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1989: Dawn of Freedom» Forums » General

Subject: when does this get fun? rss

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Ken Thibodeau
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Lakoda wrote:
I know I'm going to get torn apart for this here


Most likely
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Francis K. Lalumiere
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It's pretty risky to call a deep game like this (or TS) "too random" after only one play (and was it a full game at that?).
Sure, there'll be some wild swings, but you'll find that they tend to balance out over time.

I've played 1989 half a dozen times, and only the first two games resulted in a blowout (one for the Democrat, one for the Communist). All the others were tense nail-biters that kept us on the edge of our seats until the end.

Give it a few more tries!


A few more thoughts in parting.

This isn't a Euro -- it's closer to a wargame than to, say, something like Agricola. Randomness is expected here -- indeed necessary. Try to go with the flow.

Also, if you feel that each card is too powerful, then you're on the right path. Try to harness that power so that it benefits you more than your opponent. I know, easier said than done...
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kergen ramirez
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Take time understanding the card events,learn how the cards interact with each other know when to use a card for ops and when to play a killer event.

Torn apart? I would expect worse than that lol
 
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Iain K
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Lakoda wrote:
I know I'm going to get torn apart for this here


A sad but true commentary on what our community here has become.

Quote:

In the end we were playing the deck as much as, if not more than, each other.


A succinct summary on what many of us find wrong with CDGs.

Quote:
How do people look past this fault?


To many it is not a fault, tastes vary.

Quote:
Did we miss something?


I don't think so.

Quote:
Is TS this random as well?


Yes.

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Warren Smith
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weishaupt wrote:
This isn't a Euro -- it's closer to a wargame than to, say, something like Agricola. Randomness is expected here -- indeed necessary. Try to go with the flow.
This.

Something I actively try to do as well.
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suPUR DUEper
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I like Puerto Rico and I like Twilight Struggle/1989.

It is true that in TS and other card driven games that the deck can sometimes provide for some wild swings. However, the decks tend to be self correcting- that is, if you have a bunch of my events in your hand then I probably have a bunch of yours....

The greatest aspect of the decks is the sheer number of problems and excruciating decisions you have to make. If managing chaos and managing probabilities are not your cup of tea, you might be well served to steer clear of them. Plus the virtually infinite combinations a deck provides gives the game immense replay value.
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Adam Cirone
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Neither Twilight Struggle nor 1989 is "random"... at least not in the sense that I believe you are using the word. They are highly "variable" in the sense that you never know when certain cards will appear, how the dice will roll, or in 1989 what your Power Struggle hand will look like.

Variability of this sort is what makes many wargames fun, and while TS and 1989 are not wargames in the strictest sense, the enjoyment that most players get out of them is due to the variability from game to game.

I have only played two games of 1989, and I can attest that the events are more powerful than those in TS. This makes the game "swing" more often I believe, but the paths to victory for the players are asymmetrical. In both of my games, the Communist achieved auto-victory at 20 VPs, yet there were many powerful swings for the Democrat throughout the game. The deck seems to be stacked against the Communist player, but the scoring opportunities for the Communist player balance that reality.

If you don't enjoy any "randomness" at all, then 1989 and TS might be hard for you to swallow. But the draw of the cards and the roll of the dice will not decide the winner of either game if both players are familiar with the events in the deck. Learning the events well, and knowing how to cope with them, is an important part of learning these games and enjoying them.

In Twilight Struggle, the American player knows that putting influence in Cuba, France, or Egypt too early is a bad play because of Fidel, De Gaulle, and Nasser (respectively). Once you begin to learn the details of the events in the deck, you will feel much more in control of the situation.

However, if you are not interested in the learning the events in the deck, then you might find it difficult to enjoy this game in the long-term.
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Bruce Wigdor
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Quote:
Is TS this random as well?


Pretty much, yes. There are lots of random elements that will wipe out your carefully laid plans.

