Archiwa kategorii: general

How much should you pay for the privilege of becoming a communist?

Power comes with size. Add some quality cards and the power might be so great that the smaller opponent will never get the chance to rise. Soviet Union was the largest country in the world, after World War II fielded the largest army in history, and thus is represented in game as enjoying a big advantage in Early War. That is why it is custom among the online TS community to pay the US player with bonus influence points on the start. Current standard is 2 IP – in my opinion quite often not enough.
The problem lies in luck distribution. The longer the game, the more cards are drawns and rolls are made, the bigger is the chance that skill, not chance, will be the decisive factor in determining the outcome of the game. If I play against a significantly stronger opponent, I know that it’s unlikely for me to beat him on skill alone. I need also a healthy amount of luck. But luck needs opportunities, preparation, in short – a player’s help, if it is to surpass the difference of skill.
If a reasonably competent USSR player gets Decolonization, De-Stalinization, RS/P and some good ops and rolls even only in the Early War, even Riku Riekkinen might be unable to defend the capitalist cause. That is why, when facing a significantly stronger player, I am willing to pay 3 or even 4 bonus IP for the privilege of becoming the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. That way I increase the probability of luck deciding the fate of the world.
Similarly, if I happen to be the stronger player, I prefer for the game to be decided based on skill, with chance deciding only if it is a decision in my favor :-) That is why in this scenario I am also willing to pay 3 or even 4 bonus IP for the right to play USSR against a weaker opponent. If I am a significantly better player, these 1-2 extra influence won’t matter much anyway. Should luck be on my side, the game will end in a steamroll in 3-5 turns. Should it dare to side with my opponent, I will probably still be able to survive at least until Late War – a lot of time for the skill difference to play its part.
I admit that when the opponents are evenly matched, 3 (and especially 4) IP might be a bit much to pay, but choosing USSR should at the very least save you from a crushing defeat – which I guess is worth something.

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Applet for Twilight Struggle statistics.

In order to justify my usual complaining about luck after the lost games I’ve created a small Java applet to calculate some of the basic statistics.
If you have trouble running this applet, please see the „Notes” and „Update” sections at the bottom of this post.
Czytaj dalej

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English Version Disclaimer

This blog will be written in Polish in English. The Polish version is basic, the English one is supplemental. They won’t directly correspond to each other. You may safely assume that what’s in English is in Polish as well (except the notes the translation of which makes no sense, like this one) but not necessarily vice versa. As you probably see and I still don’t, my English would not deserve a high note in Oxford University while my Polish is pretty good even for a native (did I mention I’ve written a crime novel in Polish?), and this is another reason not to put too much effort to write in English in comparison to Polish. Having said all that, I promise that anytime I write something in Polish that isn’t stricty Polish for whatever reason (an example reason is pointing out a translation bug in Polish edition), I will do my best to find some time and write English version of the note.

Also note that this blog has two authors by now and there may come more. You may therefore possibly find two or more notes with the same title and being about the same subject if there are written by different people with different opinions about some details. Translating is a separate process, and it’s usually done by the best English-speaking among those authors who find some spare time. This may confuse you when you see two English notes with the same title and the same author. To make things perfectly clear I will try to remember and link translated notes to each other, especially if the original note’s author is not the same person as the translation’s author.

I have successfully tricked WordPress into having kind of two separate blogs under one WordPress database, one for Polish and one for English (something that is not normally supported by WordPress to my knowledge) but without changes inside the code I cannot trick it into have two separate ‚metas’ and layouts, like left column links, signatures, WordPress default links, etc. They who play Twilight Struggle have to be smart guys so you won’t need it that much. I believe in you.

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The Pros and Cons of Twilight Struggle

Twilight Struggle is quite hard to try before buying. This may lead to resignation from spending money on it by they who would really enjoy it, had they only given it a chance. You aren’t awarded the highest titles on boardgamegeek.com accidentally, especially more than once, but this by itself may still be not convincing enough. Let me present my point of view to what the pros and cons of Twilight Struggle are.

The Pros of Twilight Struggle

Multiple Times Playability

There are 110 cards in the game and each card has an associated event with particular, quite precisely described effects. This suggests that a few games may discover repeatable schemata driving the entire game boring. This is wrong. There are no two identical games. There are no two identical turns. I guess when both of players play two Action Rounds, the state of the game (including the cards in hands) is already unique. Even if it’s not, drawing cards and throwing dice will eventually make it so.

To convince yourself compare it with chess. There are 64 squares, 32 pieces, 6 types of pieces, and 5 types of move since the queen is just a bishop and a rook at once. There is no random factor. Nobody will however argue that chess is a very deep game, playable multiple times even between the same opponents. So is Twilight Struggle.

Fabularity

Each card in the game is connected with a particular event that took place during The Cold War and somehow affected the superpowers’ position on the international area, even if not initiated by either of them. The game tends to go similarly to how the history did. USSR starts with significant advantage which becomes weaker as the game goes on. Once US survives until the Late War, the USSR has to face a hard time until the end of the game. There’s not to say that US wins all the long games. The game designers tried to give playability the priority over the historical realism. This leads to some funny, paradoxical situations, like that the card about Anti Ballistic Missile Treaty is in practice best used just to coup one more country in a turn.

