The Compulsive Completist
1) What kind of games do I like?
I like light to moderate games. Dominion is a long time favorite. Memoir '44 is a regular. Other games of note are Cosmic Encounter, Carcassonne, Ticket to Ride, Citadels, Small World, Dixit, and Pandemic.
2) How would I describe Twilight Struggle?
If Risk is Gilligan, Twilight Struggle is the Professor.
3) What makes me qualified for a Twilight Struggle review?
Probably nothing. Well, I do own the game...that's something. I don't have a lot of Twilight Struggle sessions under my belt. I can tell I will never be great at it. That said, take this review for what it is worth; a light/moderate gamer branching out to more depth.
4) What made me think I was ready for Twilight Struggle?
When I bought Twilight Struggle I still wasn't sure I was ready for it. I log onto BGG every day and Twilight Struggle haunted me. It sits on top of the list staring at me. Silently beckoning me, daring me.
I researched the game with a wonderful 60+ minute "review" of the game play that can be found here...http://boardgamegeek.com/video/9064/twilight-struggle/bgrwj-.... It is a comprehensive overview of the game play and really gives you a good base of what the game is all about. The next day I downloaded the instruction booklet.
Everything was familiar and clear thanks to the review but Twilight Struggle has a game weight of 3.3. My collection is comprised of light to moderate games. Sure I own Ricochet Robots with a game weight of 2.7 but Twilight Struggle was obviously no Ricochet Robots. I have tackled Memoir '44 and all the expansions. They can get a little "cumbersome" combining all of it's rules but we were able to handle it just fine. Was my eleven year old son ready to tackle the Struggle with me? Maybe I should post here on BGG asking if Twilight Struggle was for me. I'd probably get fanboys that would say "of course" or those that said it was too much for me and that would just piss me off.
So I sat in limbo for months. Never pulling the trigger. Twilight Struggle sat on my wish list...still haunting...still staring...still silent...still beckoning...still daring. And then...
5) And then what?
I was doing my typical meandering about the BGG forums and came across something that changed my life. Something that was so perfect it must be mine...
...I saw these wonderful dice. One glance at that hammer and sickle and I knew I had to own those dice...and now I had to have a game to go with them. I can't say I never would have bought Twilight Struggle without them but those dice are, without a doubt, what finally clinched it for me. I was now the owner of the number one ranked game on BGG. You would no longer haunt me, Twilight Struggle! (Dice supplied by fellow BGGer nightglider1)
6) What is the minimum age for Twilight Struggle?
An intelligent 10 year old can grasp teh rules but you'll need some patience if you're in an "I'm-trying-to-learn-the-rules-and-teach-my-kid-at-the-same-time" mode. I would recommend 14+.
7) What's in the box?
First, a quick mention about the box itself. Awesome! Full color, glossy finish, thick cardboard. The box has a nice color timeline of the Cold War on the sides of the bottom portion of the box that can only be seen when the lid is removed. Very cool and something extra that wasn't required but welcomed.
8) How are the instructions?
What seems like an intimidating 32 pages booklet is really 2 pages of introduction and components, 7 pages of sample play, 11 pages af card histories, and 4 pages of miscellaneous stuff. This leaves just 8 pages of real instructions to go over for your first game. 8 pages! Don't get me wrong, the other stuff is useful and great to have but Twilight Struggle's essence is boiled down to 8 pages of instructions.
9) What is bad?
The pictures on the cards are poor. The pictures are small, often they are somewhat blurry, black and white photos. The designers would have done themselves a favor by having original artwork on the cards. Maybe just front pages of newspapers would have worked better. The inadequate artwork detracts from an otherwise good looking game. Fortunately, ugly cards don't inhibit actual game play.
10) How did the first game go?
Here is my original session report...
My eleven year old son played our first game this weekend. I am still a bit shell shocked by the weight that is Twilight Struggle. Our gaming collection is comprised of light to medium weight games and this was our first dip into the "serious stuff". The rules weren't overly complicated but there is obvious a lot to keep track of. The number of decisions that need to be made is what is overwhelming.
That said, I thought I would let you know how things went. I am sure we have gotten things wrong but I am sure we are are mostly on the right track.
My son is a brilliant boy who I need to read the rules to once and it is locked in his brain. For the most part, he is the one who is clarifying the rules as we play: "No, you can't do that because..." and "We have to do this first because...".
