Archiwa kategorii: en

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.
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This is the final phase of my game (as USA) against a strong opponent, in which (in large part due to luck) I managed to overcome a poor start and pull out a win.

You can find the Early War phase of this game here and turns 4-6 here.
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This is a continuation of my game (as USA) against a strong opponent, in which (in large part due to luck) I managed to overcome a poor start and pull out a win. You can find the Early War phase of this game here and the final phase here.
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I would like to present a game I’ve recently played on Wargameroom against a quite strong opponent. I consider it quite educational because I made several mistakes and I managed to win it before the Final Scoring only due to unfortunate rolls on of my opponent’s part.

I was USA, we played with the 2014 Internet Twilight Struggle League default rules (Optional cards, +2 Influence to the USA, no CCW).
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Poland

Region: Europe
Subregion: Eastern Europe
Battleground: Yes
Stability: 3
Superpower adjacency: USSR
Adjacent countires: East Germany, Czechoslovakia
Events directly corelated with the country:

  • John Paul II Elected Pope
  • Solidarity
  • Martial Law (III Polish Edition promo card only)

Martial Law is a Polish third edition promo card which won’t probably affect the world strategy. Still I’d like to consider it. This is a Late War USSR 2 Ops card with a non-recurring event that says:
Remove one US Influence Point from Poland. The „Solidarity” event may not be played in the same turn.

As USSR:

Poland is the most important country all over the map from USSR’s point of view. Losing anywhere else can be compensated by winning in some other places but losing Poland and East Germany simultaneously usually ends up with giving US control in Europe. It’s a time bomb: either you win before Europe Scoring comes or you simply don’t survive it. Moreover, Poland is slightly more important than East Germany due to USSR adjacency. Last but not least, as an European country it will probably score one time more than Mid War region countries.

I therefore strongly recommend overprotecting Poland. It’s stability is 3: small enough to make it relatively cheap, big enough to protect it against coups. It’s virtually immune to realignments due to DEFCON restrictions and all rolls are modified by USSR adjacency. Still, even leading by 7 influence points (usually 0/7) is by no means an exaggeration. The pope will subtract three points from the advantage and clear the way for Mr. Walesa to subtract three more points. Mr. Jaruzelski won’t probably help more (and won’t probably be used all over the world as it’s a Polish promo card). There are other cards, not mentioned in the „headline phase” of this note because they don’t have to affect Poland but they often do so in practice, and these are generally in favor of US.

Of course USSR has more urgent needs in the Early War (and probably in the early Mid War) than just overprotecting Poland with operation points. Typically 4 out of 7 points in Poland come from opening setup, one from COMECON and one from Warsaw Pact Formed, both of which were probably played as events by the US player.

Having said that, don’t get too paranoid about Poland. Usually US does not have any influence in Poland and neither he has in adjacent countries at least until the end of the Early War. It gives some breathe, even allowing De-Stalinizing from Poland. Of course there are better places to De-Stalinize from (Finland is the main first choice unless cleared by Truman Doctrine or East European Unrest) but if Poland remains your only place secure from immediate US pushing, it’s probably better to clear Poland than to use De-Stalinization partially only. Also note that you may as well East European Unrest as poor man’s pseudo-De-Stalinization. Just remember to come into Mid War with at least double overprotection in Poland, preferably without the use of COMECON and Warsaw Pact Formed events. You should also always consider Poland as a place to put an extra unexpected operation point in (for example, if you have to play a 3 Ops card in your last Action Round and your opponent destroyed your previous plan and the best thing to be done for now requires only 2 Ops, the third point may go for Poland overprotection).

As US:

The Second World War left Poland a very communistic country. Just accept it and let it be that way. Poland is not worth making a route to with operation points and it certainly isn’t worth sending COMECON and/or Warsaw Pact Formed to space or discarding them without triggering any other way. Quadruple overprotection may be annoying but these two events become stronger as the game goes on. After all, 0/7 scores exactly the same as 0/3. Even if you can combine your last Action Round with the headline of Truman Doctrine and remove USSR from Poland, it’s probably better to use Truman against France or East Germany.

