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1989: Dawn of Freedom» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Power Struggle initial thoughts rss

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Neil Morgan
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Initial thoughts on play are as follows:

Initiative is key, grab it at all opportunities.

Unless you can maintain at least a 3 card advantage over your opponent, don’t ‘raise the stakes’.

Obviously use useless leader cards as the discard to ‘raise the stakes’.

Other obvious ploy is to play high when it is your attack and low when you defend.

Be wary of using wild cards to respond to a card play as you will automatically lose tempo. The only exception to this is the use of the card that blocks a suit. I use this if my opponents’ initial card play is in a suit I am very, one card or less, weak in. Toward the end of a hand I will try and play the card that removes support, if it looks like I will lose and it will make a difference in the country.

A wild card combination of opponent loses 2 cards and you gain two cards can be devastating, especially in the middle of a hand.

In general open with Petitions, this means that there is less likelihood of you winning with them, and having a -2 to the dice on the Support Check and VP roles, vital if you are the democrat and want to take power.

Keep Rally in the Square cards until later in the hand as a win with these means a +2 to the subsequent rolls.

One thing I have found that it is possible to ‘Dummy’ an opponent into continue playing a suit, even where the cards he is playing are low value, by responding with a leader, even if I have more of that suit in my hand. This may give you more of a chance to take the initiative.

I am sure there are other, better, strategies but these are just some I have used to advantage in my first few games.
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Paul Lister
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Nice analysis. I am always wary of opening with Petitions if I have card advantage as I worry my opponent will instantly resign and I will get a negative die roll modifier. I must admit that four games in I am still struggling with the best way to play my cards.
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Neil Morgan
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Always a problem with petitions. I work on the idea that if it looks like the other side is going to fight it out, go with a petition first. If it looks like it is going to be win then hold them back. But you are right it is a hard call.
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Chris Linneman
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I find petitions to be a good way to offer my opponent a peace offering when I think he may not be so confident about his chances, but I am not confident either. I also had one power struggle where my opponent raised the stakes despite my huge card advantage, baiting me into raising them as well. He then proceeded to play four petitions, I failed to take initiative, and he won the power struggle.

I really like the power struggle mechanic. I find it's one of the distinguishing features of 1989 -- something to set itself apart from its older brother Twilight Struggle. On the surface it seems simple, but there are lots of neat tricks and tough decisions hidden in the "simple" minigame.
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C M
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nmorg40 wrote:
Be wary of using wild cards to respond to a card play as you will automatically lose tempo. The only exception to this is the use of the card that blocks a suit.


I understood the Tactics Fail is the only wild card that can be played by the defender, all others can only be played by the attacker. Is that not correct?
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Chris Linneman
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You are correct, Tactic Fails is the only wild card played as the defender. All other wild cards must be played while you have initiative. I believe what the poster meant by respond was "respond to the opponent once you gain initiative," not literally as a direct response to an attacker's card play.
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C M
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I see, thank you!
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Tom Kruse
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Good insight. I appreciate the caution in using petitions too early as the democratic player. When I have a good chance of winning, my opponent will almost certainly resign (even if he has the upper hand).
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Pedro García
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nmorg40 wrote:

Unless you can maintain at least a 3 card advantage over your opponent, don’t ‘raise the stakes’.


I don't fully agree with this: for the Democrat, specially in the higher VP countries, is much more important to take control from the Communist than risking him to score 1 point more. So I think that for the Democrat is almost compulsory to raise the stakes when he is playing the Scoring in order to get a bonus for the VP roll and optimize his possibilities of getting more than a 4 when winning.

Which cards can he sacrifice? Useless leaders, of course, and in my opinion Petitions - winning and not getting control is almost useless -, lower initiative cards except for the Rallies, and even the wild cards other than Tactics Fail - wilingly losing the initiative to the Communist is not the best way of winning when you are as aggresive as this.
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Conor Hickey
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Quote:
Unless you can maintain at least a 3 card advantage over your opponent, don’t ‘raise the stakes’.


I would hardly ever raise the stakes as the Communist these days - if you do it and win, you are getting on average 1 more VP and 1 more Dem SP that has to be removed from the country.

If you do it and lose, the Dem chance to take Power goes up from 50% to 66% (assuming he did not also raise). As a result I don't see much advantage to raising as the Communist even if you have a good hand.
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Ioan Mitiu
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Some interesting aspects ...
It's also interesting to note some ( possible more ) subtle aspects of a Power Struggle : it requires only 2 SP ( more than your opponent ) to "unlock" 4 Intellectual Leaders while are necessary 4 SP ( more ) to have access to 4 Elite Leaders ...

