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Twilight Struggle» Forums » Variants

Subject: Quagmire/Bear Trap revision rss

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Ziemowit Pazderski
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In the last weeks I saw/played a few games, in which bad streak in Quagmire/Bear Trap rolls completely derailed the game and it really annoyed me. If you just draw a bad hand, next turn you get a new hand, possibly a fighting chance. For all other cases of bad luck you can usually do something to prepare in advance or to mitigate it. Not so here. Even worse, if you are stuck with a bunch of 1-ops and miss half a turn, you will still be stuck with them in your next turn.
Therefore I decided to propose that we replaced the original cards with Bear Trap Remix*/Quagmire Remix*. The Remix cards will have 1 line added to their events:

"Subtract 1 from the roll for every missed Quagmire/Bear Trap roll so far."

Effectively, that will make Q/BT last for 3 ARs at most, as long as the player has at least 3 appropriate cards to discard.
I realize that it is unlikely for the game devs to approve of such change and implement it in the Steam game, but I'm pretty sure that we can play by these rules on Vassal, ACTS or maybe even the Saito system - as long as the community approves.

Poll
Do you approve of adding the following line to Bear Trap & Quagmire:
Subtract 1 from roll for every missed BT/Quag roll so far.
Yes
No
      109 answers
Poll created by Ziemowit
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Sebastian Grab
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I vote yes, mostly because I stopped playing TS due to the luck factor. I played it for years and I am now certain that, while the game is great, the dice rolling can be too punishing. I have lost quite a few games to more then 4 falied rolles on Quagmire/Bear Trap. In the last game of TS I (ever?) played, I rolled 1 for coup 6 times in a row and 5-6 for space race like 3 or 4 times.

I don't mind losing, but such a strong dependance on luck is just frustrating, I'm not having any fun with the game anymore. Winning due to opponents bad luck feels hollow as well - the game has beaten them, not me.

So yes, any change that would make luck less important in the game is a welcome one for me.
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Zerth
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Space race is a gambling track for sure, but that is not the main purpose of it, but to get rid of cards you do not want to play in the turn. Whether you advance or not, does not matter that much.

But I cannot take any TS player seriously who states that coups are gambling. Very simple: you simply don't do a coup with in a country with 3+ stability, and you attempt one in a 3-stability country only with the China Card. For countries with 1s and 2s, you do your homework before attempting a coup (or preferably, even before playing the game, there are great probability charts for this in the BGG files section) and use at least the appropriate Ops value card. There is no way you fail 6 coup attempts in a row if you set your chances all the time to at least 75%. That bad series would be an event of probability 1 in 1000.

I know that the "dice hate me" belief is pretty prevalent in the BGG community, but its popularity does not make it less of a medieval superstition.
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Christopher Yaure
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He did say he rolled "1" 6 times in a row. IF literally true, preparation would not have helped.

The odds are 1 in 46,656. An event that happens that rarely does not mean the game is broken, to me. But it is wrong to deny there is an element of luck to Twilight Struggle.
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Barry Miller
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You should ask a moderator to move this thread to the "Variants" forum.

Once we get the "I hate luck in my games" comments out of our system, I see this being a good conversation.


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Gianluca Spessato
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actuaryesquire wrote:
He did say he rolled "1" 6 times in a row. IF literally true, preparation would not have helped.

The odds are 1 in 46,656. An event that happens that rarely does not mean the game is broken, to me. But it is wrong to deny there is an element of luck to Twilight Struggle.

Twilight Struggle can be disappointing about dice results, but these cases are more frequently seen when there is a computerized randomization: until today, a perfect algorithm to simulate the case don't exists. But, nevertheless this, I love TS as it is, so I voted no.
 
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Zerth
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actuaryesquire wrote:
He did say he rolled "1" 6 times in a row. IF literally true, preparation would not have helped.

The odds are 1 in 46,656. An event that happens that rarely does not mean the game is broken, to me. But it is wrong to deny there is an element of luck to Twilight Struggle.
Note that if, for example, you attempt to coup a 1-stability country with a card of OPs value 2, your coup is successful even if you roll a 1. Also, if you attempt to coup a 2-stability country with a card of OPs value 4, your coup is successful even if you roll a 1. It will not give you presence in the country, but the coup will be successful, nevertheless.