In the Mid War the situation changes a little. John Paul is always worth triggering the event (unless you already control Poland when this card is still in play; this is extremely rare). With triple or quadruple overprotection the pope won’t do much damage by himself but he will create two future threats at once: one from Solidarity and one from NORAD. It’s better to play John Paul II Elected Pope after Warsaw Pact Formed but this should not change your mind.

Late War is full of powerful US events, some of which may break control in Poland. Whether or not it is worth the effort, depends entirely on the particular situation. As a rule of thumb you can count the Final Scoring VP swing achieved by successful fighting for Poland, multiply it by 1+probability that Europe will be scored once again before the Final Scoring comes, and compare it with VP swing that is achievable to you by using operation points from your events in other regions (this is a general rule of thumb for the whole Late War in general and for Turn 10 in particular). I’ll discuss it with more details in future notes about the cards.

Finally, don’t worry at all if you never manage to break USSR in Poland. Poland is designed as a rather communistic than capitalistic country (and I personally, as a Pole, strongly regret that this still lasts in 21st century in some areas, like education or health care). In the typical Twilight Struggle game Poland is controlled by USSR most of the time, with short breaks when nobody controls it but USSR still has some influence advantage. Even if you have access to Poland and are guaranteed to have two consecutive Action Rounds in a row, turning USSR-controlled Poland into US-controlled Poland costs 7 points (provided it’s not overcontrolled at the beginning) which is probably an overinvestment unless it affects domination (or, of course, control). The best you can do is to take your time when USSR is overprotecting Poland and use it to gain something somewhere else.

Polish version

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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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Tunisia

Translator’s note: This blog has two authors 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. To make it all perfectly clear I want to point out, that this note is a translation of this Polish note originally written by lukiluk. I do my best not to change the content.

Region: Africa
Battleground: No
Stability: 2
Adjacent countires: Algeria, Libya
Events directly corelated with the country: none

Experienced Twilight Struggle players will usually fight for many important countries that play a key role somehow. The battlegrounds’ value is clear. The Mediterranean 2-stability non-battlegrounds’ value also becomes clear pretty quickly. I decided to start my blogging here from some less-frequently contested country, one I used to consider meaningless but eventually learned to appreciate. I start from Tunisia.

As US:

There are three reasons to consider Tunisia important:

  • an adjacency to Libya

Although Middle East usually tilts towards USSR, US ends up with controlled Libya, and if Sadat comes after Nasser, he also ends up with controlled Egypt. Unfortunately for US, Muslim Revolution is a perfect antidote for this since removing US from Egypt and Libya means not only the loss of influence but also the loss of access. Losing Libya and Egypt without immediate return may even end up with lack of presence on Middle East. This is why turn 4-5 is the moment to think about 1 IP in Tunisia to have a hardly-removable access to Libya.

  • an adjacency to Algeria

If France and Algeria are controlled by opposing superpowers, the latter will always be vulnerable to realignment rolls. There’s not to say that a player will start realigning from Algeria (especially because France is usually influenced by both superpowers and returning to Algeria won’t be a problem by itself) but if other realignments turn out to be better than expected, an extra roll may be used against Algeria. Controlled Tunisia is a +1 modifier to these rolls which is a value by itself, no matter whether you realign or are realigned.

  • an African non-battleground

Non-battlegrounds are necessary to dominate and count against opponent’s domination or control. Every non-battleground serves this purpose but 1-stability countries are extremely easy to coup, even two at once with help of Che, and if these two happen to be, for example, Cameroon and Zimbabwe, those coups provide critical access and/or realignments modifier. Couping Tunisia is more difficult, and 2 IPs are a good compromise before making couping difficult and not over-investing (which is why I prefer Tunisia to Morocco). Again, this is not the first choice but an argument to put an extra IP there twice.

As USSR:

Tunisia is mainly important to enable it serve its purposes for US. USSR can sometimes control it to deny US the benefits described above but 2 IPs are usually much more worth being used somewhere else. Events will provide USSR with non-battlegrounds needed for domination (Botswana, SE African States) and access to Libya is not necessarily important. Tunisia is worth 2 IPs if you really have no better places to put there, or if US controls both Libya and Algeria or France.

Note: For unknown reasons this particular note is a lovely target for mass spaming. From now on I block comments to this note. If you really want to comment this note with sense, do it under the Polish note about Tunisia, in English, and I’ll try to move your comment here.

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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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