David Banks
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1960: The Making of the President is a two-player card-driven area-control game. Due to this very particular combination of game mechanics, and the games' shared designer, it frequently gets compared to Twilight Struggle, which at the time of writing, is ranked #1 in the BGG rankings (compared to #55 for 1960).

For many people, reading reviews that spend most of their time comparing one game to another can be very irritating. As some have noted in the comments section of the reviews for this game, endless comparions with Twilight Struggle are not especially fair. Although 1960 shares many similarites with TS it is quite a different game. It plays shorter and has fewer rules, and thus it should be judged on its own merits rather than being (usually unfavorably) compared with TS.

I actually completely agree with this sentiment and think games should be weighed on their own merits; not be criticised for essentially not being the same as some other game.

"Well," some of you may be asking, "if you think that why on earth are you going to conciously compare this game to TS, then?"

It's a fair question. Let me offer three justifications:

1. I am a massive hypocrite, and reserve that right till I die.

2. There are many excellent reviews already available on BGG which cover the rules and overall feel of the game better than I can, so there is little value-added by me just writing another review like that.

3. Some people (gasp!) are not crazy about TS and if they read that 1960 is not as good as TS, they may assume that 1960 may be even worse to play. I was one of those people,and that put me off getting this game for a very long time. I am so glad that eventually did buy it, as it is not just TS-lite; it is a very different game and well worth considering. So with the aim of reaching those TS-indifferent people, I write this review.


In 1960 each player takes on the role of either Nixon or Kennedy, and their campaign staffs, in the final few weeks of the 1960 presidential contest. The game plays out over a map of the entire US including Alaska and Hawaii. The map is divided into four regions - the West, the Mid-West, the East, and the South. In these regions, each of the states has a numerical value which represents the amount of electors that state has. The biggest is NY with 45, the smallest has about 3. There are a good few which lay somewhere in 20-35 range.

The aim of the game is to be leading or carrying as many states as possible by the 9th and final turn of the game, as these will go into your column and help determine whether you win or not. A state is led if it has 1-3 cubes of your color in it (red for Nixon; blue for Kennedy); it is carried if it has 4+. There can only be cubes of one color in any state at any one time meaning that oppponent's cubes have to be cancelled out by your cubes completely before you can build up in those states. On election day any state with no cubes will go the the candidate with the most endorsements in the region in which the state is located. If neither candidates have endorsements it will automatically tilt toward one candidate or the other (e.g. Texas is a blue state if there are no red cubes in it, or red endorsements in the South).

In each turn players are dealt either 6 or 7 cards and play five phases each with these cards (except the 6th turn which is a special debate round, and the 9th turn which is election day). Each of these cards has a headline on it (such as "Suburban voters") and has an associated event with it. These events will either favor the Republican player (these events have an elephant at the bottom of the card) or the Democratic player (donkey) or both. Players can choose to trigger the event or use the card to place cubes on the board, make a media buy, or to try to position themselves on the major issues of the day (defense, economy, civil rights).

In short with any one card, you have four choices, each of which have advantages or disadvantages. Placing cubes (a "campaign action") lets you contest states in the region where the candidate token currently sits and/or move the candidate (at cost) to other regions. Doing a media buy ("advertising") allows you to try to buy media influence in a region. The advantage of this is you can reorder the issues for the next turn, you can increase the likelihood campaigning will succeed in a region, and you give yourself a little bump on election day. Lastly, you gain influence ("positioning") on the issues by placing cubes on one or all of the three markers representing the issues of the day These are rank-ordered meaning some are better to be strong on (though this can change due to advertising). The more of the three issues you are leading on by turn's end, the more endorsements and momentum you pick up (as noted above, endorsements matter on election day). Momentum buttons have some positive election day events but have a much better use in-game, which I will discuss below. The amount of cubes you use depends on the value printed on the card (between 2-4). Also, in for certain actions (such as advertizing, positioning, and some campaigning actions) you don't just place cubes but actually have to put your hand in a "campaign bag" which contains a mix of red and blue cubes, meaning these actions are less certain. Lastly, as I said, if it doesn't hurt you (e.g. has a symbol which matches your party) then you can use the event printed on the card. These events are more powerful the higher the points value on the card, and can have myraid, usually very thematic, effects - such as "Nixons' Southern Strategy" helping in the South, or the "Missile Gap" giving the player of the card a boost in defense issues.

