I've posted a couple of Geeklists which offer insightful and biting criticism of certain games. Not everyone appreciated the comments that I had to make, and some of the responses seemed to imply that 'my problem' was that I was an Ameritrasher picking on Euro games.
In the interest of being fair-minded I thought I should tackle a game which has a more Ameritrash reputation, so that people can't accuse me of just vicitimising bland, themeless tripe.
So, here it is. The things that are wrong with Twilight Struggle. This game is also inexplicably ranked in the top five hundred on BGG, so it will have a few fans who will no doubt stop listening to Wind of Change long enough to get their knickers in the twist. So be it.
After I'd been playing this game for four hours I turned to my opponent and said "You know, I don't think that there are any vampires in this game at all!" and I was right. No vampires. NOT ONE. I even held on to the 'Liberation Theology' card for four rounds, thinking that it might come in handy once a fanged beast appeared.
There's nothing I hate more than a blatant attempt to make me part with my hard-earned money by misleading advertising. Trying to benefit from someone else's talent and hard-work by deliberately implying that your game is related to Stephanie Meyer's magnum opus is just a low act. It's like that time I went to a garage sale and bought that box labelled "Valuable Antique Paintings" only to open it when I got home and find that it was just full of sheep poo. Twilight Struggle brought back all those horrible memories.
The first thing that I noticed when I unravelled the board of the so-called 'deluxe' edition was that the game had failed to grasp the basics of world geography. In fact, it is riddled with locational errors.
Let's put aside the fact that Jason Matthews has included obviously fictional countries like Benelux and Venezuela to make up the numbers and concentrate purely on the glaring error that exposes his geographical ignorance. We're talking about a basic school-boy error here.
Canada is NOT in Western Europe.
Think about it, just for a second. If Canada was in Europe do you think that they would have let ex-Governor of Canada, Sarah Palin, run for President? Of course not! She wasn't running for 'President of Western Europe', was she?
However, at least the map has one redeeming feature. It left off New 'oh-we've-never-invented-anything-of-our-own-so-let's-pretend-that-we-invented-pavlova' Zealand. It's an island of meringue thieves.
A game about the Cold War is a wargame, right? You would think so. Twilight Struggle is, according to BGG, one of the top thousand wargames of all time. So it includes war but just not, apparently, vampire war.
But if there's no vampires, it must have tanks. Lots and lots of tanks. And I was immediately encouraged to see a picture of Winston Churchill (inventor of the tank) on the box (along with the nonsensical phrase, 'Churchill warns Joseph Stalin Orders Nuclear Power').
Sir Winston must be rolling in his grave. I checked the counters several times and found two tanks. TWO. In a wargame.
There's one US tank and one USSR tank. I don't think that accurately represents the arsenal of the superpowers. Why did the Germans build that wall in Berlin if they only wanted to keep out one tank. A ditch would have worked just as well. Or a river.
There are a lot of other counters in the game, mostly just with numbers on them. After a while I figured out that it must be some kind of cool hidden movement mechanic. You make a pile of numbers - which must represent your military strength - and then hide the top number in the pile with your tank token. I thought that this was a pretty cool mechanic.
But it's stupid that they only included one tank token, as this means that you can only have one battle on the board at any one time. And they didn't have a CRT anywhere, so I made up my own table.
1-5: USA wins 6: USSR wins
This table also goes some way to addressing the game's apparent imbalance in favour of the USSR. But this is basic stuff. I shouldn't have to be adding my own house-rules to make the game playable out of the box. It's total rubbish.
The cards in this game apparently feature a selection of significant events from the Cold War. Now, I'm a very intelligent and well-read guy. I have a tested IQ of 93, which is 20 points above the Australian national average, but even I didn't recognise any of the people and places in the cards. They just seemed totally random to me. For some bizarre reason, for example, the 'U-2 Incident' card has a photo of an aeroplane on it rather than Bono or any of the other recognisable band members. I don't get it.
It's like they took a selection of photos of people in funny hats from Flickr and then strung some random words together. Take the card 'Camp David Accords' for example. It makes no sense! Who is 'Camp David' and what does he 'Accord' anyway? 'Camp David Accords Sequined Slacks With Healing Powers'? At least finish the SENTENCE!
This game is supposed to evoke the memories and emotions of the Cold War, but it's lacking in the moments that defined and shaped the Cold War for me. The events in this game are totally irrelevant.
This is linked to my last item, but pretty much encapsulates a complaint I have about every game I've ever played - This game needs more Hasslehoff.
In this case, the criticism is totally justified. How on earth can you make a game about the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union without any reference to David Hasslehoff?
He's not on any of the cards. He's not even mentioned in the rule book - "This game is dedicated to David Hasslefhoff". Is that too much to expect for a man who tore down the Berlin Wall simply with the power of his mighty voice?
Most historians make the mistake of claiming that Hasslehoff's major achievement in the Cold War was successfully breaking into Khruschev's underground bunker and stealing the codes for the ULTRA Enigma machine. This is false. His greatest moment was when he stood astride the Berlin Wall like the powerful Colossus that he is and united East and West through music, all whilst wearing a jacket hewn from pure win.
I think The Hass should be an integral part of Twilight Struggle. He should have at least one card. I will give 10 GG to the first person to create a David Hasslehoff themed card for Twilight Struggle and post it here. And a proper card as well, not just one where you've dodgily photoshopped his face over JFK or something. I might even throw some GG scraps to the runners-up too.