And usually this tend to favor Revolutionary player - who have stronger events on Intelighentsia spaces. whistle
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Kristof Bodric
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For the Democrat it's sometimes absolutely essential to grab power so I've raised stakes with an equal number of cards hoping for a miracle (and sometimes it happened). The Communist doesn't really care as long as he wins (obviously VPs and power removal are great but...) so Petitions are just fine, but not for the Democrat, unless there's nothing else noteworthy in his hand.
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Mc Jarvis
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I think I'm missing something in terms of the nuance of the power struggle--- I played my first game last night and it seemed fairly straight forward: lead with high numbers, follow with low numbers, try to play wilds last. For a game mechanic that takes so long to resolve, it seemed like there were no choices which a 7 year old wouldn't be capable of.

The advice above is good, but painfully obvious. Is there some sort of nuanced strategy that I'm missing?
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Kristof Bodric
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McJarvis wrote:
I think I'm missing something in terms of the nuance of the power struggle--- I played my first game last night and it seemed fairly straight forward: lead with high numbers, follow with low numbers, try to play wilds last. For a game mechanic that takes so long to resolve, it seemed like there were no choices which a 7 year old wouldn't be capable of.

The advice above is good, but painfully obvious. Is there some sort of nuanced strategy that I'm missing?


Play a few games against a 7-year old and it will become obvious.
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Ioan Mitiu
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McJarvis wrote:
The advice above is good, but painfully obvious. Is there some sort of nuanced strategy that I'm missing?


There are some element of bluffing involved - as long as for Revolutionary player it became almost vital to end the PowerStruggle with citizen on the square and not with a petition or something like this ...
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Mc Jarvis
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Ioan76_TM wrote:
McJarvis wrote:
The advice above is good, but painfully obvious. Is there some sort of nuanced strategy that I'm missing?


There are some element of bluffing involved - as long as for Revolutionary player it became almost vital to end the PowerStruggle with citizen on the square and not with a petition or something like this ...


Which part is bluffing? It's not like there is a rock paper scissors element here-- both players are confined by their cards.

I suppose there would be a rock/paper/scissors component if the cards were double-sided like in Yomi. Then maybe it wouldn't be obvious what to do in each case. But even then, Yomi's tension comes because each step in the rock/paper/scissors circles has a different effect, and you have to read 1) what your opponent wants to do, and 2) whether you think they will try to out think you or just dive for what they want.

These considerations are meaningless in the power struggle mechanic since things block themselves instead of other things. (Paired with the insta-loss aspect if you don't block--- there is no "taking a hit now so I can block a more powerful hit later" consideration)
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Ioan Mitiu
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McJarvis wrote:
Ioan76_TM wrote:
McJarvis wrote:
The advice above is good, but painfully obvious. Is there some sort of nuanced strategy that I'm missing?


There are some element of bluffing involved - as long as for Revolutionary player it became almost vital to end the PowerStruggle with citizen on the square and not with a petition or something like this ...


Which part is bluffing? It's not like there is a rock paper scissors element here-- both players are confined by their cards.
{...}


It is a bluffing part - but not I'm not 100% sure that is really balanced as long as Communist player have more option as Revolutionary one and the chance to draw a leader or wild card is just ~30% ... blush
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Mc Jarvis
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Which part is bluffing? It's not like when you play a card you're subconsciously saying "I have more of this card".
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Bruce Wigdor
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Quote:
it seemed like there were no choices which a 7 year old wouldn't be capable of.


I think this is far from the truth. We worked long and hard on the Power Struggle to ensure that this was not the case. It took some time, but when we arrived at the final model, I began to get very excited about how many of the Power Struggles in my playtests had interesting choices.

Sure, sometimes a Power Struggle plays out as a no-brainer, but especially when the number of cards is close to even, there are usually going to be some difficult choices to be made. Yes, there are some obvious things that Neil mentioned, but not everybody who responded even agreed with every thing he said. There have got to be some choices that might be beyond the grasp of a 7 year old if adults experienced in the game can't agree.

Furthermore, the idea of bluffing in certain instances was mentioned. If bluffing is a reasonable option, then by definition not every card choice is automatic: obviously you can't bluff every time.

So what might challenge a 7 year old? Let's look at some of the things that were discussed:

Probably the most obvious of the "automatic" decisions is to "attack high, defend low." However, there are even exceptions to this rule. Neil mentioned defending with a leader card as a bluff to lead an opponent into continuing with a certain suit. This is something I have rarely had the guts to do. However, I often make a milder bluff by playing high cards first! Usually I do this when my opponent leads into my best suit: perhaps he will think I'm weak and run himself out of the suit leaving me with an easy victory. I'll also sometimes do a double-bluff when I only have two cards in the suit. I play the high one first, then the low one, in hopes that the opponent will think I'm using the previous tactic. Maybe he outsmarts himself and stops attacking.

