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Subject: [Review] Twilight Struggle in Points rss

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Dr Jack
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What another TS review? Come on man, that's uncool.

I bought Twilight Struggle a few weeks ago, since then it became one of my favorite games. I have played well over a dozen of completed game, and a few more on uncompleted. It became my favorite two player game, and actually any other two player game in my collection barely sees the table since TS arrived. Yup, I love Twilight Struggle.

Before buying it I read the reviews over at the geek - as I always do before purchasing a game. I found some review to be outstanding, and I salute those who wrote them. With that I felt that something is lacking. I couldn't find a good review that simply, and shortly explained what kind of game Twilight Struggle is. I knew all the rules, and how much times it takes and all that, but I didn't get a clear image of how it is actually feels like playing it. After reading all these big reviews I wanted something short, to summarize it in a few points, clear some unclear issues and really talk about what TS is all about. I feel now, after playing, reading and analyzing the game for hours, that I'm knowledgeable enough to write a review and contribute to the TS community in the geek. Enjoy the read!

1) Let's start with the basic, Twilight Struggle's components. TS (Deluxe Edition) comes in small, surprisingly heavy box. The artwork on the box is not outstanding, however it is made out of quality material and is not likely to get damaged. Inside the box you get a big, colorful, beautiful game-board with a lot of information on it, and different bars that help you keep track of different aspects of the game (amount of turns, VPs, etc.). The colors can be easily distinguished and the text on the board can be easily read. Inside the box you'll also find cards. I personally don't like their artwork however everything you need to know is on them and they are very comfortable to use while playing. With all that you get an excellent, colorful rule-book. The rules are very clearly written, there are many examples and an example game is described in the end of the rulebook. Lastly you get many many counters. They are thick, comfortable counters, that are easy to use during the game. The components overall look nice, are of high quality and are easy to use while playing.

2) Let's talk quickly about some basic information regarding TS. Twilight Struggle is a two-player game. The rules require studying, however they are not overwhelmingly complex - reading the rules twice and going over the example game is enough to understand the game in my opinion. The first game will require referring the rulebook multiple times, however in my experience after the first few turns you'll get the hang of it. After the first game or two Twilight Struggle almost always can be finished in under two hours. The game is definitely not a gate-way game it requires both players to be gamers. The game is a card-driven game with heavy dependency on area-control mechanics. In Twilight Struggle each player plays a power in the cold war (either U.S. or U.S.S.R.), your goal is to gain political power over the world - represented by victory points.

3) I'll describe now in short the gameplay of TS. In TS there are 10 rounds of play, unless one player wins before the 10th turn. Every round each player will draw cards to create a hand of 8 to 9 cards. During the round the players will take turns playing one card at a time, for either operation points or for the event describe on the cards. If you are playing the card for the event the you will execute the text written on the card. If you are playing the card for the operation points you can use them to either place Influence Points (spread your power over the world), make realignment rolls (reduce your opponent's strength in certain locations) or attempt a coup (completely shift power in one location). Every card has different amount of OPs (0-4) and different event. You'll do this for 10 turns, unless one player gets 20 victory points before or if Defcon drops to one. If you reach the 10th round there is final scoring phase, and then the player with most VPs win. I really dislike explaining the rules in a review, so I'll go into no further detail. If you want to know more read one of the other excellent reviews or download the rules from GMT's site.

4) Let's talk about some of TS's cards which are the essence of the game. Each card is either US's, USSR's or neither and all of them are shuffled together. If the card is US's that means the event is favorable for the U.S. and he will execute the card text, same goes for USSR (if the card is neither one, the player holding the card will execute the event). So in your hand you'll get both cards that are favorable to you and cards that are favorable to your opponent. If you will use your opponent's card (your are often forced to) he will still execute the event written on the card - meaning many times you will play a card that will be more beneficial to your enemy! Using the operation value and the events of the cards correctly is they to winning the game.

5) I could go on now, talking about more essential mechanics such as scoring, Defcon, military operations, headlining, space-race, blah, blah, blah, will it really help you understand the essence of the game? I don't think so, and even if the answer is positive, the other reviewers explained it so well, and TS's rules are so well written that I'm just going to refer you to them, they did much better job than I can do explaining these. You already know the the important mechanics, so lets discuss now what is feels playing TS.

