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Author Topic: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)  (Read 9250 times)

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Hunting Wolf

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What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« on: October 07, 2013, 08:24:17 pm »
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Simply put, what could be improved to you for the general design of Twilight Struggle?

Like several people here I have hopes of seeing (or perhaps designing) a better board game some day, but the million dollar question is what could that even look like? or is TS the pinnacle?  in my gaming group, TS is a superb game to some but a total miss to others. its too complicated for the casual gamer and not specialized enough for the die hard RPG or Avalon Hill style war gamer. Now, no game will please everyone, and TS uniquely fits the history and paranoia of the cold war which I greatly enjoy. now for what I consider weaknesses:

-The game length; I've had 6 hour games going to final scoring. maybe im doing something wrong but by the middle of Mid War if one side isn't locked up with awesome board position I find it degrades into a slugging match. maybe this unavoidable given the size of the board and back and forth nature of scoring.

-Useless regions of the board; I find most of West Africa and Scandinavia to be complete wastes of time and effort, I expected cards like North Sea Oil to tie into control of Norway or Denmark. That being said Scandinavia has been semi-peripheral to European conflicts since 1721, and shouldn't be expected to be some kind of cold war juggernaut, but surely some card or different characteristic could make those regions vaguely appealing to experienced gamers.

-Element of luck; the complaint i hear most from others is the element of luck, a bad starting draw or missing a easy coup roll is bound to happen, your opponent playing RS/RP on you 3 times over the course of a game its pretty difficult to recover from. I see this variability and luck as a tradeoff of the game being dynamic and different each time its played, i don't have a easy answer for that one.

What do you guys think? I would love to get someone with more experience to weigh in.
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Hunting Wolf

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #1 on: October 07, 2013, 08:37:28 pm »
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Oh and reviewing the designer notes I see they were keeping twilight Struggle shorter then 8 hour games of Path of Glory, guess it just depends what your baseline is.
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pietshaq

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2013, 07:00:06 am »
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I wrote about it here:
http://zimna-wojna.pl/the-pros-and-cons-of-twilight-struggle/

The con not mentioned by you is that you need to know the effect of every single among 110 cards in advance, otherwise you can make moves which look logical but in fact are blunders due to the cards that are yet to come, like triggering Warsaw Pact Formed early as USSR.
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Chimista

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2013, 07:44:48 am »
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About game lenght: 6h is way too long, get a chess clock or similar. Online official games give about 1-2h time allowance per player, that should be enough for any game. Obviously tolerance should be awarded to begginers, and learning curves considered, but experienced players who take more than that might be indulging in analysis paralysis, which makes any game annoying.

Useless regions: I agree that Scandinavia is most of the times useless, due to its high price and lack of associated events. Only in a few games I've seen people investing there to prevent European Control, but tha's rare. Other usually useless regions are the Andes (Bolivia, Peru) in SA, and parts of Africa (The west and the Red Sea areas). I guess it's ok, but you can introduce new cards/events to change this, if you want.

Element of luck: luck is very important in this game. This is a double-edged sword. If you want a game with no luck involved you can play chess, the problem with chess is you can only play against people with a similar level or the game'll be either frustrating or boring. The good thing about luck is that you can sometimes win against top players (or lose against begginers) which makes any game worth playing. Of course it feels bad when you are the one with bad luck. My advice: deal with it. There are many awesome TS players out there who are such crybabies when they get a bad streak! TS can get to your nerves and I myself can't deny it.  It gets the worse out of you in ocassions, and maybe that's why it's such a great game.

« Last Edit: October 08, 2013, 12:01:38 pm by Chimista »
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pietshaq

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #4 on: October 08, 2013, 08:17:45 am »
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6 hours is very long but 5 hours is OK for beginners (give online max for beginners -- 2h per player -- and add 30 minutes per beginner player for doing manually what wargameroom does automatically for you). Once you get into the game, it'll get below 3 hours even over the board, with manual scoring counting, rolling, adding influence, etc.

No region is useless. Some are just used more rarely than others. I've already seen fully controlled Scandinavia (to secure Europe control), all the Southern American countries controlled (to avoid opponent's control while he was present in all the battlegrounds and had 5/0 lead in Colombia), I've seen control in Eastern Africa (dumped by late Decolonization, Colonial Rear Guards or Puppet Governments, when there were no battlegrounds to fight for but the number of cheap non-battlegrounds was necessary to secure domination), I've seen Morocco controlled (to be really, REALLY sure that the opponent won't stop your domination by couping non-battlegrounds). Morocco, West African States, and Ivory Coast is also an alternative road to Nigeria, avoiding cheap and easy-coupable Saharan States and/or Cameroon. The latter is also a nice Nigeria realignment modifier or, in case you are realigned out of Nigeria anyway, it's a Nigerian access-gainer.

Having said that, useless regions are useless because they took no part in the Cold War. In fact, this is not always true. In my games Peru or Bolivia is controlled more often than Hungary or Bulgaria.

