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1989: Dawn of Freedom» Forums » General

Subject: TS newbe seeks info on 1989... rss

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It's just a ride...
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Get both.

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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Roger's Reviews: check out my reviews page, right here on BGG!
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Quoting from my review - [Roger's Reviews] 1989: Looking for Freedom

1989 follows the basic premise of the Twilight Struggle game engine. We have a shared deck split between the early, mid, and late year. You can use cards either for operations or events, opponent events in your hand will trigger when you play them, and events with an asterisk on them are removed from the game.

Relative to Twilight Struggle, events in this game are rather more dramatic in effect. For one example, The Legacy of 1968 allows the democrat player to put 1 support point into each and every space in Czechoslovakia that is not communist controlled. There are also more linked events in this game, such as the Sajudis + The Baltic Way + Breakaway Baltic Republics chain that has to be played in order.

Adding to the interesting tension in the game, of the 110 event cards, 90 of them (82%) are starred events, meaning they leave the game when played. In Twilight Struggle that ratio is much closer to half. There are 44 communist events, 14 neutral events usable by either, and 42 democrat events.

The direct consequence of this is that hand management is incredibly fraught with peril. If you play your events, powerful though they may, and your opponent sticks with playing ops, in the reshuffles your hand will be filled with the wrong colour of cards and make your life miserable. I remember one game vividly where I was dominating the board heading into the final turn as the democrat player and receiving a hand of nothing but red events and my game was undone.

There are 44 communist events, 14 neutral events usable by either (9 if you discount the scoring cards), and 42 democrat events. You spend your events at your peril, but it's even more harrowing to play a 2 ops card that lets your opponent remove 4 of your support points from the board!

The two most dangerous and dynamic aspects of the game are the support check and the scoring phase.

Like Twilight Struggle, you can use ops points to place support points, but 1989 has replaced the coup and realignment actions with the support check. A support check can be made anywhere your opponent has support, can be triggered with any value of operations card, and most nasty of all, can happen in any country on the board because unlike the Twilight Struggle safety net of the DEFCON track that only prevents coups and realignments in specific regions, the board in 1989 is open and in play all the time. This means there's a lot more to keep track of and be conscientious about. And, not only do support checks get to add a +1 bonus for every adjacent city you control, you get to make two rolls, so you can theoretically hit the same space twice with one play of a card.

There are five scoring cards in the game, one each for Poland and Hungary (early year), East Germany, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia (middle year), and Romania (late year). When a scoring card is played, rather than simply scoring presence/dominance/control like in Twilight Struggle, you're now playing a game of poker with the power struggle phase. The power struggle deck is shuffled, and players get cards based on the number of cities they control. If you control at least one, you get 6 cards, and 2 for every city you control beyond that. If you control no cities in the country in question, well, you're about to get pummeled. Either player may raise the stakes in the outcome by discarding three of their power struggle cards, which will add a cumulative +1 to the die roll once the power struggle is over.

The power struggle begins with the player who used the scoring card. They lead with a card from their hand, which can be a petition, march, strike, rally in the square, or a leader (if they control the right kind of space). Leaders are wild in that they can be used to respond to or initiate any type of card. The other player then must match the suit and rolls a die to see if they can take the initiative by at least matching the number on the card played. A Rally in the Square is always handing the initiative back to your opponent as they all have a value of 1. There are also a handful few wild cards that do things like prevent a suit from played anymore in that struggle ("no more marches for you!") or remove a support point from the country ("no more elite leaders for you since you don't control that space anymore, ha!").

Play continues until someone cannot or chooses not to respond to the play of a card. Once the power struggle is resolved, the victor rolls a die and the result of the die roll determines both how many support points the loser must remove from the country (ouch), and how many victory points the winner earns for coming out on top. If the democrat player won, it's possible that with a high enough roll that the communist player is ousted from power and that scoring card is then removed from the game!

That done, the country is then scored, Twilight Struggle style, for presence/dominance/control.