I expected our first game to be just a few rounds because to get a feel of the game but because neither of us knew what true stratagies to use we were all over the place. Had an experienced TS player watched I am sure they would have been horrified.
I was the USSR and at one point I had five high OP point cards in my hand that all favored the US. One of these was Bear Trap (I believe, it was the US equivelent of "Quagmire") and I intentionally played it for its OP points so the event would trigger. With some "lucky" rolls i was able to dispose of two of my other cards that I wanted to trash. Was this played right? Not sure.
Well, we made it to the 10th round after about 4 1/2 hours. The whole game we helped each other along..."Do this because it'll help you here..." and "If you did this it may set you up here...". Once again, A TS player my shudder at the thought but we weren't the coldest of war enemies.
It was the bottom of the third action round in the 10th round. I had conquered all but the last spot in the space race with my son a few spots behind. I was leading in all of the regions except maybe Asia. I was down by 11 VP. I thought when we got down to scoring it would be close. He was sure I was going to win. I decided to coup in some South American country just so I could get some Military Operation points. It was then that my son shouted "YOU LOSE!" The DEFCON was at 2 and I had forgotten to even pay any attention. 4 1/2 hours of trying to decipher TS's instructions and strategies had finally taken its toll. 4 1/2 hours.
I would recommend watching the link above again after your first game and soak everything in while the game is fresh. You'll probably notice a thing or two you missed the first time.
11) How long do games last?
3-4 hours once you get the hang of things.
12) How is the theme?
This is dripping in theme. The theme is fantastic! A true strong point of the game. Staging a coup in a country is easier and less risky in some than others. There is a space race that you need to keep an eye on. Tension gets higher as the DEFCON level drops. Real world events play out and impact the two nations in realistic degrees of severity. Really cool stuff here.
13) What are Twilight Struggle's weaknesses?
TABLE TIME! It just doesn't lend itself to getting to our table often enough. It takes a long time to play (3+ hours). There is a considerable amount of learning curve. Game experience will trounce those new to the game. It can only play two players. All of these hurt the game seeing much action and Twilight Struggle needs lots of table time in order to really shine. It is a perfect game for two gamers wh play together often.
14) How would I have improved the game?
Those themed dice really should be standard in the game. They are awesome! The Victory Point score track should have a serpentine layout with consecutive numbers on different rows still adjacent to one another. Something needs to be done with the pictures on those cards. Really bad.
15) How did I tweak the contents?
As noted I added the dice. Love the dice. I also went to my local drugstore and bought a two sided, fourteen compartment pill organizer. There are seven compartments on each side (one side with red snapping lids and one side with blue). I sorted my Influence markers in these compartments.
Much better than the Ziplock bags that are included with the game. I did have to toss the cardboard insert that comes with the game but the game lid still closes fully and I am much better organized for it.
16) Are card sleeves necessary?
Probably, if it is going to get heavy use. I really don't weigh in much on sleeving or not sleeving. I see arguments for both sides and have typically not sleeved in my games (although that is changing a bit). I do think games, like Twilight Struggle, that mix cards that see different rates of play are good sleeving candidates. You don't want aged early war cards standing out with pristine late war cards.
17) Is Twilight Struggle too much game for the light/moderate gamer?
The rules are learnable but there is depth, depth, depth here along with a time commitment. That depth and commitment can mean the game is more stess-inducing than stress-relieving. I think some light/moderate gamers play for the joy of games and may not want to put in the amount of effort required. Memoir 44 is probably a better choice for those people. That said, I think Twilight Struggle is the gateway game to the "heavier" games. It does what it does very well.
18) Am I glad I own the game?
I appreciate it as a great quality game. I love the theme and the game mechanics. I am worried that the depth of Twilight Struggle will limit the appearances at the game table. Not only do you need 3 intense hours dedicated but you need a well-schooled opponent. Those requirements may be restricting for some gamers. I am happy to be an owner but it isn't a game I need in my collection.
19) Do I recommend Twilight Struggle?
Ironically, Twilight Struggle still haunts me but now it silently stares from my game closet as I walk past. Silently staring. Beckoning me to play just one more game. Daring me.
Twilight Struggle is more thought than play. More commitment than spontaneity. And for me more work than fun. That said, it is great game. If you have the time, the opponent and the work ethic then this is definitely the game for you.
20) Where does Twilight Struggle rank in my collection?