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Subject: Maturing Review - Twilight Struggle (after 20+ plays) rss

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adebisi
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Introduction:
Good games are like Wine or Whisky - the older they get, the more subtle flavours a sophisticated gamer is able to find in them. In this review, I'm analysing the taste Twilight Struggle leaves after 20+ plays. This should help you to get some idea of the replay value of the game.


Odour and Colour (Before the First Play):
You had been drooling after Twilight Struggle for a looong time, as in BGG it's the highest ranking game, the highest ranking wargame, and highly acclaimed everywhere. Everytime you visit your local game store, you've been found standing in the corner, nose pressed against the showcase glass, eyes transfixed on the game. However, the game being rather pricey and having the reputation of a behemoth, you've never had the courage to ask the shop keeper to let you touch the game. Being a wimp even among those pesky eurogamers, you're afraid of being laughed at amongst grognards.

-What Twilight Struggle for you? No, no, no! You, Sir, better go back home with this new expansion for Carcassonne.

And once again, without even mentioning Twilight Struggle, you lay a pile of money on the counter and ask for the latest "Jousting Schweins" expansion for Carcassonne. After all, it's an expansion for the game your mom likes.

It had been like this for 5 years now...

Then one day a miracle happened. Not Jesus but your wife came home with a brand new copy of Twilight Struggle in her bag. And not just any TS, but the sugar coated Deluxe Edition. How could have she known what your secret desire was? You've never talked to her about it and she has never shown even the slightest of interest in your dear hobby, and yet there she was with the only game in the World you haven't had the guts to lay your hands on.

Opening the super sturdy box revealed a beautiful yet extremely functional mounted board full of detail, a deck of MtG sized cards and a few sheets of chits that alone were twice the thickness of the flimsy ALEA standard cardboard. Sweet. Just owning a this one wargame and breathing in its odour make you feel 100% more masculine.


The First Sip (After the First Play):
Whoa. That was fast. The game was supposed to last for full 10 Turns, but somehow you managed to lose in two. What a stupid game of luck this is. You lost just because you drew a handful of enemy associated events and were abandonded by the gods of dice. What's the point of this game if the winner is determined by a sequence of random events and a couple of dice rolls, you're wondering... No, this can't be right. There must be something in the game that you haven't seen yet. It just doesn't make sense if a game of pure luck is the number one in BGG, above the great eurostars like Puerto Rico and Agricola.

As the first thing you reread the rules to make sure you hadn't missed anything. It was the logical approach of an eurogamer to an illogical problem. But no. Having missed something wasn't the reason. The rules are too well written and it's easy to use them for later reference. Of course, you forgot a few minor details at the first play but none of 'em was a crucial factor in your defeat.

Despite your defeat you still have to admit that the game has succeeded in capturing the dense athmosphere of the cold war. Most of the time you had nothing but bad options to choose from and you were never able to predict how your opponet was going to react to your actions. The only thing you were able to be sure about was that, were you to show particular interest in some region, your opponent did all in his might to follow you there.

After the first play you could compare Twilight Struggle to Dr. Pepper; tastes bad but for some reason you gotta keep drinking it to find out why is it so popular.


After a Glass (2-6 plays):
Your improved tactics start showing their power at the table where the war is already stretching over several decades. But still you manage to lose every time. Six consecutive losses have convinced you of one thing - Twilight Struggle is not a game of luck. The reasons for your poor performance must be more profound. However, in contrary to common sense, all the losses haven't pushed you away from the game. Instead there's a constant need to play it more and more.

Here Twilight Struggle shows a rare character for a boardgame. It gets you hooked even when you're getting smited. Trying to fight back, new and more complex stratagems start taking form in your mind even when you're not playing. Little by little Twilight Struggle occupies your daily thoughts.

So we're not talking about Dr. Pepper anymore but about the finest of cask strength single malt whiskys. It burns your intestines but for some unknown reason you're enjoying the sensation.


After a Bottle (7-19 plays):
Something miraculous happened; you found the Grail and drank from it. Your bad start was followed by a 13 game winning streak. This evidence supports the fact that TS definitely is not a game of luck. Why would it be in the first place? When you pull a win it's always your skill and true grit that have brought you the victory.

No, not seriously. Of course when there are cards and dice involved, luck is also playing a role but your eurogamer nature has grown to live with it. You've learned that in Twilight Sturggle it is what you do in the long run that really matter in the end. But to be able to run the distance you got to navigate around all the pitfalls your opponent is setting in your way.

