Twilight Struggle: An AAR – Part 8

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Our AAR of the new digital Twilight Struggle enters Turn 2 ~

Michael Eckenfels, 24 April 2016

TURN TWO

Eight Cards in Hand; Six Action Rounds

So, yes, I’ve done a bit of studying and seen all of the colossal failures I’ve committed thus far in Turn 1. Well, ‘colossal’ in that a strategy guide I found on the very helpful website www.twilightstrategy.com (thanks to forum member Pinetree for the revelation on the PDF version), and even though I knew of the site, I still didn’t really bother to look at it closely.

I feel it’s easier to learn by losing than by winning. Knowing all of these strategies might make me a better player, but without actually understanding them in the first place, and having played TS extensively beforehand (other than years ago, and admittedly I’ve forgotten quite a bit about this game), there’s no way in hell I’ll ever get the U.S. in this game into a position of dominance.

Right now, I’m just wanting to survive. I’m not just 14 points in the hole – I have to score 34 VPs now to win. And that’s if the Soviet AI doesn’t score any more for the rest of the game. I suppose it’s possible, though I have my doubts.

 

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A recording of President Truman comes on, remind me of why I’m not a very good President.


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Helpfully, DEFCON is reduced to 5. Though, it was never in danger of going higher with me at the helm. The Soviets have done all the DEFCON baiting thus far, and that’s obviously something I will need to change.

 

My cards aren’t nearly as bad this turn as they were last turn, but they’re not all awesome. While I am going to list them out here, I’m going to talk about each of them, and hopefully be a little more lucid in understanding how they work.

 

EUROPE SCORING

 

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This is definitely a big one. I will need to play it by the end of this Turn, otherwise I will lose automatically (provided I’ve survived to the end of the Turn, of course). This could really change things in the U.S.’s favor, if I start making some smart moves in Europe. It will mean needing to focus and not try to react to USSR moves elsewhere. And finally, it would be interesting to see if the AI-led USSR will take a hint when I start focusing on Europe. For scoring purposes, it would give me the following (and these thoughts are based on the current status of Europe in this game):

 

Presence: +3 VP. I do have Presence there, as I Control at least one country.

Domination: +7 VP. I have Domination there, as I Control more countries (W. Germany, France, U.K., and Italy) than the USSR (E. Germany and Poland). I also control more Battleground countries than the USSR – three for me, two for them.

Control: I do not have this. To get it, I would need to Control more countries than the USSR (which I do), and have to Control all Battleground countries (which I do not). I don’t think Mr. Bear would take kindly to me trying to pry Control of E. Germany and Poland, much less do it without noticing. Even if the AI is an idiot, it would be very difficult to NOT notice that. A shame, really, because Control of Europe when this card is played would mean an Automatic Victory.

 

So, this might be a good Headline card to play…it should give me +7 VP, plus another four VPs for the four Battleground countries I control, for a total of +11 VP. Even though the Soviets would get some VP too, this would still immediately swing the pendulum far back along the track and get me out of the frying pan. The Automatic Victory aspect is very nice, but I think it’s too far out of my reach to hope for that…right now, anyway.

 

THE CHINA CARD (4, BOTH, from Turn One, and mine now since the USSR played it)

 

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This is a great card for focusing on Asia, but since ASIA SCORING has already been played, gaining Ops there for scoring is no longer important for gaining extra influence there…unless I’m missing something. Regardless, it is a 4 Ops card, and that’s a heckuva lot.

 

CAPTURED NAZI SCIENTIST (1, BOTH, from Turn One)

This card refers to the U.S.’s recruitment of Werhner von Braun, whom essentially got our rocketry program off the ground (pun intended). While not a hugely strong card, being 14 VP in the hole and playing this as the Headline Card for the U.S. would mean automatically advancing one square on the Space Race track and getting +2 U.S. VP, changing the overall total to 12 in favor of the USSR. Every little bit would help.

 

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Considering I could play EUROPE SCORING and wipe out much of my VP deficit, though, I’m not sure that’s the best Headline Card to play.

 

NUCLEAR TEST BAN (4, BOTH)

 

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This is a good card for Ops since it’s worth four. As the DEFCON level is 5, playing this for its Event would mean gaining +3 VP, though there would be no improvement to the DEFCON level. This might be useful later in the Turn if both the U.S. and USSR are Couping their way to a nuclear showdown. I don’t see an advantage to playing it as a Headline Card right now, especially as I have better options for gaining VP right out of the gate.

 

CONTAINMENT* (3, US)

 

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This card seems to be another good candidate for a Headline Card. The strategy guide calls it “one of the four great US headlines in the Early War,” a statement that is hard to ignore. This would give me +1 Ops for every card played by me for the entire Turn, to a max of 4 Ops. Considering I have two 3 Ops cards and two 1 Ops cards, this is not a bad choice, but I could also play it in AR1 (Action Round 1), though that would be one less AR to spread the Ops around, and would also mean the USSR might have a chance to tip the balance in Europe.

 

SUEZ CRISIS (3, USSR)

 

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Headlining this would eliminate the advantage I have right now (losing Control in the U.K. and France for starters) and would make EUROPE SCORING a lot less valuable, unless I fix the damage. Though, it is worth 3 Ops, and +1 more if I can get CONTAINMENT* out the door beforehand.

 

COMECON* (3, USSR)

 

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I don’t think Headlining this card is a great idea; it would rob me of the 3 Ops value and give the USSR a little Influence in Eastern Europe. He’d gain an advantage (though slight, as I don’t see that this would give him Control of any countries there).

 

BLOCKADE* (1, USSR)

 

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Headlining this is another bad idea, I think. I’d have to discard a 3 Ops or higher card to discard this card…which means it would just pop up again in a later Turn, when the deck is depleted and reshuffled. For now, though, this isn’t the greatest of ideas.

 

NASSER* (1, USSR)

 

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It seems that this card is not that great – it would give the USSR Control of Egypt. Though, again, MIDDLE EAST SCORING has already been played. The strategy guide says this isn’t that big a deal if you Control Libya, but I’m thinking it’s not that big a deal. The issue that I’ve learned, though, is that the OPEC card – which appears in the Mid War game – is a means for the USSR to potentially get seven more VP; Libya and Egypt are two of those that count towards OPEC. Still…not a great Headline Phase card, I don’t think.

 

TURN TWO, HEADLINE PHASE

 

So what’ll it be? I’m going with EUROPE SCORING. I know that the USSR gets its own VP, too, and that would mitigate some of the VP I can earn, but I really REALLY want to get that damn lead of his down to a less-worrying level.

 

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The net is +5 VP in my favor, lowering the USSR’s lead to +9 USSR VP. Yes, I probably should have waited. That’s three scoring cards in the game already. I know they will be back, though, except for Southeast Asia’s scoring card.

 

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The USSR goes with FIDEL*, which gives him 3 Influence in Cuba. Since we don’t have any there, this isn’t a big loss. Though it does mean a bunch of Commies on the U.S.’s doorstep.

 

Next up is the first round of Turn 2.


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