No Snowball Effect

Many games have snowball effect. Once you gain an advantage increasing it is easier. When you increase it further increasing is even easier, and so on. The effect is almost eliminated in Twilight Struggle. It appears sometimes when the advantage goes extremely close to victory and forces the losing player to some play that would be suboptimal under other circumstances. Even then the question is not: when the leading player will win, but: who is going to win this game anyway. Whatever the advantage, either player may make a losing mistake. What is more, many losing mistakes are irreparable once made and lead to defeat even if the opponent doesn’t help himself.

Handicapability

Handicaps appear in several games but Twilight Struggle is unique. You may design handicap to perfectly cover the difference between players’ strengths, and if you do this job well, the game will be kept in suspense until the end. Twilight Struggle handicaps can be of various type. Weaker player can get additional influence, or be awarded an extra VP for every Scoring Card that is played during the game, or have right to re-roll once a turn. The latter two were invented by my friend and have passed the practice tests as game equalisers.

Expansibility

If some Cold War event is missing in the game and important for you, why don’t you add it to the game (except there usually are no joker cards and the cards themselves are difficult to be bought separately)? You may also change rules as well. You will probably do so while playing your first games and realise it no sooner the game finishes. That’s OK, the game rules are complex and it’s difficult to remember all of them at the beginning, and you will probably invent why the rules are what they are and not what you supposed them to be. On the other side, you may find your extra rules more interesting.

Asymmetry

While the rules of making moves is the same for USSR and USA, the strategy is not. The position at start is not symmetric as well. It seems impossible to make it symmetrical on the map that shows more or less how the world was like just after the 2nd World War ended, and it’s unnecessary. From the strategic point of view you buy one game and get two in reward: one as USSR’s part of Cold War and another as US’s part.

The Cons of Twilight Struggle

Game Time

The game is supposed to last 2-3 hours. If this is your first game, adjust it rather to 4-5 hours. Moreover, it takes 3-4 games to „get in” enough to know more or less, what is legal and what is not in the particular situation. You will probably have to invest at least 10 hours before you can even know if this is a game for you. This investment proved to be right in my case but this is not guaranteed for others.

Card Knowledge Necessity

Some moves that can be good at first sight from strategic point of view are in fact critical mistakes due to remaining cards which can nullify their effects, or worse, make them pay for your opponent rather than for yourself. USSR investing 5 Operation Points to gain control over Japan? Why not: a stable, strategic country in Asia, adjacent to US which gives additional bonus. The answer to „why not” question lies in card that gives US control of Japan, no matter the current influence. All the USSR’s effort is wasted and 5 Operation Points (which is a huge investment in Twilight Struggle) is probably gone forever.

After you play a few games you will remember the most important cards and you will feel which cards to keep track of and which can be safely ignored. Before you play your first game, however, I strongly recommend reading all the cards with their associated events. Fairly annoying, the rulebook does not contain the events (but it contains the historical background for every single card).

Randomness

Under normal circumstances the skillful play should make up for a little disadvantage in random factors, such as drawn cards and die rolls. Once in a while there happens a game when the randomness becomes a decisive factor. There’s nothing much you can do about it. With weaker randomness the game would probably be too static to enjoy.

The most annoying case is when the visibly weaker player plays a statistically wrong move which can pay off hugely if the player is lucky. In statistical case the weaker player loses „as planned”, yet a little faster. In a non-statistical case the stronger player has the feeling that he had been stronger, that the had played better, and that he had lost notwithstanding and could do absolutely nothing to prevent it.

I am completely OK with Twilight Struggle’s randomness (which, by itself, annoys me in some other games, like backgammon or SCRABBLE). I just wanted to point out that the potential of randomness in Twilight Struggle is huge, even if it appears very rarely, and the effects may be frustrating.

Off-Topic Note

Just in case you were wondering: yes, the note’s title was inspired by Roger Waters’ „The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking”.

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Let’s Get Started

Twilight Struggle is a game which I love to play. I intended to blog about it for a while. Today I was noticed that the Polish publisher plans to publish the third edition of the game (including two promo cards not available in other editions, one of which will be directly connected with the Polish history during the Cold War). I guess this is the best moment to start blogging.

You won’t find the rulebook here, except from some clarifications connected with particular cards. I plan to write rather about my experience with the game. There’ll be some tactical and strategic notes. I am inspired by http://twilightstrategy.com but if I disagree with the Author of that blog (who is, incidentally, a marvellous player), I won’t hesitate to mention it ;-)

Blog will be in Polish in English. Polish version is basic, English is supplemental. They won’t directly correspond to each other. You may safely assume that what’s in English is in Polish as well but not necessarily vice versa. As you probably see and I still don’t, my English would not deserve a high note in Oxford University while my Polish is pretty good even for a native, and this is another reason not to put too much effort to write in English in comparison to Polish. Having said all that, I promise that anytime I write something in Polish that isn’t stricty Polish for whatever reason (an example reason is pointing out a translation bug in Polish edition), I will do my best to find some time and write English version of the note.

All notes are subject to copyright. However, they may be freely copied provided the information about the author and source will be included. All graphics connected directly to Twilight Struggle game are also subjects to copyright, the copyright holders being GMT Games and Polish Publisher Bard. These may not be reproduced.

Have a nice reading!

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