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Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ?» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Intermediate Jihadist strategy thoughts rss

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Igor Kwiatkowski
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Before I begin I must make it clear that I do not consider myself a strong player. I have played the game over a dozen times which is quite a lot by my standards on one hand, on the other it is probably very little compared to experts. Many of those games have been against newbies. I have even lost some of the games to the newbies :) Even worse, probably most of those games I played as the US, but I don’t feel the need to write about the US strategy as I think they have very clearly defined objectives and there is rarely doubt regarding what to do next - just WoI those countries, or work on your Prestige if it drops too low. Regime Change as needed, but only with a strong hand. Jihadist on the other hand needs to have fingers in many pies and I remember having trouble deciding which route to pursue in my first few games. So here are some thoughts, all of them prone to be contested, that may provide some food for thought for players who are perhaps not beginners any more but not experts either. Beginners should probably read “Getting Lost in the Labyrinth”. I know I learned a lot from it. In fact my discussion with the author is what prompted the piece you are reading right now, and he is about to publish a Jihadist article of his own.

An important thing I learned as a Jihadist player is to be bold and not to fear the die rolls. I don't usually consider myself a timid player in other games, but in Labyrinth early on I usually avoided actions that only succeeded on a 1, especially Jihad in Good countries considering that failed Jihad kills the cell. From my experience it is necessary to give them a few shots throughout the game.

If Saudi Arabia or Gulf States become Good you need to realize the game is slipping away - the other is sure to follow, and then you're only one more rich Good (Egypt, Iraq) country and an Oil Price Spike away from instant loss. So you should try to have one country in the area at IR or RC (Iraq perhaps as it starts at Poor Adversary and is as rich as the other two and is also adjacent; I started to think these three countries are the crucial triangle in many games, tending to ignore Iraq before for some reason) to spawn a lot of cells and keep going for those long shot Jihad rolls. You will lose some cells, but you can't think "1 in 6 never happens". Well, it sometimes does. Unless you don't even try, then it doesn't, but then it's your fault.

It is also smart to first play a 1-ops card when the country is at Good, not to risk too many cells, and if it works then play a 2 or 3 (provided you have sufficient cells) for a good chance to pull the country to Poor in one turn. I haven't pulled it off yet, but that's mostly because I've played the US lately. If the first roll fails and you lose a cell, follow with another 1-ops Jihad if possible or put more cells in the country. I think my Jihadist opponents should have done, or at least tried that. The difference between a nice blue Good-1 marker and yellow Fair-2 is immense - twice as expensive for the US to act, twice the success chance for the Jihadist. So when the first rich country improves to Good don't wait for others to follow suit - Jihad there early and often.

One of my favorite countries to attack as the Jihadist has often been Indonesia, as it is adjacent to Pakistan that you usually attack anyway, and it has 3 Resources + oil exporter. You have Jemaah Islamiya that puts two cells there for a good start or for some reinforcements later on. There is neutral Hambali but I consider him very weak for a 3-ops card, at least as the Jihadist event; the US Hambali event is much stronger. In fact he is so strong that I avoid plotting in Indonesia altogether. If you draw him then playing him for 3 ops you can usually perform a regular Plot action that may work as good or better than the event if you trust your luck, or just recruit 3 in IR or RC. Perhaps he can be useful for an automatic plot in Pakistan if you let it slip away toward Good, but otherwise I advise playing him for ops. Indonesia is also adjacent to the Philippines (useful for Abu Sayyaf, but admittedly the Philippines have Recruit 3 anyway so it doesn't usually need extra influx of cells) and then to the US, which is always good. Unless US plays Patriot Act, but then at least you forced them to play it as event rather than ops and remove a strong US card from the deck for a two- or three-deck game.

Indonesia is not adjacent to any other Muslim countries except for Pakistan so it's not perfect for your Caliphate, but if you get Afghanistan and Central Asia, or some African countries as the adjacent IRs, Indonesia can top it off to six total. Or force the US to try harder for the end of the deck win. Admittedly I have probably never won with Indonesia as the cornerstone of my strategy, so perhaps it shouldn't be one of my favorite targets :) but it works as a thorn in the US side. Then again, any IR country makes a good PITA for them. I'm curious to hear your opinion.

I have almost always neglected Africa as both sides, except for one play's endgame for that elusive last 1 or 2 Good resources perhaps (as the US obviously). As the Jihadist I once IR'ed Somalia for the Pirates bonus but haven't given a fully (or at least moderately) African strategy a decent shot yet. If you have ever tried it please share, I am very curious how useful it is in others' experience. Egypt is as rich as Indonesia without the oil exporter trait, but it doesn't have any dedicated cards (Al-Azhar just tests it without any gameplay effects to it), and is much better connected. Not only does it connect to other Muslim countries (poor ones, admittedly) but also to Israel, so getting it to IR would prevent Quartet which is a ridiculously powerful event for a 2-ops card (with strict prerequisites to balance it out). This alone may be worth trying to IR it. Again, I would like to know what your experience is as I have none in this matter.

Play Kashmir on the first card if possible. This pretty much guarantees you some peace in getting the Pakistani WMDs, unless US plays Bhutto (keep Afghanistan or Indonesia at IR if possible to prevent it), Covert Action or Back Channel of course, but still it’s worth a shot. WMDs usually are not your main goal in most games depending how the narrative develops, but I remember that after early hype (must get them! They win the game!) I dismissed them as unreliable, and probably many intermediate players dismissed them too. Well, now I think they’re always great to have and well worth the effort, because they provide an excellent distraction for the US from their WoI-Prestige-occasional Regime Change routine and you should devote some resources to getting them. They also help to dig out of the hole of high prestige and low funding you might get yourself into.

So there are my thoughts for now. It is after midnight here when I’m posting this and I need to get up before 6 AM so at least I hope I wasted some sleep to good use :) please share any thoughts you may have especially on Africa and Indonesia.
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Cory Suter
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This was a fantastic post. I just recently played my first two games, one on each side. Hopefully I can put some of this to use. I cannot speak to any good strategy as of yet because I'm still learning. Africa is extremely intriguing to me though and I may just start hitting that hard next game.
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Nathan Lee
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I see an African strategy as a double edged sword...it is out of the way in the sense that it is far away from the majority of resources (with the exception of Egypt) which means if the Jihadist focuses there they leave the Golden Triangle of Pakistan - Gulf States - Iraq open to the US play. 5 cells alloted to turning African states to IR is a big commitment (a minimum of 1/3 of available forces assuming full funding) in a lower resource area.

On the other hand, because it is off the beaten track, you are more likely to be unmolested in carrying out your plan. And forcing the US to RC a 1 resource country is pretty awesome!

I would only give it a try if I had gotten US prestige to low and there was a GWOT penalty to boot, but even then, I feel resources are better spent elsewhere.
 
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