This makes TS the ultimate strategy game and this title is thematically more than appropriate. The Cold War lasted for over four decades which is enough for long term strategies to take effect while tactics had only a local short term impact. Though you couldn't neglect the significance of tactical decisions because they have brought even the real World to the brink of nuclear war.

The palate of this single malt starts showing countless of distinct flavours that mix together perfectly and are followed by long ever varying aftertaste.


After the Whole Damn Cask (20+ plays):
The first hairs have grown on your chest and nowadays you even have to shave every two weeks. You even use a real razor instead of just turning your face to north wind. You've become a man.

You're still pulling more wins than losses but your broken nose taught you an important lesson of staying humble. There's not even a hint of arrogancy in your presence because you know that you're still taking the first steps on the path you've chosen and one day you'd meet your victor. But you're not feeling bad about. Actually you're looking forward to it as an opportunity to learn even more.

This is why you keep playing Twilight Struggle. I don't know if drinking whisky makes you any wiser but Twilight Struggle teaches you always something new.


Conclusion:
Very few other games have the same balance between short and long term play. In Twilight Struggle they form a seamless fabric with the theme. As said before, this makes TS perhaps the ultimate strategy game. It's no wonder that it is the number one in BGG. However, it is not the easiest of games to grasp. TS cannot be played like an eurogame. You have to let it be a part of your being and start reading the winds. You only learn to respect this masterpiece with time. In this sense you could say that Twilight Struggle matures slowly.


Other Maturing Reviews:
See here

Edited some typos (although I'm sure there are still some left, there's always at least one...)
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mateenyweeny
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adebisi wrote:
Introduction:
After the first play you could compare Twilight Struggle to Dr. Pepper; tastes bad but for some reason you gotta keep drinking it to find out why is it so popular.


Great line from a great review.
Thanks!
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Tom H
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Very funny! Great review. Thanks.
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Michael Edwards
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Not only did this review make me smile, and made me want to play Twilight Struggle some more, but it also makes me want to drink single malt!

Good thing I've two bottles in easy reach. Alas, TS is at home…
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adebisi
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Chanfan wrote:
Not only did this review make me smile, and made me want to play Twilight Struggle some more, but it also makes me want to drink single malt!

Good thing I've two bottles in easy reach. Alas, TS is at home…

Subliminals. Good to hear that my true message is sinking in. Hope that single malt is also sinking in.
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Ægir Æxx
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Great job!

I always love your reviews and actually bought Caylus based on one.
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adebisi
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ChillusMaximus wrote:
Great job!

I always love your reviews and actually bought Caylus based on one.

wow. Thanks.
I hope the description I gave was accurate enough.
 
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Stefan Kaiser
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adebisi wrote:


Here Twilight Struggle shows a rare character for a boardgame. It gets you hooked even when you're getting smited. Trying to fight back, new and more complex stratagems start taking form in your mind even when you're not playing. Little by little Twilight Struggle occupies your daily thoughts.


Exactly what i experienced... this game is so much fun even if you are at the losing end... trying to figure out what went wrong and taking that into account when you play the next time... i so love this game !
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Pavel Hammerschmidt
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adebisi wrote:
Introduction:
Being a wimp even among those pesky eurogamers, you're afraid of being laughed at amongst grognards.

Just owning a this one wargame and breathing in its odour make you feel 100% more masculine.


[/size]


Wargame? More like wargame light. Less calories than a real wargame. But fun to play when you don't have 1,000 hours to spend on Fire in the East.

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Erwin Lau
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adebisi wrote:

Then one day a miracle happened. Not Jesus but your wife came home with a brand new copy of Twilight Struggle in her bag. And not just any TS, but the sugar coated Deluxe Edition. How could have she known what your secret desire was? You've never talked to her about it and she has never shown even the slightest of interest in your dear hobby, and yet there she was with the only game in the World you haven't had the guts to lay your hands on.


OK. Tell us the truth. Are you fantasizing this? Or teach us the secret recipe how to make our wives do this.
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adebisi
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ErwinLau wrote:
adebisi wrote:

Then one day a miracle happened. Not Jesus but your wife came home with a brand new copy of Twilight Struggle in her bag. And not just any TS, but the sugar coated Deluxe Edition. How could have she known what your secret desire was? You've never talked to her about it and she has never shown even the slightest of interest in your dear hobby, and yet there she was with the only game in the World you haven't had the guts to lay your hands on.


