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I think the greatest feature about Twilight Struggle is the ability to play a complete game in 2-ish hours. No other card-driven wargame even comes close. I love the complexity of the longer games, but its a lot harder to get them on the table.

I have to agree with most of your criticisms of the game, but they don't pull it down in my rating scale nearly so far. In fact, despite all that, I really look forward to more playings. I'm not to the point where I'd purchase it myself, but close.
 
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astroglide wrote:
in my first game i had 2 turns in a row where my ENTIRE HAND was made up of my opponent's cards. in my second game i had a turn where 6/8 of my cards belonged to my opponent and i drew a scoring card. to what degree this is an anomaly i don't know, but the way the deck works does allow this to happen.

I haven't played the game, but assuming that the deck is divided equally between cards for both players, the first case (drawing a hand of only your opponent's cards) should be pretty rare: C(55,0)*C(55,8)/C(110,8) = 0.003 or thereabouts, less than 1%. You should see it one in every 300 deals.

The second case, drawing a hand with 6/8 opponent's cards (under the same assumptions), is somewhat more common: C(55,2)*C(55,6)/C(110,8) = 0.105, or about 10%. Dunno about the drawing the scoring card, but someone who has played the game can probably tell you that. It is also likely to be pretty rare.
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Drake Storm
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For every card you draw of your opponents, that just means that the odds of them drawing one of yours goes up, so it all evens out really.

Not sure the number of cards in the Early War and how many are USSR vs. USA, but if there were 32 and the split was 16/16, then if you drew 8 of his and he got lucky and drew 8 of his own, that would mean next turn you would be drawing 8 of your own and he would be drawing 8 of yours!

Haven't really played the game much, but it seems the skill comes in when figuring out which order to play the cards you have, which card to dump on the space race and which card to hold onto at the end of the turn. The game seems deep enough and long enough to overcome any unlucky streaks in the cards, but as with almost all games with cards (or dice) you can get really unlucky.
 
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Justin
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Quote:
I think the greatest feature about Twilight Struggle is the ability to play a complete game in 2-ish hours. No other card-driven wargame even comes close.


i've played block games and such, but this is my first card-driven "wargame" if that's the designation. i do see the ability to finish a game in 2 hours, but i would set aside 3 hours for it before playing and be pleased if it clocked in at less. there seems to be a lot of variance in game length based on how many turns it takes.

regarding the crazy card draws, i realize that it should be a highly uncommon event and that the remainder of the deck (or my opponent's hand) should contain many of my cards. i don't have the cards here, but i believe there are unequal distributions of side-specific cards as well as the dual-purpose cards. the fact that certain events cause the card that triggered it to be removed from the deck changes things as well, screwing up probability calculations for extreme draws as well as opening up the opportunity for deck shaping.

the card draw thing was not "omg random" but more of a "great now i get to spend 25+ minutes screwing myself over" kind of thing. i found the bad draw turns profoundly uninteresting. i didn't feel like i was strategically/tactically playing around a bad hand, i just felt like i was doing (negative) optimization. with how calamitous the other side's events can be (not to mention the fact that they usually involve your opponent's unknown devisions), i found it increasing the calculation as well. i had hoped that playing a bad hand would feel more like trying to bid nil in spades.

i can see how my belief that the bad card turns were uninteresting could draw out suggestions that the game is fine and i'm just a bad player. to spare the trouble, i will go on record and say that i am no doubt the worst twilight struggle player that ever was or will be. if that was anyone's concern, consider it duly noted. but really, regardless of what caused those turns to feel so protracted that was how it felt, so that's still going to be my opinion.

i've said a bit now, but the only reason i responded here was to say that i think in the randomness/luck department, the dice are a bigger deal than the cards. i can see how that might have been unclear from my original post.

i would actually like to play the game some more after elucidating my thoughts on it so much.
 
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Jay Moore
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Justin, I had the same impression regarding the card distribution, but when Mike and I counted them, it turns out that the distribution of events is pretty even. I think there's a very small difference in each of the decks, but not as much as you'd think.

Nice review, despite your refusal to use capital letters.
 
