Blaugust Board Games

Twilight Struggle: tear down that wall!

August 23, 2019

Last week I played Twilight Struggle for the first time with a friend of mine. It’s a board game about the Cold War first released in 2005. I had previously bought the digital version on Steam, and had played a few games against the AI, but there’s something about starting down your opponent over some cardboard. I thought I’d post a few thoughts given I am in a bit of a video gaming lull – a lull right in the middle of Blaugust! Great timing.

Twilight Struggle is produced by GMT Games, and is a classic in the board game world. The game sat at the top of the BoardGameGeek charts for years, now toppled by other games in a gaming genre that is rapidly growing in popularity. I probably don’t need to tell you that board games have undergone bit of a renaissance.

Or perhaps it would be more apt to call it a rehabilitation in the Soviet style. Board game nights were dull, tedious Monopoly fests for a decade or two. But the surge in games in the last 15 years has brought the genre back from the proverbial gulag.

I will bury you!

Twilight Struggle is a game that plays out over 10 turns – 3 Early War, 4 Mid War and 3 Late War. You play by drawing cards, placing or mounting coups for ‘influence points’ in countries around the world, and moving counters along various tracks – Space Race, DEFCON, military, and victory points. It sounds complicated but it’s really quite simple. However, there is significant strategic depth in the game that catches one by surprise.

As an example, you can start the game as the United States and go all in for Europe, however the Soviets can (and do) coup your presence in Iran and start to dominate the whole Middle East. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself behind in victory points, with the Soviet player blockading you in West Germany, de-Stalinising and gaining a foothold in Asia and Africa, and kicking off the Korean War. Your prize possession – Europe – will be feeble and you’ll be chasing the Soviets to send the first man into space, all the while the DEFCON is degrading and you can’y mount a coup without thermonuclear war…

If that all sounds exciting to you, then you need to look into this game.

As with all GMT Games, Twilight Struggle is meticulously researched, rich in theme, and full of decision-making that will make your strategic brain sing.

Tear down that wall!

If you are someone that is hesitant but interested in delving into the deeper, ‘heavier’ side of boardgaming, then Twilight Struggle could be an excellent entry point. While not light like Ticket to Ride, it is defnitely in the lighter side rules-wise for politico-wargames.

I would absolutely recommend that you pick up the digital version on Steam or mobile app stores first. The adaptation is quite faithful and you will get a sense whether you want to buy the cardboard version. Perhaps it is more the case that you have no one who would get into this kind of game, in which case I’d definitely suggest you buy it and play online.

So go ahead, Mr or Ms Reader, tear down that wall between you and heavier boardgames.

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  1. I read about this game ages ago and was eager to try it. When the digital version came up on Steam I grabbed a copy. I have few hours in playing it, but I have to admit that the AI buries be every time by the end of the mid war.

    1. There’s definitely a learning curve that is softened if you start playing with someone who is also new. If you can convince a friend to buy it and play it together, you’ll enjoy it more. The AI is brutal because a part of the game strategy requires you to have a level of awareness of the cards available. This doesn’t take that long really (I’m maybe 4-5 games in), but the AI obviously has an encyclopedic knowledge of the game engine.

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