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Subject: 1 x 100: Twilight Struggle for a Year rss

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Fred Shugars
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With a sip of Russian Standard Vodka, and a shot of Jack Daniels, My friend John and I just finished our 100th face to face game of Twilight Struggle, all played in 2015. I thought I’d give you some of my thoughts about that experience.

First some background.

I played my first game of TS about 8 years ago. My friend Dennis and I had played several games of 1960: The Making of the President, and he mentioned that he had a related game called Twilight Struggle that he’d never played. So one evening, we spent about 6 hours slogging through a game of TS, probably botching several rules, with him winning on the last action round of turn 10 when I committed defcon suicide. We didn’t quite realize what had happened, and weren’t really sure that was even correct.

Fast forward to early this year, when a non-gamer friend of mine linked the Oliver Roeder article on Fivethirtyeight (http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/designing-the-best-board...) to my Facebook page. I was reminded of the game and contacted Dennis to set up a time to retry the game. We played again, this time taking maybe only 5 hours with him winning late, though in our post game discussion of the game, he talked about holding a scoring card over from one turn to the next. Clearly we still didn’t have all the rules right.

I asked Dennis though, if I could borrow the game to teach and play with our mutual friend John. John and I have a lot in common. While we both like modern Eurogames, we both grew up playing the Avalon Hill wargames and both even had subscriptions to SPI magazine (a new wargame in each issue!) though neither of us had played any of them in 40 years. But the biggest thing we now have in common, is that we are both retired!! That means finding time to play is not that big of a deal.

So on Tuesday, January 13th I went over to John’s place and taught him the game. We played twice, each of us taking one side. We still had some rules wrong (we didn’t know it took 2 influence to break control), but we got most of it right. We decided to play again the following week, this time a Wednesday at my place. Again 2 more games, and we were soon into a routine of alternating houses, and playing usually 2 games, but (if there was an auto-win or defcon suicide) often 3 games, every Wednesday from 11am to about 4 or 5 pm.

By the way, after a month or so, John and I each bought our own copies of the game so I could return Dennis’s to him. Each having a copy means that it’s set up and ready to go, the moment the other guy arrives.

The routine includes some snacks, some liquid refreshment and at John’s place good old American country music, and at mine the spectacular Cold War Soundtrack (http://coldwarsoundtrack.com/) by Jeremy K (propsero).

We don’t play with either the bidding or Chinese Civil War variants, though we do use all the Optional cards (which in the Deluxe Edition are not even listed as “optional” in the rules). We’ve never seen the need to try any additional house rules to “balance” the play. As we are both going to be playing both sides it doesn’t matter that the sides aren’t at 50/50—in fact that adds to the enjoyment: it’s like a basketball team winning on the road, or a tennis player breaking serve when you win as the USA, and it’s a relief to protect the home-court, or hold serve, when playing the USSR.

Here are our stats of our plays:

Country Wins:

USSR has won 68 with the USA winning 32. We’ve yet to have a tie, though our 100th was just a 1 point USA win!

How won:

--10 of the games have ended in defcon suicide, though only twice in the last 50 games.

--2 games ended in held scoring cards (just blunders, sometimes in the 3rd game you get bleary eyed, forget that you played the China Card and lose count of the rounds)

--38 of our games have ended in autowins (20 points)

--21 have ended in Wargames wins

--25 ended with final scoring, with the scores ranging from today’s 1 point USA win, to a 29 point USA win.

--For 4 of the early games, I did not record how they ended.

Those stats are not representative of anything, just 2 guys, both learning at about the same pace—your results will vary.


At the beginning, we both read the tutorial at https://leanpub.com/twilightstrategy which is very well done, but if I had to do it over again I would not recommend it to beginners that are learning the game together. I feel like we got cheated out of our own period of exploration. We were couping Iran from day 1 as our first action, and holding the right cards to the turn 3 reshuffle. I think we’d have enjoyed this wonderful game even more, had we tried other starts and learned from our mistakes. Heck, we should have had to learn that there always IS a turn 3 reshuffle. That being said, we’ve started trying more and varied things now—since, as with the no need for house rule balancing—the regular playing means you can try something different, it won’t be the only play of the year, or month, or week or even day.

We’ve got all the rules down now, of course. Though occasionally we’ll have that “now how many more cards do I have to play” discussion; sometimes we forget that someone is in the “show your headline” phase; and John has finally created a process for me to remember to play Missile Envy as my first action, after he’d headlined it.

By the way, we don’t plan on stopping at 100. During the course of the year, we did throw in a few plays of other modern “wargames” : 1775: Rebellion, Fire in the Lake, and 1989: Dawn of Freedom. We’ll keep some of those others in the mix, but for now TS will still dominate our play.

