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Triumph & Tragedy» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Triumph & Tragedy But Sadly No History rss

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John Goode
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It was a dark and possibly stormy night in game designer Craig Besinque’s game room. On a bottom shelf a brawny, worn-around-the-edges, has-been was feeling frisky. Mr. Axis and Allies had seen a lot of action, though most of it three decades ago. Sure he was overweight, but he had timeless moves, well-sculpted physical features and could show you a good time if you weren’t too much into book learning and had the wrists to go the distance.

A shelf above, Ms. EuroFront was playing coy in her tight fitting tube top. She knew she was a lot to handle and that her parts didn’t exactly mesh seamlessly. But as long as her paramour didn’t focus too much down south he tended to like what she had to offer. And of course she was into older men. Almost exclusively.

We’ll never know exactly how things played out that evening but I just finished another game of their resultant lovechild: Triumph & Tragedy.

T&T is GMT’s 3-player strategic level World War 2 ETO game released in 2015 and already sold out and in the que for a reprint. It looks and feels like a Columbia game with a paper map (to be upgraded to mounted in 2nd edition), stickers, wooden blocks, cards, rules with notes in the margin and lots of 6-sided dice.

As a simulation T&T starts and ends with the map,
a functional, arbitrary, area-movement representation of the western hemisphere. Small countries are one space, pre-war Germany is three, while Turkey has six spaces and Russia 25. Many spaces give the controlling player population and/or resources, though not in any realistic way. Czechoslovakia only grants population though it was relatively resource rich. I’m not aware of any strategic resources Denmark delivered (milk?) but in T&T it’s equal to Norway or all of Northern England/Scotland.

Each nationalities' units act exactly the same, though some German, UK and USA units can be built up one step larger. Every unit type from armor to aircraft carriers cost the same to build. In combat some types fire before others and the target number to get a hit varies slightly (armor needs 2 or less, infantry 3 or less): all fairly generic block-game stuff. T&T’s mechanics aren’t going bowl anyone over and if you’re a wargamer of any experience you’ve played this game before.

At least as far as the ground game goes. Where T&T gets interesting is in the diplomatic game. In addition to using your yearly resources to build your armed forces you can also buy Investment and/or Action/Diplomacy cards. The former increase your production or grant your military units special benefits. The later are required to move your armies or can be used to buy influence in neutral countries. If you can get three influence in a neutral it will ally with you permanently. Always a good thing.

This resource management aspect is tricky and a greater determinant in what side wins than the military sphere. Granted, if your armies overrun all before them a military win is still the shortest distance to point B: victory. But conflict voraciously eats both belligerents production and the combat system tends towards stalemate. Considering that all but the most casualty-free attack will mainly benefit the side not fighting and that you get a random amount of victory points (0-2) each year you don’t fight at all and T&T looks more like an argument for pacifism.

And that’s a valid argument. But it results in the insurmountable problem with three-player wargames: you’re not the master of your destiny. What you do often matters much less than what your opponents do. If you get attacked you lose the peace dividend that year. Nothing you can do about this. Once the peace is broken the nation still at peace is in a powerful position. Since this will often be the Soviets they have little incentive to do anything but collect peace dividends while building up the army and possibly investing in VP-granting technology.

The Axis can’t really sustain a two-front war, leaving the West in the odd situation of having to declare war on the Soviets, lest they win via sitzkrieg. Unless they can gobble up large tracts of land, or the West is grabbing too much Axis territory, the Soviets have no incentive to join the fray.

It all quickly and frequently goes Twilight Zone. But it can be fun. It can also be horribly lopsided. And too often you are not the master of your domain, such as when one of your rivals opts to do something random, ill-advised, or spiteful. I frequently got the feeling when playing T&T that I'm along for the ride more than leading anything.

The appeal of games like T&T is not lost on me though I’m alarmed by the trend towards ever thinner veneers of history in wargames. T&T isn’t in the category of Twilight Struggle or Churchill—games so devoid of any simulation cred they could just as easily be about dominating a landscape of confections or becoming the best fed hippopotamus—but it’s definitely a case of truth being the first casualty: historical truth. And why play a historical game if it's not at all historical? Because it can still be a good game I suppose.