Assuming the communist player was not ousted from power, they then can choose to either remain in power, or to voluntarily cede power. In the former instance, they score the power value on the scoring card multiplied by the number of times the scoring card has come up; this means you can earn a lot of points in Poland, say, if you can hold on to power and the scoring card comes out multiple times. In the latter instance, the regime becomes democrat and the scoring card is removed from play. The country remains in play for final scoring at the end of the game however, assuming it gets that far.

The decision whether or not to cede power is one of major strategic importance to the communist player. At game end, they earn bonus victory points for the number of countries they still control, but this must be measured against the likelihood of having that country's scoring card coming up again, which in turn will require a commitment of ops points in that country. Voluntarily ceding power on the other hand, allows you to focus your energies elsewhere on the board, and there are many events in the deck that will likely allow you to pillage and plunder the democrat support points. This is, by far, one of the most interesting decisions in the game for the communist player.

For all that there are truly nasty events in the game, there is a safety valve for both players in the Tiananmen Square track, which is analogous to the space race from Twilight Struggle. However, in a brilliant innovation, the track has variable target numbers for both powers to achieve, and any value ops card can be used. Not only that, but players also get to add +1 if they use their own event on the track and if you missed your roll previously, you get +1 on your next attempt. The democrat player has a relatively easy time of it to start, needing only a 5 or better to get on the track, but needs a 10 to get to the final space. The communist player has a peak in the middle, but it gets easier as the track goes on.

There is a lot of incentive built into the Tiananmen Track to invest cards in it too. Just getting onto the track gives you a +1 to future rolls (until your opponent catches up), to making your 1 op cards worth 2, all the way to more powerful effects such as playing an opponent's card without triggering the event or playing your card for both the ops and the event.
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Judit Szepessy
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You are my man, Cole, nice to meet you! Because people keep comparing TS with 1989, and you are the first gamer who has never played any before. This is where I started when I joined the WGR League when playtesting started for 1989. I did not look up your profile so I do not know what games you play. I mainly play euros, and from this background, 1989 was a big but worthy jump for me. There are some nuances in the rules that you have to get used to keeping track of, and it takes some time to get to know the cards, but it is the same with all card driven games. However, the basic mechanics and rules are nicely streamlined.

If you are interested in 1989 more than TS, I think, you should definitely get this game first. I am going to try TS online first, and I expect it to be quite easy to pick up after having played 1989. I also have a limited budget, and the online opportunity comes in handy.
There is also a strong element of area control in 1989, that makes the gameplay more challenging.
Lots of replayability, challenging gameplay and tension throughout the game.

I do not know if this is what you were looking for ..
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Judit Szepessy
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I hope Ted will chime in, but as far as I know, people usually say that 1989 does some things better than TS and vica versa. The core mechanics are TS.This is definitely not the case that one game is better than the other or more improved, of course, personal tastes are always different.

Both are great and grail games, and I think, at this point for such gamers like you the theme will be an important decisive factor.

Not trying to blow my horn, check out the review I posted this morning to get some ideaq of how extremely well the theme is incorporated in 1989: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/809681
Edit: you saw my review, thanks!
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Troy Creamer
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Hi Cole,

I had not played either and just got and played my first game of 1989 in last weekend. I was very happy that I own 1989 instead of TS. First off you do not need to have played TS. I was just fine playing it and didn't feel like I was missing anything. I love great components and the 1989 components are amazing especially the board. The guy I played with had played TS and afterwords he brought out the TS (Deluxe) edition and in my opinion the 1989 art and board is way more appealing. At this point if I want to try TS at some point many people I know from my game group have it. However nobody else has 1989. I am very happy with my purchase and happy i got 1989 at this point then TS. However the cold war does seems a bit more iconic then 1989, and the events are more widely known. I do still at some point want to play TS because its so well respected. At this point I don't feel like I need to own it.
BTW - I really enjoyed the power struggle part of the game however I don't mind a bit of luck in my games. However I did feel like there was a lot of strategy to explore in the power struggle part.

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It's just a ride...
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Lakoda wrote:


@Shauneroo: If I my gaming budget was higher I would. :/


I know the feeling.