OK. Tell us the truth. Are you fantasizing this? Or teach us the secret recipe how to make our wives do this.

maybe I'm bending the truth a little. It was a friend of mine who paid a visit. I guess she got tipped off.
 
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Brandon
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No thumb for sullying the good name of Dr. Pepper.

He didn't spend 7 years in med school for this shit.
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adebisi
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Neverfade wrote:
No thumb for sullying the good name of Dr. Pepper.

He didn't spend 7 years in med school for this shit.

If Dr.Pepper is what you come up with after 7 years in med school, I wonder what kind of weird stuff a PhD or a postdoc would introduce to the world.
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Vaughan Edge
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Hah, great review. Going to blow my own trumpet here but am undefeated at TS. Its credit to the game that the people i play it with still love this game its THEIR favourie also. That is rare, to love a game you,ve never won. That in itself is its charm, three of us play and their desire to win is HUGE. It keeps them coming back and when I AM finally knocked off that pedestal the gloating rights will be huge. I dread that day. Hopefully playing this afternoon. Thx for the great review.
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Scott Nelson
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I'm 0-15 so far against my best friend for the full game, and 1 win in the late war scenario that was flukier than anything.

I love this game the more I play it, even knowing I'll probably lose. When I finally win one, it will be a sweet victory. It took 25 times before I beat Puerto Rico finally. I am so looking forward to winning this game sometime, especially against Greg.

The comparison to single-malt Scotch is very appropriate.
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Daniel King
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Excellent review, I enjoy it a lot.

Daniel.
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Andy Anderlini
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Awesome review! Now you've made me need to have it.
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Gauti Gislason
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Very good review, probably the best written review I have read here on BGG. I have still not played this game so I can not rely comment on how well it describes the game.
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Joe
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My exact experience with purchasing this game haha. Well done, sir. Finally convinced myself to buy this today after trading in my MTG collection for store credit at my FLGS. It was this or Troyes. I have enough Euros for now. TS will be a long term project and I'm looking forward to my first play.
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John McLintock
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Be warned: TS is not 'fun' in the conventional sense: there's too much unbroken, gruelling, nerve-grinding tension for that. And the tactical/strategic learning curve can be long and steep (if that's not a contradiction in terms). So defeats can sometimes be painful because of the intense emotional engagement the game generates. But it's never dull, and can quite easily start to obsess you as you try to figure out WTF you did wrong last time, and how to do better next time; like, eg. tonight. Wish me luck.
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Quote:
You had been drooling after Twilight Struggle for a looong time, as in BGG it's the highest ranking game, the highest ranking wargame, and highly acclaimed everywhere. Everytime you visit your local game store, you've been found standing in the corner, nose pressed against the showcase glass, eyes transfixed on the game. However, the game being rather pricey and having the reputation of a behemoth, you've never had the courage to ask the shop keeper to let you touch the game. Being a wimp even among those pesky eurogamers, you're afraid of being laughed at amongst grognards.

-What Twilight Struggle for you? No, no, no! You, Sir, better go back home with this new expansion for Carcassonne.


Hmmmm

I guess it might be me. Thanks for this excellent review
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Trent Boardgamer
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LOL nice review. I'm sitting here enjoying a nice single malt, so this review hit on 2 accounts.
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Daniel de Lima
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About how many hours did you take to play one game? Usually, with how many turns?

1) In the first game;
2) From 2 to 6 games;
3) From 7 to 19 games;
4) After 20 games.
 
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adebisi
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Daniel,

Sorry for the delay in replying.

If I remember right, the first game ended in 60 minutes of effective play time (Turn 2). There might have been a couple of rule checks increasing the total table time up to approx. 90 minutes. The following games were approx. 30-40 minutes per Turn usually ending somewhere between Turns 3 and 6. The pace has gradually got faster to more or less 1 minute per Round ,i.e., ~20 minutes/Turn with upkeep. A game of full 10 Turns is still rather rare to see, since most games come to an early end during Turns 5-8, sometimes Turn 9. Usually entering Turn 9 has meant a really tight game which has ultimately been decided in the final scoring.

I cannot give an honest estimate of the average game duration. I can only say that it has been ~20 minutes per Turn (5-8 Turns), which translates to 100-180 minutes of play time.

So in a nutshell, there is no such thing as a quick game of Twilight Struggle. When I lay it on the table, I have always reserved the whole night with a good selection of snacks, beer and whisky. Of course, usually you do not need all the evening but it's better to be prepared, not only for a full 10 Turn game, but for some slow and agonizing decisions.
 
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