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Justin, you always have the choice to play the ops after the event, which should help your decision to play which card. Remember the game is supposed to be tougher for the US player in the early era. And I thnik the card you have to be the most afraid of as the US is Fidel. If you can keep that card from being played in the early war, you're pretty well off for the rest.

Coup... I don't konw, but the dice rolls here are tense. missing a few can be a game breaker...

As you end it, the game is beautifull, as you play it, it grows on you ;-)


 
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Tom Grant
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I've faced the dreaded "too many of my opponent's cards" crisis in Twilight Struggle and survived to win. The game isn't over until it's over--both sides can go from the brink of disaster to a leading position in a turn or two. The important things to remember are...

1. You can always use an exceptionally bad card for the Space Race roll.

2. Getting a bad event out of the way in the headline phase is not always a bad thing (particularly if your opponent expects something bad for him and blocks it).

3. Timing is everything. Obviously, if you have a card that will subtract one from the value of all cards you play, play it at the end of the turn. Same goes for having to reveal your hand or any other events that might skew the entire turn against you.

4. Play the China Card, if you have it.

5. If you're going to get hammered this turn, try to limit the damage to a particular region. For example, if there are a lot of cards that will disrupt your position in Europe, accept that you'll need to spend the next turn repairing your influence there. Obviously, you don't want to gamble the game away in this fashion, but there are few occasions when one region can determine the entire game in a single turn.
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Philip Thomas
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You may be right: it may boil down to pot luck. I have not played enough to know, but there does appear to be quite a bit of skill involved in managing the cards, enough to keep me playing for now.

Actually drawing enemy event cards in turns 1 and 2 is wonderful! Starred event cards can be got rid of for ever to give you better odds in turn 3 and beyond. You can keep a card to get rid of in turn 3, where it will not come back until turn 7. And many of the events are easily punctured if you know they are coming: Arab Israeli War you can take countries neighbouring Israel, De Gaulle you can keep France clear and put 3 Influence there after the event, etc.

The game seems to have great richness and depth and variety...I'm not giving up on it yet
 
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Eric Landes
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First time I played the game (as the US), first hand - six Soviet events.

I love the fact that you HAVE to play events that hurt you. It can be difficult, at first, to manage this but part of the skill in this game is damage control. It's a skill that doesn't get exercised often.

Add to this the 2-hour play time (my initial play clocked 90 minutes) and you've got yourself a winner. The game has great nostalgia factor and plays like nothing else I've ever experienced.

Definitely a winner in my book.
 
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Maybe you should try using a mulligan rule, e.g. if you don't like your initial hand, you can shuffle the cards back in and draw a fresh one, but then you have to play with that.
 
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Steve Hope
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That may be because many of your points are quite valid!

1. Production value was a bit low.
2. Dice are often just 50/50 affairs where if you win you benefit.
3. Scoring cards are generally a disadvantage to draw.
4. Red Purge/Scare is ridiculously overpowered. I don't mind Bear Trap/Quagmire but there are certainly other cards you could have fingered as being troublesome.
5. Lots of counting influence, BG countries, total countries. Then doing it again on your next turn.

The things I disagree with are:

1. The "other guy's events" issue isn't really an issue--as someone said, if you're drawing his he's drawing yours. The real issue is the balance of the neutral events--much better to draw two "2" neutral events than one of each player's.
2. Space Race IS primarily a "dumping ground". If it doesn't create significant decision angst in your mind, you're either much better or much worse at the game than I am.
3. Coups/realignment are the second major factor that give the game flavor (the first being the events themselves)--if it was JUST influence/events it'd be quite dull. I don't think they're inelegant at all.
4. The MilOps requirement seems perfectly reasonable to me.
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Ryan O'Rourke
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Thanks for this review. You've convinced me not to purchase this game. That free's up some of my attention and desire for games with better production, editing, and overall testing.

Ryan
 
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Sorry to hear that Ryan, hope you get to play this great game at some point anyway
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Karsten Engelmann
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Ryan - dont be a fool - this is one of the best games out there. GO GET IT!!!!


That may be because many of your points are quite valid!

1. Production value was a bit low.
2. Dice are often just 50/50 affairs where if you win you benefit.
3. Scoring cards are generally a disadvantage to draw.
4. Red Purge/Scare is ridiculously overpowered. I don't mind Bear Trap/Quagmire but there are certainly other cards you could have fingered as being troublesome.
5. Lots of counting influence, BG countries, total countries. Then doing it again on your next turn.

