Tuesday, July 7, 2009

1st July 2009 Session Report: My First & Perhaps Last Attempt At Twilight Struggle

The title makes it sound as if I disliked the game. On the contrary, I did like the game but perhaps not as much as the love shown for it on BGG as reflected by its no. 4 ranking. However, Van didn't. She was still somewhat neutral towards it during the first half of the game, but as the game crept into its third and fourth hour, her disdain grew. I had high hopes of getting into heavier games such as Through The Ages and Twilight Struggle. TTA was a flop but I put it down to the lack of interaction due to its multi-player solitaire quality, but after this attempt with the highly confrontational Twilight Struggle, I am no longer under the illusion for it was apparent to me that there are limits to game lengths that she would tolerate. Her limit at the moment seems to be 3 plus hours with games such as Le Havre and Indonesia. But any longer and the experience takes a nose-dive, becoming incredibly tedious to her. Mental note to factor game length in future purchases. Oh well, at least, I achieved my subconscious aim of wanting to play each of the top 10 BGG games at least once.

Twilight Struggle appealed to me because of the variation of the cards. TTA while also card-driven was less interesting for the cards came across rather abstract, providing different combination of boosts to the different variables. One can argue that TS is no different with many cards merely allowing the addition of subtraction of influence, the geographical distribution of that influence seems to add a whole extra layer to the game. I like the various routes to victory, whether is it through VPs or through obtaining control of Europe.

Case in point, midway through the game, I began to concentrate all my attention on acquiring all the battleground nations in Europe. I was close to taking the win in round seven or eight when I had the Europe scoring card in hand but was forced to play it with Poland still under USSR's control. The next few rounds saw me attempting to consolidate my control of Europe till the final scoring while Van surged forward on the VP track. The closest she got was 19 VP and if not for a few timely VP and scoring cards, I surely would have lost the game. But as it turn out, I did manage to ride out the tsunami and took the win with Europe control at the final scoring.

The game isn't difficult to learn but can be a brain-burner especially when one isn't familiar with the cards. I like games with diverse card abilities (e.g. Glory to Rome!) but such games tend to have a steeper learning curve due to the large variety of cards. I like how the game captures both tactical and strategic elements. Tactics come in play for each hand of cards, determining the best order in which to play them so as to maximize your advantage while minimizing the advantage to your opponent when you have to play cards with their events. On the other hand, the game is also strategic because you have to decide your plan towards victory whether through capturing Europe or focusing your resources in other continents to gain the upper hand in VPs.

There is probably more luck in this game as compared to Eurogames of similar game length. Luck not only comes in the distribution of cards each round but also the concepts of coups and re-alignment rolls which depend heavily on dice rolls. But it never seems like a game-breaker to me because success is also largely dependent on the targets chosen as well as the operation value of cards played. Therefore, the crux in my opinion is choosing the appropriate target rather than simply going for gold by wishing a 6 each time you roll the die.

I would probably love the game if its game length was at least a half or a third shorter. While a win in the earlier rounds is attainable, it is probably the exception rather than the norm between experienced players. Either that or things must be really going one player's way via the card draws and dice rolls. As it is, the extent of the 'struggle' seems to result in diminishing utility as the game veers into its latter hours. Nonetheless, it is still very satisfying at the end to see that you have ultimately triumphed in the epic struggle.

I have put it up for trade for the moment because keeping a 2 player game that my wife won't play in the collection is clearly unwise. But unlike TTA, I'm happy to keep it in my collection till the right trade or price comes along.


  1. I love TS its a great game, but you have to play it with the right people. I am sure the play time would drop after a couple of plays and you both get used to the cards.
    First game always takes a while as you are reading all the text in teh cards when you are dealt them, then again when you use them.

    Give it another go.

  2. I did and ended the game at the end of the 6th turn - took just under 2 1/2 hours. Unfortunately, I doubt I have the right gaming friends to get it to the table on the consistent basis. And while I can clearly see its merits, it being only a 2-player game is clearly limiting and I find the luck of the draw somewhat too deterministic for a game of its length.

    Just traded it today...but happy to play it again on someone else's copy.