Taken for what it is, T&T is a light, fun game and one very much in tune with what the current generation of wargamers seem to want. For me it’s just too light, too free-for-all and too random. Replay value is also not as high as it would seem after the first couple of plays.
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Bill the Pill
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I like your "child of" analogy.
Try playing with a different two players for more replayability. I've only played twice, but both games went very differently because the other two players were different in each game.
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Steven Sheasby
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Once again, I saw a new subscription pop up on my list. This time it was from Triumph & Tragedy with this thread title. I'm thinking, does your game group and mine play games that differently? With completely different expectations?

At least in this review, there are a few correct statements. This game does not provide a historical simulation of the WWII European Theater. And that's okay. It's not supposed to. Once you know that going in, you can enjoy this awesome game for what it is.

You want historical play? Check the Geek. There are a lot of options currently out there. With more coming every year (WWII as a theme will never die out).

However, you want a game that plays well with three and is tense to the very end? This is it. Churchill (another brilliant game that you chose to sideswipe in this review) and Triumph & Tragedy were part of GMT banner's year of 2015. Both quick sellouts. Both rising in the Geek ratings quickly (hard to do for a wargame). Both awaiting GMT reprints (and it won't the only time).

I've played six times so far. And each game was different than the others. Every side has won (USSR, West, Axis). I've seen two ties!

Each game won via different victory conditions (most VPs, nuclear victory, two capitals captured). To me that's the mark of a great game - lots of replayability and different ways to win. (Or lose in my case. I'm genetically predisposed to drawing the 0 VP Peace Dividends.)

Some games were strategic buildups until the latter part of the war. Some games the fighting started in 1936.

The one thing I will agree with you about is the Government Phase. The Government Phase is as key to the game as anything else. Do you spend resources for influence, technology or block upgrades? This card play separates T&T from the other blockgames that I enjoy (Hammer, Crusader Rex, etc.).

Ever since this game came out, I've seen it played regularly at my FLGS (Madness Games & Comics in Plano). After 16 months, it's still a favorite of the various groups around here. Triumph & Tragedy is a blast. Play it often and enjoy it.
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Exactly. The key factor is that T&T is not WWII on rails, but it plays differently based mostly on the choices made in the Government phase.

But, I don't think the original idea was to create a game with only a hint of historicity. Adding Zombie Ninjas from Narvik might make the game riotously fun and the appearance of Dinosaurs in Denmark might make T&T the game of the year, but it wouldn't appeal to me.
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Kent W T
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I agree with Bill, Steven, and Dieter. I find this review fishy; it is as if Mr Goode played the game solitaire, or at most only once against actual opponents. It smells that way for the reasons cited above: the game (and for that matter its ability to deliver historical “simulation cred”) varies quite a bit from play to play. I’ve played ten times; I hope to play more.

But I also like Twilight Struggle, and I really like Churchill, so I am definitely of the wrong generation of wargamers to appreciate the finer points of Historical Truth.

At least the OP’s imaginary friends are, well, fleshy.
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John Berry

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"The appeal of games like T&T is not lost on me though I’m alarmed by the trend towards ever thinner veneers of history in wargames. T&T isn’t in the category of Twilight Struggle or Churchill—games so devoid of any simulation cred they could just as easily be about dominating a landscape of confections or becoming the best fed hippopotamus—but it’s definitely a case of truth being the first casualty: historical truth. And why play a historical game if it's not at all historical? Because it can still be a good game I suppose.

Taken for what it is, T&T is a light, fun game and one very much in tune with what the current generation of wargamers seem to want."

So true.
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David Brown
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I have played T&T at least a dozen times, and I would say it is been my best wargame purchase in the last decade.

Quote:
I’m not aware of any strategic resources Denmark delivered


Try food, which is a strategic resource - you can't fight a war without food (an army marches on its stomach)

Quote:
Each nationalities' units act exactly the same, though some German, UK and USA units can be built up one step larger. Every unit type from armor to aircraft carriers cost the same to build. In combat some types fire before others and the target number to get a hit varies slightly (armor needs 2 or less, infantry 3 or less):

Yes but it works, and without pages of additional rules and charts

Quote:
Considering that all but the most casualty-free attack will mainly benefit the side not fighting and that you get a random amount of victory points (0-2) each year you don’t fight at all and T&T looks more like an argument for pacifism.

