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Subject: Red Soviets and Black Russians rss

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Pete Martyn
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A Cautionary Tale about drinking, world domination, and trying to write my first session report

I purchased Twilight Struggle back in January, and even though I was just a lurker at the time, of course I promptly turned to BGG and devoured every article I could on the game. Good stuff all around -- the single-card strategies in particular were a huge help. (thanks!thumbsup) But what I enjoyed the most was reading other people's session reports. I've been gaming since I was a little kid, and one of the things I've always enjoyed about the hobby was the way good games create a good story. "If I ever take the plunge and join BGG," I told myself, "I'll have to step up and try my hand at this session report thing." Well, here I am, and here it is.

The other night I came home from work, kissed my wife, and asked her if there was anything she felt like doing that evening. "Want to play a game?" she asked. Of course, that's sort of like asking, "Would you like a backrub, a million dollars, and a mansion in the Cayman Islands?" Obviously, the answer was yes. I asked her what she wanted to play. "Twilight Struggle?" she asked hopefully, and of course my heart skipped a beat or two.

My wife is awesome. She's not a hardcore gamer, but she will play a number of them enthusiastically, and she tolerates my geekiness with inhuman patience at times. When I introduced her to Twilight Struggle, she loved it. The play time was on the upper threshold of her tolerance, but she loved the gameplay -- the constant tension, the constant feints and parries, the wild swings in fortune. She poured us a couple of Black Russians while I set up the game. I daresay mine was rather strong, and after a long day of work and without much in my stomach, I quickly found myself rather more buzzed than I would consider optimal for managing a nuclear superpower. I let her pick her faction, and no fool, she picked Soviets. This was going to be interesting.

She went for a what I considered an overly conservative setup, placing 3 influence in Poland and 3 in Romania, for some reason (evidently she had forgotten about Romanian Abdication.) For my setup, I grabbed France and West Germany. This is going to be a cakewalk, I thought, and readied myself to dominate the planet....

Turn One:
I locked up Japan with a headlined Mutual Defense Pact, while my wife used the Suez Crisis to knock me out of Israel and lessen my influence in France and the UK by one each.
Right off the bat she played Duck and Cover, handing me a victory point but using the ops to grab Turkey and move into Yugoslavia. I led off with Containment to prop up a rather low-ops hand. The Marshall Plan went into space -- a Soviet success! With Sputnik's help the VPs swayed into the red. I played DeGaulle, letting the event resolve first, and then dropping all four ops back into France. I hate that guy -- good to see him gone. A Soviet Blockade gave me a chance to toss the Warsaw Pact, and I countered with some more ops, restoring control in the UK, and taking control of the Philippines and Iran. More ops from the USSR saw Italy go red, and chillingly, Israel and South Korea each picked up a hammer and sickle.
With Israel starting to swing away from me, I happily played Arab-Israeli War -- evidently the Arabs were not interested in attacking their new Communist friends, because the war flopped with a roll of one. In an attempt to stave off an ugly Middle Eastern situation, I rolled for a coup in Syria -- whoops, another one. Never thought I'd be so unhappy to see peace in the Middle East.
My wife handed me a victory point by playing Defectors to coup Panama -- was she seriously attempting to grab a presence in the Americas this early? That would remain a mystery, as the coup knocked out my one influence, but didn't add any Soviet in return. The Americas were now completely safe for the time being (barring everyone's favorite cigar-chomping Cuban, of course.) I scored the Middle East for four VPs, hopefully buying me some time before the Israel situation got ugly. My wife played the China Card to grab control of Iraq and Afghanistan -- again, interesting choices. I was getting cocky -- and tipsy -- and rather distracted by trying to take notes for this report. I ended the turn by using a Containment-boosted UN Intervention to try and get myself into space. There's a reason the UN doesn't have a space program, it seems, because that rocket stayed firmly on the ground.

Turn Two:
DEFCON 4
4 Victory Points, USA

I headlined Nuclear Test Ban for 2 VPs, while the dreaded Decolonization gave my wife access to Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Nigeria. She followed that up by placing controlling influence in Pakistan and Thailand.
And here's where things started to get stupid! DEFCON 5, with the Soviets in Italy...and a growing Soviet surge in Asia...clearly any sane player would either coup Italy or start grabbing Asian countries. So naturally, I played Five-Year Plan for the effect. shake I hit CIA Created, which revealed the Asia Scoring card I should have known was there in the first place. Hmmm...now I had one op to spend -- nothing in Asia was really doable, so for some incredibly bright reason I decided a long-shot coup in Italy would now be a good idea. Rather predictably, it was an utter failure.
Her plans laid bare, my wife played Asia Scoring for a six-point Soviet beatdown. Well then, I figured, guess it's safe to play Vietnam Revolts, using the ops points to drop one influence into East Germany, breaking her control. She fired right back, immediately regaining East Germany and throwing another point into Israel. I was looking at a rather ugly Europe situation with the scoring card in my hand, and in my desperation I used the China card for control of Spain and to toss one disruptive influence into Soviet Italy. Her next turn saw Italy re-controlled. No fair, that tactic always seem to work against me, but she was taking it like a Mediterranean zephyr. I settled for grabbing Greece. She fired Independent Reds into the Space Race for another success there.
Thoroughly outgunned in Europe, I decided to cut my losses and played the scoring card. Both of us had presence, but her hold on Italy got her one VP. Bah! For her final move, she dropped Truman Doctrine -- the only valid target was Yugoslavia. I took away one influence, she put it back. This was not a great turn -- I closed with a Captured Nazi Scientist to get into the space race and earn a VP, gaining another from the military ops track.

