Archiwa kategorii: strategy

Headlining Scoring Card

General Considerations

In comparison with headlining non-Scoring Card and playing Scoring Card in one of the Action Rounds, headlining Scoring Card has one major advantage: it does not cost you Action Round. It also has one major disadvantage: it is vulnerable to any damage your opponent’s headline may do in the just-to-be-scored region.

Both of them should be judged accordingly to the current situation and your tolerance for risk. Some players never headline Scoring Cards unless they can do it absolutely safely due to peek-at-headline privilege. On the other side, Gabor Foldes is an example of an astonishingly strong player who likes taking a risk of headlining Scoring Card and often plays it even when his opponent peeks at his headline. Czytaj dalej

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Region: Africa
Battleground: No
Stability: 2
Adjacent countries: South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe
Relevant events:

  • South African Unrest


Relations between countries sometimes cause two or more countries to create a distinguishable entity, sort of a subregion. The „iron triangle” of Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan is one such example (although I would add also India (or even Burma), making it an Iron Quadrangle). One defining characteristic of such an entity is that domino theory is especially significant there. Therefore I would like to introduce another such entity: The South African Subregion and its often neglected non-battleground member – Botswana.

Control over Botswana gives the player three significant benefits:

1. Defense from being realigned out of South Africa (the country) and (to a lesser extent) Angola.

2. Similarly, a good chance to realign the opposing player out of South Africa or Angola, if the player controlling Botswana controls also the other country.

3. A reasonably stable non-battleground, which helps scoring a domination in Africa. Naturally, as USA it is important to remember the Soviet combo South African Unrest + Africa Scoring, so it is wise to keep at least one other non-battleground as a reserve (although comrade Che is still a risk then).

As USA, controlling Botswana has one drawback, namely it gives a reasonable coup target for Che event, without which it can often be an empty or not very useful (Costa Rica, Morocco) event even as late as in turn 5.

Early War

In Early War you have more important things to attend to than taking Botswana. If you really have no good places to spend your ops, then it might make sense to spend these 2 ops at the end of turn 3. As the Soviet player bear in mind though that you could just give the US player a reasonable opportunity to get the required military operations, which matters greatly in turns 2 and 3 and can still be significant in turns 4 and 5.

Mid and Late War

If you already control South Africa and Angola, take Botswana, if you have some extra ops and no battlegrounds to occupy. Important – if your opponent controls Zimbabwe, it might be difficult to realign Botswana, so you might want to hurry.
If you control only one of these battlegrounds, and your opponent controls the other, take Botswana immediately(!), unless there is some really serious business in another region. Especially if your opponent controls South Africa – in that case having Botswana is the difference between life and death in that country. With Botswana’s support, South Africa will hold. Without it – it will fall.

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„What The Hell Did You Need The Missile For?!”

polska wersja


GMT Games is planning to release a DeLuxe Pro Edition in October 2014. The new edition will include some changes which affect game mechanics somehow, like adding Albania in Europe, splitting Laos/Cambodia into two countries, and some other changes on the map which I won’t reveal right now. The changes also include adding four new optional cards.

As an active Twilight Struggle blogger and 2014 ITSL Conference Semi-Finalist I was honoured with the opportunity to beta-test the new edition and I must say I’m excited. I was also allowed to describe one of the new cards before the official premiere. Since the cards’ layouts are not completed yet I won’t show you the card but will present the event text (which is simple enough to hope it won’t change) and, of course, my strategical thoughts after several test games.

#113. „What The Hell Did You Need The Missile For?!”

Event text:

Degrade DEFCON 2 levels.

Phase: Mid War
Side: neutral
OPs: 4
Recurring: yes

General considerations

As the name suggests, this card is designed mainly for extending the downside risk of playing „Missile Envy”. „Missile Envy” was deliberately planned to include the DEFCON suicide risk which was relevant only in case of exchanging it for „We Will Bury You!!!”, Soviets Shoot Down KAL-007, or Duck and Cover, and even then only if opponent’s headline degraded DEFCON and triggered first (or in case of playing „Missile Envy” event in the middle of the turn which is an extreme rarity). Apparently the game designers considered this risk too low.

„What The Hell Did You Need The Missile For?!” changes this significantly. As a 4 Ops card, it may always be exchanged for „Missile Envy”. As a neutral card, its event text will trigger during triggering „Missile Envy”, no matter who plays the latter. Moreover, by degrading DEFCON 2 levels it usually causes DEFCON suicide even if opponent’s headline does not degrade DEFCON prior to „Missile Envy”. Finally, by being a returning card it dramatically shortens the time when „Missile Envy” may be played under normal risk circumstances.

If you have this card

The event text by itself is just awful. Even if it does not lose the game immediately, it’s hardly ever better than, say, Nuclear Test Ban. The real value of this card lies in the threat described above. However, no sane opponent will play „Missile Envy” if there is a possibility that you hold „What The Hell Did You Need The Missile For?!” unless he is in such a desperate position that he has to take any chance.

Therefore, like the Nuclear Test Ban mentioned above this card is usually a generic 4 Ops which is valuable by itself. However, this is usually the last 4 Ops card I use. I prefer holding this card to prevent opponent from playing „Missile Envy” which may cost 4 Ops by itself (if „Missile Envy” is exchanged for 4 Ops card, opponent gets extra 2 Ops and you lose 2 Ops; moreover, the opponent may exploit the fact that you must play a 2 Ops card in your very next move). Of course, if I have „Missile Envy”, or if „Missile Envy” is already on the discard pile, this is usually an auto play for Ops.

There are exceptions, however, when you just prefer degrading DEFCON even if it costs you 4 Ops and an Action Round. A common example is USSR playing Nuclear Subs at high DEFCON, trying to spend the whole turn realigning Europe or Asia. Of course, you’d prefer to respond with Cuban Missile Crisis (cheaper) or „How I Learned To Stop Worrying” (ditto plus gives you Mil Ops) but you don’t always have the luxury of possessing the DEFCON degrader you want. Sometimes you just can’t afford the high DEFCON (especially when Quagmired/Bear-Trapped although in this case your only chance is to headline „What The Hell Did You Need The Missile For?!” which is an extremely risky solution by itself). And sometimes you’d like to drop DEFCON quickly and win by Wargames or stop opponent from getting rid of multiple DEFCON suicide cards. For example, if you headline Aldrich Ames Remix and leave USA with Lone Gunman and unspaceable Ortega (assuming US has IPs in Cuba) but DEFCON is at 4, you must immediately drop it to 2 to win if US has China Card as well. You probably prefer couping with either Duck and Cover or Soviets Shoot Down KAL-007 but „What The Hell Did You Need The Missile For?!” is another possible solution.

For USSR it’s also worth noticing that if you possess this card, Grain Sales to Soviets in your hand is a DEFCON suicide even with DEFCON at 3 (not that it weren’t anyway if you possess „How I Learned To Stop Worrying”, or not that you ever wanted to play it on yourself even if it does not lead to DEFCON suicide).

If you don’t have this card

Don’t play „Missile Envy” for the event, period. The risk is never worth the potential profits, and „Missile Envy” is not a safe play even if DEFCON is at 5 as long as your opponent may headline Cuban Missile Crisis (or, if you are USSR, „How I Learned To Stop Worrying”).

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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.


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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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.


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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