Yes and no, the diplomatic element of the cards are part of the 'aggression' and ultimately if all players try for pacifism, one/two will crack when they see they are loosing the peace.

Quote:
The Axis can’t really sustain a two-front war, leaving the West in the odd situation of having to declare war on the Soviets, lest they win via sitzkrieg. Unless they can gobble up large tracts of land, or the West is grabbing too much Axis territory, the Soviets have no incentive to join the fray

Sound like reasonable history to me - The Soviets didn't have an incentive to join the fray (apart from at the edges like they did historically) and only joined in when Germany declared war on them. Remember when declaring war you get 'surprise' which can be a huge incentive, not only getting surprise but denying it to the other player

Quote:
It can also be horribly lopsided. And too often you are not the master of your domain, such as when one of your rivals opts to do something random, ill-advised, or spiteful.

You are either playing it wrong or with bad players - every game I have played has been tense, and victory uncertain

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Rob Doupe
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Triumph & Tragedy is a strategic game of the military, economic, and political struggle between the Axis, the West, and the Soviets. It enables you to play the entire struggle from 1936 to 1945 in six hours. It's not a detailed military simulation of the war. However, that doesn't mean it lacks realism or is a joke as history. More detail =/= better history. The amount of detail people want in wargames is a matter of personal preference, and not objective quality.
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Mark J.
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Read the Designer Notes in the back of the Play Book. T&T is basically Diplomacy set during the 1930's. It has little or nothing to do with WWII or being a light wargame.
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Jack Stalica
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In an era of "Trump-isms" and "Truth-iness" does it adherence to historical accuracy really matter...?

"Make up your OWN reality!"(TM) will be the new slogan for the 22nd century.

Orwell's vision has come true - and it is US (and U.S.) ....
 
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Andrew Kluck
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FinalWord wrote:

It all quickly and frequently goes Twilight Zone. But it can be fun. It can also be horribly lopsided. And too often you are not the master of your domain, such as when one of your rivals opts to do something random, ill-advised, or spiteful. I frequently got the feeling when playing T&T that I'm along for the ride more than leading anything.


I agree, it does go Twilight Zone because of the wide latitude players have it goes off the historical rails. It's WWII ETO sandbox. So the last sentence doesn't make any sense to me.

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Les Marshall
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Not all conflict games are war-games and not all war-games are simulations (some would argue that none of them truly are). If you approach T & T with an expectation that it will or should be a simulation of WWII, you will be bitterly disappointed.

However, gamers (and designers) are free to embrace differing views of what games are and should be. T & T can easily be viewed through the prism of the general three way conflict between nationalist fascism, Western Democracy and the Communists which laid the foundation of the inevitable Cold War to follow.

T & T is packed with what-if's. What if Germany was satisfied with it's gains and focused on industrial/political domination rather than attacking France? What if they went after the Soviets first? What if the political isolationism of the US kept it out of the war longer? What if the West had determined Soviet communism was the greater danger and pursued the policy of appeasement further. As it was, many of the military and political actions taken during WWII reflected a deep suspicion and ambivalence toward our erstwhile Soviet allies and can be construed as their own form of gamesmanship.

For me, one of the practical conundrums of playing games is having only 3 people show up for a game night. Relatively few multiplayer game designs scale down well or handle the dreaded 3 players. However, GMT offered up two designs at virtually the same time (T&T and Churchill) providing a welcome contribution.

Is T & T the best war-game out there to reflect WWII? Almost certainly not. Still it fills a rather nice hole in my collection.
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Pierre Miranda
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I found this game to be a very elegant design, but based on my limited initial impressions (1 session only) I tend to share John's opinion.

In terms of game play, playing aggressively seemed a very risky proposition indeed, and if there is no military conflict at all because everybody is holding on to his peace dividends, the game turns into a not overly interesting economic / diplomatic race, in my opinion.
In our game, it was a close race between the Axis and the Western Powers, with the Soviets (me) constantly lagging behind because I made the mistake of inititally investing in my army (believing the Axis were going to strike East) instead of diplomacy and research as well.