Turn Three:
DEFCON 5
1 Victory Point, US

This turn opened up with a interesting mirror image -- Unrest in Eastern Europe and Socialist Governments in the West! East Germany, Poland and Romania all took hits, while the US lost two influence in France and one in West Germany. The Soviets wasted no time, dropping four ops into repairing the damage from the unrest and throwing one point into the now-uncontrolled West Germany. This turn I got my act together and hit Italy with a much heavier coup attempt -- four ops and a six on the roll! Italy swung from 3 Soviet to 3 US in one brutal swoop. Ciao, commies!
The next turn saw the Middle East get worse -- Egypt and Syria both pledged themselves to the Soviet cause. I decided to focus on Europe instead (I'd been dealt the scoring card after the reshuffle,) and played COMECON to put points into Yugoslavia and France, at the price of moving Soviet influence into Austria, Bulgaria, Finland and Yugoslavia. A play of Formosan Resolution by the Reds gave them Israel at last. And still I focused on Europe, playing Indy Reds to grab three influence in Romania. That bought the Soviets time to coup in Iran, knocking me out of that country -- and, to my dawning horror, out of the Middle East entirely, with no bordering countries. In desperation, I sponsored the Olympics in an effort to buy myself a few VPs worth of padding, only to lose in a sick parody of the Miracle on Ice! Boom -- the next turn came Middle East Scoring. A ten-point pummeling and a long hard slog to get back into the region. I played my own scoring card for no points whatsoever. Better than last turn, but at what terrible cost?
The early war concluded with two Space Race attempts -- the Soviets once again tossed the Marshall Plan for a successful moonshot, while Fidel the Astronaut resented being called an "animal in space" and steadfastly refused to be launched.
With the score heavily into the red, my wife said, "I love this game." Oh, what a bittersweet thing to hear -- my heart filled with joy even as the grim Red tide continued to sweep the globe....

Turn Four:
DEFCON 4
12 Victory Points, Soviet

For the first Midwar headlines, the Ussuri River Skirmish snagged me the China Card, while Khrushchev threatened to bury me. The first Soviet move of the turn was to take Algeria and put another point into West Germany. I had initially considered a strategy of ignoring Africa, but after the Middle East went bad on me, I lost my nerve. I played UN Intervention to cancel the Soviet VPs from "We Will Bury You," and put a point into South Africa.
NEWBIE ERROR! We neglected to realize that "We Will Bury You" is only canceled if UN Intervention is played as an EVENT. Therefore I shouldn't have received that ops point. Whoops!
Arrgh -- once more my wife got Decolonization! Zaire, Sudan, Angola and South Africa all receive influence. Lucky for me these nations are young and unstable -- a coup in Angola swung it to my control with three influence. If just to taunt me, my wife fired Colonial Rear Guards into space, for yet another successful launch. I was fortunate enough to have Voice of America, which I played to chase the Red Menace out of Zaire, South Africa, South Korea, and, for some reason, Syria.
The Soviets came flying back, placing influence in Cameroon, Lebanon and (grr) France. Realizing that I never really addressed the dismal situation in Asia, I grabbed up South Korea, which prompted an unsuccessful invasion attempt from North Korea as the next Soviet move. Where Castro feared to tread, Willy Brandt was willing -- I launched him up to finally get an animal in space.
Those fickle Chinese had a Cultural Revolution and made me give their card back to the Soviets -- easy come, easy go. I put a point each into France and Taiwan. The Soviets ended their turn with yet another successful space race roll, this time using Duck and Cover and racking up three more VPs. For my last move, I had to play Nasser -- what the hell, Egypt was already lost to me, and it gave me the point I needed to control South Africa.

