Heating up the Cold War

Fighting the Twilight Struggle
by Steve Carey

The post-WWII "Cold War" between the draws Romanian Abdication, he would
West and the East was not characterized probably not want to place Influence into
by major military campaigns, but instead that country since the event would grant
reflected intrigue and influence being him full control.
exerted throughout the world.
Appropriately, GMT's latest card driven
game (CDG), Twilight Struggle (TS),
THE COLD WAR, 1945-1989
Don't overlook the possibility of your
opponent popping out the Europe Scoring
covers this noteworthy period in history card during the first Headline if he has the
without showcasing massive armies or setup advantage, so you probably want to
surging fleets on the map. While this is the ensure at-start parity in the region with
first published effort from co-designers your discretionary influence.
Jason Matthews and Ananda Gupta, they
have obviously learned their lessons quite "There was little choice... but
well because TS is a smooth, highly for the United States to assume global
interactive, incredibly tense, quick playing, responsibilities... planning a postwar
and very enjoyable game. By taking a world in which democracy and
macro, geopolitical view of the long capitalism would be secure."
`struggle', TS takes a complex conflict
and makes it playable with ease. Headline Phase
Part of the fun of the game is springing
Indeed, Twilight Struggle is the easiest Hungary has a central position a nice card on your opponent during the
to learn CDG published to date, but let's as it connects to four other countries. Headline Phase. No player is going to want
face it — it is not easy managing a super- Yugoslavia offers access to Italy, while have 'Red Scare/Purge' (to reduce all your
power through one crisis after another. also buffering Greece and protecting cards by one Ops) headlined on them for
So let's take a look at some basic aspects Hungary. Czechoslovakia can be important the whole turn. Indeed, there are a lot of
of play, while also providing some strategy because it is adjacent to two battleground great plays that can be made as a headline,
tips, to assist all you would-be Presidents countries, namely East Germany and but that thought brings to the forefront
or Premiers out there. Poland (it also can protect Hungary). one of the key principles of TS:
Don't overlook split Austria which "Know where you are in danger".
"The disproportionate burden the Red connects to three battleground nations.
Army had borne in defeating Hitler gave the Also, Finland can be a contested nation To avoid danger, players must make
USSR a moral claim to substantial, perhaps because like Austria it is both West & East, constant situational assessments through-
even preponderant, influence in shaping the but often player priorities lie elsewhere. out the game. This is especially crucial
postwar settlement. It was at least as easy to during the Headline Phase, and is even
believe, in 1945, that authoritarian The US would also have three more acute for the US player because
communism was the wave of the future remaining points, which can be divided the Soviets get to play first during the
as that democratic capitalism was." between France (but watch out for De subsequent action rounds. For example,
Gaulle!) and Italy (two Influence needed making a play such as 'CIA' (to reveal the
Setup for control). If you feel that you can Soviet hand) is usually a sound headline
In most cases, the USSR will want to spare a point, Turkey is an attractive strategy for the US. Not only is viewing
spend three starting Influence to control alternate site as it threatens Romania but the Soviet hand at the start of the turn
Poland while the US will want to control more importantly connects to the Middle obviously beneficial, with that one Ops the
West Germany with four of their starting East (Syria), which may be crucial if the US can perform a Coup on a battleground
Influence. After that, how to spend your US gets booted out of that region. If country somewhere and thus degrade
remaining points is not as obvious. you want to be conservative, put three DEFCON a level. This could prevent
Influence in Italy to better secure the USSR from attempting a Coup or
For the remaining three Soviet that key battleground nation. Realignment in an important area of
Influence, generally one point can be
the map.
dispersed to each of three different Remember rule 3.1 that allows both
Eastern European locales. players to examine their initial card hands What if it is Mid War and your
before allocating their Free Influence, opponent dominates the Middle East?