I found coups swingy and too much luck-driven only when I was a beginner in TS and I had little idea about what I was doing. Then I did some calculations and understood how strategic they are. Also worth mentioning: often, you do coups not mainly because of the positive outcome in that country, but because you want the Military Ops (and the Victory Point) and to lower the Defcon level. These two things can win you the game. And whether you get Military Ops or lowered Defcon is totally deterministic, no matter the success for the coup.
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Ziemowit Pazderski
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I guess most people weren't recently traumatized by a Bear streak, so they don't see the reason to change the original card.
Oh well, it was worth a try. Still, I wonder, should the game makers ever decide to make a new, remade version of TS, how many changes would they made. I recall reading that they didn't like how NATO works, for example.
It would be interesting to see how would a Twilight Struggle Remix game by Jason and Ananda look like.
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C Jen
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Ziemowit wrote:
I guess most people weren't recently traumatized by a Bear streak, so they don't see the reason to change the original card.
Oh well, it was worth a try.

Don't worry about others. You can have an unpopular opinion and it's still valid. Just unpopular.

I personally dislike the element of dice roll swinginess in this game, and it's increasing as I play more. (And I've been playing since 2012.)

It's a big but infrequent source of frustration in realignment rolls, a minor source in coups ("hey, another 4OP coup of a 2 Stab country that only reduces enemy influence by 1 Influence. Awesome"), and a complete toss-up for War Cards and BT/Quag.

My changes (which I'm tinkering with a spare copy of the paper game) have included:

Realignments are rolled with a smaller die, but enjoy one step of regional flexibility more than coups (so ME can always be realigned).

War Cards always grant a modifier if the target country is controlled by the enemy (rather than just Israel qualifying) and if successful, the victor gains influence equal to stability, not "winner takes all influence in the square".

Space Race cards have the same set of bonuses as the Tiananmen Square track in 1989 Dawn of Freedom. So, +1 if you've tried and failed at least once before, and +1 if you burn a friendly card on it.

BT/Quagmire I just set an upper limit of 2 AR trap, maximum. You still have to roll once, but if you fail then you exit the trap for free at end of next AR. This accounts for the majority of all statistical outcomes, and frankly I find it's no fun to be forced to play through the "statistical outlier" scenario with this mechanic that eats up your play rounds. (Of course, my definition of fun is very subjective and I'm not pretending this is universally applicable.)

My biggest issue with this game is that it's a long game to play by boardgaming standards (although yes, I'm aware that Gupta and Matthews pared down its play time when compared against the serious wargames of their past). Given its duration, I'm less and less willing to accept the mollifier of "you just had a bad run of luck, but play more games and in the aggregate, it all pans out". That might work for Race for the Galaxy or Tiny Epic Galaxies or another fast paced game, but my personal tastes and time constraints mean that I get no pleasure from sinking hours into a game when later dice rolls bork the whole playthrough for me.

Even given the above changes to dice rolls, another issue is that the cards' OPs values can be heavily destabilizing. If Player A draws a low-OP hand, it's inherently bad by itself, but due to the drawing mechanism, it also means that Player B is statistically more likely to have drawn a high-OP hand.

(In contrast, there's a graceful mechanic whereby if Player A draws a hostile hand of Player B's events, then at least Player B is likely to have also drawn a greater number of Player A's events - this quirk of the drafting is one that I like.)

Regarding the "A high OPs, B low OPs" issue, if Fantasy Flight Games had designed TS, I'm sure they might have considered a complex multi-step deck stacking process at the start of the game. Other than that, though, I don't see how this OP value swinginess could be solved. And in my opinion it has a greater effect on the game's outcome than the dice rolls.

None of the above should be taken as objective criticism of TS's merits. This is entirely a discussion of what I subjectively find annoying about the game and how (and whether) I can fix them. Ziemowit's proposal is right up my alley as far as this initiative is concerned.
 