Even when it comes down to something as basic as which suit you want to play first, there are decisions. The obvious answer is to lead your longest suit first, but remember that Strikes and Marches are twice as numerous as Rallies and Petitions. Beyond that, even when you are discussing equivalent suits like Strikes and Marches, it's not a no-brainer. If you have three Strikes, strengths 5, 6, and 6, and four Marches, strengths 3, 3, 3, and 4, which suit do you want to lead with?

Sometimes you don't even stick with a suit, especially when you're at a disadvantage. Instead, you might want to play all your cards in different suits with strength 6, before going on to the lesser cards in the suits. Maybe you'll find a suit that he's weak in before he gets his first counterattack and beats you with the suit in which he is strong.

Also, Neil mentioned the possibility of starting with Petitions, with the idea of getting your opponent to play his leaders defending against the Petitions so that they are not there to defend against future plays of better cards (it also serves as another kind of bluff). This is sometimes a very good choice, but as was pointed out, it creates yet another choice, this time for the opponent: he doesn't have to match the Petition if he doesn't want to. It's a tough choice: I've made the wrong one in this situation often enough to know it's not a mindless choice.

Using this tactic can be a double edged sword, but sometimes it's really worth it. The difference between a Rally victory and a Petition victory is quite signifiant; it colors every decision in the Power Struggle by basically asking, which do you prefer: an increased chance of victory or an increase in the quality of that victory? Bringing about a Rally in the Square victory in a Power Struggle with roughly equal cards usually involves tactical cunning rather than pure brute force, and can be quite satisfying.

The idea of losing to a Petition also applies to decisions to play the Wild-Card that matches and blocks a suit. If your opponent is playing Petitions, do you want to close them out and leave yourself open to losing to a stronger suit? The answer to this depends on how probable you feel victory is if you play the Wild-Card, but this is very subjective and by no means a no-brainer.

Another interesting decision involving this Wild-Card involves when to play it. I can't think of an instance where I would play it until I was out of the suit in question. But what about when you have leaders? Is it better to match with leaders first, or simply close out the suit right away? Sometimes you want the opportunity to counterattack immediately that the leader will get you, other times you want to save your leaders for later. This is a choice that continues to baffle me when I encounter it: anybody want to share their insight?

As for the two wild cards that add to and subtract from player's hands, the simple question is, is the benefit of this card play worth the loss of the initiative? The answer to this question is of course very situational and thus not the type of choice easily handled by a 7 year old. Right or wrong, I find myself valuing the initiative more often than I value the card's effect.

The Wild-Card that I think offers the most interesting choices is the one that allows you to remove an SP in the country of the Power Struggle. Like the handsize Wild-Cards, there is the decision of whether the Wild-Card is worth surrendering the initiative. Usually, it's only worth it if it's going to break control of an enemy space.

The most obvious use of the card is to influence the imminent scoring: usually this involves removing an SP from a battleground. Other times, it is used to influence the Power Struggle itself by rendering certain leader cards unplayable (this is most often done against elite and intellectual spaces due to their higher number of leader cards). Every now and then it will be used to break control of a space that might be exploited by the strategy card play immediately following the Power Struggle.

On the subject of Raising the Stakes, the automatic decision here was pretty much "Democrats should always do it, Communists should never do it." The idea behind this is based on the importance of the die roll to determine whether the Communist retains Power.

The first thing I'm going to say here is that people seem to be overrating the importance of that aspect of the roll, except for late in the game. Before Turn 7, when the Democrat wins a Power Struggle, the Communist is going to give up Power voluntarily in the majority of cases. Many players much better than myself give up Power in Poland at the first opportunity in almost every game they play. Even in Late War, the Communist might choose to voluntarily give up Power so as to avoid the play of Domino Theory.

The Communists can't stay in Power everywhere: if they try to guard everything, they risk losing everything as opposed to them concentrating and succeeding at defending fewer countries. This is because the Democrat has at least one event in each country that can absolutely blow up the Communist's position in that country. You can't overcontrol the whole board to defend against these, but you can overcontrol the key spaces in a few countries.

If the Communists are going to give up Power voluntarily, Raising the Stakes becomes an equal option for both sides. In many of these instances, the Democrat will have the better position, and will most likely Raise the Stakes, but this is based on the fact that he is better in the country, not the need for him to topple the Communist.