Turn Five:
DEFCON 3
15 Victory Points, Soviet

The turn's headlines showed a glimmer of hope for the US, with the Camp David Accords getting me back into the Middle East. My wife played Breznev Doctrine, and I braced myself for an ops onslaught.
First play -- Missile Envy! I'm growing to hate this card, mainly because I never seem to draw it! I gave up U2 Incident and with it, another VP. This was getting uglier by the minute. As required, I played Missile Envy for points, grabbing Taiwan (a battleground thanks to Formosan.) Unfortunately for me, it was a little too far north to count for SE Asia Scoring, which brought the total score to a perilous 19 Soviet VPs.
All was not lost, however -- I stormed into Nasser-dominated Egypt with a Brush War and crushed him, netting myself four influence in Egypt and a VP to boot! I gloated for all of five seconds before my wife smirked and dropped a Muslim Revolution, booting me out of Egypt and Jordan. Ouch. Guess my military "advisers" could have used a bit of cultural sensitivity training, or something. I dusted myself off thanks to a reassuring speech by Kennedy, which I used to toss three Soviet cards. My wife space-raced Indo-Pakistani War, and finally her luck ran out -- no progress.
With a new Kennedy-provided arsenal, it was time to make my stand in the Western Hemisphere -- I founded the OAS to take Brazil -- and just in time, as Allende poked up in Chile the next turn. I countered with a Junta in Chile followed by a coup attempt in the same, but the country remained up for grabs. And indeed they tried, placing one more influence, those pesky Reds, along with controlling Argentina. I space raced Warsaw Pact, again, and failed, again. The Soviets stirred up some South African Unrest and broke my hold there, as well as taking Botswana. Finally, I managed to nudge myself ahead in the space race via OPEC, and scooped up a VP from military ops.

Turn Six:
DEFCON 3
17 Victory Points, Soviet
Not quite hopeless, but getting there -- the one point of light on the horizon was that I held the Central American Scoring card, and the Soviets were a thousand miles away from the region. Maybe I could pull this off....
My headline was SALT Negotiations, which would help to defend my soon-to-be-built Central American Empire. I grabbed Brush War from the discards to stay on the offensive. But what's this? Somehow I got stuck in a Quagmire! Oh no!
SALT be damned -- the Soviets aggressively attempted to coup Chile, and knocked me down by enough points to take control of it at last. I discarded for Quagmire and got out with a roll of two -- then proceeded to play Puppet Governments and make new friends in Panama, Mexico, and Haiti.
NEWBIE ERROR! I learned after the fact that Quagmire doesn't just force a roll and a discard -- it eats your action! Ouch. As it turned out, it didn't make much of a difference, but it's good to know -- the card is rather ambiguous in its wording.
My wife grabbed control of Peru -- I didn't like the way this was going, but I kept my eyes on the prize and took Panama and Mexico for myself. If I could just hold on a little longer, I'd have domination in Central America....
JUST LIKE MY WIFE HAD IN SOUTH AMERICA! NOOOOO! She slapped down the scoring card and ended the game. Capitalism lay in ruins, red flags fluttered from statehouses around the planet! But most importantly, she was smiling, and taunting me for my inability to stop her sinister plans. Gosh, but I'm a lucky man.

All in all, not a good game on my part -- I missed several obvious attempts by my wife to control regions and paid a heavy price. Her initial errors plus my distraction in recording moves for this report plus the effects of two Black Russians (I refilled at the reshuffle) made for a lot of overconfidence on my part, and before I knew it, she was mopping the floor with me. Ah well -- everyone had fun, it was a perfect way to end a long day, and I've got a wife who will undoubtedly want to beat my ass in a war for the globe again -- can't really find much to complain about, when it's all said and done!












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Dan Squires
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Epic report you've got there, homeslice. Looking forward to playing this one!
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Eric O. LEBIGOT
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Epic report, indeed! Thanks!

How much time did your session take?
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Jeffry Welfare
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So let me get this straight.

Your wife suggested Twilight Struggle and then poured you a strong alcoholic drink on an empty stomach?

Hmmmm. Now that is planning ahead.
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Jon
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JeffryW wrote:
...
Your wife suggested Twilight Struggle and then poured you a strong alcoholic drink on an empty stomach?...


Think of it as the "fog of war".

PS - Nice session report!
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Charles Robinson
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Nice session report! One minor point - you could have played UN Intervention together with a USSR card (if you had one in your hand), cancelling the event, and still preventing the USSR from earning any points from We Will Bury You (since you're still using UN Intervention as an event in that case).
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Pete Martyn
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lebigot wrote:
How much time did your session take?


I was only sort of paying attention to the clock, but I think we wrapped this up in about two hours. It probably would have taken longer, except I was rushing more than I should have been in an effort to juggle my session notes and my wife's patience (she's rather intolerant of Analysis Paralysis.) She's a startlingly aggressive gamer at times -- it often works to her advantage, too.

Also, she requested that I state for the public record that she beat me fair and square, and that though my abilities may have been inhibited by alcohol and distraction, she remains a superior player. To which I dutifully reply "Yes dear," and then mutter evilly, "...until next game, anyway!"
 
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Lee Massey
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I suspect that your Black Russian was extra strong for a reason!
 
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