Are you good enough at Twilight Struggle to enter a tournament?


Just now saw this. Thanks rho21. Sorry your poor hand on turn 1 shaped the game so massively. I’ve been in that situation in some other Qt3 games.

Speaking of which, does anyone have any thoughts on how best to play from a weak turn 1 hand as USSR?


Brian Reynolds / Cattlesquat playing US defeats East86Raider playing USSR, on turn 8 by scoring track. Thanks to East86 for pounding it out all in one day when I got back from my trip abroad.

VIZ… weak starting USSR hand, of course it depends on what kind of weak hand, but one alternate play instead of the coup if you don’t have good ops to coup with is to just play 2 ops into Afghanistan and wait. Puts pressure on US because you now dominate Asia if they don’t do anything (obviously works even better if you’re holding Asia scoring), yet they might be afraid to leap into Pakistan etc. And defcon remains at 5, inviting your opponent to make all kinds of exciting mistakes ;-) Much scarier for US to expand into some of its normal places when defcon is still low, and yet if you haven’t couped him he has few good coup options against you to lower defcon. Keep your eye out for realignment opportunities in weird places (Asia, Middle East, … Europe!)



Berbatov (USSR) defeats cfkane (US) through Defcon on turn 10, AR 4; Ortega Elected in Nicaragua ends it.

A very interesting game with the US playing a very savvy VP-centric game and the USSR manouvering for board position led to a collapsing Soviet Europe in the late war, and culminated in a last stand in East Germany to avoid an auto-loss. Fun game.


I lost concentration during the battle for East Germany and neglected to notice that I had influence in Cuba. Oops. Well played Berbatov.


Interesting. It might have gone either way, depending on your hand; I had ME scoring, Chernobyl and North Sea Oil as rather undesirable 3 ops (2 with purge), and 2 2ops, so no way to overcontrol cost-free after Ortega put it to 11-13. Well played.


A close-fought game between gumers (Soviets) and myself just ended in victory for me (as the USA) at final Scoring–6 VPs.

A final turn combo of Headlining Grain Sales resulting in snatching Five Year Plan which grabs East European Unrest did a lot of damage that even positive scoring card play wasn’t able to overcome.

GG, gumers!



@Brian_Reynolds v.

@Syzygy v.

The same rules apply. +2 influence for the US, random sides, optional cards included, 7 days per player.

Good luck!


Some really rough luck (I drew most of the high-value cards, got a great coup roll early on, managed to have Arab-Israeli War succeed, etc…) for Syzygy ends up giving me a Soviet victory on turn 3.

T1 saw him removed from the ME due to Arab-Israeli War and he never managed to get back in. Europe was scored for net 0 VPs while Asia netted the Soviets 5 VPs after a high-quality Soviet coup in Iran locked access long enough.

T2 saw ME scored for net 8 VPs thanks to the USA being locked out, followed by another 2 for end of turn Mil-OPs.

T3 headline saw the Soviets draw Middle East Scoring again and, after some quick card-counting and holding over Defectors from T2, I realized the only hope of not getting auto victory was if I held ME Scoring and he headlined Five Year Plan or if he played Europe Scoring in headline as that would net him 2 VPs (and leave us at -18). I took a small gamble and saw Containment for the US headline, resulting in auto-victory at -23 VPs.

GG, Syzygy!


Thanks Jeromeymartin. Excellent play on your part. Obviously frustrating for me as I’d rather have a “real” game in the semis and I didn’t feel I had much of a chance with those card draws.

I sent you some text messages on game but maybe we can discuss here for everyone’s benefit. For my own growth as a player did you see any big mistakes? The only thing I think I might have done is counterplay by taking two countries in SE Asia to keep you from dominating and playing the 5 score. Other than that to me all my plays seemed good based on the board state and what I knew at the time.


And good luck in the finals! If it’s you vs. Brian I’ll be torn on whether to root for the person that beat me or a developer who has given me so many hours of enjoyment in Civ2 and AC. :)


More than happy to comment, Syzygy. I posted some messages in our game as well, but I’ll repost the essence here for others.

I think you fell behind the ball in Asia. At every opportunity as the USA, I try to match the Soviets in Asia so they don’t get the early cheap 5 VPs. Obviously, it depends on the cards, but if you can muster the OPs…

Getting locked out of ME is really bad, and I got lucky with being able to play it twice. You forked me in Turkey (placed 1 OP there to not only open access to Syria, but also break an important non-BG in Europe) successfully, and I think people should always be cognizant of that sort of opportunity, especially as the US.

I thought an early mistake was NORAD as event on T2. That’s a huge 3 OPs card and I don’t think the event play like that was worth the OPs unless you have a lot to spare. US’s early game is usually survival rather than dominance, and the ROI of NORAD is only seen over a long game.

I also think you were too aggressive on the Space Race (Captured Nazi made sense, play of other cards not necessarily). At one instance, you played Fidel into the track, for example. That’s giving up 2 OPs in the short term where they may be vital while kicking the can down the road. I don’t consider Fidel as all that big a deal for the USA to play–especially since it allows Soviet play of CIA Created to mean DEFCON suicide–a huge bonus.

More as I think of it. :)


Agreed. That was a mistake.

You mentioned that NORAD wasn’t a great T2 headline. I agree but what would you have picked instead with this hand?

