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Subject: Second play...and we finished! rss

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Michael D'Amico
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My friend and I made plans to have our second go at Twilight Struggle. First game we had to cut short at the end of turn 6 because we ran out of time (we were 3 hours in). We did a final score and it was a tie.

I had done some research to clarify questions we had about specific rules as well as to review how we had played and determine where else we might have been playing wrong (there were quite a few circumstances). I reviewed what I found with my friend and we set up for our second play.

Given the text-heavy cards, inexperience with strategy, and some nagging rule queries that still popped up, it took us a little over 5 hours to get the game finished. Here are some highlights and thoughts about game 2:

- For our first game the majority of play saw the VP token on the USSR side of the track (I was the US). Neither of us were obsessing over grabbing the little VPs that were available from cards, the Space Race, or War cards. I was trying to keep up with my Military Ops though my friend wasn't.

- For the second game I tried to snag any VP I could, regardless of how small or insignificant it seemed. And wouldn't you know they started to add up pretty quick. My friend also wasn't really getting his head around Military Ops, or he had some other scheme in mind, because he didn't attempt a single coup or realignment during the whole game. This meant there were turns where I would be grabbing another 1,2, or 3 net points at each phase end as I was pulling off coup attempts every turn. It wasn't until I was in the mid-teens that my buddy finally made some comment about needing to get the token moving in the other direction.

- Also, he was rarely using the cards as events. Unless he thought it was really going to benefit him, he'd use cards only for ops points and to place influence. The result of this consistent strategy/play was that he had a lot more influence on the board and was controlling a lot more countries (both battle and non-battleground). I had footholds in most regions, but whenever I was sitting on a scoring card I had to start making moves in the card region which tipped him off that something was up and he'd start dumping more as well. As a result, aside from one run in the Middle East (which I'll describe later), there were no large point gains for me, if any, during scoring runs. And when I saw him start to focus on a region, I would do what I could to disrupt his workings and minimize his point grabs. Coupled with his avoidance of Military Ops and I was able to keep the VP token on my side for pretty much the whole game.

- Once the token was in the teens I was looking for any opportunity to make a run for the instant VP win. It was around the 7th or 8th turn that I pulled the Middle East scoring card. I also had the China Card, NATO, and a card that let me displace 4 influence from any non-European countries (can't remember the name). During the Headline Phase he had a card that said I had to play with my hand open for that turn and he was able to discard one of my cards. I had a lot of high ops cards so he didn't have an easy choice. He also knew I had the ME scoring card. I had played the 4 influence removal card as my headline thinking I'd be setting up the ME for all the Ops points I was sitting on. So even though he knew the ME card was coming, it was obvious to me he didn't have a good hand of cards and that I was, in the spirit of the game, going to pull a Reagan and outspend him in Ops points in the ME. So I did. I laid down the China card, the NATO card for 4 Ops and another 3 Ops card I had and he couldn't keep up. I was able to throw down the ME scoring card while dominating the region and having all but 1 of the battleground states. I moved up to 18 points. So close....

- At that point my opponent was in full crisis mode and started following my lead of snagging any VP he could away from me. He still didn't do any coup attempts, but he played some cards that let him either adjust the Defcon marker or that gave him Military Ops points and he stemmed the slow bleeding of VP points he had been giving up at the turn end. He was able to drag the marker back to the 15 on my side.

- We made it to turn 10. The cards were dealt and I wasn't happy with what I was seeing. I had the South America and Africa scoring cards. My buddy had a firm hold on Africa and he had serious inroads in South America. Maybe I'd be able to pull something off in South America, but I definitely didn't have the Ops points or events to do any type of crisis control in Africa. This was the benefit of his influence run throughout the game. Looking at my cards, knowing it was the last turn, seeing that he had dominance in Africa and Asia and that he was close to holding dominance in Central America and Europe, I was nervous that after the Africa scoring card and the end game scoring he might actually pull off the victory. Looking at my cards I knew I could get 3 VPs if I headlined the card that lets you degrade the Defcon level by 1 and subtract the current Defcon level from 5 (it was at 3 at the turn start). That means I needed 2 more. No cards in my hand offered me any VPs. But I had the One Small Step card. Were were tied on the Space Race track so I couldn't use it, but it made me at least look at the Space Race track and see that if I burned a card to the Race and hit my roll I'd get 3 points and the win. When my friend went to play his first Action I was nervous he'd notice the Space Race and attempt to block my move by going for the 3 VPs himself (and only leaving me 1 if I tried after). He didn't. I threw the card down during my Action Round and declared I was going for the Space Race. His face sank immediately. He realized his oversight. I had been rolling horrible for the Space Race all game and it seemed somehow ignoble to win with a die roll but I saw it as my best chance to win. And win I did. I hit my roll. And you know, I didn't really feel that bad about it because all my hard work had got me to 17 VPs to begin with and given me the opportunity to win with a die roll.

