Twilight Strategy

Twilight Struggle Strategy, crossposted from twilightstrategy.com

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The AR7 Play

Edward
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Overview


The "AR7 Play" refers to any US play on the final Action Round of the turn (AR6 on Turns 1-3, AR7 thereafter) intended to overload the USSR’s first Action Round in the next turn. The AR7 play is the cornerstone of advanced American strategy and one of the main ways to seize initiative from the USSR.

The key to the AR7 play lies in DEFCON. Each turn, DEFCON rises to 3, and so each turn the USSR would like to coup a battleground on AR1 in order to drop DEFCON to 2 and block the US from battleground coups. The AR7 play therefore attempts to create a crisis for the USSR that cannot be addressed until AR1 of the next turn. By timing this crisis to arrive simultaneously with the USSR’s DEFCON obligation, the US hopes to overload the USSR’s AR1, and force the USSR into one of two unpalatable choices: either address the AR7 crisis (and give the US the battleground coup) or drop DEFCON (and allow the US to capitalize on its AR7 play).

There are three types of AR7 plays: breaking USSR control, playing into a non-battleground, and managing bad USSR events.

1. Breaking USSR control of a country

This is the most common AR7 play. You place influence into a USSR-controlled country (let’s say Pakistan), enough to break control. On AR1 of next turn, the USSR must either restore its control of Pakistan (allowing you to coup a battleground) or coup a battleground (allowing you to play a high Ops card into Pakistan to flip the country to capitalism). Either way, you end up sacrificing very little to gain something significant.

Ideally, you want to break control of a country that is not coupable at DEFCON 3. For instance, if you broke USSR control of Nigeria, the USSR could just coup Nigeria on AR1 and kill both birds with one stone.

However, it may still be worthwhile to break control of a Mid War battleground if you have an obviously desirable battleground coup target. For instance, if you hold South Africa, Angola, Botswana, and Zaire to the USSR’s Algeria and Nigeria (and therefore have African domination), the USSR is almost certainly going to coup Zaire on AR1 to gain Domination. However, if you use your final AR play on Algeria, then the USSR is no longer able to flip Domination with a single play. Regardless of which country he coups, you’ll be able to maintain the 3-2 battleground split.

The most flexible way of making this AR7 play is with Operations, but there are many events that accomplish something similar: John Paul II Elected Pope, Panama Canal Returned, OAS Founded, etc. These are all events that benefit from being played on the last Action Round of a turn because they are otherwise easy to respond to.

Breaking control on the final AR is most effective when it disrupts the scoring situation in the region. It presents a much more critical crisis for the USSR, and in addition, the US is able to threaten headlining the scoring card (which may in turn force a suboptimal USSR headline in response).

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Thu Mar 15, 2012 10:49 am
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The Space Race

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The number one mistake beginning players make in Twilight Struggle is to send too many cards off to space.  In games between strong players, the farthest you'll usually see either player is Stage 4 (Man in Earth Orbit in the Deluxe Edition, Man in Space in the First/Second Editions) where they can see the opponent's headline first, and it is especially rare to see any progress beyond that.

The reason for this is that Ops are paramount.  An Action Round spent on the Space Race is an Action Round that you aren't putting pressure on your opponent or countering his threats.  However much your opponent's event might sting, it is often more important to get the Ops you need in the regions that you want it, and on this very Action instead of waiting a round. 

This is especially true if you are holding your opponent's starred events: if the event can only happen once, you would usually rather control how it is triggered and mitigate its effect immediately, instead of potentially letting your opponent trigger it later at a much more inconvenient time.

As discussed earlier, the real job of the Space Race is to discard truly awful opponent events that you cannot mitigate in any meaningful way.  In this context, "truly awful" means:

* cards that will immediately lose you the game (e.g., DEFCON suicide cards)
* cards that provide your opponent access to a region (e.g., De-Stalinization)
* cards that remove your access to a region (e.g., Voice of America)
* cards whose Ops value is not enough to repair its damage (e.g., Ussuri River Skirmish)
* cards that give your opponent multiple plays in a row (e.g., Quagmire/Bear Trap)
* cards that give your opponent lots of VPs (e.g., OPEC)

If you have none of these "truly irreparable" cards to space, then you can also consider spacing:

* cards that are empty action rounds for you: i.e., you spend your action round repairing whatever damage the event causes (e.g., Socialist Governments)

The Space Race's VPs are usually not a big deal.  They tend to matter more to the USSR, who is usually disadvantaged in Final Scoring and would like to end the game in the Early/Mid War or a Turn 8 Wargames.  On the other hand, the USSR is much more vulnerable to Space Race success: a USSR player that makes it to Stage 4 too quickly can no longer space 2 Ops cards, and there are enough bad US 2 Ops events that getting to Stage 4 too early can be a serious liability.

The Space Race's special text is slightly more interesting: the space-two-cards perk is nice if you are holding multiple bad cards, and seeing your opponent's headline is of course a powerful advantage.  In addition, Star Wars helps keeps some interest in the Space Race towards the Late War, as the ability to play any card in the discard (as opposed to just draw, like with SALT Negotiations) is exceedingly powerful.

To continue reading this article, visit Twilight Strategy
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Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:00 am
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Deck Reshuffles

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In a typical game of Twilight Struggle, the draw deck will reshuffle while dealing out the cards for Turns 3 and 7. Occasionally, the deck will reshuffle immediately before Turn 10 as well.

What this means is that cards can fall into one of several categories:

* Any card played or discarded on Turns 1 and 2 will be guaranteed to be redrawn between Turns 3-7
* Any card played or discarded on Turns 3-6 will not be redrawn until Turns 7-10
* Any card played or discarded on Turn 7 or later will probably not be redrawn, and if it is, it would only be on Turn 10

Note that this is not a perfect overlap with when the cards come out:

* All Early War cards are guaranteed to be drawn between Turns 1-3
* All Mid War cards are shuffled in on Turn 4, and therefore are guaranteed to be drawn between Turns 4-7
* All Late War cards are shuffled in on Turn 8, and will be drawn only on Turns 8-10 (if at all)

What does this mean strategically?

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Fri Dec 16, 2011 6:00 am
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Events vs Operations

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The overarching paradigm of Twilight Struggle is that events create opportunities, and Operations are how you take advantage of those opportunities. Accordingly, you should treat events not as your primary source of influence, but rather as gamechangers that break open the game for your Operations.

The basis for this principle is the observation that Operations are generally more efficient than events, even if the event technically gives more influence. The Comecon event gives the USSR 4 influence, but they’re spread out and in a rather useless place. By contrast, the 3 Ops of the Comecon card can be played as a strong coup, can take over a crucial battleground, or can extend and create threats all over the board.

On the other hand, by the Mid War, many regions begin to degenerate into stalemates. Once your opponent controls a country, it’s hugely inefficient to try to break their control with Operations alone. Sometimes it’s still worth it, but you need to be at a significant Ops advantage (or take multiple Actions in a row) to take over an opponent-controlled country with pure Ops. Alternatively, maybe you just don’t have access to the region: without coup targets, all the Operations in the world aren’t going to get the USSR into the Americas.

This is where events come in. Their effects can have dramatic ramifications and shake up otherwise deadlocked regions. USSR secure in Africa? Boom, Nuclear Subs and all of a sudden all the battlegrounds are yours. US is dominating Europe? Bam, Socialist Governments headline, and now an AR1 Europe Scoring is -5 instead of +5.

A large part of Twilight Struggle skill is therefore recognizing which events to trigger, and when to trigger them.

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Thu Dec 15, 2011 6:00 am
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