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Subject: Twilight Struggle: The Original Red vs. Blue rss

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Matt Morgan
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This review was originally posted at [url] www.TheModernDayPirates.com[/url]


The year is 1945, and the USA and USSR have just waged a successful war to defeat the Axis powers. Twilight Struggle is an award-winning strategy game, players will take sides and spread their influence across the globe until only one superpower remains. Read on for our full review of the new Deluxe Edition reprinting.




Just the Facts:


Players: 2
Playing Time: 180 minutes
Age: 13 to Adult
Publisher: GMT Games
MSRP: $55.00
Release: 2009

Rating:
5.0/5.0

The Gameplay:

Twilight Struggle is a game that plays out over the course of 10 turns, with players going back and forth in taking a set number of actions on each turn. Victory points can be obtained in a number of ways, but in order to win, a superpower must accumulate twenty points more than the opponent. Alternatively, one player can end the game early by establishing complete control over the European continent, or causing the opposing player to initiate mutually assured destruction through changes to the DEFCON level tracker.

The game is played out entirely through the playing of cards, and on each turn, players will go back and forth playing one card each, until that turn's pre-set number of actions have been taken. Each card can be used in two ways: either for their point value, or the event text written on the card. When using a card for its points, there are several actions which a player may take:

* Establish New Influence in a Country: Place one new influence marker for each card point. Players must expand their influence along the map by placing markers in or next to countries where they already have a marker present.
* Re-align Existing Influence in a Country: After a country is chosen, players each roll a D6. If the defender's roll is lower, then the difference between both rolls is calculated, and that many of the defender's influence markers must be removed. This costs 1 point per alignment roll, so it can be performed multiple times off of one card play.
* Perform a Coup in a Country: A country is chosen, and the player backing that coup rolls against a set score (twice that country's stability number). The objective for the player is to beat that number with a combination of their D6 roll and the number on the card used to initiate the coup. For each point achieved above the country's defending number, the opposing player loses one influence. When no opposing influence remains, friendly influence markers are added instead.
* Advance Space Race Progress: Players may make an attempt to advance in the space race by rolling a D6. The number needed depends on which step the player is attempting to advance to, and the rewards include victory points and rule-bending advantages.


If a player chooses to use a card for it's text, they simply do what the card days. Typically, card text allows players to make variations of the basic moves described above, occasionally with added victory points as a reward. Alternatively, they sometimes modify the rules of the game for as long as that card remains in play.

The catch here is that if a card has only the enemy superpower's symbol present on it, then it is sure to benefit the opponent, not the current player. In this case, if the card is used for influence, realignment, the opposing player will be allowed to carry out the text on the card even though it is not being played for its text. Holding the opponent's cards in your hand is something of a curse, and the only way to avoid initiating their event text is to spend them on the space race, or not play them at all by holding them in your hand until the end of the turn.

Each geographical region has a special scoring card shuffled into the deck, and these may not be held in a player's hand for another turn; they must be played at some point on the turn they are received. When a scoring card is put in play, the influence that superpowers have over the various countries making up that territory is analyzed, and players are rewarded victory points depending on whether they have a presence, domination, or complete control over that region. Scoring for these achievements varies depending on which region is being scored.

Historical influences in this game take shape in the form of a 3-deck system. Cards are separated into Early War, Mid War, and Late War piles, each of which will be shuffled into the in-play deck at set points in the game. With each turn spanning approximately four years of history, the mid-war cards are incorporated after turn 3, and the late war cards after turn 7.

This summary of the rules for Twilight Struggle is just a taste of what the game has to offer, and hopefully it has convinced you to give the game a shot. There is even more to this game, such as the specific details of how to establish control over countries, exactly how scoring is determined, use of the special China card, and how the DEFCON track is handled. If you are interested in reading more about how this game works, the full game rules are available in PDF form.

Contents:
# 228 full color counters
# One Deluxe 22"x34" full-color mounted map
# 110 Event Cards:
# Two six-sided dice
# 24-page Rule book
# 2 full color Player Aid cards



There's a lot of them, and they are beautiful. High quality cards, check. Properly sized and sturdy box, check. The board is the standout piece here, though, as it is huge yet uses a flush-mounted print to allow it to fold into a tiny space, all without compromising the artwork or gameplay surface with any bothersome creases.