One of the very fun elements about this game is that if an opponent plays a card that has your symbol on it for the points, you can spend a momentum button (gained from turn-to-turn by leading on the issues) to trigger the effect. Thus, even though it's their phase, you get an extra event played in your favor. If you are worried an opponent might do this you can, if you have the buttons, play TWO out in front of the card, thus blocking your opponent's ability to trigger the event. This is a very fun part of the game as the player who has momentum can pounce on their opponent whereas if you have no momentum you cannot threaten the other player, or protect yourself. I feel this dynamic does a really good job of capturing the feeling that the gods of politics are on your side (or not).

In addition to this standard turn sequence there is a debate round - where cards which have been set aside in the first five turns are used to try to win on those issues in public debates, thus giving the winner some cubes - and the final day election turn - where players get to make pushes in four last states in order to tip the election. This last turn is very tense and adds a lovely "counting the ballot" feel right as the game ends. In close games, it all comes down to this last round and the tension is great.


Phew! That was longer than I meant it to be. Let's get back to the central thesis - why I prefer this game to TS.

Those of you familiar with TS will see there are lots of similarities to 1960. The point of the game is area-control; you control those areas by using cards for their events or for points to take actions, and; ultimately you win by making sure you have more control than your opponent (it's a bit more complex than that in TS, but this a 1960 review, not a TS review so I won't go into it).

In fact, TS has - on the face of it - more depth. There are more actions you can take, and they are more varied. There is a more layered deck - split into different time-periods - unlike 1960's single deck. There is the possibility of instant death, unlike the guaranteed 9 turns of 1960. This should, in principle, give TS more tension. Indeed, these differences are often the reason many say that 1960 is the simpler cousin of TS. I contend, though, that although 1960 is simpler on rules, it is deeper in one key way: it is a more strategic game than TS.

The strategy of 1960 comes from two key elements: you can play your cubes anywhere (only having to pay travel costs), and; negative events can only be triggered by an opponent's use of momentum buttons. In TS you can only place influence in areas in particular areas based on which era the game is in, and whether the areas are linked to friendly territories. Also, in TS, when an opponent plays a card with your symbol on it it AUTOMATICALLY triggers the event. This means there are far more unwanted events being triggered all over the board compared to the one or two per turn of 1960.

Now many say this is exactly what gives TS its depth. You have to respond to the cards as they come out and make adjustments on the fly. The problem with this is there is little point in having a strategy as the randomness of the card hands can really just blow any plan you have out of the water. I have no problem with complex tactical games (I own and enjoy them immensely). The problem with TS is that the luck of the draw (i.e. the entirely random hand your opponent holds) is usually doing more damage to you than your opponent's conscious choices. I don't mind being outplayed by my opponent; what I don't like is being outplayed by chance. The solution to this randomness cannot be found inside the game itself. Instead one needs to learn the deck and then know ahead of time that if a certain card (e.g. Castro) hasn't been played, then you should hold off on your (Cuba) plans. That's all well and good but learning a deck off by heart is not a reflection of skill; it's just memory. And it breaks the game a little in that more experienced players beat new players because they (the more experienced players) know the that are cards coming, not necessarily because they actively playing better.

In 1960 the cards are less powerful and with the exception of maybe 7 or 8 cards, do not have the ability to knock the game on its ass for the other guy. More importantly, negative events CANNOT be triggered unless you have momentum buttons. And you can get momentum buttons by CHOOSING to try to win on the issues. Thus, the ability to use an opponent's cards against only happens because you choose to play a strategy which will give you this advantage - not just because the deck randomly fell out a certain way.

I feel this combo - fewer negative events, and the fact that when they do trigger its because you chose not to gather momentum - makes this game not just simpler than TS; not just more manageable; but actually more strategic. In 1960, you can make more medium-term plans and work towards them and, if you are worried about your opponent, you can try to get some momentum as a shield. Also, because you know the game won't end till election day you can think many turns into the future and relinquish areas to your opponent knowing you'll be able to (at least try to) catch up at the end.

In TS you are responding to your opponent AND pure luck much more than you are actively choosing your own actions. There is nothing wrong with that per se, but it does mean the game is more immediate and tactical. In 1960 you can choose to let go in certain places and try to make up for it later. In short, you can plan. This makes it, in my opinion, a strategy game.

I boil down the difference between the two as follows: 1960 is a game of action; TS is a game of reaction. Neither is inherently better or worse, but they are markedly different because of it. This means people who like 1960 shouldn't think TS is just a more complex version; nor should people who prefer TS think 1960 is a thinner version of TS. They are two quite different games with a number of cosmetic similarities.