But don't confuse "random" with "luck dependent." Both TS and 1989 are far more games of skill than luck. There are so many luck points in the game, that if you are playing better than your opponent, more of your plans will come to fruition than his.

The point that a lot of Euro players miss when they encounter games with so many different luck points like 1989 is that, in games of chance, the more luck points there are, the greater the chance of the luck balancing out.

A practical example of this regression towards the mean can be found if you compare 1989 to a Euro like Puerto Rico. There is almost no luck in Puerto Rico: the only exceptions are the tile draws and the seat assignments. The tile draws have very little impact upon the game, so instead you have a game where the seat you receive is almost everything! I used to play a ton of PR--it's been a while, but there is one seat (the 3rd one?) that has been analyzed to have a huge advantage. We sometimes used to joke and say "gg" to the player who got that best seat before the game even started.

The bottom line is that because there is hardly any chance for luck to smooth out the advantage, the choice of seat almost decides the game! Based on this, I could easily make the argument that PR is more luck dependent than 1989.

The idea that TS and 1989 are games where skill reigns supreme over luck has been supported in the competetive setting. The same player (Stefan Mecay) won the World Boardgaming Championships at TS three years in a row, in a field that I think was larger than 100 all three times. While playtesting 1989, we ran two competetive leagues, and the same player (Riku Riekkinen) won both times. The same player (Charles Robinson) came in 2nd both times too.

Clearly, these games are testing a player's skill--it's just a different type of skill than most Euro players are used to. Skill in Euros tends to be a more chess-like calculation of all the possible permutations. Games like 1989 have too many permutations to do that: there's just too much to consider. When you make a move that requires a die roll, you need to consider the upside and probability of a good roll along with the downside and probability of a bad one.

Skill in 1989 involves knowing how to maximize the advantage of a good hand and how to minimize the downside of a bad one. Skill in 1989 involves knowing how to prime things to give yourself a good chance to get lucky, and how to guard against lucky cards/rolls by your opponent. Skill in 1989 involves having a lot of possible plans based on the way luck steers the game.

I'm not saying that one type of skill is better than the other--it's largely a matter of taste. However, I will point out that the randomness inherent in 1989 steers the game into different channels every time you play, which I feel adds to replayability. Success in 1989 requires that you adjust your plans as you're playing, as opposed to picking a plan at the game's start and sticking to it. I like this too.

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Riku Riekkinen
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I would say that more than half of the rules are hidden in the deck. So if one just reads the rulebook, the game (1989 or TS) feels as random as any game without reading the rules. This is more true to TS & 1989 than to other CDGs (well perhaps add Labyrinth here also).
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Ken Thibodeau
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Lakoda wrote:

The wife and I are set to play this again on Wednesday, I hope my experience improves with 1989.


please let us know how it went and your feelings after your 2nd play.

I too have played 2 games of 1989 so far. The first game left me lukewarm, but I still had the urge to play it again. The second game was way more interesting because I could see more than just the text on the cards. I knew some cards from 1st play and the game blossomed when I started to make plans further than the next card to play. Can't wait for my next game now.
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Adam Cirone
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Lakoda wrote:
Wow, wait more cogent responses then I expected. Thanks!


Welcome to the Wargames forums and community.

Some more comments from me... I have played far more Twilight Struggle than 1989. In comparison, I would say that TS seems more "stable" than 1989, some cards can be powerful, but nothing that will make you pull your hair out.

I see myself pulling TS when I want a tighter game with less "swing" and pulling 1989 when I want a game with a little more chaos. But those are just my current perceptions and opinions.

Regarding length, that will be based on preference too. More and more I prefer something longer and more complex, even if variability and "seeming randomness" is rampant. If you ask me, the best thing about a short, calculating euro-game is that I don't have to play it for very long...
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Dan Moore
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Everyone is playing nice.

