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Twilight Struggle» Forums » Variants

Subject: Balancing Variant for Regular Playing Partners rss

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Fred Shugars
United States
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My buddy John and I meet every Wednesday and play at least 2 games of Twilight Struggle--alternating USA and USSR. We’ve recently gone over 365 plays. See here for a description of our first 100 plays: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1478808/1-x-100-twilight-st...

As noted in that original post, we never felt the need for any balancing of the sides, since we both had turns at each side.

However, after about 350 plays we recognized that it was time for some balancing not between countries, but between the 2 players, as the variance between the two of us was even bigger than the variance between the 2 countries, and it was not really changing much over time. At that point the winning percentage for the USSR was .606 while one of us had a winning percentage of .677 (.807 with the USSR, and .566 with the USA).

We discussed different ways to balance but decided to give a try to using the method so many use to give a boost to the US--give some additional influence in the set up. But since we had no way of determining the right number to give, rather than arbitrarily decide on one, we elected to “let the game decide”, as follows:

After each game, the amount of additional influence will be determined for the next time we play those sides. If the losing player was the one that got the additional influence, he'll get one more influence the next game he plays that side. If it was the winning player that was getting influence, he'll get one less the next game he plays that side.

We started this after our more successful player had just won both games in the prior week. So the other player got one extra influence in both games. He won his game with the USA-- so then the next week when he played with the US he got no extra influence. With the USSR that first week, he lost with the extra influence, so the next week when playing with the USSR he got 2 extra influence.

We've not yet played enough to have an idea as to how far this initial setup influence will swing. So far, the max influence we had was the USSR getting 4 extra. For the USA, the max they’ve gotten so far is 2 extra. But it’s still very early (we’ve only played 13 games since we’ve started this process).

Besides hopefully generating a more even distribution of wins, it makes for more varied setups.
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Gianluca Spessato
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+2 to the US side is commonly used, and extensively tested at every level. Strongly recommended are the optional cards. If this works for many others players, I suppose it works for you too.
 
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David Gibbs
Canada
Ottawa
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I'd suggest you might want to (slightly) slow-down the change in influence. The extra influence is a lot like a handicap stone in a game of Go -- and traditionally it took several consecutive wins (often 3) to earn/recoup a handicap. So, I might suggest shifting the handicap after two or three wins/losses in a row. Or perhaps rather than in-a-row, when the win/loss ratio reaches 2:1 or 3:1.
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foksieloy
Croatia
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dagibbs wrote:
I'd suggest you might want to (slightly) slow-down the change in influence. The extra influence is a lot like a handicap stone in a game of Go -- and traditionally it took several consecutive wins (often 3) to earn/recoup a handicap. So, I might suggest shifting the handicap after two or three wins/losses in a row. Or perhaps rather than in-a-row, when the win/loss ratio reaches 2:1 or 3:1.

I would also recommend this. One extra influence is a lot, and having it swing to +4 due to perhaps bad luck in hands dealt would make for very one sided games when luck evens out.
 
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Haytil Reivesman
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Alternatively, have post-mortems after each game. Share with him what you were doing and how he could have stopped you. When he makes moves that you think are clearly mistakes, explain them to him after the game.

Instead of rejigging the game each time to try and even it out, strive to make him a better player so such rejigging eventually becomes unnecessary.

Keep in mind that - balance considerations aside - +2 US is a very different game from +4 USSR. The strategic considerations, and possible moves, are going to vary widely when you vary the influence. So now your opponent, who was having trouble getting as good at you when you were playing the same game over and over, is having to play up to six different games. His rate of improvement will decline, not increase.
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Bitchy Little Boy
Romania
Bucharest
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If you must change the rules, why not give the losing player VPs? It will alter the game play less.
 
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