In the final analysis, I prefer the planning of 1960 over the tactics of TS. When you also throw in the better quality components (admittedly I have TS's first edition), shorter play time, and (crucially) the fact that deck memorization does not considerbly hanidcap the game against newbies, 1960 is overall the better game.

This is, of course, just my own opinion. My goal here is not to show the TSers the errors of their ways. I like TS too; I just don't love it. My goal here is to reach those other people who don't love TS and tell them they may like this instead.


NB: Edited for grammar and typos.
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Stephen Sanders
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I haven't played TS, but I can say that this offers a lot, like you say, with regard to the card play. Great area control game, and I do like the opportunity to play off your opponent's card with momentum, though he can possibly block your move ahead of time. Ultimitely, the player who plays cards most effeciently will win the election.

Great review!
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Kevin Garnica
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Thanks for the review. I am exactly one of those people who doesn't care for TS but definitely prefers 1960.
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Good Review, I like how you clearly outlined what you liked and disliked. These kind of comparisons are great for future buyers of the system.

I think its worth mentioning that theme will have a large role in deciding if you will prefer TS or 1960. I'm South African and a US presidential race means nothing to me. Hence I find TS far more appealing thematically.

My 2 cents...
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David Banks
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You are right about the theme and it's something that slipped my mind completely when talking about both games.

Both of them are equally good at making the gameplay sync up with the theme. In TS, coups and the DEFCON track really highlight the brutal but tense politics going on, where in 1960 positioning really makes you want to be strong on your preferred issues.

I think that TS's theme probably has broader appeal, although the rules are more tricky. That said, they both do a very good job.

Overall, I think that 1960 nudges ahead on integration of theme, partially because the they fit the shorter narrative the game is telling.

But I think your point stands.

As a final point, the more I play games the more I appreciate high quality components. 1960 has got great components as standard though I think you have to choose to buy a deluxe version of TS to get the mounted board and cubes rather than paper and counters (someone will correct me I'm sure). It's not a deal breaker - I played Fighting Formations last week! - but I definitely think it helps set the mood and entice in non/quasi-gamers.
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DBanks wrote:

As a final point, the more I play games the more I appreciate high quality components. 1960 has got great components as standard though I think you have to choose to buy a deluxe version of TS to get the mounted board and cubes rather than paper and counters (someone will correct me I'm sure). It's not a deal breaker - I played Fighting Formations last week! - but I definitely think it helps set the mood and entice in non/quasi-gamers.


I can't argue with that, I got TS Deluxe during the last reprint P500. The components are... functional. The board is stunning though (minus that damnable stain). Gives you a real world domination feel. Even with all that though I agree 1960s components top TS.
 
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Jason Matthews
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I quite agree with the thrust of your comparison. I've always maintained that 1960 has a more strategic feel to it. You can go into a game of 1960 with a plan, and the game will allow you to test the efficacy of that plan. In TS, the scoring cards necessarily focus player attention, and planning be damned. Neither of these are absolutes. 1960 has many tactical elements, and TS has strategic ones. But, generally speaking, you are right.

I think you are a bit hard on the impact card knowledge has on TS. I think most of the obvious head slapping moments will be understood after two games. And yes , some one with two games under their belt will have a size able advantage over a newbie. But heck, I find that to be true in most Euros games much less a game of TS's weight.

One other note about tension, and really the amount of tension I'm in the mood for dictates which of these games I'd prefer to play at any given time. TS comes right out of the starting gate with high tension. Mistakes can make you lose the game. You are biting your nails from turn one.

1960 builds to a crescendo of tension. So frequently, by the time we get to the final election day draws, I am standing on my feet and pacing. In my opinion, these feelings are thematically appropriate. The Cold War was tense everyday. Any day could spark a nuclear holocaust. With a Presidential election, everything builds up to election night.

Anyway, thanks for the great review and kind words about 1960.

Jason
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JasonMatthews wrote:

I think you are a bit hard on the impact card knowledge has on TS. I think most of the obvious head slapping moments will be understood after two games. And yes , some one with two games under their belt will have a size able advantage over a newbie. But heck, I find that to be true in most Euros games much less a game of TS's weight.


Just to support Jason's comment I played a game of TS with a friend for the first time (for him) 2 weeks ago. So I'm cocky and I think I'll crush him.

He gave me a serious run for my money, he nearly won! Ended in the 10th round with 2 VPs in my favor.
 
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Nice review, and one a mostly agree with. For me, I prefer 1960 because the lower tension level allows me to enjoy the game more. After a game of 1960, I'm good to go for another (of 1960 or something else).