I'm really impressed with this game and I can tell my buddy is too. 5 hours seemed like nothing as we poured over the board. Even though I was in the "lead" throughout 98% of the game I always felt tense--that my hold was tenuous at best and it could all come crashing down. My opponent's influence-building strategy was wearing on my psychological stamina as I often thought I just couldn't keep up with all the markers he was throwing down. But I do think--and in our post-game discussion I think he agrees now as well--that you have to manage your Military Ops or else you are potentially giving away points. Whether or not this is obvious we don't honestly know; since we are both new to the game all strategies are open for trial and error. And even though I frequent the BGG boards, I've purposefully avoided the TS Strategy forum to not gain any type of tactical advantage, especially given the numerous references I've read/heard about how an experienced player has a sizable advantage over a new player.

I can't wait until the next time we get the chance to play.




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MichaelBD wrote:
During the Headline Phase he had a card that said I had to play with my hand open for that turn and he was able to discard one of my cards.


I'd have made you toss Middle East Scoring
 
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Adam Cirone
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Great to hear that you enjoy the game. I agree that time can go by quickly without anyone noticing in Twilight Struggle; the tension and anticipation in a good game like Twilight Struggle has that effect, which is sometimes lacking from other games on the market.

I have yet to fully value the minor VP cards in one of my games, but I am realizing more and more that VPs gained from a few cards and the Space Race can really add up, and I would like to balance my play in the future to take advantage of that, so I don't find myself constantly pulling up to 13 or 15 VP through Region Scoring Cards, but never able to make that 20 VP for the win.

Coups are very important, and I find it hard to believe that your opponent simply ignored them for most of the game. Coups can switch control of countries quickly and allow you to gain access to regions in which you currently have no presence. Also, conducting Coups on battleground countries degrades that DEFCON level, which in turn prevents more Coups in particular regions but also restricts Realignments.

Since the USSR has the first Action Round every Turn, they have the ability to control the DEFCON level and Coup potential of the US player.
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Michael D'Amico
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leroy43 wrote:
MichaelBD wrote:
During the Headline Phase he had a card that said I had to play with my hand open for that turn and he was able to discard one of my cards.


I'd have made you toss Middle East Scoring


As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

The way we had been playing, it was obvious when someone had a scoring card because we weren't going about it very subtle. Whenever we had one we'd start dumping influence before playing it and the other person would catch on. In fact, there was one hand where I had the Europe scoring card and he played an Ops card to dump some points in Europe. I looked at him and said, "have the Europe card, huh?" I then used that little mind-play to start dumping in Europe, which he didn't match because obviously he didn't have the card. Unfortunately he had buried himself in pretty well and I didn't have the Ops points to do as much damage as I'd like.

And in his defense I don't think he was able to put it all together that I had a great draw at the right time. I had a somewhat perfect storm of cards. I had two 4 Ops cards and more US than USSR events. And he had a greater presence in the ME than I did, so he probably thought he could fend off my attack.

Jayne Starlancer wrote:
Great to hear that you enjoy the game. I agree that time can go by quickly without anyone noticing in Twilight Struggle; the tension and anticipation in a good game like Twilight Struggle has that effect, which is sometimes lacking from other games on the market.

I have yet to fully value the minor VP cards in one of my games, but I am realizing more and more that VPs gained from a few cards and the Space Race can really add up, and I would like to balance my play in the future to take advantage of that, so I don't find myself constantly pulling up to 13 or 15 VP through Region Scoring Cards, but never able to make that 20 VP for the win.

Coups are very important, and I find it hard to believe that your opponent simply ignored them for most of the game. Coups can switch control of countries quickly and allow you to gain access to regions in which you currently have no presence. Also, conducting Coups on battleground countries degrades that DEFCON level, which in turn prevents more Coups in particular regions but also restricts Realignments.