There are fortunately plenty of other global WW2 simulations to choose from that also allow to experiment with "what if's" (Totaler Krieg, etc.). The learning curve is not the same, though. I'd still like to give T&T another try to see if there can also be some military action and more fun.

In the end, it boils down to a question of taste.
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Joe Kong
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T&T is pretty boring if all three factions just build up in order to win economically. In my opinion, at least one faction has to declare war no later than 1940 to keep the game interesting.

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Andrew Kluck
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joekong_hk wrote:

T&T is pretty boring if all three factions just build up in order to win economically. In my opinion, at least one faction has to declare war no later than 1940 to keep the game interesting.

There is no way to do that without disregarding your military, even if all three are doing that someone is likely to be left behind. Since the West starts with the lowest industrial level it's likely to be them and guess what, a fully armed United States just drops in their lap around 1941. Gee, what is a functioning military industrial complex to do when it is surrounded by peaceniks?
 
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That's nice, but what happens when the Soviet player employs the Red Army to liberate the oppressed workers of Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Turkey, Persia, Romania, Bulgaria, etc.?

As Stalin, you wait until the other factions spend a lot of cards against each other to make one of these countries an Associate. Then you step in to liberate it. Or you can downgrade it from a Protectorate to an Associate right before liberating it.

Overall, at some point one of the factions realizes that they're going to LOSE unless they take forceful action. Then you have war, which is not boring at all.


 
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Andy Latto
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Every game is a mix of historical situation and allowing the players to make their own decisions. the broader the scope of the game, the more scope the players have for making ahistorical decisions, and the less the story of the game will match the actual history. In a game about the D-Day invasion, the players might explore an ahistorical distribution of forces to see what would happen if there were more allied forces at Utah and less at Omaha. But the players couldn't decide to invade the south coast of France instead of the North. In a game that covers the entire ETO, the Allied player might decide to invade the south of France instead of the North. This allows more simulation of the question of where to invade, and the cost of a less historical simulation of the actual invasion. This does not make the D-day game better; it makes it a game with a different subject. In real life, the Allies weren't told by some external force "the invasion of Europe must occur on the Normandy beaches on June 6"; it was a decision made by the allies. The D-day game takes place after this decision is made, and explores smaller decisions that were made afterwards, and that's OK. The game that lets you make the decision about when and where to invade lets you make different decisions, and see how they turn out, and that's OK too.

The reviewer seems to have been expecting a World War II game, and Triumph & Tragedy is not a World War II game. It's a simulation of the political situation in Europe atarting in 1936. This allows exploration of choices like "what if the Hitler-Stalin pact had never happened, or what if Hitler hadn't broken the pact and invaded Russia?" You can't both give the players choices like this and have the course of the war go in historical channels. If the Hitler-Stalin pact had continued, the war would have gone in very different directions. The fact that these directions are ahistorical isn't a defect in the game; it's the game's point.

Similarly, the review's complaint that all the players have identical military capabilities is inaccurate. the players have different military capabilities, depending on what technologies they develop. The technological differences are not the historical ones, because the decision as to how much effort is expended on improving military technology is not one made pre-game, with a fixed outcome; it's one of the decisions that the game allows the players to make. A game with fixed technologies will more accurately depict the ways the actual technologies shaped the struggle; but it will give the players no ability at all to imagine that the different countries had placed more or less stress on developing new military technologies than they did in real life.

There are lots of games about World War II, and this isn't one of them. It's simulating something entirely different, and it should be judged on how it does that, not on whether the war follows historical channels. The war didn't have to follow historical channels, even at the level of who was on which side. Fixing the sides as WWII games do allows more historical detail to match what actually happened, but the very fixing of the sides is a huge ahistoricality that is the price these games pay to get this match.
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You're absolutely correct, Andy--your observations are spot on!

What I found when tweaking the rules is that the more historical the initial conditions are, the fewer strategic options the players have. For example, including historical alliances and capabilities tends to put the game on rails, which as you noted, is not what this game is about.

Dieter


 
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Peter Perla
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So it appears that the game is fun but not WW-II on rails, whatever that means. That smells very like a non-historical game. An historical game does not have to be "on rails" unless by that you mean the players face the same strategic problems as the real leaders and make the same strategic choices for the same reasons they did. Which sounds a lot like an historical game to me. But usually players make different choices for different reasons and the game runs off the rails, as it were, but for reasons close to historical ones.