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R Cook
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I voted yes, and it’s the only part of this great game I would change. The suggestion you make is exactly how I would design it also. You can get stuck in a trap still for a few turns (if unlucky) which is problematic but not game wrecking / ending.

I don’t find rolling a few bad coup rolls necessarily game ending, as you don’t need to rely on coups to win the game. But getting stuck in a bear trap for an entire turn, can just wreck a game - I don’t like winning or losing this way.
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Douglas Walker
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Rather than increase the odds of victory each time, I would prefer to have a hard 3-card limit. "After three rolls, cancel this card." That would be a midpoint between the original (which is annoying) and your version, which makes it more likely that you will escape on the second roll.
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Sebastian Grab
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kissgg wrote:
Space race is a gambling track for sure, but that is not the main purpose of it, but to get rid of cards you do not want to play in the turn. Whether you advance or not, does not matter that much.

But I cannot take any TS player seriously who states that coups are gambling. Very simple: you simply don't do a coup with in a country with 3+ stability, and you attempt one in a 3-stability country only with the China Card. For countries with 1s and 2s, you do your homework before attempting a coup (or preferably, even before playing the game, there are great probability charts for this in the BGG files section) and use at least the appropriate Ops value card. There is no way you fail 6 coup attempts in a row if you set your chances all the time to at least 75%. That bad series would be an event of probability 1 in 1000.

I know that the "dice hate me" belief is pretty prevalent in the BGG community, but its popularity does not make it less of a medieval superstition.

I played over a 100 games of TS, you really don't have to explain to me how this game works. Doesn't change the fact these bad rolls happened, but you don't have to belive me.

I never said the dice hate me. I roll just like anyone else. But TS is very luck dependant I have problems understaning why reducing the luck factor would make this game worse. Same of the matches I played were reduced to one player having no chance at all due to bad draws and rolls. How is this fun, how is this good design?

I am convinced that reducing importance of the dice would make TS an even better game.
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Pascal Abidor
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Valarus wrote:
I am convinced that reducing importance of the dice would make TS an even better game.

I have two issues with this. First, the card order is also random and a player can be totally screwed over by bad hands. Wouldn’t this sort of randomness also be a problem?

Second, without the potential randomness of the dice, the two sides become god-like versions of the US and USSR. The randomness of dice rolls injects a bit of the arbitrary nature of history into the course of events the game has you play through.

A couple people have pointed out that mitigating the potential for uncontrollable bad rolls is part of the strategy. To each their own, but I prefer that over transforming TS into a full-on chess-like game. And I say this as someone who HATES backgammon.
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Barry Miller
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abubrooklyn wrote:
... the card order is also random and a player can be totally screwed over by bad hands.
This is how I lost my last game! (For instance, I was never dealt a scoring card, and I got only one "4 OPs" for the entire game). But STILL, it's an awesome game and I love it and respect it a lot.

But also, for this very issue, is why the game really needs to be played multiple times between the same players. That way, the "bad" randomness curve which comes with lousy dice rolls and crappy hands will smooth out, and become a non-factor over the course of a series of games. In the end, the truly better player will emerge.

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bgm1961 wrote:

for this very issue, is why the game really needs to be played multiple times between the same players. That way, the "bad" randomness curve which comes with lousy dice rolls and crappy hands will smooth out, and become a non-factor over the course of a series of games. In the end, the truly better player will emerge.


Agreed on the card draws themselves being heavily swingy too arguably moreso than dice rolls.

My issue with the above viewpoint is that, for me personally, TS is a long game. It's hard for me to get it to the table with friends for this reason. I don't have much free time, and nor do my friends, even though we love the game to pieces.

So, for us at least, the time commitment is very much towards the high side of the scale. And if a game happens where the cards just basically made it doomed before we even talk about skill, it is a terrible waste of gaming time. We're talking "dude, that sucks so bad I'm feeling sorry I got you to play this" type of dynamic here.

