Thursday, January 26, 2012

My Strugggle with Twilight Struggle

Long long ago, back before the weight of the world crushed my spirit, I was an avid gamer. Back before BGG, before Magic, before the Internet, I played games regularly. But my gaming group grew up, went off to school and work, got married and had kids. I had given up on gaming, until about a year ago when I dusted off a game of Junta, got together a group and had a great time. I decided I would get back into gaming. I found a group starting up near my house, found BGG and reconnected with my hobby.

I spent a lot of time surfing BGG and marveling at the many new and innovative games. We had been limited to the Gamemaster Series and various role playing games. Since my golden years in the 1980's, there has been an explosion of new games.

I decided I would jump right back in, and after much research, I purchased Twilight Struggle. I am a bit of a Cold War buff, so the theme appealed to me, and the two player aspect of it might enable the wife and I to play.

I bought it from a local store and quickly opened it up, surprised at the high quality of the components (remember, I grew up on typical 1980's quality). I could not wait to give it a try and dove into the rule book.

I am usually good at understanding rules, but for some reason, I found the way these rules were presented cumbersome and difficult to understand, specifically the rules regarding playing cards for operations or events and the exceptions to triggering events. These rules seemed poorly worded and contradictory and I expected to see exceptions to when events were triggered detailed when events were discussed. I was forced to go back and revise my understanding after thinking I understood and had set the rule in my mind.

Then I played the game with the Wife. We just played 2-3 turns, trying to get the feel of the game and gain some understanding since I was so confused. Having to explain something to another person can sometimes help to clarify it. This was not the case as I just convinced the Wife and myself that I did not know what I was doing. In addition, being a board game re-virgin, I did not have have much experience with some of the new game mechanics. Roll three dice is about what I was used to, and did not take to the card system. It further frustrated me that I often had to play a card that benefited my opponent more then myself. To summarize, I thought the game was a complete fail and wondered why I had wasted so much money on a game that I would never play.

Months passed and I played many other games with my gaming group. One day I decided to bring Twilight Struggle to my group with the rest of my collection. I am always trying to get my group into more board games. One member of the group expressed an interest in trying the game. I explained the difficulties I had had, but he was still willing to give it a try, and we agreed that I would go over the rules and we would play a test game.

I am so glad that I did. There is a reason Twilight Struggle is ranked #1 on the Board, Strategy and War game rankings on BGG. Perhaps I enjoyed the game so much because by turn 7 he conceded, with me at 16 VP's as the USA and likely hit twenty soon, but I don't think so. During the mid war portion of the game, I did get two good draws while my opponent had two bad draws, putting me far ahead, but even after dominating Africa and South America, he was able to quickly gain a presence in Africa, negating my advantage there. He also thwarted several of my attempts to gain domination in Africa before I was to play a scoring card. Even with my 16 VP lead at the end, I felt my hold was tenuous at best and that he still could have turned the game in his favour.

Twilight Struggle is an excellent game, worthy of its ranking. Thanks to all the reviews and videos on BGG which helped clarify the rules and renew my interest in this game. Without BGG, I might have missed out. I can't wait to play again at our next gaming day.

Now back to the forums to figure out some of the rules that stumped us (such as, is an opponent's event that would normally be removed from the game when played still removed if played by the opponent for operations?).

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