5.1) In Twilight Struggle there is a huge part of player interaction. In TS everything that benefits you hurts the other player, every time you get VPs your opponent loses VPs, every time you improve your position your opponent's position is hurt. Half of the time playing TS you'll try to understand your enemy's agenda while hiding yours. Like chess, thinking only about your moves will mean certain failure for you, you must always examine your opponent's position. A good TS player will never let his opponent feel confident, and that leads us to the next issue.
5.2) TS is a tense game. I mean you actually sweat while playing Twilight Struggle. Your position will always seem fragile, and that's because it will be. Power shifts quickly in the game of TS, not being careful enough could mean devastation to you. You have to keep Europe strong, you can't lose your foothold in Asia, and OH MY GOD HE JUST PLACED IPS IF CENTRAL AMERICA!! TS is for the strong hearted, people that can and are willing to be on their toes all the time.
5.3) TS can be very unforgiving at times. You will be punished for mistakes. Sometimes luck will turn on you, you roll horribly or draw awful cards. Part of TS is dealing with this, doing the best you can even if are in a bad position. However there many people that get frustrated when luck turns against them. If you are one of these, consider letting this one go.

6) Twilight Struggle is a very strategic game. The fun factor is driven from the strategic factor. If you enjoy watching ingenious moves, executing carefully planned actions, and the face of your opponent when he realized he's beat - TS is the game for you. It is one of the most strategic games out there, if you don't plan ahead and adjust considering the situation you will lose. TS has a big learning curve as well. By all means you will not play well in your first game. As you play you will see more options, more possibilities, more ways to kick your enemies' a$$. I myself enjoy very much thinking about new strategies and executing them, and every game I play I learn something new.

7) So, what kind of strategic moves you need to do in TS? What are your choices as a player? There are dozens, and as you play the game you'll see all the different things that you need to take into consideration. A great way to see that is by reading the example game presented in TS's rulebook. The most obvious and one of the most important choices you'll need to make is deciding whether to play a card for its OPs or for its events. Some cards will be removed from the game after you use them as an event, do you keep them for later or use them now? If you use OPs, what do you do with them? Do you weaken your enemy's position or strengthen yours? Where do you do it? How do you do it? How do you make him spend more resources spending fixing the damage you did? Could your opponent possibly have card X and if he does, how can you respond? When do you time your cards, early in the round or late in the round? Do I have a fighting chance here, or should I minimize the damage? Really the choices are endless, you'll have to deal with strategic decisions all the time. Make the right decisions and win, do a mistake one time too many, and well, next time will be better.

8) So the most important question arises, to who is the game suggested? Will I like the game, is it worth buying? Well, I don't consider myself as someone that could answer the second question, you are the one that should know that. If you liked what you read, by all means consider buying it! If you like tense, strategic games and you can deal with rules that are more complex than the average game, yes, I will strongly suggest the game. However as I said, this game is for the strong-hearted calm people, this game IS frustrating - personally that's what I love about it.

8.1) I'm a Euro-gamer will I like TS? That Issue was discussed by many TS fans, is Twilight Struggle a war game or a Euro-game? It has aspects of both, and there is no answer to that question. Like the cold war, and like its name, TS is in a twilight zone. The cold war wasn't exactly war, nor was it peaceful - the same goes for the game. It is neither and its both. As Euro gamer you will see familiar decisions, and mechanics, as war gamer will you will see familiar feeling of tension while playing the game. I consider TS to be a brutal Euro-game, and in my opinion the combination works perfectly.

