Last night I played a game of Twilight Struggle with fellow geek Chester Ogborn (cornjob). He owns the reprint version of the game. I played the US and he played the USSR. Due to the length of this session report, I'm splitting it into 2 parts. This first part is a report of the early war- turns 1-3.
My starting hand was: Red Scare/Purge, Independent Reds, Indo-Pakistani War, Containment, Nasser, CIA Created, UN Intervention, Captured Nazi Scientist
The USSR setup was: 3 influence in Poland, 3 in Austria
The US setup was: 4 influence in W. Germany, 3 influence in Italy
US Headline: Red Scare/Purge (a no brainer headline for the US)
USSR Headline: Fidel
AR1 USSR: De Gaulle leads France for ops, receiving 2 ops because the USSR was reeling from recent purges. Places 1 influence in Austria for control and 1 in Finland.
AR1 US: Indo-Pakistani War for ops, placing 1 influence in Afghanistan and 1 in Iraq (my goal was to spread out so a coup in Iran wouldn't snuff me out of the region)
AR2 USSR: Comecon for ops, coup in Iran, rolled a 3- this removed my influence in Iran, reduced defcon and gave the USSR 2military ops
AR2 US: Independent Reds for ops, place 2 influence in Iran for control
AR3 USSR: NATO for ops (event does not occur due to lack of prerequisite) places 2 influence in Finland for control and 1 in Syria for control.
AR3 US: CIA Created for ops, coup Syria, rolled a 6- removed all USSR influence in Syria and added 1 US influence (I wanted some military ops and this was my only decent target, plus it looked like cornjob might have mid-east scoring)
AR 4 USSR: Suez Crisis for ops, coup in Iran, rolled a 4 and removed both of my influence in Iran, defcon is now at 3.
AR 4 US: Nasser for ops with UN Intervention, placed 1 influence in Iran (I didn't want to hold a 1 ops at the end of the round and didn't want to give cornjob control of Egypt just yet)
AR 5 USSR: Mid-east scoring for no change in VP.
AR 5 US: Captured Nazi Scientist for the event, this gives me the first step on the space race track and 2 VP.
AR 6 USSR: Truman Doctrine for ops, the event occurs and does nothing since cornjob controls all the nations he has influence in, places 1 influence in Afghanistan.
AR 6 US: Containment for ops, place 2 influence in Afghanistan for control, 1 influence in Malaysia (working toward securing a good position in Asia)
End of turn: US loses 2 VP for failing to meet the required military ops. This sets the VP track back to 0. Defcon rises to 4.
Comments: The board looks OK. I have a pretty good position in Asia and Europe is holding up. It looks like anyone's game at this point. When I first looked at my hand I thought it was pretty good solely because of Red Scare/Purge. But I actually had less ops value than cornjob factoring in his loss of ops from being hit by the event. Basically, Red Scare/Purge just kept turn 1 from being a blowout for the USSR. Cornjob later told me he thought he should have placed more influence turn 1.
I was dealt the following cards: (I didn't hold a card due to play of UN Intervention) East European Unrest, Korean War, Asia Scoring, Nuclear Test Ban, US/Japan Mutual Defense Pact, Blockade, Olympic Games, Five Year Plan
US Headline: Asia Scoring (I felt I had the better position in Asia but wanted to concentrate on Europe) play of this card resulted in no change of score
USSR Headline: Romanian Abdication
AR 1 USSR: Europe Scoring (no change in score).
AR 1 US: Nuclear Test Ban for ops, place 2 influence in Thailand for control, 1 influence in Egypt and 1 in Taiwan (spreading influence into important areas and preparing for the Korean War)
AR 2 USSR: Marshall Plan for ops, cornjob chose to have my event take place first and I placed influence in Turkey, Greece, Spain, France, Benelux, Denmark and W. Germany, then cornjob used the ops to coup Iran and rolled a 5 resulting in USSR control of Iran with 4 influence. Defcon is at 3.
AR 2 US: Olympic Games for ops, coup Iran, rolled a 2 and accomplished nothing. Defcon 2. (just picking up required military ops)
AR 3 USSR: Formosan Resolution for ops, place 2 influence to gain control of Pakistan.