And when Dennis gets around to retiring, we might have to find a 3-player game afternoon. I already purchased Churchill in anticipation of that.

One of the questions I often get now that I’m retired, is “What do you do with your time?” My stock answer is “Whatever I want to.” But after that I usually describe some of my activities, and eventually mention the Wednesday TS gaming. I describe it as: “Remember in the old days when old men would get together and play chess all afternoon. It’s like that, only the game we play is much, much better”.
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john coley
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Terrific write-up!!!!! (I'm John, by the way). And an additional historical tidbit... the cap I'm wearing in the photo is authentic Polish military, c 1938, worn by my father-in-law while he served in the Polish forces, pre-WW2. I'm already looking forward to game 101 next week.
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Steve
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Retirement is looking so much more attractive after reading this great article.
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DW Kelly
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Nostrovia!

By the way, does anyone know if the U.S. Social Security offices are open on Black Friday?
 
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Markus
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Amazing! What an accomplishment.
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Anders Olin
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I'm considering retirement already! arrrh
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Hey congrats!

I'd be curious to hear if the win percentages have changed as you learned the game. Like what was the Russian win rate for the first 33 games, then for second 33 games and for the last 33 games.
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Fred Shugars
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capadotia wrote:
Hey congrats!

I'd be curious to hear if the win percentages have changed as you learned the game. Like what was the Russian win rate for the first 33 games, then for second 33 games and for the last 33 games.



Games 1-33
USSR went 17-16


Games 34-67
USSR went 25-9


Games 68-100
USSR went 20-13


That feels about right. At the beginning, winning and losing was mostly pretty random. By the middle, we knew the crushing power of the USSR, and now we are getting more of the subtleties needed to win as the US.
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Very interesting. Thanks for posting!
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Wayne L
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Great read. Im waiting on my copy of TS to arrive, but I have been playing a similiar game with a friend on a weekly basis. Wir sin das volk! I highly recommend it. Also, for a 3 player game, you could look into Maria. Ive never played it but it looks fun.
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Wendell
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fredact wrote:


One of the questions I often get now that I’m retired, is “What do you do with your time?” My stock answer is “Whatever I want to.” But after that I usually describe some of my activities, and eventually mention the Wednesday TS gaming. I describe it as: “Remember in the old days when old men would get together and play chess all afternoon. It’s like that, only the game we play is much, much better”.


Mad props for this! And congrats on your 100th game. So much awesome.
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Christopher Yaure
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11 years, 9 months and 1 day to start my weekly TS game!

Great post!
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Zbigniew Stachowiak
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Truly motivating story. Congratulations and keep up the good work.
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Brad Carey
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Awesome! I wish I got to play TS more. My gaming group is large enough that I am never just gaming with one other person, yet small enough that breaking us into smaller sections to play different games doesn't really work.

Once in a while I can get my fiancee to play, but for a 2 player CDG she prefers Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage. It works out though because Hannibal is one of my favorite games.

Maybe someday I'll get lucky and find a partner for Twilight Struggle!
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Adam Glesser

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As one of the stated balance goals of the game is for the USA to become more powerful in the Late War period, I'm curious what the win distribution was in your games that went to Final Scoring. Would you mind sharing?
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Fred Shugars
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repnA wrote:
As one of the stated balance goals of the game is for the USA to become more powerful in the Late War period, I'm curious what the win distribution was in your games that went to Final Scoring. Would you mind sharing?


Through 100 games, 25 went to final scoring. The USSR won 15 of those. We're now at 112 games, 5 more went to final scoring, all 5 were won by the USSR.
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Jim Miller
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Were none of the games won by control of Europe? I'm new to the game but curious what percentage of games might end this way. In your games, it looks like 0 percent?
 
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Max DuBoff
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jmiller1020 wrote:
Were none of the games won by control of Europe? I'm new to the game but curious what percentage of games might end this way. In your games, it looks like 0 percent?


Yeah, that's an incredibly uncommon way for the game to end, particularly among non-newbies.
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Fred Shugars
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None by Europe control. A couple of times one of us got close, but lost due to auto victory by the opponent. Moral--don't over-commit to one region.
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Fred Shugars
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jmiller1020 wrote:
Were none of the games won by control of Europe? I'm new to the game but curious what percentage of games might end this way. In your games, it looks like 0 percent?


It finally happened in our 141st game. In a great back and forth game--US in the Americas early, but USSR fought back, USSR dominating Asia, but USA fights back, but then in turn 9, the doubled Terrorism sets up the USSR moving into Europe with Glasnost and the Reformer, then Turn 10 was just both sides playing all ops into Europe, to get the country count.
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