The instruction booklet for this game is very well written, and a nearly complete turn-by-turn analysis of a sample game, as well as player reference sheet, are all included to make sure that player's gain a full understanding of the rules. This is the first game our playtest group encountered in a long time where not a single rules error was made during the first playthrough!

GMT Games has even gone so far as to provide optional pieces that may or may not benefit your gameplay, such as markers that serve as reminders for cards remaining in play. This new printing is dubbed the "Deluxe Edition", and including such components makes it worthy of such a title.

Our Thoughts:


Twilight Struggle has all the makings of a great 1vs1 strategy game, as there are multiple victory conditions and many ways to achieve them. The flexibility afforded by the card system allows players to adapt their strategy however they like, whether it be to stonewall their opponent, outperform them, focus on upgrading technology, or adopt a balanced mix of all tactics as they suit the situation at hand.

The progression of time is also handled beautifully in this game. The 4 years per turn allows the game to pace itself well with a perfect 3-hour playtime, where it is very enjoyable to see new events come into play as the war moves into its later stages. The space race is a great side game as well. While it a great mechanic as a safety valve for dumping the opposing team's cards, it also shines for its realism in pacing alongside the actual progression of events. Put simply, players actually do feel as though they are playing out the events of the Cold War when they sit down to enjoy this game.

In short, Twilight Struggle puts players in the driver's seat of a war sparse on combat, and winds up delivering an engaging strategic battle. What's more is that the game manages to please multiple audiences at once. There is an incredible amount of factual information about the Cold War included in this game; it is a veritable history lesson in a box. This pleases the hardcore wargame simulation crowd, yet the designers have taken an editorial pen to some small facts of the era in order to make the best game possible (wherever any such deviation from fact occurs, there is careful documentation as to not upset the previously mentioned history buffs). The end result is one of the smoothest 2-player tactical experiences we've seen hit our table in a long time. This game is deserving of a perfect score as it sets out to accomplish a very ambitious goal and delivers on all accounts. Twilight Struggle should find a home on your shelf.

Where to Buy:


Twilight Struggle an be purchased directly from GMT Games for $55.00, or in local game shops wherever GMT Games are sold. The best price we could find online for Twilight Struggle: Deluxe Edition was $43.99 at Funagain Games.

Disclaimer: The Modern Day Pirates were provided a complimentary review sample of this game.



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Andrew Foerster
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I love this game, but 1) it's hard to get to the table (the theme doesn't grab my girlfriend) and 2) it sometimes gets really difficult to keep track of all the bits. How many turns have we done so far (usually, yes, you can tell by how many cards in your hand but not always)? Do we drop DEFCON? Was that a military operation? Can you do a coup here? Etc. etc. I'd imagine there's got to be a player aid or something to make this stuff a lot easier, but I haven't looked too much so far.
 
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gundabad wrote:


The year is 1945, and the USA and USSR have just waged a successful war to defeat the Axis powers.


Ahem, the Brits had some part to play too.
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Andy M
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andrewfoerster wrote:
How many turns have we done so far (usually, yes, you can tell by how many cards in your hand but not always)?


you can track this on the board! (turns and cards played)

your other points will come with play. if you play a lot of this kind of game, it is all second nature. i looked at what you wrote and though "really?" initially, but thinking more of it, i can see why it might be less obvious if isn't a game you get to play that often.
 
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Troy Davis
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andrewfoerster wrote:
I love this game, but 1) it's hard to get to the table (the theme doesn't grab my girlfriend) and 2) it sometimes gets really difficult to keep track of all the bits. How many turns have we done so far (usually, yes, you can tell by how many cards in your hand but not always)? Do we drop DEFCON? Was that a military operation? Can you do a coup here? Etc. etc. I'd imagine there's got to be a player aid or something to make this stuff a lot easier, but I haven't looked too much so far.


Andrew, have you given the Twilight Struggle Player's Aid a try? It tracks everything and you can play PBEM (Play By E-mail) so as to get more game play. If you are interested, I could show you the ropes. Over and out.
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David Zammiello
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Shauneroo wrote:
gundabad wrote:


The year is 1945, and the USA and USSR have just waged a successful war to defeat the Axis powers.


Ahem, the Brits had some part to play too.


The OP's statement is nevertheless true.

(and..ahem, how successful were the Brits getting along without the US?)
 
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Matt Morgan
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I didn't include the Brits because the focus of that statements was how the USA and USSR had just worked together. The focus was not the war specifically, which of course the Brits were very involved in.
 
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