After a game of Twilight Struggle, I feel worn out and exhausted. I don't want to play any game right away. I just want a stiff drink.
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DBanks wrote:
"Well," some of you may be asking, "if you think that why on earth are you going to conciously compare this game to TS, then?"

It's a fair question. Let me offer three justifications:

1. I am a massive hypocrite, and reserve that right till I die.


laugh thumbsup

Quote:
For many people, reading reviews that spend most of their time comparing one game to another can be very irritating. As some have noted in the comments section of the review for this game, endless comparions with Twilight Struggle are not especially fair. Although 1960 shares many similarites with TS it is quite a different game: it plays shorter and has fewer rules, and thus it should be judged on its own merits rather than being (usually unfavorably) compared with TS.


I agree with this sentiment.

1989: Dawn of Freedom will have the same problem as 1960 in this regard. It's based even more directly on the TS game engine than 1960, and is a solidly engaging game in its own right.

Personally, while I prefer TS to 1960, (and 1989 to 1960), those reflect my tastes in games rather than any particular flaw in 1960.

Thanks for the review!
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David Banks
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JasonMatthews wrote:

I think you are a bit hard on the impact card knowledge has on TS. I think most of the obvious head slapping moments will be understood after two games. And yes , some one with two games under their belt will have a size able advantage over a newbie. But heck, I find that to be true in most Euros games much less a game of TS's weight.
Jason


You may be right. Although I have played TS about ten times, it's usually always against newbies so the difference feels stronger. I think the point I was trying to get at is that, because there is smaller range of difference in the strength of the cards, in 1960 I only need to warn new players about a few cards (gathering momentum, gaffe, Cabot-lodge) and then they are set. Furthermore, lack of knowledge matters even more in TS because, as you say, you can lose in turn 1 so deck-knowledge - even partial - really does matter. But I appreciate that if you want to design a game where the tone is tense and you want players to feel that any turn might be the last, it makes sense to go with this set-up.

Also, I fully agree that many Euros are way worse. I recently bought Puerto Rico (having strangely never played in 10 years of gaming) and although it's great it's also clear that familiarity is a key advantage in that game. It is much shorter though, so likely to see more table time.

Overall though, they are both remarkably well-designed and are very good games. My goal was not to hate on TS; just to let others (and you) know that, for some, 1960 is the preferred of the two.
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Excellent comparison. I've played both, though 1960 much more than TS, and as of right now I agree with you. I like 1960 more than I like TS, but that is liking one 9 better than another 9, so really in the scheme of all the games I've played, they're basically the same awesomeness.
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Nice review. I love 1960 and my wife really likes it too, so it actually gets played. The complexity of 1960 is right at the edge of what she will deal with in a game. TS goes over that edge so I can't play it with her. Also, like you said, the tension isn't so high throughout the game which is another plus for her. So in my household it is 1960 all the way. Would I like TS more if I got to actually play it often? Who knows. But I really do enjoy 1960.
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Thanks David for this great review. You have read exactly my mind about TS/1960 experience. I enjoy a lot both games but in different way each one. Im my experience (4 plays each one):

TS is a complex, deck knowledge rewarding, tactically very deep, long playtime, with some wild luck swings (dice rolls, hands full of many terrible events/scoring cards...) occasionally, and tension loaded from turn 1.

1960 is a simpler but more strategic game, planning rewarding, with more polished mechanics, medium playtime, with moderate and more controllable luck swings, and more fiance friendly.

My preference nowadays goes towards 1960 because I like more its 'strategic feeling', and TS is definitly unplayable with my fiance (too long and complex for her).
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Great review. I also LIKE TS, but LOVE 1960 -- for many of the reasons discussed in your review. My wife and I had a great game on Friday that came down to a close Kennedy victory (Wife) that was the result of my (Nixon's) inability in the final round to swing Ohio's votes back after she stole them from me. Tense, close finish to a great game. Love it!
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jkayati wrote:
After a game of Twilight Struggle, I feel worn out and exhausted. I don't want to play any game right away.


This sums up my experience struggling through the Twilight, too.

And for this reason, and those expressed in this very fair opinion, I am very interested in 1960.

Thanks!!
 
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kovajatka wrote:
jkayati wrote:
After a game of Twilight Struggle, I feel worn out and exhausted. I don't want to play any game right away.


This sums up my experience struggling through the Twilight, too.

And for this reason, and those expressed in this very fair opinion, I am very interested in 1960.

Thanks!!


I was very scared about TS, especially regarding my fiancée, who is (or possibly used to be) a less heavy gamer than me. To my surprise, she loved the game as much as I did and normally when we finish a game we at least consider setting up another and when we do not it is mostly because we want variety, not at all because we wouldn't play more.

