Thursday, 18 October 2012

Twilight Struggle - USSR Set-Up

We've played a lot of Twilight Struggle on VASSAL recently and are beginning to get a reasonably good feel for the game and how it plays out. For any new player to the game, understanding the cards can be a real barrier early on, so we'll try to make that learning curve a little more accessible and give you a solid foundation on which to build your Twilight Struggle strategies.

Boot Camp
There are three shared decks in Twilight Struggle, an early-war deck (38 cards), a mid-war deck (48 cards) and late-war deck (23 cards) with your opening hand always coming from the early war deck. Mid-war and late war cards are shuffled in for turns three and seven respectively. Great, but how does that help me?

Well, the early war deck always gets played and has only 38 cards in it including three scoring cards (Europe, Middle East and Asia). That's less cards to get to grips with for your early plays and you can focus your strategy on board position for the early scoring cards that are due to appear.

Additionally some games of Twilight Struggle don't even reach mid-war and late war cards due to a sudden victory condition being met (one player reaching 20 VPs or starting a Nuclear War). It's essential to have a solid early war foundation on which to build should your game go the distance.

Standard Game Set-Up (with optional cards)

The China Card
During set-up for a standard game (including the optional cards) the board is pre populated with influence tokens for both the US and USSR players (see map above). At this point both players will be dealt a hand of 8 cards from the shuffled early-war deck, the Soviet player will also receive "The China Card" bringing his starting hand to 9 cards.

Before beginning turn one, the USSR player will add 6 influence into Eastern Europe and then the US player will add 7 influence into Western Europe.

Influencing A Country
For each country on the map the number in the top right-hand corner indicates how much more influence than your opponent you need to have control there. Control is important for both scoring (as scoring is based on countries controlled in the scored region) and in restricting your opponent as they try to influence the country. For example:

Example - Adding Influence
Poland requires 3 influence to control, so as the Soviet player I add three single influence points to give me control overall control there. Note that my influence markers are white with red text until I reach the number require for control.

My control in Poland will help when the Europe Scoring card comes up, but it will also make it more difficult for the US player to add influence there.

Continuing this example during the US player's turn he wants to take away my control in Poland. He can do this by adding his own influence there, providing he has influence in a country adjacent to Poland.

Normally 1 influence point will give you +1 influence in the targeted country, this changes however when the country is controlled by your opponent. First you must break that control by spending 2 influence points to add one of your own.

In the example the US player must spend 2 influence to add 1 US influence into Poland. Note again that both influence markers now have white backgrounds indicating that neither player now has outright control in Poland.

Scoring and Battleground vs. Non-Battleground Countries
Most victory points in Twilight Struggle come from the various scoring cards scattered throughout the decks. There are three area scoring cards in the early-war deck as pictured below.

These cards talk about Presence, Domination and Control of the respective regions.

Presence - You are considered to have presence in a region if you control at least one country there.

Domination - You achieve domination in a region if you have more countries more battleground countries (purple background e.g. W.Germany) than your opponent there.

Control - You achieve control in a region if you have more countries and all of the battleground countries (purple background e.g. West Germany) there.

Note that Control in the European scoring region wins the game during Europe Scoring.

If you have drawn one (or more) of these scoring cards they should heavily influence your strategy for that game round. Equally if you have drawn none of them your need to watch your opponent closely and try to work out if he has any of them.

Set-Up as the USSR Player
As the USSR player I now have my starting hand of 9 cards (8 dealt plus The China Card) and need to add 6 influence into Eastern Europe.

Option #1 - A solid start as the USSR player is to add 1 influence into East Germany, 4 influence into Poland and 1 influence into Yugoslavia.

A Solid European Set-Up For The USSR
I already have control in East Germany, but by adding a +1 there I can make it even more difficult for the US player to get his own influence in there once he adds influence into the adjacent West Germany. To add one influence in East Germany he would need to spend two points, but even then I would retain control as the difference would still be 3 points. He would need to spend a further 2 influence (a total of 4) to break my control there.

Similarly in Poland I have added 4 influence to control the country plus a little bit of a buffer.

My final point of starting influence is added into Yugoslavia. This is not enough to control the country, but it puts me adjacent to Italy so that I can begin to threaten Western Europe.

A More Aggressive USSR Opening
Option #2 - A slightly more aggressive opening to threaten re-alignment rolls into West Germany and Italy. 

This involves adding 1 influence into Poland, 3 influence into Austria and 2 influence into Yugoslavia with a view to achieving control in these countries early in turn #1 so that you can attempt re-alignment rolls vs. Italy and/or West Germany.

Re-alignment Rolls
Re-alignment rolls can be used to reduce your opponent's influence in a targeted country. For 1 Op point you can attempt a re-alignment and try to out-score your opponent on a D6 roll.

Critically players get bonuses to their roll:

> +1 For each country controlled adjacent to the target country.
> +1 If they have more influence in the target country.
> +1 If their superpower is adjacent to the target country.

This more aggressive strategy can be especially effective when you have either (or both) of Warsaw Pact Formed and Comecon in your opening hand.

Useful Cards For The USSR Re-alignment Strategy
Obviously you have other options available to you during your USSR set-up, but these should give you something to consider.

If you'd like to try Twilight Struggle, please drop us a message on the KoffeeKlub Facebook page or join us at one of the Sunday evening sessions.

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