To go into a bit more detail with regards to the question that you asked, prior experience with Twilight Struggle will certainly make it easier to learn 1989. However, neither TS, nor 1989 are difficult games to learn, so if, as you say, the more focused timescale of 1989 appeals to you more, then get that one first.

They're both great games, so you really can't lose, and once you've learned to play one, you basically know how to play the other.
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nicolas de saint aubain
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TS was definitely the best game ever, and from my recent experience, 1989 seems just as good.

What characterizes both games is a contrast between very simple rules and a very complex strategy, which might actually be the definition of a good game.

There are 2 clichés about 1989 that you shouldn't take into account:
- "It's just TS 2"
Not at all, the mechanisms, the map, the atmosphere are different enough to enjoy playing both games.
- "1989 is a light version of TS"
Totally wrong, 1989 seems even more complex than TS.

You should definitely get both.

And don't feel frustrated after 1 or 2 games, you need at least 5 or 10 games to fully understand the depth of these games.


My only concern about 1989 is that it might not become as popular as TS, because it's probably a little bit less attractive. Couping nigeria or colombia was probably sexier than support-checking Szekesfehervar.
Because of its quite universal theme, it wasn't that hard to attract occasional gamers to TS. I'm sure that 1989 will become a top game, a classic, but perhaps for hard-core boardgamers only. So I doubt it will threaten TS in BGG ranking, despite its quality.

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mateenyweeny
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Since everyone is right now on the side of 1989, let me give a little bit of a voice to the other side.
Actually I haven't played 1989 yet (my copy is punched and just waiting for me to have the time) but here are my thoughts right now for someone who is considering playing one for the firs time.

TS has been played much more and tried, tested and revised a few times so there is little to no chance that there are some more flaws in the game that will be revised in a new edition. 1989 has not been played as much by as many people so it is possible that there may be improvements in future editions.

More importantly the two games cover different time frames. TS covers the whole cold war 1945-1989 and is rich with history of this time occurring all around the world. 1989 is focused on a smaller part of the world (with names of cities you can't pronounce ) and a smaller time frame. To some this is even more interested (for example if you remember those days well) but for others the whole cold war offers a much greater interest.

Having said all that it is worth noting that many players who love TS have already stated that 1989 is as good (maybe better) of a game than TS. This is a great sign and based on that, I would say that the game you should play first is the one that interests you more historically.
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Chris Linneman
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Here's my opinion:

If 1989 had come out first, it would be my favourite game, not TS. Yes, I think 1989 is an improvement on the classic Twilight Struggle. I did not think this possible before I played it, however the way coups and realignments are merged into one action dramatically increases the importance of positioning (since your controlled spaces support one another) while decreasing the complexity of learning the game (but not the strategy of playing well). If that run-on sentence weren't enough, let me tell you about the scoring. Twilight Struggle scoring is a rote calculation of victory points based on a snapshot of control in the region. 1989 creates a mini-game which includes its own tactical considerations, i.e., the decisions are not automatic, but interesting. This mini-game allows a player who is trailing in a country to get lucky/play well and win it, however if you are too far behind not even luck or good play can save you. Combine all this with improved production quality and a narrative I find at least as compelling as the Cold War (possibly since I did not live through most of the Cold War).

Oh, and I forgot to mention DEFCON. At first I thought, "How can we do without DEFCON? Coups will just go back and forth all over the place til the cows come home." But it works. Most spaces are high stability (3+) and you will need to depend on adjacency bonuses to make support checks (the coup equivalent) efficient. Moreover, the events are more powerful in 1989. So sometimes it is better to play a card as an event than do either support checks or place influence. This also makes the game a bit swingier than Twilight Struggle. But this is good--it makes up for the tension DEFCON nuclear annihilation created in TS. I would say because there are stronger events and the scoring is not nearly as predictable (it is easier to dodge scoring cards) the game has more luck than TS. If you play Ameritrash games it will still seem low-luck, though.

To make a long story short, if you've never played either, I would go with 1989. The game has gone through extensive playtesting by very strong players (such as Riku, TS veteran). And if you don't have that Twilight Struggle nostalgia, you won't notice that most of the mechanics are lifted from another game. You'll just enjoy it for the masterpiece it is.
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