My basic criterion for an historical game to be such is whether the game can actually produce the historical course of events using the rules and components without requiring the players to make obviously foolish decisions from the perspective of the game itself.

So, can this game do that? I have limited experience with it, but it does seem highly unlikely, and possibly for the very reasons that the fans seem to like it--its tendency to go twilight zone pretty immediately, partly because of the diplomatic system perhaps.

That said, however, my experience with it is limited. Has anyone with more stick time tried to storyboard the sequence of historical events using the game as designed?

Take care

Peter
 
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Peter,

When a historical game is "on rails," it means that all the major events are predetermined. All the players do is try to be operationally or tactically more efficient than their historical counterparts.

A short, but somewhat unsatisfactory answer is:

Given a certain card draw, historical technology and diplomatic investments, historical military builds, and historical dice rolls, then yes, history will repeat itself.

But, what are the chances that all these factors will line up given the permutations of chance and the different strategies players can employ?

Have you read about some of the ideas that were proposed by the leaders of France and Great Britain during the Sitzkrieg that followed the invasion of Poland? Imagine what might have happened if the Allies went through with the proposed invasion of Scandinavia or the bombing of the Baku oilfields.

Then there's the whole issue of the benefit of hindsight. According to a wire recording of a conversation between Hitler and Mannerheim, Hitler said he'd never have invaded the Soviet Union had he'd known how many tanks they had manufactured.

If the invasion of France had ground to a halt, how confident would you be that the USA would have joined the War in Europe, especially considering that about 80% of the American public was against involvement?

And so on.

The "butterfly effect" is most certainly in operation concerning foreign relations and war. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect)

So, given all of these uncertainties and the differences in games representing world leaders, yes, Triumph and Tragedy is reasonably historical.

If you want more historical detail, you can create some house rules. But the bottom line is that Triumph and Tragedy is one of the most fun games to come out in a long time.

Dieter
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Borat Sagdiyev
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DieterS wrote:

Given a certain card draw, historical technology and diplomatic investments, historical military builds, and historical dice rolls, then yes, history will repeat itself.


No, it won't.

For the simple reason that Barbarossa, the largest and most significant military operation in the history of WWII, is simply impossible to happen given the activation and combat subsystems of the game.

And the same can be said of other ETO's major campaigns that are very difficult to recreate with the present rules of the game.

I love T&T. But IMHO there's no way it can produce the historical course of events.
 
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Andrew Kluck
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harzal wrote:
DieterS wrote:

Given a certain card draw, historical technology and diplomatic investments, historical military builds, and historical dice rolls, then yes, history will repeat itself.


No, it won't.

For the simple reason that Barbarossa, the largest and most significant military operation in the history of WWII, is simply impossible to happen given the activation and combat subsystems of the game.

And the same can be said of other ETO's major campaigns that are very difficult to recreate with the present rules of the game.

I love T&T. But IMHO there's no way it can produce the historical course of events.
Sure it's possible. Thing is, players play this game with historical hindsight. So you get Russia building an impenetrable wall in 1935 and France doing the same. The game lets you do this, however the game also lets you compensate for this. So as the Axis, if your opponents are building the perfect martial defense to prevent a historical outcome just go for an Economic or Atomic victory, they may try to stop you later but their declarations of war will make your Industry cheaper and their Forts worthless, meanwhile you've prepared YOUR defenses this whole time. You can win like that, and after you do your opponents will begin to play the game, and not just reenact history.
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Borat Sagdiyev
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No. It's not possible.

Even without a large wall of Russian units, the Axis cannot activate enough units in two seasons to perform anything remotely close to Barbarossa.

Nor the Wehrmacht can advance as quickly as they historically did, event with just a single Russian unit per area acting as stoppers in their way. There's simply no way they can reach Moscow in less than three seasons if they start Barbarossa in the historical borders of 1941.
 
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Geoff Conn
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Borat, I agree with you that Barbarossa simply cannot happen in T&T, ive posted as such before. But the part you snipped out of Dieter's post is about games that ARE on rails, not this game.
 
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Borat Sagdiyev
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Nope.

He was talking about T&T and the unlikely possibility that a completely historical narrative might happen.
 
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