This is your first CDG? a word from my experience: keep playing with your wife, introduce other beginners. Experienced players vs beginners is, to my experience, very not-fun. My games of TS against other beginners were head hurting in the same way that pushing my skull through a mesh window. It was fun, though.

The calculation in CDGs involves knowing - - ie memorising - - every single card, counting the deck furiously, and preparing according. That's not my cup of tea. Maybe if I tried, I would enjoy the genre more.

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Lakoda wrote:
I know I'm going to get torn apart for this here

Not by me!

Quote:
In the end we were playing the deck as much as, if not more than, each other. How do people look past this fault? Did we miss something? Is TS this random as well?

I've played the game well over 20 times and like most CDGs, the first few are kinda rough as you learn the cards and figure out some strategies.

The cards in 1989 have a lot more effect on the board state than any card in Twilight Struggle, and more often than not, the 2-3 ops card you just played is worth 4-6 effective ops in the event for your opponent. Hand management is a much bigger deal in 1989.

I can't answer the "when does this get fun" question for you - it might well be never. There are games where it takes several plays before the little light bulb goes on and I get it, but if I play a game and I don't like it (win or lose), then I tend to trust my instincts and get rid of it.
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Patrick Korner
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My first five games of 1989 (all as the Dem) were against the same person, who had about a 10 game lead in terms of games played.

I got smoked over and over and over again, getting quite frustrated along the way. And yet much of the frustration was the result of an admittedly hypocritical set of complaints: the game's too random! you're too skilled! (wait, those two things can't coexist, can they?)

Finally, in game 6 the light bulb went off and I won. I won again game 7 and am looking forward to playing as the Communist next time.

The game is about much more than cardplay. Board position, setting yourself up to be protected against support checks (while hopefully also setting yourself up to make effective support checks of your own) and knowing what risks to take (and when to take them) are all hugely important. Add that in with the cards themselves (and all the agonizing choices about what to play when) and you have quite a game.

I hope the OP sticks with it and I hope the spark comes. There's a ton of fun to be had here, but you have to look past the die rolls and see how you can influence the rolls' results before that can really happen.

pk
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The OP brings up a good question, though. Given the choice between TS and 1989, which would you recommend as a first introduction to CDG's?

I'd have to give it to TS. As someone else commented, I think it's a more stable game right out of the gate. Also, scoring regions in 1989, with the trick-taking minigame, is less intuitive than the straight ahead board position method in TS.
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Chris Linneman
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garygarison wrote:
The OP brings up a good question, though. Given the choice between TS and 1989, which would you recommend as a first introduction to CDG's?

I'd have to give it to TS. As someone else commented, I think it's a more stable game right out of the gate. Also, scoring regions in 1989, with the trick-taking minigame, is less intuitive than the straight ahead board position method in TS.


I have found 1989 to be more accessible to players unfamiliar with CDGs. It doesn't have the subtleties of the DEFCON track, and there is no instant loss from simple hand mismanagement as there is in TS. That said, as Patrick noted, the first few games of any CDG are going to be about learning the system. It's hard to appreciate any game in which half the rules are hidden in card text that is revealed throughout the course of the game (as Riku noted) until you have a full knowledge of those rules.
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Jim F
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I am looking forward to playing 1989, which a friend has recently purchased. It'll be nice to play a game where the news wasn't just about terrorism, pedophiles and the collapse of the euro. Happy days.
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Lakoda wrote:
Wow, wait more cogent responses then I expected. Thanks!

I get a little pissy when people say I shouldn't "review" a game after one play. I never claim to be reviewing it, just offering my reaction to the game and my thoughts. Hence this is in the general not the review folder.

A lot of people touched on what our issues where. Random is not the correct term. I really like the suggested variable. The strong swings just wasn't something I expected from a game that everyone tells me is deep. I wasn't expecting a euro (I much prefer ameritrash or light war games anyways) but I haven't played CDG like this before. More then anything I think the game isn't a great fit for me (I dislike having to plan to the cards when they vary so much in power), and it was mostly dashed expectations (expected less variability in card power).