Five Year Plan would have been the same opportunity cost and maybe worse. Same with NTB. Headlining Truman would be throwing away a card I’d want to keep in hand and deck. Not sure if you are allowed to headline UN Intervention? I guess I could have gone with ME scoring but at the time I had some hope I’d be able to sneak in for presence at least before your plays of 4-4-4-3-3-3 Ops. :) NORAD seemed like the least bad choice.


You wouldn’t have spaced Korean War when you controlled Western Asia and had 3 BGs? And you wouldn’t have spaced Decolonization with nothing in Africa and SE Asia? The way I saw it, even if I was behind I couldn’t afford to sacrifice board position if I was going to have a chance to convert in the mid- to late-game.

Fidel was definitely iffy, although I would point out you already had couped Panama, so there was no DEFCON benefit to Fidel. Also, the main place I needed to make up points in was the ME, and I don’t think using Fidel to play 1 Op into Syria would have been a good use either with your huge Ops advantage. At that point I was already thinking I needed to just pray ME Scoring wouldn’t come up for a while.

My intent isn’t push back or some kind of posturing that I didn’t do anything wrong, just meaning to clarify my position and ask if there was truly a better play. :) I appreciate this post-mortem strategy talk! Very helpful to grow as a player. Also I think this thread could use more strategy discussion. :)


In that situation, I’d hit Truman Doctrine and not look back for a second. It is the least costly option (1 OP instead of 3) and with no downside (wipes out Soviets in Yugoslavia).

That being said, running into my massive-OPs hand is still problematic, of course. But a couple of extra (actually 4 if we assume Fidel is played as well) OPs allows you to be more aggressive in Asia and Europe at the same time. Putting 1 into Turkey and Laos/Cambodia forces me to play into Syria and Pakistan–the former of which doesn’t grant VPs. 1 point into Syria opens up a chance of getting into Israel, flipping Lebanon (at a cost of 3 OPs) for a 3 VP swing and also diverts me from placing more IPs into ME BGs.


I would definitely have spaced Decolonization as it’s one of the worst cards, but taking the 1/3 chance on Korean War is usually something I’m willing to risk, especially if the VPs are looking rough. It’s something of a judgement call, of course, and it’s not the -wrong- choice to have spaced it, I think.

The point of Fidel was more a general point rather than specific to our game. Actually, considering we were 1US Costa Rica, 1 USSR Panama, I’d see Fidel as even more worthy of OPs play–the Reds are already in the region; what’s 1 BG?

That being said, though, this is obviously speculative thinking on my part. I’m mostly relaying what I would have done in your position, -not- guaranteeing it would have worked in any way. :P

I think you were crippled by my high-OPs cards, good rolls (A-I War, ‘5’ on Iran coup, you getting a ‘1’ on the counter-coup) and the back-to-back ME Scoring more than any particular errors on your part.


You’re right I should have given that more thought. I’ve seen so many key plays with Truman I hate to throw it away on something that doesn’t have much impact on the board position.

That’s interesting because I’ve never seen Fidel as “not all that big a deal” for the US. Once the USSR gets into Cuba, as a 3 stability BG, it’s difficult to get them out. And of course it often turns into a hub or the hub of a struggle over Latin America as the USSR bolsters Haiti or Nicaragua, the US coups with a 1 Op card later, etc. etc. If the USSR isn’t present in a BG in SA/CA/Africa elsewhere I agree it’s a decent tradeoff for the DEFCON pressure though, but that wasn’t the case for our game.

At the time I spaced it I didn’t have Japan, so it was a 50% chance of losing S Korea and giving the USSR 2 VPs. From a decision tree perspective that seems like a average loss for the US, 50% chance of the US being up +2 Ops, 50% chance of USSR being up +4 and US +2 (total +2 USSR) with 2 VPs to the USSR. Of course, it would be better to space it in round 3, but my thinking was that by the time it came back I would have a good chance of controlling Japan and maybe even Taiwan (with Formosa in play).

Yeah, while I definitely love Twilight Struggle, I’m seeing a lot more of these situations in which one side or another doesn’t have much of a chance than I recall seeing before the app came out. At least 3 or 4 of my games in the last tournament and this tournament seemed to be decided more by luck than skill. And with the slow pace of the game it’s not ideal to have to work through these one sided contests to get to what I feel are the better games where both sides have a fighting chance. At the same time, I don’t want to cut off chances of growing as a player by not learning how to play from a disadvantaged position.

And it’s also an interesting game design choice in that this high degree of card hand and dice result randomness creates the variability in board states that we see across games, as well as interesting risk/reward choices of going for coups and realignments and rolling the dice, versus the more guaranteed influence placement. But the downside seems to be a higher proportion of lopsided games.

But even though I’ve seen more of these lopsided games than in the past, I’m not sure I’d say it’s a weakness or problem with TS.

I need to listen to this Designer Notes podcast in which Soren Johnson interviews Ananda Gupta again. I’m pretty sure this came up, and when I originally listened to it I was more convinced it was an “issue” than I am now.

@Brian_Reynolds - as a veteran and highly successful game designer who obviously likes Twilight Struggle quite a bit, do you have any thoughts on this?


Slightly embarrassed to have only now realized that I’m in the midst of playing the Brian Reynolds in a game of Twilight Struggle…


Doh! Hope that doesn’t ratchet up the pressure for you!


Well, I only realized 8+ turns into the game…

(I’m a big fan of your work, Brian! Gettysburg and Rise of Nations in particular…)


I wish there was a way to get replays or text summaries of the games, like you could back when chantry was operational. I’d love to see how some of these went on a turn by turn basis.