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No. of Recommendations: 10
I just can't say enough good things about this game. Fellow Fool Rex Moore (TMFOrangeblood) and I have now played twice. It's a long game -- that is my biggest criticism of it. The criticism is not hard-edged... because if you love something then who cares THAT much if it's long? That can even be very good. But what I mean is just that this game will eat a whole night, and (if you play at our still-beginner pace) then some. So it won't work for everyone, and even for fans like me, it doesn't work easily "on any given night." But it's such a treat that it's well worth blocking out the time.

It's a card-driven game of influence simulating the Cold War. Two players, USA v. USSR. The whole map is your playing field, but it never feels overwhelming; the scale, though, is very pleasing as you really do feel like you're Kennedy or Khruschev with the world as your gameboard. Further, every one of the 108 cards features an historical event from 1945-1989, and the card may be played as an event or for its operations point value (1-4). So you'll have a decision as to whether you want to play your "Tear Down This Wall, Mr. Gorbachev" for how its event affects the geopolitical map, OR you can play it for 4 operations points, which basically enable you to lay down 4 blocks of influence (like El Grande) on the map, maybe to make Angola friendly to you as perhaps Africa will be scored this round, or maybe mount a coup in Venezuela, or North Korea. Even better, since half the cards contain events favorable to your opposition, when you play those cards for points you HAVE to trigger your opponent's event to benefit his side. So the tension is great. And you basically get dealt a hand of 8 cards at the start of each of 10 turns, and you must play each hand out (retaining one card if you like) and so you sit there and think through (a) the sequencing of your hand -- including when to feel the pain of cards that you will play that will HURT you, (b) how your cards will interact with the map, while (c) watching and reacting to what your opponent is doing with each of his moves (you alternate the play of a card each).

Final thing I'll mention -- and anyone interested should read lots more about this game at BoardGameGeek -- is that about 1 in 12 cards is a SCORING CARD, which if you have one you must play by the end of the turn and scores the region (basically, continents) indicated on the card. So you scramble to build up power and influence in that area and time it right. But of course as you begin to escalate, your opponent often will too. Just like the real Cold War. And then you'll sometimes try to bluff, and make them build up where in fact nothing will be scored. Sometimes you each fool each other and build up for no purpose at all! Wonderfully thematic.

This is definitely on my Top 10 list. Indeed, I can't think of a single game right now that I enjoy MORE than Twilight Struggle. It takes us about 5-8 hours to play (we're new and slow), and maybe we can get it down to 4 (the game can end suddenly, earlier on). But regardless, what a great, great game... and from a first-time designer, no less. I'm already following the development of his next game, which will use similar dynamics but simplify the system a bit; it's an election game focused on the Nixon-Kennedy election, and played out of course over a U.S. map.

Highest recommendation: Join The Struggle!


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