Twilight Struggle

Twilight Struggle is a two person board game which my boyfriend and I played for the second time this weekend.

I suppose you’d actually say it was the first time, since the first time we got the rules completely wrong. Realising half way into our first play through, we changed the rules to what we thought they were. It wasn’t until the second time, this Sunday, that I feel we really cracked it.

The game struggles from the age old problem of board games – any board game – in that the rules often seem impenetrable. Your first play through will take half a weekend up, I’m sure. Fortunately there are some guides around which do a much better job at explaining the rules than the rules do. I’d strongly recommend that those, or taking a look around Youtube first of all.

The game is supposed to take around three hours, but we were finding that each turn (we ended up playing 7 of 10 turns before Tim won) was taking between 30 to 45 minutes. It took a very long time to play but certainly never became boring.

The game works around cards which you can play one-per-turn. There’s a couple of ways to play the cards, but almost always will have a benefit to you as well as a disadvantage. Sometimes the disadvantage is quite extreme, so you end up spending a lot of time weighing up the trade off. This doesn’t feel like it slows down the game play because you’ll be looking at your cards deciding what to do next whilst your opponent is doing the same.

In a similar vein to Risk, the game gives points at certain stages based on how much of a continent you control. These points are scored when someone plays a score card: “Score Europe”, or “Score South America”. As at any time half the cards in play are being held by your opponent, you’ve no idea which scoring card is likely to come up soon. You need to take slight cues from them, whilst they’re simultaneously trying to throw you off the scent (but this forces them to potentially be wasting one of their precious few turns). If they’re putting a lot of effort into Asia, maybe they have that scoring card.

Annoyingly though, it’s possible they don’t have a scoring card in their hand. And neither might you. I think this is the situation I found myself in for at least a turn or two. Falling into the situation just leaves you with nothing to focus on. It actually takes away from the game quite a lot. Should I put my guys in Europe or Middle East? At this point, does it matter… Maybe expert players never get that feeling, but without guidance the game sometimes felt like I was waiting to get more cards.

There may be too much luck to this game for some people, but I certainly felt like I was enough in control that it was my intelligence that was keeping me afloat, and not a few lucky dice throws.

There is a certain level of stress that comes with this game though. Tim, my partner, was moments from winning. Mere points from a USSR victory, but later told me that it was stressful as all hell. He needed the exact combination of cards, and for me not to steal a very specific card, in order to solidify his win – which he did, but the stress soiled the feeling a little.

Nonetheless, I’m excited for him to get home so we can start playing again! Definitely a game to lose yourself in, worthy of a good amount of concentration.

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