No hate to folks with lots of time and/or greater flexibility of time, chance, and replays than us. But I speak as somebody who rates TS as his only rated 10 game (well, possibly one of two such games) and who has now firmly decided that the game is too swingy as it is to play with my IRL friends. I've started modding the game using custom cards and other tools to try to improve the experience, but balance is really hard to achieve. Add that I don't have huge amounts of time to begin with. (A gamer's chicken egg scenario!)

Just posting that your point of "play more games to even out the chance element" is indeed true, but it's not applicable to everybody. I wish it applied to me.
 
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abubrooklyn wrote:


I have two issues with this. First, the card order is also random and a player can be totally screwed over by bad hands. Wouldn’t this sort of randomness also be a problem?

Very true. I hate the swingy nature of the dice, but they are merely a symptom of the game's swingy system.

The cards have a nice balancing factor regarding their allegiance - if you draw a terrible hand full of your enemy's cards, then at least you know that your opponent has probably drawn more cards of your allegiance. I think the game does this very well.

However, this doesn't apply to card OP values. If you draw a hand of low ops, then your opponent is now more likely to have a hand of mid to high ops.

I wish this could be remedied so both sides have, say, within plus/minus X ops of each other per draw (whatever value of X later makes sense). But aside from a FFG-style complex deck stacking, I'm not sure how to manage this.

All of the above should be disclaimed with: "this poster considers TS to be too swingy but respects that plenty of players will have no problem with that taste wise."
 
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Ben Kyo
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Ziemowit wrote:
I guess most people weren't recently traumatized by a Bear streak, so they don't see the reason to change the original card.
I recently lost a game after being stuck in Bear Trap for 9 AR (7 failed rolls).

The thing is, I'd pretty much already lost the game anyway. By Turn 7 (when I lost), I had played neutral cards worth a total of only 8 OPs, to my opponents' 38. No Decol, no DeStal, Purged twice, Turn 4 Grain Sales headline hit WWBY. Even without a streak of terrible dice rolls, the game was all but over.

Now, the main reason the game remained tense for me until the Bear Trap debacle was that I knew there was always the chance, no matter how slim, that something ridiculously swingy would go my way. Obviously, that didn't happen, but it could have. That's one reason why I like the way it is.

All that said, my opponent was so happy to win (bumped up to 1600 rating), and I was quite entertained by the whole thing (despite being knocked down to 1950 rating), so it seems all good to me.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Twilight Struggle is not and was never meant to be a Eurogame. If you can't deal with the possibility of a bad beat, steer clear.
The good news is, if you're the superior player those unlucky moments will happen to the other guy far more frequently. devil
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Barry Miller
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YassWaddah wrote:
My issue with the above viewpoint is that, for me personally, TS is a long game. It's hard for me to get it to the table with friends for this reason. I don't have much free time, and nor do my friends, even though we love the game to pieces.
...
Just posting that your point of "play more games to even out the chance element" is indeed true, but it's not applicable to everybody. I wish it applied to me.
Which is exactly why I play my regular opponent via the Playdek app. He takes a turn in the morning before going to work, and since I have a later day, I take a turn a few hours after that. Then he takes a turn when he gets home from work, and I take a turn before going to bed. That's how our games go. With a few more turns thrown-in during weekends, each game takes about two or three weeks to finish. We're on game #16, playing that way.

Sphere wrote:
The good news is, if you're the superior player those unlucky moments will happen to the other guy far more frequently. devil
Yes, this is very true. The pain comes when both players are at the same level.

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bgm1961 wrote:


Which is exactly why I play my regular opponent via the Playdek app.


This is not an actual solution for the swinginess, for me - it merely allows me to aggregate then together in a larger universe!

I think I play the Playdek version almost every day. Aside from a few wonky card implementations (fixes for which appear increasingly unlikely), playing Playdek really hammers home the fact that the level of luck in this game is too high for my liking.

And this is me speaking as playing more or less entirely against the (extremely limited) AI, so the actual win ratios are very high in the human's favor.

This is probably less a flaw in the game design and more a byproduct of my personal tastes changing.

But Playdek should make the fixes. It's been long enough.
 