AR 3 US: US Japan Mutual Defense Pact for ops, place 3 influence in Japan for control and 1 influence in Libya (going for a +2 drm on the Korean war with eventual control of Taiwan- in retrospect I think the ops would have been better spent outside of Japan- losing the Korean War is not a big deal and leaving Japan uncontrolled makes it more difficult for the USSR to play US Japan Mutual Defense Pact)
AR 4 USSR: Socialist Governments for ops, gains control of the Gulf States by placing 3 influence there.
AR 4 US: East European Unrest for ops, placing 1 influence in Egypt for control, 1 in Libya for control and 1 in Saudi Arabia (shoring up the Mideast)
AR 5 USSR: De-Stalinization for ops, place 1 influence in Iraq and 2 in Jordan for control.
AR 5 US: Korean War for ops, I place influence first- 2 in Taiwan for control, then the war occurs, cornjob can only win the war on a 6, but rolls a 2.
AR 6 USSR: Defectors on the space race, a successful launch and the USSR gains 1 VP. Current score is 1 VP for the USSR.
AR 6 US: Blockade for ops, discarding 5 year plan for the event. Place 1 influence in S. Korea.
Turn End: Defcon rises to 3. US presence in Europe and Asia looks solid. US presence in the Mideast isn't that shabby either. Cornjob comments that it looks like the US will win this one. I mention that it's hard for the US to win before turn 7.
Hand: Red Scare/Purge, Vietnam Revolts, Warsaw Pact, Socialist Governments, Comecon, Olympic Games, Nasser, Independent Reds (my hand is looking red but I can't complain since I got Red Scare/Purge again)
US Headline: Red Scare/Purge
USSR Headline: De-Stalinization, remove 4 influence from Finland, add 2 to Iraq for control, 1 in Chile, 1 in Lebanon
AR 1 USSR: Middle East Scoring, USSR dominates and has a net gain of 3 VP. Score is 4 for USSR.
AR 1 US: Warsaw Pact Formed, I play my ops second and the USSR adds 2 influence to Finland, and 1 in Austria, Czechoslovakia and Hungary for the event. I place 2 influence in France for control and 1 influence in S. Korea for control.
AR 2 USSR: NATO for ops, the event occurs, places 1 influence in India and 2 in Finland for control.
AR 2 US: Comecon, USSR uses the event to place 1 influence in Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Poland and East Germany. I place 1 influence in Turkey, Greece and Spain, gaining control of all 3 (this gives the US domination of Europe)
AR 3 USSR: China card for 4 ops in Asia because of Red Scare/Purge, adds 2 influence to India and Burma for control of both.
AR 3 US: Independent Reds for ops, place 1 influence in Malaysia for control, 1 in Saudi Arabia.
AR 4 USSR: Decolonization for the event, places 1 influence each in Laos, Morocco, Thailand and Indonesia.
AR 4 US: Olympic Games for ops, place 1 influence in Thailand to regain control, and 1 influence in the Philippines to gain control (regaining control of Thailand seemed important- and I think necessary to retain domination of Asia)
AR 5 USSR: US Japan Mutual Defense Pact, the event ends up doing basically nothing, places 1 influence in Vietnam for control, Algeria and Morocco.
AR 5 US: Socialist Governments played to space, the roll was unsuccessful.
AR 6 USSR: Arab-Israeli War for the event. USSR receives a -1 drm due to US control of Egypt but still wins the war. VPs are now at 6 in favor of the USSR.
AR 6 US: Vietnam Revolts, the event gives the USSR 2 more influence in Vietnam. I coup Lebanon and roll a 6, gaining control of Lebanon with influence to spare. (this was mainly for the military ops)
End of turn: Defcon rises to 4. The US dominates Europe and Asia but the USSR dominates the Mideast. The USSR also has some presence in Central America, South America and Africa- all regions that will be scoring as the Mid War deck is shuffled in.
It sucks having Red Scare / Red Purge played on you twice in the first three turns. I don't think that alone was the difference in the game, but it certainly removed any hope of having a big turn or of getting embedded position in a place like Europe or Asia early in the game.
