Alec Chapman(ALGO)United Kingdom
…so we can learn to pick ourselves back up!
It was a good weekend for the USSR but a mixed bag for me, as I doubled billed Twilight Struggle across Saturday and Sunday.
Before we’d played TS Paul had given Puzzle Strike another look – it’s obviously not for him, but I was glad he agreed that the attempts to turn it into a three and four player game really make people approach it as more than it really is. Puzzle Strike is an excellent two player game for people who like combos and bashing each other. It is not a four player optimisation game. I played as Geiger, really to try and prove that it’s not all about the purples. I won with judicious use of the character chips he has – It’s Time For The Past, Future Sight and Research and Development are all great churners.
Killer combo (if I remember it right) was an eight chip chain: (Sneak?) Attack to red arrow, (Dashing?) Attack to Brown Arrow, It’s Time for the past (for one of each), One of Each (Drew Money), Research and development (chucked money for combine), Combine, Combine, Future Sight (Drawing Crash). Zero or one money, I forget which, but won on the next turn. Forgive my lack of memory on the attacks – I love ‘em, but I can never distinguish the names in hindsight. It’s runs like this that I love in Puzzle Strike – especially since in this instance I had taken care to build up the necessary chips. Geiger’s upgraded future sight gives you a great way of maximising your combos.
Saturday’s game as the USA against Paul (aka Sorp222) was the most gruelling TS session I have had so far, hanging in a very close balance, perhaps slightly in my favour right up the turns 9 and 10 when he scored about 30 points in two rounds, with devastating combinations of headline and first action completely wiping out my presence in Europe and Central America. Obviously an important lesson was learned in terms of over control, and also our relative ignorance of the Late War cards meant we were more open to lucky streaks like this.
I actually felt, up to this stage, that I had played really well and did, in fact, have control of Europe by the conclusion of 10:4, but that was when the Soviets cheekily played their South America scoring card and mopped up the last points they needed to win. Paul had a 13 point lead before then anyway, so my chances were slim even without the advantage of holding all the scoring cards in the final round.
Horrid loss, really upsetting in a way because I felt I’d done everything right up until the late war. I guess that’s why they call it the long war after all.
But TS has a way of dragging you back for more, and after our recording session for the movie Podcast on Sunday (episode 61!) Chris asked to play it, and while I was still smarting from the humiliating turnaround the previous night, I got back up and went back to couping unnecessary nations for fun.
And there were A LOT of coups in this game. Columbia and Nicaragua, Italy and Angola were frequent targets when they were available. Either because one of the players could be bottlenecked (USSR in Nicaragua, USA in Columbia etc) or occasionally to draw attention. Africa was far more involved in this game as Chris attempted to make up for the early loss of W Germany and frequent influence battle over Italy – caused in major part by my adoption of a more aggressive tactic in setup, grabbing control of Austria. This, coupled with my hard earned knowledge of Europe’s shaky status in the events led to considerations in that theatre distracting the issue from my domination and eventual complete control of the Middle East, which was to ultimately win the game for me.
I think what this really showed is how your losses can really inform your play. Overcontrol of Poland and East Germany in the good times prevented my plans being completely thrown in the East European Unrest times. I also had one eye on the upcoming Solidarity and Pope John Paul II events, though these did not come out in the end.
I was also cautious in the last turn because I had drawn the Camp David Accords, and only by playing 5 Year Plan before it in the last action round was I able to get the 3 ops points I needed to guarantee my stranglehold in the Middle East before Chris was forced to play the scoring card. Two would have given him the opportunity for presence or to damage my control – I would not be willing to allow either of those possibilities.
There are few words that can sum up how rewarding it is to see all my efforts in learning this game paying off even in defeat, how knowing the cards a bit better makes an enormous difference and even how the emotional journeys can be so different.
It’s a true great.