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Subject: Rethinking Twilight Strategy: Summary rss

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Luckay's Watson
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Twilight Strategy is a great resource. However, a lot of the advice given is outdated, mostly due to the concepts brought over by Sankt from the Chinese Twilight Struggle Association.

On Reddit, I wrote a series of posts titled "Rethinking Twilight Strategy," that try to update Twilight Strategy for the post-sankt era. I am an 1800 player, so it would have been better for a stronger player to write this, but you'll have to deal with me. I think most 1900+ players think the advice in these posts is generally good.

I'm going to collect them here and post a summary.

Opening Setup
Turn 1
DEFCON
Events vs Operations
Reshuffles
The Space Race
The AR7 Play
Realignments

There are two main concepts I wanted to introduce in this series of articles.

The first concept is that Non-BGs do not matter. The biggest mistake intermediate players make is playing too many ops to non-BGs. If there are open BGs, especially in regions where the scoring card is not out, play to those first, and ignore the non-BGs. I almost always lose Greece + Turkey to lower elo players for this reason.

The second concept is that everything should be thought of in terms of expected VP. The primary method of winning in TS is by having more VP than your opponent, either by getting 20 VP ahead, getting 7+ VP ahead and eventing Wargames, or at Final Scoring. Until the late war, everything should be thought of in terms of maximizing VP per operation/card. Playing to BGs over non-BGs is just an extension of this concept.

If you remember these two things, I think your luck will improve drastically and you will find yourself winning many more games. Take BGs whenever possible. Get VP whenever possible. Everything else is an obligation.

Edit: Let me know if you guys have any feedback or questions.
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Robert Ahearne
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"Obligation"? An obligation is something you must do.

Thanks for this, though -- it looks fascinating.
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Luckay's Watson
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Maybe I worded that wrong. For example, eventing De Gaulle Leads Franc e as the US when you have 3 influence in France is worse than spacing it (most of the time). In this case, we consider this an obligation, and we want to space it, because we can get VP out of something that doesn't net BG influence.
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Michael Solomon
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Great Series of Articles. My 2c:

The biggest other issue I have with twilightstrategy.com is that it assumes throughout that the game will end with final scoring. So when you mention Expected VP, you need to define what time frame you are talking about. Other points:

1) US Set up: Sankt generally recommends 4/3/3 rather than 4/4/2, unless holding a ME specific card

2) Not sure Sankt thinks Spain influence is worth it, even after a successful Italy coup

3) I think Sankt says a strong US player puts influence into France AR1.
4) Space Race: I reckon Chinese players are spacing the maximum whatever their hand.
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1. 4/4/2 is definitely better in 90% of cases.

2. Spain influence depends on hand, but almost certainly worth it.

3. This is one part of my game that I'm trying to shore up. France is priority, must take it ASAP. Also, coup Iran is better than I expect.

4. Space is good. But spacing free ops is often bad, space only worth about 2 VP on average, early war ops are priority.
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So has there been a shift toward valuing Iran less? Several years ago I argued on here that 4 Italy was better than 3 Iran and consensus was firmly against that, and I eventually came around to thinking 3 Iran is better. Now I'm reconsidering everything again...
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Yeah, consensus is that 4 Italy is just better, because Europe > ME. Quagmire_trap argues that you need to coup Iran T1 most of the time against 4/4/2, and Italy almost all the time against 4/3/3, depending how headlines shake out. I think that Europe domination is priority 1, Asia domination is priority 2... Of course, Thailand >> Paki, too. Also, every BG matters. The moves I wrote in the T1 article are under debate, but I think the underlying concepts and country value all makes sense. .
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Michael Solomon
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I looked you up on PlayDek and saw you are way better than me. Some more questions for my edification and understanding. I appreciate your time:

1)You write:

There is a very small number of hands where the US will want to play Blockade without discarding. Generally, you need Blockade, Decolonization, and at least 3 other cards that are better for the USSR than the US. In that case, the US can play 3 France, 4 Italy, 3 Iran, so that the US can event Blockade and hold Decolonization or De-Stalinization. This is not a common setup and requires a hand with very few usable operations.

Can you define "better for the USSR than the US". Would you consider Socialist Governments a draw, because you can recover? Nasser*? Arab-Israeli War? De-Stal? What cards are you thinking of? This would appear to happen almost 0% of the time.

2) You discuss USSR T1AR1 when to coup Italy, when Iran. Does everything you write assume a 4/4/2 start, which I should modify against 4/3/3 (when I would almost always coup Italy)?
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Nasser is much worse for US than USSR. Soc Gov is a card I'm talking about. Of course Destal counts. I just mean cards that don't give you real ops.

And yes, with 4/3/3, coup Italy almost always.
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Michael Solomon
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Thank you so much again for your time. There were two issues brought up in MPatniks first post, that started the whole introduction on Englist forums.

He writes:

3: He never plays the China card, even when it seems obvious to do so. (flipping Thailand)

How should value the China card? How many VPs does holding it worth ("Theory" says "at least 2"). Do you have a rule for how much it needs to achieve to let it go?

