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Subject: Global Thermonuclear War: is that so wrong? rss

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Dan Poole
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Well, in this game Global Thermonuclear War is definitely wrong because if you cause it, you lose. So even though your opponent is conceptually blown away to subatomic cinders, he at least emerges the victor.

Anyway, I usually find it pointless to review a game that has multiple reviews. I made an exception with TS because I am very fond of this game indeed and for several reasons. In general I really enjoy card driven wargames, so of course, TS was a natural purchase. I also really enjoy the theme and mechanics of the game. It is a quite interesting game that is actually kind of difficult to categorize.

sauron Components:
1 cardboard map (plexiglass not required)
1 Rules book
2 Player Aids
A bunch of USSR/USA influence markers
2 Dice (1 red, 1 blue)
Various Track and Event Markers
A deck of Event Cards (about 103)

sauron Concept/Overview
TS is a 2 player game. Each player controls a superpower, either the US or USSR. The game is staged after WW2, simulating the cold war between the US and USSR. The game is played on a map of the world which is divided into various regions for scoring purposes. These regions are scored at various times during the game. Each player gains Victory Points (VP’s) based on the amount of influence he has in the scored region in question. Hence, the goal of the game is to spread influence to regions of importance at various times in the game......

sauron Gameplay
Ok, so you ask, How do you spread your Influence, and more importantly, How do you score these regions? Those are all done through card play. At the beginning of each turn, each player is dealt a number of cards. Each player takes a turn playing a card. This is called an action and is usually done 6 or 7 times per player during a turn. The game ends after 10 turns (or sooner if an immediate victory is obtained).

The cards are simple. When you play a card, you can do 1 of 2 things with it:

1) play it as an Event Card. Every card has a printed event which will help either the US (white star) or USSR (red star). Events are the meat of the gam,e and this is where you really get immersed in the game’s theme.

2) Play a card for its Operations (Ops) Points. There is a number on the card that is called the Operations Number and allots that many Ops Points. These can be used for the following:

A) Place Influence Markers: place them in countries adjacent to your pre-existing influence markers or your superpower. They cost 1 ops point to per level of influence or 2 ops points if your opponent controls a country. So how do you (or your opponent) control a country? Easy.......Just have Influence in a country more than you opponent equal to that country's Stability Number ( that usually ranges between 1 and 5). So if your opponent has 2 influence in a country with a stability number of 3, and you had 1, it would cost you 4 Ops points to get your influence up to 5, which would cause you then control that country. Let's say the Stability Number is 1, you have zero and your opponent has Influence of 1 (i.e. they control it), It would cost 2 Ops points to place your first influence marker and then 1 Ops point thereafter, since your opponent no longer controls that country after your first influence marker placement.

B) Realignment: 1 Ops per roll. Simple; each player rolls a die. The loser (lowest roll) has to remove their influence equal to the difference in die rolls. The Catch: each player gets a +1 die roll modifier (or drm, if you are into the war gaming lingo) for 1) each adjacent country they control, 2) if they have more influence in the target country than their opponent and/or 3) If they are adjacent to their superpower.

C) Coups: This is a nice way to get rid of opponent's influence and even possibly place yours. This is how you do it: Play a card and use the Ops number as follows: (Ops# + Die Roll) - 2x Stability Number = number of opponent's influence removed and your's added to make up the difference if he doesn't have enough to remove). No drm's for this. Note Coups in certain countries (battleground (BG) countries) degrade the Defcon level so be careful!

D) Contribute to the Space Race. If you play a card with the required OPs points, you can attempt to advance on the space race track. This is good because this incurs special abilities and awards VPs. This is also a good way to get rid of a card with your opponent's Event (see below!!)


sauron So all this is good and wonderful, but there are a couple of issues one must be wary of:

1. Playing a Card for Ops that is associated with your opponent’s Event. Be careful with this. Though you may get the juicy Ops points, your opponent gets to execute their Event, which is good for them and bad for you. This is a very frustrating concept in the game that makes for tough decisions.

2. The Defcon Track. If Defcon gets reduced to 1 on your turn (Nuclear War), you lose immediately. The Defcon starts at 5 (peace) and is degraded by certain events and for Coup attempts in battleground countries. At the beginning of each turn, the Defcon is increased by 1.

3. Military Operations. Each player has a required number of military operations that are required each turn. This is evaluated at the end of the turn and is equal to the Defcon Number at that time. Military Ops are given for Coups attempts and by play of certain Events. For every required Military Op not performed incurs a -1 VP.

4. Scoring Cards. There are a number of scoring cards, one for each region. Therefore if you draw one of these at the beginning of your turn, it must be eventually played by the end of that same turn. Therefore you need to get your influence in that country. Scoring goes like this:

Presence: you control at least 1 country in the region being scored.
Domination: you control more total countries than your opponent AND more battleground countries than your opponent.
Control: You control more total countries than your opponent and ALL battleground countries in that region.

