Saturday, 1 September 2012

Off The Shelf - Twilight Struggle

By request our second "Off The Shelf" game will be Twilight Struggle, by GMT games. I've had this one for a while now and given that it ranks as #1 wargame and boardgame on BGG, it's difficult to understand why it hasn't yet hit the table.

"From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent." - Winston Churchill, March 5, 1946

Twilight Struggle
#2 Twilight Struggle

Designers: Ananda Gupta / Jason Matthews

Publisher: GMT Games (2005)

Players: 2

Playing Time: 3 hours

Type: Area Control / Political / Wargame

Ranked: 1st in the wargames category on (BGG)

“In the simplest of terms, what we are doing in Korea is this: We are trying to prevent a third world war.” - Harry S. Truman, April 16, 1951


Twilight Struggle is a 2-player strategy wargame that simulates the 45-year Cold War struggle between the USA and USSR, the two superpowers that emerged from the devastation of World War II.

Taking on the role of either the USA or USSR a player's goal is to spread enough influence throughout the world to become the reigning superpower by the end of round 10. Easier said than done as decision making will be challenging, forcing players to make the most of their limited resources.

Twilight Struggle is a card-driven game (CDG) with each card referencing one of many historical events/people such as the introduction of the Marshall Plan, the Suez Crisis and the Iron Lady. As events typically benefit one side, they can also be played for "Operational Points" which aid the player in Influencing a countries allegiance, Realignment Rolls, Coup attempts or on the Space Race.

With a combination of good card management, patience and diligence you may just succeed and become the world's only superpower.

East German Stamp

“The Earth is blue… how wonderful. It is amazing” - Yuri Gagarin, April 12, 1961

In The Box (2009 Deluxe Ed.)

The first Edition of Twilight Struggle was criticised for it's component (especially map) quality. The Deluxe edition however is superb boasting a thick card map with re-worked artwork and some card text updates.

Deluxe Edition Board

  • 228 counters
  • A Deluxe 22" x 34" thick card map
  • 110 Event Cards*
  • Two six-sided dice
  • 24-page Rule book
  • 2 Player Aid cards

  • *Note that the current versions of the deluxe game contains the original 102 cards that came with the first edition plus 8 newer cards. These newer cards include one "Defectors" card for the early war period and 7 optional cards for you to choose whether or not to use. Also, 3 optional cards have reprinted versions included with newer editions "Our Man In Tehran", "Special Relationship" and "NORAD". The reprinted cards should be used.

    "All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner.” - John F. Kennedy, June 26, 1963.

    The Rules & Learning To Play

    The Twilight Struggle Counters
    Of the 24 pages in the rulebook, only 10 of them are actual rules pages. The other 14 pages contain an index, a late war scenario from C3i issue #19, an extended example of play, card histories and some designers notes and rule options.

    I found the rules fairly straight-forward to digest, but I'm familiar with the format of GMT rule-sets and appreciate that this may prove more difficult for players who are not. Generally GMT have done a good job with the rules.

    You can find the current version of the living rules here.

    From what I've read, the amongst newer players the Soviet side is likely to have an easier time of it in early plays due to inexperience which can impact the US player more. Some things to consider for your own early plays:

    1) Event Play - Most cards can be played for their event, if the colour of the star matches your superpower (red for Soviet player and white for the US player) or indicates that either superpower can play it (half red, half white star), or for their OPs value (the number in the star). 

    If I'm playing as the US player, I cannot play the early war card shown in the picture below as my event. "FIDEL" is a Soviet event. I can however play it for the 2 OPs points, though once I've used those OPs points the event resolves for the Soviet player.

    Early, Mid and Late War Event Cards
    Why would I ever do that? - Well you'll need to play most of the cards that you get and can hold-off or discard very few or them as you progress through the game, so timing your playing of certain cards can help to minimise their benefit as events for your opponent.

    The card text for "FIDEL" reads as follows: "Remove all US Influence in Cuba. USSR gains sufficient Influence in Cuba for Control." Now if I as the US play have no influence in Cuba and the USSR player already has enough influence to control it, then the card's effect is neutralised.

    Don't get distracted by the actual event you're playing. Concentrate on your board position and make sure that events that you play improve it! In general terms you should try to play your own cards for their OPs value.
    2) Early Scoring Cards - During the early war period the deck holds scoring cards for the Asia, Europe and Middle East regions. Since scoring is based on your influence and control in these regions, it makes sense to focus on these regions in early play. It also makes sense to prepare for the Mid war scoring regions as these cards come into play from turn 4. Focusing on scoring cards will improve your chances of winning.

    3) Coups - These can be a key part of the game, especially ones in Battleground countries as coups here impact the current DEFCON level and may limit where you opponent can play his own coups. E.g. A popular early move for the Soviets is to coup Iran. This reduces the DEFCON level to 4 and means that coups in Europe cannot be played.

    I'll add a few more tips here as soon as I get a few plays under my belt.

    “There can be no whitewash at the White House.” - Richard Nixon, April 30, 1973

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