However, there are obviously times where the roll for Power matters, and thats what people are talking about when they say "Democrats always Raise, Communists never Raise." It was suggested that the cost of failure for the Democrat (at most a difference of 1 VP and 1 Support) is so low that the he should Raise the Stakes every time. Conversely, the idea is that the cost of failure for the Communist (a 16% greater chance for the Democrats to take Power) is so great that the Communist should never Raise the Stakes.

I'll start off by saying that 1 support can sometimes be significant: it is not uncommon to see the loser of a Power Struggle lose Domination, give his opponent Domination, or lose Presence because of this one extra SP. In Poland or Germany, this can be a 4 VP swing.

Also, the discards you pay when you raise the stakes decrease your chances of winning the battle, so not only are you granting your opponent an extra VP and/or SP if he wins, there will be instances where your opponent wins a battle you would have won had he not raised the stakes. If that happens, the swing in VPs and Support Influence is a lot more than a mere chance at one of each.

These decreased odds are obvious if the player discards usable cards, but even if you discard all useless cards when Raising the Stakes, you still decrease your chances of winning the battle! One thing is that the Wild-Card that forces you to discard has a greater chance of pulling something valuable if you've Raised the Stakes.

Another instance where Raising the Stakes decreases your chances of winning (again, due to the presence of the Wild-Card that forces 2 discards) can be found in the following example. Imagine a situation where you have Raised the Stakes, your opponent has the initiative, and each of you have 2 Power Struggle Cards left. He's got a Strike and that Wild-Card that forces 2 discards.

Your opponent has an automatic win here. He plays the Wild-Card, you are forced to discard both your cards, and even though you have the initiative, you have no cards to play and thus lose the Power Struggle.

However, if you had not Raised the Stakes, and kept those 3 useless cards, your opponent would be faced with a far tougher decision because you have 5 cards in your hand. He could again try the wild-card. In this case, you've got the initiative with 3 cards to play. He can only win if either 1) he has no playable cards, or 2) he has exactly one Strike and nothing else, plays the strike, and you fail your counterattack roll. If this seems like too much of a long shot, your opponent could instead try to simply play his one Strike and hope that you have nothing in your 5 cards that can match it. But tht's a long shot too. Wow, an interesting decision: what's a 7 year old to do?

Another example of how Raising the Stakes can backfire can be found in the following example: your opponent has 2 cards left, this time a Rally and a Petition. You are out of cards, because you Raised the Stakes. In this instance, of course your opponent will play the Rally, which will win. However, if you still had 3 cards in your hand, he might well lead the Probe. Remember, he doesn't know your 3 cards are useless. He might try the Probe to get himself a second chance with the initiative if it fails. While this example does not result in your opponent winning a batttle he otherwise would have lost, it can result in the modifier to the victory rolls swinging by 4 pips.

While I agree that, in general, the Democrat should favor Raising the Stakes more than the Communist does, it's by no means a black and white decision.

Anyway, this post has been my long-winded way of saying that I think that there are lots of interesting decisions to be found in the playing of the Power Struggles. I hope you begin to appreciate some of them with repeated play!
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Ioan Mitiu
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McJarvis wrote:
Which part is bluffing? It's not like when you play a card you're subconsciously saying "I have more of this card".


For example when you play a leader as ... something, but you still have this card-type in your hand ?

@Bruce - I have a question for you as game designer : I could get why peasant spaces have no influence in a PowerStruggle but why there is no implemented influence from control of Bureaucracy space ??

This is quite strange and ... non-thematically IMHO ...
 
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Kristof Bodric
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Perhaps it was because the bureaucrats were the faceless cogs in the communist machinery, the gray clerks in Stasi or Securitate offices carrying out orders but producing no charismatic leaders themselves -avoiding rather than seeking prominence.
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Ioan Mitiu
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vidra wrote:
Perhaps it was because the bureaucrats were the faceless cogs in the communist machinery, the gray clerks in Stasi or Securitate offices carrying out orders but producing no charismatic leaders themselves -avoiding rather than seeking prominence.


Well ... this is an interesting aspect.

First of all is very debatable if Securitate/Stasi/any other Secret Police was part of Bureaucracy or Elite or was "something apart" from both ( equally hating them for their benefits and being hated for their "shadow-power" ). In particular case of Romania Ceausescu was very keen to keep Securitate under Party-control ( quite understandable - his main opponent in 1965 was Securitate' leader, considered "too harsh" even to fifties decade-standard ... he didn't even consider to "clean-up its traces" which lead to a very fast and easy condemnation after 1989 devil ... which he avoided by fleeing to Hungary ) and this trend was accentuated after Pacepa's flee/betrayal - but from my readings, despite a popular misconception, general approach in ex-Communists states was that Party controlled ( sometime very strictly ) the Secret Police and not otherwise.