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Ziemowit Pazderski
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Luck matters a lot in TS and I am not going to either contest or change that. That is the nature of the game. It is very important, though, that very often bad luck can be mitigated by superior skill or just sufficient preparation. Taking advantage of the opponent's bad luck also requires certain skill. And even if executed correctly, next turn we have an entirely new hand, new luck, which might be just as well be in my favor.
Not so with Quag/Bear Trap.
For all intents and purposes, it cannot be prepared for, cannot be mitigated with skill and it's really not difficult to play when your opponent can't strike back. And when it's "discard 3 cards and then pause for the remainder of the turn", then even a new turn doesn't help - you're still stuck with 5 bad cards from the previous one. That is why, as rarely as it happens, it really ruins my appreciation for the game when it does. No practical chance for a change makes it more of a rant, than a call to action, but you never know, maybe something "ridiculously swingy" does happen and we'll get a Twilight Struggle remix game for its 15th anniversary :-)
 
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Christopher Yaure
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Quagmire/Beartrap are very swingy - sometimes all they do is let your opponent discard a card they really don't want to play. Other times it shuts down your opponent for multiple action rounds. So on eof the keys is deciding whether it is worth playing as an event - if you are well ahead, you should virtually never play it. If you far behind and choking on your opponent's fumes, then maybe you decide to roll the dice (rather, make your opponent roll the dice).

I'm fine with it - and if I fail 8 throws in a row when winning, I have a bad beat to share.
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Ziemowit wrote:
Not so with Quag/Bear Trap.
For all intents and purposes, it cannot be prepared for, cannot be mitigated with skill and it's really not difficult to play when your opponent can't strike back.

Just spitballing here - if you made QM/BT either contingent upon (or mitigated by) control of some farflung nation... would that help at all?

Say BT requires the US to push into Afghanistan/Iran/Pakistan. QM requires the Soviets to push into Vietnam/Laos/Thailand. This could either be outright control, or it could potentially be satisfied by having mere influence in the target country.

Then if it's met, the enemy trapped opponent has certain different quotas they have to meet.

E.g. if US has no influence in Afghanistan, then BT cannot be played for the event. If US has presence but not control, BT's duration is only one AR and it can be satisfied with any discarded card (so USSR could throw away a 1-op card and satisfy it). If US has control of Afghanistan then it functions as usual, i.e. USSR must discard 2+Op card and roll each AR to escape.

This doesn't change the swinginess of the dice rolls, but it does mean that a player can fight for a precedent condition to try to prevent the dice rolls from occurring.
 
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Alex Drazen
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I think Quagmire and Bear Trap are just fine as they are. And I think a pure hard cap goes against the spirit of the game.

However, if there must be a variant, how about something like the following?

If the trailing player plays "Bear Trap" or "Quagmire" on the leading player, and the leading player has at least some number of VP (maybe 5?) when the trap is triggered, the trap lasts a maximum number of turns equal to the absolute value of that player's score on the scoring track (If USSR is 5 VP, max if 5 turns). If the score is within 5, then all bets are off.

If the leading player (or 0 VP tie) plays "Bear Trap" or "Quagmire" on the trailing player, hard cap of 4 rounds (Ops discards).

In either case, a player may opt to stay in the trap when the hard-cap exit is triggered, if they fail all the rolls to that point (maybe they have a lot of cards to get rid of!). If they do so, they MUST roll their way out on a subsequent turn - no additional free exit.

However, playing a Scoring Card or passing due to only 1-ops cards would NOT count toward the counter for getting out of the trap! So if someone had a cap of 5 and played 3 cards, a scoring, then had to pass, they would still need to go 2 more AR's the next turn to get out.

 
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With a cumulative -1 the cards should probably start a bit lower, at 4+ maybe. I agree that the events can be a slightly unpleasant experience... although it does add to the theme when you never quite feel safe.

I have a mild preference toward offering players difficult choices so I would also consider giving players the option to 'lose' the war and withdraw instead of rolling the dice. The penalty would probably be quite harsh to represent this national humiliation so most players would usually roll the dice anyway- skip an action round, give up 2VP, and opponent may remove 2 of your influence from Asia.


 
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