The things I disagree with are:

1. The "other guy's events" issue isn't really an issue--as someone said, if you're drawing his he's drawing yours. The real issue is the balance of the neutral events--much better to draw two "2" neutral events than one of each player's.
2. Space Race IS primarily a "dumping ground". If it doesn't create significant decision angst in your mind, you're either much better or much worse at the game than I am.
3. Coups/realignment are the second major factor that give the game flavor (the first being the events themselves)--if it was JUST influence/events it'd be quite dull. I don't think they're inelegant at all.
4. The MilOps requirement seems perfectly reasonable to me.


Lets dissect this set of criticisms...

On the points agreed with:
1. - I too have to agree with this argument. for me, it is the thin cards that have begun to wear out after only 40 plays of the game. Now, in fairness, the price is not too bad. So, what do you do.

2. The dice are hardly a 50-50 affair. For example, lets look at the Arab-Israeli war. If you are the Imperialist Agressors (USA), you can mitigate this by controlling Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. If the Imperialist Agressors control all of the above - then your strategy as the USSR is to break out the control of those countries before you play the card. Now,for other rolls, I find that there are SO MANY die rols in this game that it is like Vicotry in the Pacific. No one or two rolls are going to break you. Yes, you might keep killing various farm animals trying to get a rocket into space, but at the same time you might roll an amazing coup against North Korea that enables the USA to sieze brutal control of that country (or liberate it). I dont accept the die being 50-50 as a valid concern at all...

3. Regarding scoring cards. Um, let me have one each turn, you have none. You will lose. See, knowing which area will score ensures that YOU control the tempo of the game. Scoring cards, especially in moderation, are AWESOME to draw!!!! So the term "generally" is not acceptable. Now, I will grant that if you get THREE in one hand that could suck (although my opponent once drew three as the USA in the first turn and walked away with losing only 1 point - an amazing feat!). But I attribute that to the general concern of all card driven games - bad draws suck. And multiple turns of bad draws will cost you the game. But, then, as a long time fan of The Russian Campaign, four turns of clear in 41 and five turns in 42 kinda ends the game also.

4. Red Scare/Red Purge - like several other cards, are very powerful. I guess I could agree with you that they are "overpowerful." But so are Bear Trap and Quagmire - ask anyone who has sat in them for five action rounds. I guess I would change the card to be for the next 3 action rounds, or something like that. Still, I have found that at least 50% of the time what you do is go the event route...it only hurts you if your opponent has scoring cards and he can outmaneuver you in a given area that turn - but, oh yeah, i forgot that scoring cards are "generally a disadvantage."

5. I find the argument about lots of coutning, etc to be quite valid. I have taken to using the wooden risk pieces (or any cubes) to make which side has control of a country. that makes figuring out who has what so much easier (i put the cube on the little flag). I dont mind the counting. This is such an elegant system - and I find it a lot more refreshing to count the countries controlled, than to count up all the dice you should roll in an Axis and Allies battle. In the end, this is one mans preference vice another.

On the point about "things I disagree with" - i think they are all valid.

I do thank you for the review - it is a good discussion, but I am not sure you have looked at the game from enough experience. I find this game to be so good, with so many different combinations, that I have a hard time putting it away!


Cheers!
Karsten
 
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Steve Hope
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Good reply, Karsten. Red Purge/Scare isn't REALLY overpowered necessarily. Imagining that you effect on average 8 opposing rounds, you are trading 3 Ops (unless of course you play it in the Headline phase, which you often will) for 5 or so opposing Ops. There are lots of other cards which can net you that many Ops. I think it's the PSYCHOLOGICAL effect of Red X that is so hard to take--I set up my plan for the turn and suddenly BOOM! I can't play this card to the Space Race, I can't get enough Influence to take over that BG, etc. But it's not actually much more powerful than a lot of other cards--the killer is that it often makes a bad hand a disastrous one.

I disagree with you about the scoring cards. I think that there are certainly times where it's good to have a scoring card, but generally it's better not to get them. If you get 10 more scoring cards than I do over the course of the game (+1 per turn), I like my chances.