Second point - and more important - I'll try to summarize in two short sentences, which may sounds weird but ...

1. The real turning point of 1989 revolution was when Bureaucrats switched sides. whistle
2. Bureaucracy was - generally speaking - the real/biggest "winner of revolution".

From my point of view - but not sure if this would be real balanced as game-play - I'd implement this reality something like this :

1. If Communist-player doesn't control Bureaucracy space Revolutionary-player will be the first to have initiative no matter who play the card.
2. If Revolutionary-player control Bureaucracy space he will have +1 at "counterattack roll" during the Power Struggle.

Of course ... just my personal suggestion(s) - never really hope to see them implemented.
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Ted Torgerson
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Kristof's explanation is exactly what we were thinking. It was supposed to be thematic that the Communist leadership was limited to the Elites. If a bureaucrat was a true leader then he would be a part of the higher ups in the party represented by the Elite Spaces.

Quote:
1. The real turning point of 1989 revolution was when Bureaucrats switched sides.


This is true, and we have tried to reflect this is the core mechanics of the game. The bureaucratic spaces connect to 4 or 5 other spaces. Once the Democrat reaches a strong level of support he can get a +1 or +2 against the bureaucratic space and flip it with Support Checks. Once the Democrat has the Bureaucrats and some surrounding support he is very hard to dislodge by the Communist, who has to try to hang on to support in the periphery. This dynamic of the bureaucrats shifting sides based on social pressures is one of the best things in the game tying the history to the bare math. At least I think so.

Quote:
2. Bureaucracy was - generally speaking - the real/biggest "winner of revolution".


True. I think this is discussed in the historical notes about the transition of the bureaucracies and the same people holding positions of authority in post-communist governments.
Quote:

From my point of view - but not sure if this would be real balanced as game-play - I'd implement this reality something like this :

1. If Communist-player doesn't control Bureaucracy space Revolutionary-player will be the first to have initiative no matter who play the card.
2. If Revolutionary-player control Bureaucracy space he will have +1 at "counterattack roll" during the Power Struggle.

Of course ... just my personal suggestion(s) - never really hope to see them implemented.


I am a big fan of house rules. Please try these rules in a few games (either one or both) and let us know how they work. I don't think we will ever change the official rules but I like having alternative house rules.
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Ioan Mitiu
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1989Game wrote:
Kristof's explanation is exactly what we were thinking. It was supposed to be thematic that the Communist leadership was limited to the Elites. If a bureaucrat was a true leader then he would be a part of the higher ups in the party represented by the Elite Spaces.


Not really - or at least this wasn't always the case but this depends on what we consider Bureaucracy & Elite. In most cases I'd say that "real Elite" ( upper Party members ) had a medium/low-professional background but get promoted mostly for "healthy social origin" and loyalty to Party/ruling leaders - while "bureaucrats" ( or technocrats ) was usually composed from people with medium/high-professional background who usually joined Party ranks just to check needed condition for promotion/confirmation but in most cases they had the access upper-level blocked due to "class consideration" and not to lack of leadership skills ... devil
But this is likely to be my wrong interpretation.

Quote:

Quote:
1. The real turning point of 1989 revolution was when Bureaucrats switched sides.


This is true, and we have tried to reflect this is the core mechanics of the game. The bureaucratic spaces connect to 4 or 5 other spaces. {...}


I agree that the map-design does a really fabulous job to reflect the inherent challenges both for Revolutionaries and Communists - I was just curious why this wasn't somehow incorporate in PowerStruggle mechanic also.

Quote:
I am a big fan of house rules. Please try these rules in a few games (either one or both) and let us know how they work.


Thanks !
 
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Mc Jarvis
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Ioan76_TM wrote:
McJarvis wrote:
Which part is bluffing? It's not like when you play a card you're subconsciously saying "I have more of this card".


For example when you play a leader as ... something, but you still have this card-type in your hand ?


I'll come back to comment on the mega-post--- but I want to address this point quickly: this is not bluffing--

Let's say he's attacking you with a Petition card:

1) He plays the card
---> you respond with a leader

He thinks "I guess he doesn't have petitions

2) He plays another petition card
---> you block with a petition card.


If you reverse the order (blocking with petition, then leader) the effect is exactly the same. In this style of mini-game, I don't think what a person leads with gives clues as to what remains in their hand. (That is, outside of the fact that the card they just played is confirmed to no longer be in their hand)



 
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