In a later post, same thread, he writes:

"One play that seemed particularly strange was on T2AR6 as US, he played US/Japan for the event. (not under RS/P) I understand that we both knew that Asia would be scored next turn, but why would he play the event rather than ops there. You can take Japan and have a free op for elsewhere."

What should I learn from this? For example, should USSR be more likely to play Blockade for the event, just to get a 1-op out the deck? How many VPs is getting these cards our worth?

Thanks again. I greatly enjoyed the reddit articles, and your continued help here.
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The China card is worth at least 5 VP, I think. Thailand is probably worth it before Asia Scoring is out. 5+ VP Pakistan is worth it if Asia scoring is in the deck. But I think if you play the China card and don't get at least 5 VP out of it (either by being able to hold key cards or flip an important BG), that's a mistake.

Getting cards out of the deck is rarely important. I think we must maximize operations, and I would rarely play US/Japan for the event as such.

As for eventing Blockade, I generally do it because the discard effect is generally worth more than 1 op. If I'm playing Blockade for ops, it's either because I know I'm helping the US out by helping him get rid of DLF/Suez/Soc Gov, or I really need that one op (and it's generally a mistake to put yourself in a situation where you need that one op).
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TwilightSolomon wrote:
There were two issues brought up in MPatniks first post, that started the whole introduction on Englist forums.

He writes:

3: He never plays the China card, even when it seems obvious to do so. (flipping Thailand)

How should value the China card? How many VPs does holding it worth ("Theory" says "at least 2"). Do you have a rule for how much it needs to achieve to let it go?

See the latest commented game thread against Ziemowit where Sankt repeatedly plays the China card for 4 OPs outside of Asia. He has also commented previously that it should be considered as a 4 OP card, not a 5 OP card.
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Matt Wilkens
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lastchance wrote:
As for eventing Blockade, I generally do it because the discard effect is generally worth more than 1 op. If I'm playing Blockade for ops, it's either because I know I'm helping the US out by helping him get rid of DLF/Suez/Soc Gov, or I really need that one op (and it's generally a mistake to put yourself in a situation where you need that one op).


Here is a hypothetical scenario I've been thinking about lately. I'm the USSR, it's T2 AR6, I'm holding Blockade, and I know the USA is not holding Decol or Destal.

My T2 AR6 play has always been to event Blockade if holding it. However, I've realized that it can be very tough for the USSR to catch the USA holding Lone Gunman in the mid-war, due to WWBY always being spaceable, and no way to attack the USA player's hand until Ames/Terrorism show up. Keeping Blockade around may be useful in that situation, and raise the probability of a DEFCON win, especially if the USSR can keep the China Card away from the USA.

The question is, is it worth the tradeoff of letting the USA hold on to a 3-op card, versus increasing the odds of a somewhat unlikely DEFCON victory in the mid-war?
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Michael Solomon
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Benkyo wrote:
TwilightSolomon wrote:
There were two issues brought up in MPatniks first post, that started the whole introduction on Englist forums.

He writes:

3: He never plays the China card, even when it seems obvious to do so. (flipping Thailand)

How should value the China card? How many VPs does holding it worth ("Theory" says "at least 2"). Do you have a rule for how much it needs to achieve to let it go?

See the latest commented game thread against Ziemowit where Sankt repeatedly plays the China card for 4 OPs outside of Asia. He has also commented previously that it should be considered as a 4 OP card, not a 5 OP card.


I couldn't find the game Ziemowit v Sankt in the "Play By Forum". Was it BGG v one of them? Could you send me a link? I looked for about 10 min.
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TwilightSolomon wrote:
I couldn't find the game Ziemowit v Sankt in the "Play By Forum". Was it BGG v one of them? Could you send me a link? I looked for about 10 min.


It's under session reports: https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1968746/ziemowit-vs-sankt
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stevekerr25 wrote:
lastchance wrote:
As for eventing Blockade, I generally do it because the discard effect is generally worth more than 1 op. If I'm playing Blockade for ops, it's either because I know I'm helping the US out by helping him get rid of DLF/Suez/Soc Gov, or I really need that one op (and it's generally a mistake to put yourself in a situation where you need that one op).


Here is a hypothetical scenario I've been thinking about lately. I'm the USSR, it's T2 AR6, I'm holding Blockade, and I know the USA is not holding Decol or Destal.

My T2 AR6 play has always been to event Blockade if holding it. However, I've realized that it can be very tough for the USSR to catch the USA holding Lone Gunman in the mid-war, due to WWBY always being spaceable, and no way to attack the USA player's hand until Ames/Terrorism show up. Keeping Blockade around may be useful in that situation, and raise the probability of a DEFCON win, especially if the USSR can keep the China Card away from the USA.

The question is, is it worth the tradeoff of letting the USA hold on to a 3-op card, versus increasing the odds of a somewhat unlikely DEFCON victory in the mid-war?


2 major comments: It is good to event Blockade if your opponent is not holding DLF/Suez/Socialist Governments. Obviously, you want to trade your blockade for a 3.
I would rather have the one op and keep Blockade in the deck if my opponent IS holding DLF/Suez/Socialist Governments.