Since the USSR has the first Action Round every Turn, they have the ability to control the DEFCON level and Coup potential of the US player.
I chalk it all up to being noobs.

Before, my friend and I had a stint where we played a lot of chess, and we have a group of buddies that would get together regularly for Risk. That was about the extent of our gaming. I've only recently been bitten hard by the board game bug, so all these games I've been buying are new experiences. I bought Twilight Struggle because he and I have been enjoying Memoir 44 and I thought I would add some variety to the mix since we have been getting together once or twice a week to play.

With time I have no doubt we'll start to pick up the nuances as he certainly knows now he can't avoid coup attempts. And really that's why I think this game is going to be a mainstay for us, because there is so much to learn and try.

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Andrew MacLeod
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MichaelBD wrote:
I had been rolling horrible for the Space Race all game and it seemed somehow ignoble to win with a die roll but I saw it as my best chance to win. And win I did. I hit my roll. And you know, I didn't really feel that bad about it because all my hard work had got me to 17 VPs to begin with and given me the opportunity to win with a die roll.






Most of the times that I have lost at Twilight Struggle (and, most of the time, I LOSE at Twilight Struggle cry !), it's come down to my evil opponent rolling a die successfully in the final moments. This factor is the thing that I hate most about Twilight Struggle: investing so much time, energy, and tears into the game, and then it's decided upon a single die roll.
 
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Russ Hewson
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Which of course it isn't, as you have to be in a commanding position to be able to win with that dice roll...
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Andrew MacLeod
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A commanding position has to be pretty all encompassing at times. For example: you are almost at 20 VP's, but your opponent almost controls Europe, but for Italy. Said opponent plays Brush War against Italy, wins on die roll. Next phase, he plays European scoring. Game over, in spite of your commanding VP total.
I've been there........
 
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amacleod wrote:
This factor is the thing that I hate most about Twilight Struggle: investing so much time, energy, and tears into the game, and then it's decided upon a single die roll.


Maybe I shouldn't have said "a single die roll". There have many games that I have lost due to an unending series of MYSELF rolling bad die rolls on coups, space race and/or re-alignments. IMO, Twilight Struggle is a unique combination of chess and poker. It drives me up the wall.....and yet I persist in playing it, and gobbling up every word that's said about it here!
 
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Uhtoff wrote:
Which of course it isn't, as you have to be in a commanding position to be able to win with that dice roll...


Actually, now that I think about it, one DOESN'T have to be in a commanding position to win with a single die roll.....that is, a single die roll in the final few AR's of a game might not cause automatic victory, but it could result in a major change of fortunes come final scoring. For example (and no, this hasn't happened to me, but similar things have: I tend to lose with my opponent having only a handful of VP's at the end of the game): you (as the American) are in the lead at 2 VP in the final AR or so, after a balanced game throughout. You hold the China Card. Suddenly, your opponent lucks out with a die roll, and places an orbiter around the moon for 4 VP. Now its 2 VP in favour of your opponent. You have the final action, but there's absolutely nothing you can do to change things. Final scoring is a washout, except for the China Card, so the game ends in a 1 VP victory for the Soviets, as a result of the last die roll of the game.
IIRC, I think I lost once on a lucky Olympic roll, giving my opponent a marginal edge on me at game end.....
 
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So then the game was very close and one side was lucky, why is that dice roll any different to being lucky and getting an extra 4 ops card that turn? Or getting the extra OPEC at the right time and getting 3 points not 1?

All I'm saying is that although you have the impression of a lucky dice roll winning the game, it's just the culmination of a lot of events leading up to that point.
 
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Michael D'Amico
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Uhtoff wrote:
So then the game was very close and one side was lucky, why is that dice roll any different to being lucky and getting an extra 4 ops card that turn? Or getting the extra OPEC at the right time and getting 3 points not 1?

All I'm saying is that although you have the impression of a lucky dice roll winning the game, it's just the culmination of a lot of events leading up to that point.
Believe me, it took us 5 hours to play, so I appreciate the notion that it was a culmination of a lot of events.

And I will say that we have since played 3 more games, with each game taking less and less time (the last game, played earlier tonight, only took an hour-and-a-half). As of now, the USSR has won 3 out of the 4 times we played, with no USSR victory making it to the 10th turn. This last, quick game played was over by the end of Turn 4, so we have some work to do in regards to learning effective US strategy.
 
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