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Subject: Ways to force a Thermonuclear War game ending rss

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Brian Schroth
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Well, obviously it's easy to force a Thermonuclear War by losing. But what about doing it and winning? Does that ever happen?

The rulebook gives the example of playing the Olympic Games at DEFCON 2- if the opponent boycotts, the host loses even though it was the opponent's decision that led to degrading defcon. But that's not really forcing nuclear war, because it just means nobody will ever play Olympics at DEFCON 2.

I've played this game once, so I'm not super familiar with it. So I'm asking you what ways you can come up with that can force nuclear war. Are there any?

I'm thinking maybe with a card like Aldrich Ames where you can order the opponent's hand, and if it includes a USSR event that degrades DEFCON, you can make it their last card and then ensure DEFCON is 2 by that point. Are there other ways? I'm not familiar enough with the game to know how feasible/common this is, but I remember playing it and thinking about the possibility and it seems like something you could do.

I have to say, I hope not. I really like the DEFCON track thematically. The idea that whoever causes nuclear war is the loser is good. But then things like the Olympics, and any other way where I can make a decision that leads to you being the phasing player when defcon degrades to 1 really ruin that. I would very much prefer it if the rules were such that anyone who made a decision that forced defcon 1 was the loser, instead of the phasing player at the time. It's not just about the theme, either- I really don't like the idea of playing a long and epic game like Twilight Struggle only to have it come down to "Oh, well I got lucky and drew the combo that can force nuclear war, I guess I win and there's nothing you can do about it."

So what ways are out there to have a game end by nuclear war? Since in a normal situation it never would as no sane phasing player would ever choose to degrade defcon.
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The original Aldritch Ames (which you are referring to above) could force an autoloss if the US was holding Lone Gunman. Infamous combo.

Otherwise there are several cards that are autoloss traps. CIA, Lone Gunman, Olympic Games, Duck and Cover, KAL-007, Ortega, We Will Bury You, Missile Envy, etc. Some of these are easier to tip-toe around than others.

Certainly, if you know that your opponent is holding either CIA or Lone Gunman, then simply removing their ability to hold a card would do it, but even then a few events will raise DEFCON enough to put them back in the clear (at a cost).
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Karl Bunyan
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I don't think there are any ways to force a player to play a DEFCON lowering card, although there are plenty of ways that a player can leave themselves forced to play one by a combination of bad hand management and a nasty event.

A completely unlucky USSR hand of:

- Grain sales
- CIA created
- Star Wars
- Duck and Cover
- Five year plan
- Soviets shoot down KAL

combined with a (very strange) US headline of Brezhnev Doctrine would almost certainly do it. Or even without Brezhnev... But that's just very bad luck, not forced by the US player.
 
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Steven Wyman
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Ames was retooled because he was the only way to FORCE a win with defcon. He was flat out the best card in the game. With the new cards it can't be done (to the best of my knowledge).
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Brian Schroth
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A minor request, which you can ignore if it's a hassle: If you post about a card/combo, can you explain briefly how it works? I only played once and we didn't even make it to late war so I don't have encyclopedic knowledge of the cards yet.

How many side-specific defcon-degrading cards are there? My understanding is that you generally can space race one card and hold another, so if you had enough bad cards you might be forced to play one.

How about this alternate question for those of you who have played many games: How often do your games end in thermonuclear war? If it ever does happen, would you say it's always a case of "he played that poorly, and should have avoided it by doing X", or is it sometimes "he just got screwed"?

And is there anyone else out there who feels like the ability for one player to decide to degrade to defcon 1 but still be the winner (via something like Olympics or CIA created) is lame? I like the tension of needing to get rid of a dangerous card but it seems to kill the thematic idea behind the nuclear war victory condition.
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Jacovis
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Brian,

You'll find with experience that learning to manage the defcon track is an essential element of the game, and that the more you play the less likely these things are to happen. The thing about Twilight Struggle is that 80% of the events WILL happen in the course of a game. Which means that you need to mitigate as much as possible the (metaphorical) damage the house of cards is going to do to you when it comes tumbling down.

Not IF, but WHEN. It is exactly that tension of knowing that those situations can occur that will lead players to make that choice... do I play Event X to raise defcon one level, just in case my opponent has Event Y, or do I run with my risk and place Influence instead?

This game gets better and better with every play of it, I don't think you'll have the same concerns later on!

Cheers!

Jacovis
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Karl Bunyan
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BagelManB wrote:
How about this alternate question for those of you who have played many games: How often do your games end in thermonuclear war? If it ever does happen, would you say it's always a case of "he played that poorly, and should have avoided it by doing X", or is it sometimes "he just got screwed"?


I'm not as experienced as many, but I don't think I've ever had a game end from an unavoidable nuclear war. I made more than a few newbie errors and I think once have won from a double-headline defcon reduction in late war. Once you get used to them, the defcon-lowering cards don't serve as a way to have a loss forced on you but rather are a way of having your choices limited/made more difficult.

Some examples:

- don't headline Olympics when the Defcon is at 2 or 3. (3 can be bad if your opponent headlines something like Duck and Cover and lowers Defcon from 3 to 2 first.)
- as Soviets if you have Duck and Cover or CIA Created in your hand, you'll generally play them in action round 1 of a turn and forego the coup. (Well, something has to stop the USSR from having 9 free coups!)
- as US with Lone Gunman, you may be able to cancel it with UN Intervention, but it sucks to only get 1 Ops point, and then you'll have to play all the cards from your hand that turn... decisions decisions...

It's all part of the subtleties and complexities of the game!

Karl
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Jason Weed
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When I was relatively new to the game, I won in the headline phase when 2 degrade defcon cards were played. I had been losing pretty bad and my opponent was rather upset, but I didn't force it.
 
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I even wrote a session report for it, a while ago.

Five-Year-Plan & Grain sales to the Sovjets - A deadly combination.

Cheers, Haring
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Ron Gregory
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Another example from a recent game: my opponent played #45 Summit for the event when DEFCON was at 2, and the winner of the die roll can move DEFCON one level in either direction. He won the die roll by one, but, had he come up short, game over.
 
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