The wife and I are set to play this again on Wednesday, I hope my experience improves with 1989.


I think you will find that with each passing play, the game will seem a little less random and then one game everything will just click and you will be hooked.

Good luck and have fun.

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Jonathan
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Lakoda wrote:
I am not big on memorizing cards and counting decks to 'calculate' what I should do...

...how do you protect from that short of getting double digit influence.


Card driven games aren't going to be for everyone, the same way that, say, soccer isn't for everyone who likes sports in general. I wouldn't say you need to be a casino-level card counter to do well in games like this, but some idea of the event deck, and what a few of the very key events are is helpful in plotting strategy.

This doesn't have to be onerus, but if the whole Early Year deck has been dealt out and you haven't seen Solidarity yet, there's a good chance you should get ready for it! The same goes for other potent cards like New Years Eve Party. Having a general awareness of what they are and what they do helps to plan ahead. Awareness of what the powerful events are can take a couple of games. If that's a big issue for you, that's OK. You haven't done anything wrong, and you might prefer another game with more open information. There aren't too many hidden things to memorize or plan in Puerto Rico, for example. Ultimately, there are so many great board games out there that you can be picky and find the ones that work best for you and your wife. I might give 1989 a few more tries, as it does get better with repeated plays. Good luck!
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Bruce Wigdor
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Quote:
I am not big on memorizing cards and counting decks to 'calculate' what I should do.


The calculation of what to do in a game like 1989 has very little to do with card memorization and card counting. Most good moves are independent of card counting issues.

Yes, it's helpful to know the deck. But to know the deck, you don't have to sit down with the cards and memorize them. You just have to keep playing. The cards that are important to know will become known to you very soon.

Yes, it's helpful to track the important cards that have already been played. But again, this is not a blackjack-style of card counting that taxes the mind in ways that are unpleasant. It's important to know which scoring cards are still in the draw deck and which ones have already been played. But really, you are probably going to know that information anyway. And if your memory is really bad, you're allowed to check the discard pile to double check.

So you don't have to even count cards--you can check the discard pile any time you like. And again, it's not important to track every card. After a short period of time, you're going to know the cards you're going to want to track.

People tend to overstate the importance of card counting in games that have cards. Memorizing the deck? Most top Twilight Struggle players admit that they still don't know all the Late War cards by memory. Counting cards? I'll use Up Front as an example even though, while card driven, it is not in the CDG family.

I am the defending WBC champion at Up Front, and I've won it once before too. I have read several articles upon the importance of counting cards in Up Front--there was even one included in the expansion rulebook for Banzai, complete with statistical analysis of the deck that included variances and standard deviations.

If you read these articles you could easily be led to believe that you could never be successful at the game without being a card tracking genius. Well, I'm no card counting genius--I usually only count two things in Up Front: I keep track of how many of the two streams have come up, and I also keep track of the three wire cards. That's it. And I win pretty regularly.

As for the events in the CDGs being too powerful, there are a lot of powerful events. One event is not going to decide a game, unless you look back at the game with 20-20 hindsight and ignore the countless other events that led up to the point where the "decisive" event took place.

There were two events that personally concerned me as being too powerful in playtesting: The Monday Demonstrations and Helsinki Final Act. The last 159 games of playtesting were played tracking the turns when these events were played, if at all.

I think most people would consider The Monday Demonstrations as the most game warping card in either TS or 1989--it's like a nuclear bomb of Democracy that explodes in East Germany. Yet the Democrats win rate when the event was played was only in between 5% and 10% better than when it was not.

Several people have claimed that the Helsinki Final Act card determines the winner too much. One person here on BGG claimed that there is no way the Communists could win more than 10% of the games where Helsinki Final Act was played on the first turn. In fact, the Communists won over 40% of these games that we tracked.