which may steer players in a certain You both know the Scoring card for that
(NOTE all quotes are from John Lewis

direction. For example, if the USSR player
Gaddis' excellent book, The Cold War: Region is due to come up again (and you
A New History (Penguin Press, 2005) don't hold it). A fine headline play would

DEFCON would your opponent to pay double (2 Ops) to enemy events. more Soviet influence into Africa). By going first. They can change hands in region. If you change the balance of power in an entire since doing so would lower DEFCON to can't outright control a nation. When you have a handful of East battleground). this could give the resources to accomplish them all — that it is could thus restore the balance of power USSR opportunity for a Coup in a somewhat unusual for a player to have in the region before its scoring card gets battleground country located in a region spare resources to conduct bluffing played by the Soviet player. especially against those expended in defeating Germany and Japan lower (1 or 2) Stability-rated countries. early Influence plays in Africa before opponent's event during your Headline Let's say a turn ends at DEFCON 2. This is a significant By virtue of the adjacent United States of . the Mid War shuffle). Phase because you would sacrifice the Ops but increases to DEFCON 3 at the start of from the card. the US player could not Influence and he will have to pay 2 Ops follow suit with his own Coup or Realign. per Influence until your control is finally Be very cautious in playing Scoring ment in a Soviet controlled battleground broken. Neither the United States. But the USSR "Every action by your opponent must be player headlined 'Portuguese Empire weighed for its potential threat level". your hand. and that you well indicate that he does not have the not cause you to lose any points there. Plus it's often better to look precious VPs. you may even sense of security. the Middle East. but both sides have so many pressures from non-European countries. play them during the Action lower to 2 after the attempt." that often.. if your USSR Military Ops (even when the Coup fails). If your opponent has his Phase and use the resulting Ops to improve also prevents Coups (and Realignments) in sights on your territory. which caused domination to If the USSR player creates 'South African would-be world dominator. I was involved in one game where one and cause the game to go BOOM!). "Victory in World War II brought no If you manage to roll well. you know Scoring cards are forthcoming It rarely makes any sense to play an (e.. it may very in a country. It is impor- expecting his opponent to headline Coup against a US controlled Iran (Middle tant to gain control of countries as it forces `Defectors'. the Soviets Placing Influence will be the most Soviet player to headline a US event while could use the first action to conduct a common action in the game. So in a snap. can things went from a +4 US VP advantage `Decolonization' (and so spreads even affect the DEFCON track (when at- to a -4 VP Soviet advantage. add extra your board position. to spread the tentacles of your empire via Influence placed in adjoining countries. nor the Soviet Union at the end of 1950 Coup attempts are an essential weapon could regard the lives and treasure they had in your arsenal. an unsuccessful Coup will yourself to harm elsewhere. but when the circumstances are right they can be very decisive.. saving you that would then be closed (due to maneuvers. Coups are the dagger strike for any Crumbles'. placing just region. Coups and second and an enemy headline can literally anywhere else on the board for that matter. one Influence in a country allows you to the US had domination in a lightly place points into adjoining nations starting contested Africa and so played its Scoring Another key principle of TS is: next turn. Such an automatically increases one level at the and objectives — and a constant lack of event/action during the Headline Phase start of each new turn. or Try a Coup! If you succeed in knocking even lost the contest to an opponent's auto out enemy Influence and placing any of victory because they were in danger and your own. Consider Action Rounds when Fidel gains control of Cuba — the US As mentioned. but because What's that — you have no Influence in of a poor headline choice they ended up a certain region that you'd like to get into? having to play their cards defensively. he should Realign! each action round. since DEFCON TS. DEFCON dropping a level) to the US ahead and use spare Ops in regions where right after the Soviet play. Countries that become controlled Cards as headline events since they go in that region (or a battleground country tend to stay controlled in TS. as having made them safer: the members of the Grand Alliance were now Cold War Realignments probably won't be used adversaries. therefore. to the victors. so don't leave a better headline card sitting in Europe Scoring card and is focusing his don't hesitate to give it a try. Unrest'. For example. and an 8 VP turnaround! wary of the imminent arrival of the Africa also provide you with much-needed Scoring card. and follows that event with quickly turnaround control of a region. card in the Headline Phase. gain control of the target country. thus expanding your reach. the Soviets go first in player should not panic. Strategy Tips for Twilight Struggle be The Voice of America' which allows advantage as the USSR can get the jump There can be a certain bluff element to the US to remove four Soviet influence on the US. I've also seen occasions where attention elsewhere. Realignments not withstanding. Make sure by being clever during the opponent bypasses events such as 'Warsaw If both you and your enemy have Influence Headline Phase that you are not exposing Pact Formed' or 'Comecon'. Since Level 2 force their way in. nor Great Britain. be tempted in battleground countries). It's a very risky call for any the new turn. on the next turn you can start did not immediately address the situation. a player was dealt a great hand. Likewise.g.

