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DC-Chaos

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Timing your space race
« on: April 21, 2013, 07:17:24 pm »
+1

Hey guys,

I am a new Twilight Struggle player but in the 6 or 7 games I've played I feel I'm starting to know the cards and understand the game theory quite well. Reading tips and advice on tactics has also helped a lot and I have a good grasp on the basics at least

One thing I am wondering though, which I am never sure of in my games and I haven't seen discussed online, is at what stage in my turn should I space race a card. Presuming of course I have a card that I definitely want to send to space during my turn, I'm wondering when is it best to do it. Points I've considered...

-Early as possible so you can react more to what the other player does during his action rounds and doesn't leave you with low OP's late in your turn
-Early as possible so I can advance in the race before opponent does to get extra VP's and benefits
-Before your AR7 play to avoid killing off a powerful tool if you're the Americans
-Late as possible so you can change your mind if there's an emergency that desperately needs the cards OP's or to avoid a situation where you've been forced to discard and are stuck with a suicide otherwise
-Late as possible so your opponent has less of an idea as to the strength of your hand and/or what might be in it

Could be that I'm over thinking it, could be that it doesn't really matter or that it entirely depends on the card and the unique situation of the board at the time. However I'm curious to hear what people think and if there is a general consensus on the best time to space race.

Also any thoughts on turn pacing in general. Do people usually like to start with their big OP cards to hit hard and fast, keep them to last for a knock out punch or mix it up to keep their opponents guessing? Keep a big one for the AR7 play? When use the China Card?
« Last Edit: April 21, 2013, 07:21:15 pm by DC-Chaos »
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sspiker

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Re: Timing your space race
« Reply #1 on: April 21, 2013, 11:09:44 pm »
+1

This is a larger issue of hand management, and it turns on a few things. There are a lot of potential variables, but we can cut through some of the clutter:

There are some cards that are almost entirely unplayable for either side. Quagmire/Bear Trap comes to mind. Voice of America. Ussuri River. De-stalinization. Then there are other cards that ARE entirely unplayable at DEFCON 2: Duck and Cover and WWBY are two prominent examples.

If you have in your hand a card you know you will not play under any circumstance, then generally speaking its better to space earlier than later, for a few reasons: 1) to get the benefit first; 2) to allow more time to react to board circumstances, and 3) to prevent the (minimal) risk of that card being forced into action.

However, the BEST time to play isn't a hard-and-fast rule, but its being in the moment; The best time to space is when you're not under pressure. If you're in a tit-for-tat battle for a region being scored this hand, early or late doesn't matter. If your opponent is threatening to take over an important battleground, you can't waste an action round that doesn't improve your board situation at all.

Conversely, if your opponent doesn't pressure you with his action round, then that's the perfect time to take advantage of a break in the action. So if HE uses the space race, or plays a scoring card, or does an event that doesn't really affect you, or strengthens a country of his rather than threatening one of yours, take advantage of the break in action while you can. The last thing you want to do is to squander the rejoinder, only to be forced to waste an action round later that turn and have your opponent take advantage of it.

One final note: you should try avoiding spacing on AR7 as the Americans if at all possible. The ability to pressure the Soviets into choosing between responding or taking their AR1 coup is one of the best weapons for the U.S. Spacing on AR7 in effect gives the Soviets the first action and the last action on the board.
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sspiker

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Re: Timing your space race
« Reply #2 on: April 21, 2013, 11:17:45 pm »
+1

Now, as for cards that aren't imperative to space race (Fidel, Muslim Revolution, Pope John Paul, etc.), I would generally avoid waiting. These are the cards, and some of them have rather high ops value, that if I need ops in order to make or break a region, I want the option. But if I don't need them, I'd rather not have the effect. So holding on to AR5 or AR6 might make the best sense there; this will allow you to both assess the pace of your opponent and the need on the board, while keeping valuable but hard-cost ops if you need them.