I know that doesn't really give you a good guideline, but it just depends on what you think your opponent has.
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It also depends on RS/P. If I haven't seen it yet then I may hold Blockade in case I draw RS/P turn 3. One other thing which some players do is to just hold onto Blockade for awhile. Your opponent will usually hold onto a red 3 like Soc Gov and this can cause some hand management problems.
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Excuse me for my nubeness, and I have earmarked your article, but haven't read it yet.

Thank you for taking the time to think through all of this. You say non-BG's don't matter, but for US, what about moves such as putting some influence into Costa Rica or Columbia so that if Soviets coup Panama (which they will try, I'm sure), you can still get back in? Or going into Malaysia in order to get into Thailand -- are you saying those moves should not be done? (and similar ideas for Soviets).
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dranton wrote:
Excuse me for my nubeness, and I have earmarked your article, but haven't read it yet.

Thank you for taking the time to think through all of this. You say non-BG's don't matter, but for US, what about moves such as putting some influence into Costa Rica or Columbia so that if Soviets coup Panama (which they will try, I'm sure), you can still get back in? Or going into Malaysia in order to get into Thailand -- are you saying those moves should not be done? (and similar ideas for Soviets).


Central/South America aren't DEFCON restricted, so you can coup there even at DEFCON 2. US also has some cards that will put points in those countries, and might have to deal with a really nasty card (Che) if he has influence in non BG's in those areas.

Moving into Malaysia is something a US player will do, but in the early, he'll probably need the ops points elsewhere. More than likely, if the US has 2 spare ops points that need to go to Asia, he'll put them in Pakistan (BG), S.Korea if Korean War is gone, Afghanistan (I/P War protection and adjacent to USSR), or, if he really needs to stop a Domination, he'll split it to two countries, maybe Phillipines or Indonesia.
 
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I have a new theory on this: Countries must score to matter. Malaysia is very, very important at DEFCON 3, and with extra ops after Egypt/Pakistan/France/Lebanon, you must go there.

On the other hand, I consider Afghanistan a waste of operations for the most part. It will only score you 1 VP for 2 ops, which is an awful investment until the late mid war. I consider the turn 1 Afghanistan the worst thing that most intermediate players do.
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I have seen extremely strong players play a 3 op to Costa Rica, Malaysia, and Lebanon T1 AR1 as the US so it can be a good move... depending on the hand & board situation of course.
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Paul Harding wrote:
I have seen extremely strong players play a 3 op to Costa Rica, Malaysia, and Lebanon T1 AR1 as the US so it can be a good move... depending on the hand & board situation of course.

Lebanon and Malaysia are fine turn 1. I think Costa Rica is probably a mistake, on the other hand. Better to just go 2 Panama. More efficient this way. (I think these are the teachings of Aragorn, through quagmire_trap).
 
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lastchance wrote:
I have a new theory on this: Countries must score to matter. Malaysia is very, very important at DEFCON 3, and with extra ops after Egypt/Pakistan/France/Lebanon, you must go there.

On the other hand, I consider Afghanistan a waste of operations for the most part. It will only score you 1 VP for 2 ops, which is an awful investment until the late mid war. I consider the turn 1 Afghanistan the worst thing that most intermediate players do.


I've found it to be useful, but I also play Turn Zero, and I usually make an aggressive play for the "Nationalist China" card, which gives me 1 influence in three different Asian countries. And since I get it in the early game, it's almost like a mini-Decolonization.
 
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lastchance wrote:
Paul Harding wrote:
I have seen extremely strong players play a 3 op to Costa Rica, Malaysia, and Lebanon T1 AR1 as the US so it can be a good move... depending on the hand & board situation of course.

Lebanon and Malaysia are fine turn 1. I think Costa Rica is probably a mistake, on the other hand. Better to just go 2 Panama. More efficient this way. (I think these are the teachings of Aragorn, through quagmire_trap).

I often play 1 Costa Rica instead of (or after) 2 Panama just to make sure I don't lose presence if I get couped out of Panama.
 
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lastchance wrote:
Paul Harding wrote:
I have seen extremely strong players play a 3 op to Costa Rica, Malaysia, and Lebanon T1 AR1 as the US so it can be a good move... depending on the hand & board situation of course.

Lebanon and Malaysia are fine turn 1. I think Costa Rica is probably a mistake, on the other hand. Better to just go 2 Panama. More efficient this way. (I think these are the teachings of Aragorn, through quagmire_trap).

If you only have 1 OP to spare in CA, 1/0 1/0 is far more resilient against realignment than 2*/0, and slightly more resilient against a coup.
On a coup success of 1, 2*/0 is better, as it's 1 point cheaper to get control, but on a coup success of 2 you are completely knocked out of the area from 2*/0 while you can still regain control from 1/0 1/0 with a 3 OP (or at least continue to contest the BG).
On a coup success of 3+ you are screwed either way, but arguably still better off having the point in Costa Rica.
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