and that could be a to get distracted. roll bad and your opponent rolls well. and head. 1956. If it just at the height of the crisis over Poland the card's scoring potential by controlling looks like you're losing grasp of a region . he could be the advantage in a Realignment roll with losing out on some needed VPs now and their +1 DRMs. many times it would be a better you decide if the event or your Ops use move to go for Ops rather than risking a Struggle principle: "Neglecting your occurs first — again. it's not worth it to hold a good the better chance that your Realignments card for the perfect time when you can E. In TS: "Timing is everything".. Here's a simple illustration: the US careful of playing cards just for their event Operations Track and get caught short.well.e. logic dictates that he maximize by the mandated play requirement. So remember another one of TS's keys: "Non-Alignment provided a way So instead of distressing about a bad "On-board need overrides VP greed.Fighting the Twilight Struggle America. your bag of tricks. so don't allow yourself benefiting his opponent. when such scoring and/or Haiti. but may cause him to lose Influence (if any) when unsuccessful. or to hold one of course of a few turns.. it is of course realized. nothing to lose) in the target country. I. Increase DEFCON Status card till later on. Deal Cards positions hopefully improve. and Realignment just for the +1 drm — if you and Hungary. you get the idea). and may eventually come back to haunt you track. and — especially those with Scoring Cards still Holding Cards when played you lose an opportunity to unplayed — is absolutely vital. control adjacent their opponents at the end of a turn. as from the deck when the event occurs. D. he plays it as his last you fail. but to leave open the possibility of without due purpose. enemy card to prevent its event from Get too many Scoring cards over the excitement. Headline Phase later may never come to pass. such commitment. effect and also remove it from the game. the VPs depend on a die roll reduce your liability — events such as for the entire turn. if he holds such a And if the US player can control Nicaragua A. Simply F. and are best used where Events). the Space Race is most note- worthy because it allows both sides to Note that while restricted by DEFCON dump enemy cards without triggering the (just as are Coups).. H." this is where the Space Race is prominent. timing to your best benefit. you Besides gaining some VPs and special can lose big. But when the USSR and you may play the card for nothing if `Cuban Missile Crisis' and the wonderful player has the card. nice to control the timing of a scoring card "The Anglo-French-Israeli invasion If we assume that the USSR player holds though this advantage is somewhat offset took place at the end of October. Otherwise." in which the leaders of the third world hand when too many enemy events are states could tilt without toppling: the idea dealt to you. That takes us to another key Twilight played. it's often not worth it to plant J. torso. so it may be best to get By failing to perform necessary Military the removable enemy events out of the So. players can easily sacrifice VPs to you have support (i. Realignments are a flexible tool in Operations (basically Coups and War deck now. Final Scoring (after Turn 10 only) the fact that enemy events still occur Influence into a target country prior to a during your Ops play of their cards. lethal) to ignore Military Operations. Reveal Held Card (Tournament only) too rapidly. the cards are removed If you don't conduct Military Ops. this is a matter of Military Operations is a sure-fire recipe die roll for 2VPs. it Usually a player will want to hold an improve your board position that round. instead think about what your Never assume that the enemy is was to commit to neither side in the Cold opponent could do if he held such hand! conducting an action or playing an event War. Realignments attempts This is one area where players can really event. Check Military Operations Status stated. the US player can counter the +1 as many of the indicated countries as DRM for those 3 Soviet influence in Cuba. Over And consider this — when you are dealt nations) and have no Influence present the long haul. when a Scoring card still remains to be And when you do play an enemy event. each country would give him B. Flip The China Card Influence." Scoring Cards can be both a blessing ing the balance of power in scoring regions and a curse — they cannot be held. Advance Turn Marker One of the intriguing aspects of TS is Thus. it's not the same card. However. In TS. Generally support you have via controlled countries. But those non-played enemy events themselves do not affect the DEFCON shoot themselves in the foot (and arm. as painful as that may be.. his own events until its effect can be fully serious problem. be too difficult to overlook your Military effect. In try to manipulate the DEFCON track to mentioned above) to reveal the Soviet hand other cases. later in the game. he would maximize the Switching gears for a moment. Military Operations abilities. In some cases. `OPEC'. If a 2 Ops card can be used to `How I Learned to Stop Worrying' are action of the turn to basically nullify its break enemy domination of a region quite useful to this effect. the on-board situation can change Recall that a successful Realignment G.Heating up the Cold War . player holds the 'CIA Created' card and VPs. Set Required Military Operations speaking. for disaster". Constantly monitor. it can be devastating (if not enemy event cards. make better use of the card now. at least plays it as his first action (or headline. you can often minimize (i. is very easy to get caught up in the .e. Action Rounds will succeed. and benefits can then be does not allow a player to place his own reduced or even lost. Sequence of Play possible. The more surround C. With their effect whereas if your opponent held so much going on around the map.