Single events, and single die rolls just don't affect the game as much as non-CDG players think when they encounter these games. The game is too long to be so random? It's the length that ensures that the random elements of the game do not play too great a role in determining who wins.

Anyway, card driven games are not for everyone. For me, the addition of cards to wargames rekindled my interest in them. In the past, wargaming was very interesting, but not necessarily so much fun. I often enjoyed reading the rules to a game more than I enjoyed playing it. Cards changed all that--I think the random element of the cards adds to the challenge, depth, and replayability of the game. And most important, although this is totally subjective, the cards add to the fun factor of the game.
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Lakoda wrote:
How can you protect yourself from a card that just lets your opponent place tokens or run power struggles outside of the normal rules? Well, how do you protect from that short of getting double digit influence.


Most of the really strong cards have prerequisites (Monday Demonstrations, Walesa) or are Late Year (Civic Forum, Union of Democratic Forces). So one way to protect yourself is to not play the prereq if you draw it. There's a reason they have red text! If it does get played, don't invest too much into that country until you can track where the game-changing card is. For the Late Year cards, often by then it's too late and you've scored a ton of points already for that country.

Judging by your distaste for the events, I'm guessing you played the Communist. One of the difficulties of playing the Communist, especially when you are new, is deciding when to give up on a country. Remember, if you lose Power the scoring card is chucked, so it becomes less important. Focus your efforts on places where you can crush the Democrat and score for it multiple times instead!
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Yes, there are several ways for the Democrat player to dodge a scoring card that is bad for her. Remember, though, as the Communist you can dodge any bad scoring card when it comes up simply by ceding power and getting it out of the deck.

One of the things about 1989 is you can never be sure how often countries will score or even if they will score at all. Hungary can score 3 times or (very rarely) never. It means games are very different and creates a lot of replayability, but can also be frustrating if you spend a lot of effort building to something that never comes.

If the game goes to final scoring, though, every country scores. So it's rare that an investment is completely wasted.
 
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Dan Moore
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Lakoda wrote:
I don't mind getting crushed, my wife usually kicks my ass at games. I was the communist though, and I was doing pretty well. The boiled down to her being able to use an event to discard Germany's scoring card, which would have netted me 16+ point, probably 20-21.

All that gets back to playing the deck though. Something that I could do in a casino if I was so inclined (and capable of). Hopefully it is just a matter of learning which cards need to be tracked and working on blocking the combo/setup of them.


I'd say that's the opinion of many posting here.

I stick by my playing at your level comment. Especially if you go online. Getting swamped by pros: not fun. Not fun.
 
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I love Puerto Rico
I love Race for the Galaxy
I love Twilight Struggle.

The thing that makes these games great is the journey. It's learning and testing the various interactions of buildings in PR. It's coming up with synergistic combinations in Race. It's responding to an unanticipated string of cards in TS. Don't think of it as memorizing cards so you can play well. Think of it as fun discovering new ways the game (and deck) presents itself each time you play.

As long as you are playing with someone who is enjoying the journey with you, it doesn't matter that neither of you have mastered the deck. In answer to the title of the post, that is where the fun is
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I've played 11 CDGs and I enjoy them very much. Of those that I have played, I have no hesitation in saying that the events in 1989 are by far the swingiest. From some of my reading, it looks like there are others with really powerful cards (Napoleonic Wars games with high variance in response card play, maybe?), but this definitely feels like an outlier in my experience.

That having been said, it's clear from reading designer notes and forum posts that the design is intended to be highly variable and allow for blowouts or tight games. Unfortunately, my games of 1989 that have been "tight" really only appeared that way and were just waiting for the Communist to lose big in final scoring. Thankfully, I have a fairly tough skin for this kind of thing, and like playing a game over and over even if I don't do well. I still have yet to win a game of Labyrinth after 10+ plays. I think in time I will come to appreciate this one more, but for now I prefer the gameplay and theme of TS.
 
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