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Subject: Review: Still fun after ten plays? My pros and cons (it grew on me) rss

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Olaf Slomp
Netherlands
Moerkapelle
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Even though long extensive reviews seem te be the most popular reviews on BGG, I myself just don't have the time or the patience to read those.
I prefer quick overviews where I can get some insights into why this game may or may not be attractive to me.
My reviews are targeted at a similar audience, and just consist of my pros and cons coming from:
1) First impressions (before playing my first game)
2) Impressions after the first game
3) Current feelings (after at least 10 plays)

First impressions:
- I consider myself mostly a Euro gamer; rolling dice to resolve the outcome of my actions is not something I normally enjoy (except when there are a LOT of dice rolls, which significantly reduces the potential swings of luck)
+ This game had been number 1 on the BGG ranking for a long time, though, when I first played this (december of 2015), so I figured it had to be something special. A friend of mine buys every game that hits the BGG top 10 (well, Twilight Imperium making it into the top 10 has caused him to break that rule so far), and he was happy to play it with me.
- The rulebook and the board look very dull and very much like a wargame (which is not my normal cup of tea)

Impressions after the first game:
+ This game is dripping with theme. Wow! This is definitly the big plus of the game. Every card is unique and based on a historical event and making the choices on where and how to spend my political and military influence very much felt like I was in charge of a super power trying to win the Cold War.
- There’s not only luck in dice rolls, but also in the drawing of the cards each round (e.g. I had a round where I drew three scoring cards, which gave my oponent three more actions than me in one single round)
- I played the US and felt like I had no chance; the Russian player seemed to have way more and better cards to match his alignment than I did for mine (only later I learned that it is not uncommon for the US to fall behind significantly in the Early War, only to come back strong starting in the Mid War)

Current feelings (10 plays into it, not counting app plays against AI):
+ This is definitly a game for which it pays off to play it more often; when I started playing it a bit more I started to learn which cards are in the deck, and this helps a lot in making better decisions (e.g. don’t waste a lot of influence on a country that can be very easily lost later on due to a certain card)
+ There is an excellent app implementation of this game available. I played a couple of games against the AI, which helped in getting more familiar with the tactics and the different cards
+ After playing it a bunch of times, the game seems surprisingly well balanced (surprisingly after my first experience, and because the assymmetry in the game is huge, so balancing the two powers in the design of this game was a major achievement)
+/- I first thought that this game required a lot of memory (knowing which cards exist in the game is not enough; you want to know which events can still occur and which cards were already discarded), only by playing the app (and then checking the FAQ) did I learn that the contents of the discard pile can always be checked at any time, which removes the need to keep track in your head of every card discarded. I think this should be stated clearly in the manual.
- The first two games didn’t take that long, as I lost relatively quick, but when I started getting the hang of it we made it all the way to the final round a couple of times. The playing time for a full game is definitly longer than I prefer (I mostly like to stay within two hours)
- Luck can still play a major part; for example: in my most recent game I played “Five Year Plan” as my first card in round three (drawing a card from my opponent’s hand), only to draw and set off “Duck and Cover”, which lowered DEFCON to 1 and set off Nuclear War, making me instantly lose the game. Not sure what the odds were of that, but they were very low.

End conclusion (well, for now):
I have learned to live with (and laugh at) the swings of luck that the game throws at me. In a multi-player game this would be unacceptable to me, as it could often result in one player having to ride out the game without a chance to win, but in this two player game I am having fun trying to stave off the enemy when the going gets tough (and if you fall behind too far, the game automatically ends, so it doesn’t drag on after one player has no chance to win anymore).
There is no chance my wife will ever play this (due to theme and length of play) and the number of times I play two player games with other people are limited, so this won’t see a huge amount of plays by me, but I am still enjoying the game and the learning curve (and hopefully getting better). Definitly a game that stays interesting for way more than ten plays.




If you'd like to read more of my reviews, check out Still fun after ten plays? - All reviews
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Joe Pilkus
United States
South Riding
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Great review, Olaf! I, too, enjoy shorter reviews, but I know that I've penned some lengthy ones over the past ten years.

As to some of your insights, I absolutely agree with you that playing a more experienced player will almost always result in your defeat. Now, admittedly, I've played five games on the computer for every one in person and while I've not placed too many checks in the "x" column, I've gotten better...ergo, the games lasted longer.

It is a fantastic rendering of the Cokd War. I truly appreciate well developed card-driven games and if you have a chance, and yes it takes many hours to play, I highly recommend playing with a few mates "Here I Stand" which proved remarkable.

Cheers,
Joe
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Michael Valentine

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The more you play, the faster you can play. I never play anything but the 45 minute per turn option on playdek these days. Max time for any game is thus 90 minutes (actually a bit less as the clock runs for both players during headline selection). With most games ending before final scoring and usually at least a few minutes left on the timer for both players even if it goes that long, I'd guess my average game time is around an hour.

Although there are so many dice rolls and there's luck of draw for the cards, you'd think luck would even out. But, it definitely feels like a significant percentage of games you're trying to run a race uphill, into the wind. You just have to accept that you're gonna lose some games no matter how well you play. Being able to play a game in an hour or so makes this a lot easier to move on to the next game and accept the loss.
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David Gibbs
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Defcon suicide awareness is something that comes with knowing the game and knowing the risks. If you knew that "Duck and Cover" was still out there (which you could, by looking at the discard deck) then playing "Five Year Plan" as an event is a risky play. (In fact, playing the event any time Defcon is 2 may be risky, as there may be other cards that could cause you to lose, too.)

Part of being a good player is knowing what the risk cards are for this, and avoiding those cards.

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Christopher Yaure
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MichaelVal wrote:
The more you play, the faster you can play. I never play anything but the 45 minute per turn option on playdek these days. Max time for any game is thus 90 minutes (actually a bit less as the clock runs for both players during headline selection).

I believe you mean 45 minutes per player per game, not per move.
 
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