and Late War will apparent from many reports that newbies find the Soviets desperate to maintain should play the Soviets first until they China necessary presence become more comfortable and confident 'China' is a unique card — by possessing in Europe. Instead of get into the area (a Soviet Coup in Panama being compelled to play a detrimental is a ripe early opportunity. there will be a plethora of long haul. So the US player should turned out to be greater than all of the think twice about playing 'Fidel' if he holds differences that separated the United States. a 'Cultural Revolution' can pluck the card US to have no Influence in the Middle East back from the US player just as easily. 'I love great distance (10 turns). it is very important for the impressed with it. Indeed. Action Round of the turn. t ut don't elsewhere. the better. This can be disastrous if And what a fun experience it will be. at all at some point. 'China' can be substituted `Junta'). and a conflict that spans the globe." resources of the USSR. if the US can survive with system and strategy. does occur. and the rest of the turn to focus your resources Twilight Struggle but he should never give events can always kick in later. Like in games covering the Pacific War play his big early events (e. The the initial Soviet onslaught (be especially temptation is always there to play powerful mindful of a USSR control Europe Note that Automatic Victory can't 'China' when you get into a pinch (and strategy). By that Japan or Taiwan can give can be Revolution. was not to and must be avoided whenever possible restore a balance of power in Europe. and the 'Ussuri Incident'. up. very fragile. or a Mid War Conclusions enemy event. Consider when the winning the game outright). powerful combination which can spell "Twlight Struggle would be my selection a significant difference in VPs. But because the fear of such a war something worthy of serious consideration. will likely be in the Middle East. Indeed. he has the upper hand over the occur once the game is over and End Game believe me. the game if it comes up soon again after the shoulders above a fine crop of games that first reshuffle and the situation isn't remedied. That's a East. being shut out in any region for 2005 Game-of-the-Year". Playing the 'China card long as possible. the US can than a quick-start Soviet all-out European This design remarkably captures the swipe the 'China' card right out from Blitz. it's still upheavals'. simple as that.20 VP level. `NATO' ing playing it early in the turn to minimize in World War II. during scoring is potentially devastating.g. the best US response is usually Twilight Struggle possesses almost infinite to attempt a quick Realignment to knock replayability. This also opens up the be under the gun at the onset of a game of to strengthen his board position. When the Late War cards kick Scoring ensues. be held. Mid War will stretch the Having said all the above. I am so Perhaps the best use of 'China' is Needless to say. Israel is psychological nature of the struggle. Early War events do favor the Soviets. consider. It doesn't matter what pinches in this game!). that leads to my last playing the card for 5 Ops in the region US to at least maintain presence in the Middle comment regarding the game: just prior to Asia scoring. And don't forget that the US loses the timing allows the Mid East Scoring card to play Though it was published at the tail end of `Formosan Resolution' event effect after under such circumstances. therefore. and any support (-1 drm) `Mao had launched the Cultural game before the halfway point (Turn 5). out). 'China' also can be an insurance card the card — better to send Fidel into Space the Soviet Union. he has a very good chance of going the eliminate potential rivals. and their respective allies. or if one to play your regular hand and save 'China' advantage in controlling Europe (and thus side exceeds the +/. Whoever for a true emergency. were released throughout the year. "Stalin's goal. forget that South Korea is at risk from the and the US is in real jeopardy of losing the `Korean War'. It could even end 2005. other marvelous gaming journey to come. With cards like 'Nixon' The greatest early danger for the US. and DEFCON One imperative for the US is to keep the is at 4 while the US Military Operations USSR out of Central and South America as "The Cold War could have produced a Track is still at 0.. but The US player should be inclined to rather to dominate that continent as thoroughly as Hitler sought to do. if the US can be -7 VP or decisive. Thus. Of course. Strategy Tips for Twilight Struggle Balance whose Scoring Card you possess. you deny it to your opponent. there was now reason for hope that it would taken from his hand (via events like 'Five Chances are that the USSR will eventually never take place. for a USSR player who has a card (or two) (insert your own appropriate joke here). they can give the US the outright order you score the regions in. can only reveal the tip of a proverbial too heavily on fickle 'China' once the Mid iceberg in preparing players for the War deck kicks in. Twilight Struggle stands head-and- he plays 'China'. as yet the end of Turn 3. has the VP advantage after all regions are US player holds 'China' on the final tallied will be the winner." . but the longer the Reds are kept Because of the great variety of card instead and the harmful card could still out. in the summer of 1966." Year Plan' or `Grain Sales'). an article such as this But the Soviet player should not rely him down (or better yet. but it may be best in. and under the Soviet player's nose. And when the 'Fidel' event plays. another of his periodic maneuvers to better. it. and it is certainly possible for the every contest will be a learning experience. he chuckled at the time. America is scored. Cuba potentially is worth hot war that might have ended human lift on for a Coup can save you 4 VPs — and that's three VPs all by its lonesome anytime Central the planet. the US player will usually or 'Marshall Plan') as Ops at the onset the VP damage.