You get the most VP’s for Control, and the least VP’s for Presence, with Domination being somewhere in the middle. By the way, if anyone Controls Europe during its scoring, they immediately win.

5. The Space Race. 1 card (only) per turn can be used to try and advance on the Space Race Track. By advancing you may be awarded VP’s and certain special abilities. Note these abilities are negated when you opponent catches up to the spot that awarded you the ability in the first place. The wonderful thing about the Space Race is that a card used to try and advance is immediately discarded without the Event ever taking place. This is the one and only way to play a card with your opponent’s Event without that event actually taking place......That is very important!!

6. Headline Phase. This is the phase occurs before the aforementioned action phases. Each player secretly selects a card then plays it for its event.

7. The Game Ends when a player:
A. Incites a nuclear war (they lose)
B. Controls Europe at the time of Europe Scoring (they win)
C. Gets 20 VP’s

If none of this happens, the game ends after turn 10. The player with the most VP’s wins.

That’s the game in a nutshell; overall a pretty simple game.

sauron My Overall Ratings:

Theme: 9 Very interesting political era in modern history. The Event cards really breathe life into the theme.

Mechanics: 9 Simple, elegant, yet stressful

Strategy: 8 Of course there is luck with regards to die rolls and card draws, but the strategy lies in how to best manage your hands whether you were dealt awesome cards or lemons (or worse, awesome cards for your opponent, which to me is one of the more exciting elements of the game).

Rule book: 9.5 Easy to understand; no ambiguities excepting an error in the turn by turn example in the back

Verisimilitude: 7 I am no expert on the subject matter, though I will give this a 7 based on the fact the game is full of events which occurred during this time period.

Components/Asthetics: 8 Despite what others say about the board, I really like it. It is very functional and ornate. Yes, it would have been better if it were fully mounted, but at the same time, it is much better then thin paper. No plexiglass is needed at least. The counters are very nice quality. The player Aids are sturdy. The dice are nice. The box is very nice; shiny like C&C Ancients and sturdy.

Overall Fun Factor: 9
Twilight Struggle is a very dynamic game that is hard to categorize. On one hand, it is a wargame in that both players seek global domination by reducing the other player’s power. On the other hand, it is not a wargame in the classical sense in that players aren’t moving military forces and conducting attacks per se. Some people may view this as an area control game, since regions are scored based on level of domination at various times during the game. That part of it sounds a bit like El Grande. Regardless of its category, it is what it is: a fantastic multi-faceted game that is rich in theme (to this day I can never seriously say “dripping with theme”) and strategy. Having said that, it is very simple to learn and can be played in a relatively short period of time (relative to other CDG’s anyway). I have read positive comments from wargamers, eurogamers and ameritrash gamers alike, all of which I feel are well-deserved. Most of the negative comments mention issues of luck with regards to what cards are dealt each turn and die rolls. Some have complained about the map. In my opinion, the luck factor is fine and keeps things interesting, the map works perfectly for me. A truly wonderful game, indeed!!



 
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Mark Gray
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This has become a real favorite of my son's and mine.
 
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mrbass
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voynix wrote:


5. The Space Race. 1 card (only) per turn can be used to try and advance on the Space Race Track. By advancing you may be awarded VP’s and certain special abilities. Note these abilities are negated when you opponent catches up to the spot that awarded you the ability in the first place. The wonderful thing about the Space Race is that a card used to try and advance is immediately discarded without the Event ever taking place. This is the one and only way to play a card with your opponent’s Event without that event actually taking place......That is very important!!


It once was an automatic for me to toss a nice event for my opponent to the space race track but it just gets discarded in the discard pile and it'll eventually come back into play and bite me in the butt. Since then I've learned that knowing when your opponent event will occur allows you to lessen the damage it causes and usually it has a * which means it's permanently removed from the game.

On the opposite end of the spectrum it used to be that I'd play a nice event card for myself say that usually are 3 or 4 OPS but now if it's still Early or Mid War I might just play them for OPS only and they'll get put in the discard pile and come back into play and my event will trigger later in the game either by opponent or I'll get to play it.

Great review by the way as you cover all aspects of the game.
 
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mrbass
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voynix wrote:

7. The Game Ends when a player:
A. Incites a nuclear war (they lose)
B. Controls Europe at the time of Europe Scoring (they win)
C. Gets 20 VP’s


In the rulebook there really should be
D. Wargames Card (Late War card) on 7 or higher on VP track and get play Wargames card game ends.
 
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Dan Poole
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Yes, that Wargames card can be a kicker. I would be lying if I said I would be sad if it didn't exist. On the other hand, knowing its there should make the USSR player very wary about the VP situation during the late war turns.
 
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