This said, I played 1960 once, before knowing TS, and it is indeed very nice. The only reason I would not get it in addition to TS is the theme: being European, we both prefer different themes than this single election (despite the obvious reasons that make it stand out of the list of elections)
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What I like about 1960 is that it isn't like TS. Sure, there are similarities but, conversely, there are certainly significant distinctions in the gameplay. I like games that offer a heavy dose of theme, and I believe that 1960 really gives me the sense that I am fighting a polical campaign against either Nixon or Kennedy.

I know that 1960 is often compared to TS and I, similarly, believe that the two shouldn't be compared together. However, I have no issue with 1960 being compared and contrasted with other polical campaign boardgames, just as I have no issue comparing one WWII game against another.
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David Banks
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Bob.Gibson wrote:
I know that 1960 is often compared to TS and I, similarly, believe that the two shouldn't be compared together. However, I have no issue with 1960 being compared and contrasted with other polical campaign boardgames, just as I have no issue comparing one WWII game against another.


This is a really good point and I think what I was partially fumbling towards in my review. People compare 1960 with TS because of some of the shared mechanics and the designer but it really should be compared to other political campaign games. I've not played any others so I can't make that comparison though!
 
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David Banks
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kovajatka wrote:
jkayati wrote:
After a game of Twilight Struggle, I feel worn out and exhausted. I don't want to play any game right away.


This sums up my experience struggling through the Twilight, too.

And for this reason, and those expressed in this very fair opinion, I am very interested in 1960.

Thanks!!


Perfect! You were exactly the type of person this review was directed at!
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Howard Posner
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I haven't played TS, so I can't make the comparison, but TS would have to be pretty awesome to match 1960. For me, this is a magnificent game, and
I've written a few unflattering BGG reviews ( Fields of Fire, Urban Sprawl etc) so I'm not the easiest critic to please.
I agree with you that it drips theme, oozes strategic options, and is tense from the first card play to the last vote. It also has a rational rule book, and is one of the few complex Euro/Ameritrash games that my mum, who is 81, will happily and competitively play with me (as long as she can always be Nixon).
I just wish they would do a few more election years using the same model.
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richard Dagnall
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I love your review

Personally I love ts and 1960 they are different but similar which for menus the attraction



 
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I was going to post something asking why TS is considered so much better than 1960 (TS ranked 1st to 1960 56th). I wasn't trying to be controversial about this, they are both great games, but I was genuinely puzzled because I prefer 1960 to TS. It seems I am not alone in this and I think the reasons expressed in this thread explain that minority point of view.

I'd just like to add that there is something about TS which makes me think I'm playing a game first and fighting the Cold War second, whereas there is something about 1960 which makes me feel as if I am writing history first and moving cubes about on a board merely as an adjunct to that. The designers of TS say that they do not necessarily subscribe to the view that the Cold War was entirely the two horse race which is the stance the game, by its nature, has to take (the game is history from the perspective of a Washington hawk or a Soviet hardliner). That perspective is interesting but can lead to absurdities; de Gaulle may have been a pain in the a** but he wasn't exactly pro-Soviet, conversely Tito's hostility to Russian domination scarcely put him in the Western camp. However, there is something about an election which lends itself to this kind of treatment: issues are taken and exploited or quietly forgotten solely for the purposes of electoral advantage. And yes, that happens. When I play 1960 I think things like 'better back pedal on Civil Rights until I know a bit more about the mood in the South' or 'Martin Luther King is going to push Civil Rights up the agenda and now is the time to get on board'. This is great history.

Two fine, fine games but 1960 gives me the better experience because the history doesn't grate.
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Thanks for this review, David.

I usually play with my wife and we have 1960, but I was reluctant to buy TS because of the points you mark here. Mostly for the automathic triggering of the opponent's effects.

Now a friend gives us 1960 and I've read the rules. We've not played yet, but I suppose the difference will be as you say: most tension in TS but more randomness.

If it's so, we'll like TS, but I'll prefer 1960 because the strategic points and better components.

Regards.
 
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jkayati wrote:
Nice review, and one a mostly agree with. For me, I prefer 1960 because the lower tension level allows me to enjoy the game more. After a game of 1960, I'm good to go for another (of 1960 or something else).

After a game of Twilight Struggle, I feel worn out and exhausted. I don't want to play any game right away. I just want a stiff drink.


WOW. This is EXACTLY how I'm affected by both games. Both great, but I have to have some energy, both mental and physical, to play a competitive game of TS.
 
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