I'm sure I could have played better. I think I went for too many coups where I ended up with nothing to show for the attempt...but of course with better success there I wouldn't be saying I went for too many.
I want to like Twilight Struggle, but this game is a good example of what I don't like in the game. I felt like winning or losing was not in my hands or dependent too much on my decision-making. It felt like it was more due to getting some tough rolls and hamstrung by the card dealing.
In the last game Mike and I played, I felt I played just as well and won as the USSR. Here, I made about the same quality of decisions and was never in the game (if you account for the early game imbalance in favor of the USSR). That said, Mike played a strong game and didn't give me any real chances to make up ground.
I agree that Red Scare/Purge just isn't a fun card. I like the idea of a card that encourages the play of events but Red Scare/Purge can have such a devastating effect on people with bad hands that it just isn't worth it. However, in this game its effect was probably more psychological than anything else.
In turn 1, Chester played cards with the following ops values: 3/3/4/3/0/1, which ended up being 10 ops worth of cards after reduction. I played cards with the following values: 2/2/1/1/1/3, worth 10 ops points. So the red scare/purge basically just evened the field. On turn 3, the red scare/purge ended up giving me a 3 ops advantage. A 3 ops advantage seems minimal really. Although I should say merely comparing the ops value of cards isn't the best way to consider the effects of being purged.
I agree that luck plays to great of a part in this game. However, I don't think a comparison between this game and our prior game is indicative of that. Chester definitely played a similar game, but the quality of my play in this recorded game was much improved. In fact, I'm pretty sure the luck favored me more in our last game (which Chester won as the USSR) than this one. In our last game, Red Scare/Purge was only played once (by me), Chester lost 4-5 action rounds due to bad rolls on the Bear Trap event, and I remember getting some insanely lucky draws with 5 year plan and grain sales to soviets.
However, I made so many mistakes playing the US that my good luck couldn't overcome them and Chester won an automatic victory in turn 6 or 7.
I think the most important feature of Twilight Struggle for me is the intangible dissatisfaction that it leaves me with a lot of the time. Its weird, because as time goes by...I forget it, and find myself wanting to play again. Then, when I start playing I quickly remember the frustration with the card draws. I should admit, it gets better when I know the cards better...and I'm starting to know them (at least the Early War) to some extent.
I'm sure I'll play again. But I need a break for a while.
Its weird, because as time goes by...I forget it, and find myself wanting to play again. Then, when I start playing I quickly remember the frustration with the card draws.
heh, just a week or so ago i said, "the further away from the game i get, the more i want to play it. but then after i do, i'm reminded of why i didn't. it's astounding how much thematic "pull" the game has." in the 'any dissenting voices?' twilight struggle thread. in my case it's actually been long enough that i want to play it again, but i'm sure it will pass sometime after i start!
p.s. chest-poking isn't a guideline, it's the LAW.
Our house rule is that we treat Purge/Red Scare as * card and remove it after one play as an event. Just because we had too many games where it when to the same person 2 or 3 times, and that person always won easily.
\I want to like Twilight Struggle, but this game is a good example of what I don't like in the game. I felt like winning or losing was not in my hands or dependent too much on my decision-making. It felt like it was more due to getting some tough rolls and hamstrung by the card dealing.
This game has a nice balance of risk and reward payoffs. That is, when a riskier choice is made, the outcomes can be proportionately larger to your favor or against.
IMO, you made a decision to put your fate in the hands of the dice rather than the surer, but less game changing potential, placing of influence. When dealt a 'bad hand' one with lots of opposition designated cards, play them for ops asking the opponent to execute the event first and you react accordingly. On such turns, your goal is mitigation. Sometimes you are dealt remarkable hands and you need to figure out how to strategically get the most out of it, making hay while the sun shines because clouds will definitely come on another hand.
But, the game allows for recovery through luck. That is, if you get behind for whatever reason a few lucky die rolls can get you back into the game. You should never win nor lose strictly due to a small number of die rolls (which can happen with a more tranditional (SPI-esq) wargame), but you can have a fortuitous recovery of position that you can then leverage more easily. The outcome of those situations can also be to dig the hole deeper.