Dice--there are several die rolls that have modifiers you can fiddle with. Most of them (ex realignment) aren't really all that worthwhile--surrounding Israel with US-controlled countries isn't particularly great when you're risking Nasser and all the other adjacent countries aren't BGs. There are many better targets in the ME, so the fact that you CAN mitigate the die roll doesn't carry much weight since it's almost always bad play to actually ATTEMPT TO mitigate that die roll. Korean war is the same--why dump Influence into Japan when you're going to get the Mutual Defense Pact. And then the Space Race is just a die roll. Without going chapter-and-verse, there are certainly lots of die rolls in the game which a player can't sensibly do much about and which have a significant impact on the game.

Now, is that a problem? Someone on CSW said that there AREN'T enough die rolls in TS for luck to even out. I hadn't really thought about it (and there are other luck elements in the game besides just the dice, so it's funny to focus exclusively on dice) but it's kind of true. 1-2 coup die rolls, 1-2 realignment die rolls, and 1-2 SR and other die rolls per turn seem a reasonable estimate. Maybe 40 die rolls in the course of a game? That's not enough for distributions to reliably even out.

It doesn't bother me, but I think someone who doesn't like luck-dependent games can legitimately have a gripe with the amount of luck in TS. The designers have even said on CSW (paraphrasing), "Sometimes you have bad luck and the game ends quickly. But you can just start again!" That's fine with me, but one could justifiably dislike that risk in a game. I stopped playing Age of Napoleon because of it (though it looks as though Renaud is re-doing the diplomacy system which should help a lot).
 
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Justin
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i am about to leave work and i haven't had a chance to read all of the new comments in the thread, but i did kick together a little something while i was at work. the first section tells you how many points you need to do a specific amount of damage based on a country's stability. the second, larger section tells you how much damage you will do with each roll based on your ops card and the country's stability, and it also provides an "average damage" for a coup as well as a percentage chance that you will succeed.

i went up to 8 on ops because i'm not sure how many values are theoretically possible (china card used in asia for +1, vietnam card in play adding +1, etc) but i don't think it should go any higher than that. obviously some sort of table would be nice.

really when it comes to coup i would hope it would be "what's my ops? 1? i'll grab 1 die!" and "what's the stability? 2? you grab 2 dice!" instead of mathing it out beforehand. i don't see a way to easily do that even using symbol-based 6-siders though, and it still doesn't give a person forewarning about how well they can expect to do.

i threw it together in ruby and i am not a programmer, so let me know if you see any errors. anyone can have the code, for what it's worth. just pm me. here are the results:

----------

STABILITY: 1
3:1 4:2 5:3 6:4 7:5 8:6 9:7 10:8 11:9 12:10 13:11 14:12

STABILITY: 2
5:1 6:2 7:3 8:4 9:5 10:6 11:7 12:8 13:9 14:10

STABILITY: 3
7:1 8:2 9:3 10:4 11:5 12:6 13:7 14:8

STABILITY: 4
9:1 10:2 11:3 12:4 13:5 14:6

----------

OPS: 1 STABILITY: 1
2:1 3:2 4:3 5:4 6:5 83%/2.50

OPS: 1 STABILITY: 2
4:1 5:2 6:3 50%/1.00

OPS: 1 STABILITY: 3
6:1 17%/0.17

OPS: 1 STABILITY: 4
IMPOSSIBLE

OPS: 2 STABILITY: 1
1:1 2:2 3:3 4:4 5:5 6:6 100%/3.50

OPS: 2 STABILITY: 2
3:1 4:2 5:3 6:4 67%/1.67

OPS: 2 STABILITY: 3
5:1 6:2 33%/0.50

OPS: 2 STABILITY: 4
IMPOSSIBLE

OPS: 3 STABILITY: 1
1:2 2:3 3:4 4:5 5:6 6:7 100%/4.50

OPS: 3 STABILITY: 2
2:1 3:2 4:3 5:4 6:5 83%/2.50

OPS: 3 STABILITY: 3
4:1 5:2 6:3 50%/1.00

OPS: 3 STABILITY: 4
6:1 17%/0.17

OPS: 4 STABILITY: 1
1:3 2:4 3:5 4:6 5:7 6:8 100%/5.50

OPS: 4 STABILITY: 2
1:1 2:2 3:3 4:4 5:5 6:6 100%/3.50

OPS: 4 STABILITY: 3
3:1 4:2 5:3 6:4 67%/1.67

OPS: 4 STABILITY: 4
5:1 6:2 33%/0.50

OPS: 5 STABILITY: 1
1:4 2:5 3:6 4:7 5:8 6:9 100%/6.50

OPS: 5 STABILITY: 2
1:2 2:3 3:4 4:5 5:6 6:7 100%/4.50

OPS: 5 STABILITY: 3
2:1 3:2 4:3 5:4 6:5 83%/2.50

OPS: 5 STABILITY: 4
4:1 5:2 6:3 50%/1.00

OPS: 6 STABILITY: 1
1:5 2:6 3:7 4:8 5:9 6:10 100%/7.50

OPS: 6 STABILITY: 2
1:3 2:4 3:5 4:6 5:7 6:8 100%/5.50

OPS: 6 STABILITY: 3
1:1 2:2 3:3 4:4 5:5 6:6 100%/3.50

OPS: 6 STABILITY: 4
3:1 4:2 5:3 6:4 67%/1.67

OPS: 7 STABILITY: 1
1:6 2:7 3:8 4:9 5:10 6:11 100%/8.50

OPS: 7 STABILITY: 2
1:4 2:5 3:6 4:7 5:8 6:9 100%/6.50

OPS: 7 STABILITY: 3
1:2 2:3 3:4 4:5 5:6 6:7 100%/4.50

OPS: 7 STABILITY: 4
2:1 3:2 4:3 5:4 6:5 83%/2.50

OPS: 8 STABILITY: 1
1:7 2:8 3:9 4:10 5:11 6:12 100%/9.50

OPS: 8 STABILITY: 2
1:5 2:6 3:7 4:8 5:9 6:10 100%/7.50

OPS: 8 STABILITY: 3
1:3 2:4 3:5 4:6 5:7 6:8 100%/5.50

OPS: 8 STABILITY: 4
1:1 2:2 3:3 4:4 5:5 6:6 100%/3.50
 
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Steve Bernhardt
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The luck isn't an issue for me, its a fast game and fairly light. Ive played wargames where die rolls are much scarier.

Getting scoring cards can be good or bad depending on the situation on the board. If I get a scoring card for an area that I firmly control, its a waste. If I get a scoring card for a contested area, that is another matter and can be a huge advantage. Also, being able to quickly play a scoring card before your opponent gains dominance can mitigate a weak position. At any rate, scoring cards can be played in the headline phase, so they dont necessarily screw up your ops.

I generally dont agree with many of the criticisms presented here, mostly because I dont consider this a heavy game, or some sort of grognard simulation. The main gripe I have is that the USA is significantly harder to play, at least until you are familiar with all the cards and the flow of the game.
 
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Luca Iennaco
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astroglide wrote:
my problem is not that i had no idea know how to handle it, my problem is that i didn't find handling it to be interesting, challenging, or fun. even that wouldn't be a huge deal if it didn't take such a chunk of time.


Same impression here.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Well I found it, and continue to find it interesting challenging and fun. Different people like different things I guess.meeple
 
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Luca Iennaco
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Philip Thomas wrote:
Different people like different things I guess.meeple


Sure (and that's perfectly fine).
Maybe I'll try to play it with a different opponent to see if this changes anything.
The game isn't "bad", it's just utterly random (for my tastes).

Whatever you'll play, have fun!
 
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Mike Silbey
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I just want to note that we used red and blue risk pieces to mark control of countries. The type that show infantry, cavalry and cannons. Use the larger pieces for battleground contries and it becomes relatively easy to determine who has the most battlegrounds for "kitchen debates", etc.
 
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Gary Bradley
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Important changes in the 2nd edition, pertenant to the comments above...

1) Influence markers have a light side and a dark side now (with the same number on each side). When you control a country, you flip your marker(s) there to the darker side, and if you lose control, you flip them back etc. No more Risk cubes required.

2) Red Plague/Purge is now 4 Ops, so it's not always an obvious event play.
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