Of course it is. The game demands that you play a certain way that not everyone wants to do or wants from a game.
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Alex Drazen
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Quote:
The game demands that you play a certain way that not everyone wants to do or wants from a game.

Man, that Chess, why, it's terrible! I mean, you have this super powerful piece, the Queen, but even some lame pawn can capture her? That hardly seems balanced at all! What am I supposed to do, just hold back my most powerful pieces until the middlegame or endgame?

(and then Professor Frink's sarcasm detector explodes.)


It's one thing to say a game makes you think differently and you don't like it. That's one of my criticisms of Village - for me, it's counter-intuitive. But it doesn't mean I'd call the game broken. I just actively disliked it.

The OP is simply factually wrong. Even marginally competent play should eliminate most DEFCON suicides. Twilight Struggle is about crisis management mitigating problems, and to some extent, taking risks. But if you decide to recklessly gamble about starting a nuclear war, I'll stand by that being your problem, not the game design.

I wonder how many of the card draw problems were an unlucky discard to 5YP or exchange on Missile Envy. Or did the OP not understand how the space race works? You should usually be able to remove one problem DEFCON card from your hand on every turn, short of getting hit with Red Scare/Terrorism.
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Matt Wilkens
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Riku Riekkinen wrote:
Can there be resignations by DEFCON suicide?

That's possible/probable since I'm just going off what's posted in the comment threads. Because of that, it could be that the actual number of "forced" defcon suicides is actually slightly lower than that.
 
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OriginulDawg wrote:
In the cold war no one was(is?) ever forced to push the button. You can always just keep making concessions, no matter how sickening they may be.

Yikes. That's the sort of thinking in crisis behavior that makes war more likely. No wonder so many of your games exterminate life on the planet.
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Paul Dawson
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I found it really boring playing online

Everyone just coups as ussr and game is about trying to stop that as us or wait until someone blows up

It’s a good game but not deserving of all the reviews it’s just clever and well put together

Nothing transcendent or interesting about it
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Paul Dawson
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I have resigned heaps of games by defcon suicide when the outcome is inevitable

Saves time
 
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justdoit wrote:
We should all remember that TS is a game, not a simulation. I think it is a very good game, but it is unsatisfying in the way that it is not a true mirror of Cold War strategy, and thus, Cold War history.
I think it represents history well enough. When you look at what happens in the game from a distance, you can see a reasonable chain of events. A US-supported coup here, USSR spreading it's influence there etc. In that sense, it's as good a simulation as can be expected from such a broad strokes representation.

However, it doesn't simulate what it was like to be a real decision maker. That's an entirely different kind of simulation, and I think few commercial wargames are simulations in that sense. Card-driven games are all pretty far from it, IMO. And yet, certain card-driven games are some of my favorite "simulations" of history. Twilight Struggle, Here I Stand, Empire of the Sun, among others.
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justdoit wrote:
Yes, the events are historical in themselves, though not in a true sense, since they are randomly made available, as in all the card-driven games. This game is also more abstract than say, Here I Stand, with no actual military units.
Here I Stand is a lot more complex and takes much longer to play, so they're not really comparable. TS is not comparable to the World War 3 game you mentioned, either. There are no military units in TS, because it is a political game, not a wargame, at least not in the traditional sense.

Anyway, I'm not just thinking about the events in TS, which are based on historical events, but how the game plays out, in general. What happens on the board usually seems like reasonable alternative history, at least as reasonable as can be expected from a game which goes through 40 years of history in 3 hours. Just don't try to map game decisions onto real-life decisions.
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oivind22 wrote:
Just don't try to map game decisions onto real-life decisions.

Like ignoring the results of the Chinese Civil War for the sake of "balance?"
 
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