9) We are nearing the end fellas. We talked about components, general info regarding the game and the gameplay was very briefly described. The essence of the game, the cards, was describe in more detail relatively to other aspects. After that we talked about how it feels playing TS, the importance of strategy in the game and what decisions as gamers you need to take. Lastly we discussed who might enjoy the game. I hope you enjoyed reading the review. I hope I accomplished my goal and you now understand what kind of game TS is. It is definitely one of the best 2 player strategic games out there!
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David Clausen
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Nice tight review - only one little thing caught my eye:

MrAz wrote:
[size=7]Every round 8-9 cards will be dealt to each player.


technically you refill your hand to 8 or 9 cards (depending on the turn), I am only saying this because I played it wrong myself the first handful of games.
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Terry Clapacs
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Thanks for this review. It is just the sort of thing I had been hoping to read about TS. I've been agonizing over whether to buy since December, with the biggest hang-up being whether my wife would be interested in playing it. Without her, it will just be my son to play with, and his play-time is dominated by video games. My wife is hard to predict, but it would help me to know how long does each person's turn take? For example, she loves Agricola because each turn goes quickly - you grab the wood and move on. Whereas I wouldn't even dare trying to get her to play Through The Ages. It drives her nuts just to watch my son and I playing because there are so many decisions each turn. She tends to get up and start washing dishes or something if anyone's turn takes more than about a minute.Again, thanks fro the review - very helpful!
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Dr Jack
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Wojtyla wrote:
Nice tight review - only one little thing caught my eye:

MrAz wrote:
[size=7]Every round 8-9 cards will be dealt to each player.


technically you refill your hand to 8 or 9 cards (depending on the turn), I am only saying this because I played it wrong myself the first handful of games.


Agreed, I should have made it clearer. I'll fix it right away!

RileyRabbit wrote:
Thanks for this review. It is just the sort of thing I had been hoping to read about TS. I've been agonizing over whether to buy since December, with the biggest hang-up being whether my wife would be interested in playing it. Without her, it will just be my son to play with, and his play-time is dominated by video games. My wife is hard to predict, but it would help me to know how long does each person's turn take? For example, she loves Agricola because each turn goes quickly - you grab the wood and move on. Whereas I wouldn't even dare trying to get her to play Through The Ages. It drives her nuts just to watch my son and I playing because there are so many decisions each turn. She tends to get up and start washing dishes or something if anyone's turn takes more than about a minute.Again, thanks fro the review - very helpful!


Your welcome and I'm very happy you enjoyed it. It is hard to say how long each turn takes - it really depends on the player and the situation. I consider myself a quick player - I think on an average turn it would take me 30-90 seconds to play. The headline turn, which is the first turn of every round, usually takes longer since you need to plan ahead I would say that's a two minute turn . With that I had turns that I spent over 5 minutes considering all the possibilities.

TS is not a slow game, at least they way I play it. I don't think I ever got bored waiting for my opponent to act, you'll always have something to think about even if he/she takes his time.
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James Mckane
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Thanks, I'm going to have the rules printed and read through them in my lunch breaks at work. If they start to make sense to me i'll be spending some money.

I liked this review alot and got alot out of it.

One question, I have very little knowledge of the cold war and generally the American history with politics etc. Will this make a difference as to whether the game will work for me?
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Dr Jack
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jamesmckane wrote:
Thanks, I'm going to have the rules printed and read through them in my lunch breaks at work. If they start to make sense to me i'll be spending some money.

I liked this review alot and got alot out of it.

One question, I have very little knowledge of the cold war and generally the American history with politics etc. Will this make a difference as to whether the game will work for me?


Hey James,
I'm embarrassed to say that I too, don't know much about the Cold War expect that there was one. I feel this takes nothing from my gaming experience. On the contrary, at times the game is educational, making it even more interesting! The rulebook comes with explanation about different cards. Those are very interesting and actually taught me things regarding the cold war. So my answer, is no, I don't think it affects that gameplay, and even if it does, it may even be for the better!
 
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James Mckane
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Thanks mate, I'll pick up a copy.

Cheers.
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Savino Palumbo
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I actually purchased the game online shortly before reading this review. The game had been recommended to me by several players whose opinion I trust, and I've also been looking for a really solid 2 player game as I can rarely get someone to run War of the Ring with me (that's a pretty fiddly game). I also love card driven games.

That being said, your review makes me more confident of my purchase. I like the approach you took to describing how it actually FEELS to play moreso than just rehashing the rules and components! More people should review this way IMO.
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adebisi
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I liked how you have numbered the paragraphs and sub-paragraphs of your review. Shows that you've actually read some GMT rules
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