No modern board gamer can call themselves a true fan of the hobby without playing the game Twilight Struggle, the game that usurped the highest rated board game spot from the paragons of cardboard sport Puerto Rico and Agricola.
However, convincing someone to sit for a 2+ hour two-player-only game about the Cold War might not be the easiest task—unless you’re lucky like me and have friends like Kassie. Doubly lucky was I because Kassie also has a talent for Jambalaya.
Last night, I feasted on a spicy four meat jambalaya as I served up the rules to the game. OPs, Events, Coups—the whole shebang. The rules explanation took about thirty minutes and although each component mechanic of the game is simple enough, their intersection takes some time to settle. Much like the excellent Wisconsin beer Kassie also graciously provided.
I had learned on The Internet that your main goal on your turn should be to play your own events for Operations (thereby hoping they get reshuffled to your opponent) and minimizing the destruction of your opponents Events. When you are dealt your first ever hand of eight Twilight Struggle cards, however, strategy is the furthest thing from your mind—there are text boxes and jargon you must contend with!
Thankfully, in the early war, there are only three regions that require your attention, and as the USSR player I wanted to make sure to keep the pressure on the European Battleground States.
You can see here that I am pushing an early European auto-win as the US player has no battle ground states in the region. I, however, had no control of any non-battleground states so was only able to score a middling Presence in the region.
After the Early War, Kassie is in good spirits as she remembers to dump dangerous cards on the Space Race.
Our first game saw a good fight in the three regions, I was aggressive (as is the USSR player’s wont) and I felt we were both getting the mechanics of the game down. Coups left and right but nary a Realignment roll. Perhaps we will discover their utility in future plays.
It should also be noted that Meryl Streep has a card in this game. Will this pique Jeff’s interest? I don’t think so.
As we started the fifth turn, I was dealt South American scoring. I had a strong hand and new I could maybe take control as Kassie didn’t have any influence in the region.
I spread my ideology to the battleground states, scored the region and was two points away from a 20VP victory! As the turn ended, I nearly won on a space race roll but missed it by one pip. My headline phase, however, managed to seal the deal on some sort of scoring card.
First game left us both feeling as if we’d only scratched the surface…and even though it had already been two and a half hours I suggested “another go?” To my delight, Kassie answered in the affirmative, and we decided to switch super powers.
Here I am, thinking(/winking?) after six turns as the US. I had survived the early game with a strong push in Europe and the Middle East but allowed Kassie to have Asia locked up. I was dealt Southeast Asian scoring at the same time Kassie was dealt Asian scoring and could not combat her presence there. I was blessedly allowed to discard and redraw by an event so was spared the SE Asian scoring which would certainly have benefited my comrade opponent.
As we approached the late war, I was up ~12 VPs and was dealt the following knock out:
WARGAMES. With the Defcon status at 2 (as it was for most of the game—is that normal? As soon as it improved, I Couped) the Cold war was over!
This game deserves the panegyrics it receives on board game geek: it is tense, intense and has a strong narrative feel. It was too late for a third game but I doubt either of us would have turned it down. If ever someone were to ask us for a future game of Twilight Struggle, I’m certain we would both answer with an emphatic да!