Finally, and this is related but not an answer to your question, this is something I've noticed in my gameplay that I'm trying to get more aware of. I referred to before of breaks in the action: your opponent spacing, a scoring card being played, an event that doesn't affect you. These are referred to as "empty action rounds", and essentially it means anytime an AR passes and nothing substantial has changed on the board. Generally speaking, these are bad. Any opportunity you have to improve your position, and it doesn't improve, is a missed opportunity. And given that this game most often hinges on taking advantage of opportunities, too many missed ones will cost you the game.

There are other events that amount to an "empty action round": a failed coup; a failed (or backfired) re-alignment; or a failed war. There's another one, too, that I've noticed more frequently: playing a card and fixing the damage immediately. A great example is East European Unrest. In the Early and Mid War, it is a 3ops card and its loses 3 influence. Many a Soviet plays the card and then uses the ops to just fix the damage. That's an empty action round. It doesn't improve the position at all. In those scenarios, if you don't have another card you want to space, it's better to space race those cards. Seems like common sense, but sometimes you get so wrapped into how best to play a certain card that you ignore the best option available to you.
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DC-Chaos

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Re: Timing your space race
« Reply #3 on: April 23, 2013, 12:01:21 pm »
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Thanks for the good info. These are all things I've considered as well but it's nice to hear them laid out so clearly by somebody else.

You are right that my question is more about hand management than specifically about when to space race. This is a topic that is strangely missing from both this forum and the Twilight Strategy website however. As already said it will always depend on what you cards you get in your hand and the board situation but I'm curious if people believe there is some general plan that should be followed during your turn or is it purely a matter of reacting to what is in front of you.

Some examples of generally acceptable card strategy and hand management I've been thinking of. Of course there will be exceptions but I'd love to hear what other people think of them and anything else they'd like to add

-as USSR coup with a big op card in hand in AR1
-as US keep your biggest op card for your AR7 play to maximize effect
-Space race during AR2-AR3 to get your bonuses before opponent, have more ops later in turn and avoid potential suicide scenarios
-Keep a big op card for near the end of your turn to better react to what your opponent has done
-Play your opponents events earlier to see what he does with them
-Play scoring card as soon as your Domination is secure
-Play scoring card as late as possible if opponent has domination to make him more protective of it for the turn
-Only play China Card in emergencies or when playing for points in Asia

As a new player this interests me greatly as many times when a turn has finished I realise that by playing my cards in a slightly different order I could have had much better results.
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sspiker

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Re: Timing your space race
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2013, 12:31:16 pm »
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There are so many variables based on card effects that its hard to have an easy-to-follow guide. For instance, remembering as the USA to always have a 3ops card on hand (preferably a USSR event) because of Blockade can get tricky, especially if Blockade comes up again in the Mid-war. And the order can get shifted based on what's in your hand (I just played a game where I had both Nasser and Sadat in my hand; obviously you want to play one before the other). Or more common examples like playing Containment or Breznhev or Nuclear Subs at the end of a turn.

And when you consider that it's all flexible based on the game in front of you, it becomes a lot less useful. Keeping a high ops card until the end sounds good, but if I have a 3op and a 1op card to choose from in AR5, and I need 3IPs to prevent domination, I'll use the 3ops every time.
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Riku Riekkinen

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Re: Timing your space race
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2013, 03:23:10 pm »
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There are some cards that are almost entirely unplayable for either side. Quagmire/Bear Trap comes to mind.... Ussuri River.

I like to Bear Trap/Quagmire myself. I do it more than spacing those things.

Ussuri on yourself is also ok sometimes.... it keeps China on you with sometimes minimal damage. Especially when doing low DEFCON its not the worst card to play on yourself.

On the space race... Usually I like to do space race before my opponent, if we are both going to same VP space. Otherwise I like to hurry it, if my opponent has just done first spac race in 2xspace race space and I could potentially disallow the 2nd space race with succesful play.

Otherwise this question is very, very hard. The right flow of cards is most crucial in TS. When I play drunk I usually feel that I did some cards in wrong order and it hampers the whole turn (&so on). Right flow is perhaps the hardest thing to learn in TS.
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