Bad luck is usually not bad enough not to be mitigable with skillful play. At worst, you can always play another Twilight Struggle game. Kruschtschev, Kennedy, and others had to base their decision on some luck and some other unknown factors while they knew they would not get a second chance. Relax then :)
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Eruantalon

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #5 on: October 08, 2013, 12:20:58 pm »
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The thing I personally dislike is the randomness. It roughly evens out in about 80% of the games, and is not deciding in another few cases (although favoring one of the sides more than a litle bit), the worst cases are the 5-10%, which are almost luck decided - USA gets Purged T1/T3 + great USSR rolls, for instance is almost guaranteed Steamroll, almost nothing can be done; end of story.

The luck factor is just ok for casual playing, i don't mind losing to bad luck in casual game at all. Yet for competitive playing is a little too high. Not only losing to bad luck is frustrating, beating someone, becouse he was screwed by rolls/draws is pretty shallow, too.

Otherwise the game is perfect. Easily my favorite one - and I play very different games, from Arkham Horror to Mage Knight.
« Last Edit: October 08, 2013, 12:22:34 pm by Eruantalon »
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DC-Chaos

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #6 on: October 08, 2013, 03:22:22 pm »
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A 6h game is crazy. I'd say the average is around 2h-3h even for people who have only played a few times. Usually mine are below 2 hours. I've heard other people say otherwise but honestly even my first few games were pretty quick, never over 3 hours. Ok we didn't get everything right straight away but better to screw up 3 games in one afternoon than spend all day to play one right. Learn it the fun way! I'm not sure what you and your friends are doing to slow it down so much but you should try to figure it out and maybe implement some time restrictions like 10 minutes a turn or something.

I agree with the comment above that even the most remote or "useless" countries are used in some games. Scandinavia is definitely one of the least populated areas in the game but just in my last match up my opponent took over Denmark very early and started into the rest of the area as we were battling for European country count for him to secure domination there. I can't tell you the amount of games I played where there's an almost comical influence race and/or coupfest to secure all the cheap African states to stop the other player scoring it. The famous hike down the Andes to get into the South American battle grounds the hard way that I'm sure a lot of players have had to do. Those situations can be very fun, intense and tactical so I really don't think these unpopular areas detract from the game at all.

The luck element is the thing that drives me crazy sometimes. I'm used to games where you have more control over what happens or you have more opportunity to mitigate bad luck. However If you know the TS cards and are good at the game you can really hang in there after getting screwed by some bad hands and start to turn the tables. You never know when your opponent will get a unplayable hand themselves and maybe even blow themselves up. As you say though, there's really nothing to be done some times. The dice rolls are problematic because the numbers are very random in relation to what you are trying to accomplish and you don't get to roll them often enough for the results to average out. Suicide cards can come 4 at a time and therefore impossible to deal with. Wargames is a bitch. I once drew 9 scoring cards in my first 4 turns :(

Some random suggestions I might have for the game to stop these unresolvable situations...

-Make RS/P a mid war card so people aren't so badly hit in the early war
-If you draw 3 scoring cards in your first turn you can ask for a reshuffle and new cards so you aren't screwed with empty actions and lost VP's straight away
-Once a game you can draw an extra card before the headline phase and choose one to discard
-Limit the neutral events. Perhaps make them remove after use or have 2 copies aligned to either power. ABN, Brush war, Junta etc. can be far too swingy/powerful and have no drawbacks as you don't have to worry about the fact they're not your event. I also don't think that you should get to play 4ops without having to weigh up the pros and cons of triggering the event or not.
-Remove or change Bear trap/Quagmire (I hate these cards)

The truth is there's nothing you can really do to fix the luck "problem" without changing the core of what the game is. If you're lagging behind after some bad luck you're probably depending on that same luck to give you a break so you can catch up. Without it the player who got the upper hand early on would be very hard to catch up to. The snowball effect as pietshaq called it in his article. Besides if you play 10 games against someone then, luck or no luck, the better player will come out on top. It's just those individual games that are screwed up by the luck of the draw that are so frustrating.

About the design, I'm not sure you can make a better game but just a different one. It's a matter of taste really. Do you like games that are very luck orientated or ones that are more tactically driven. As said before, there's always Chess. Or maybe you like Snakes and Ladders? Some people like to risk big money on nothing more than the roll of a dice. Personally I find a lot of German style board games really well designed as they almost never use dice and whatever happens is usually a direct consequence of the choices you made yourself. Agricola, Powergrid, Puerto Rico are some examples.
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pietshaq

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #7 on: October 08, 2013, 04:52:59 pm »
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About the randomness: it ALWAYS depends on the players. I once had a very weak opponent. I was USA, we played with optionals, no CCW, no extra influence for USA. I started with a 9 Ops hand including two Scoring Cards, my opponent had all the 4Ops cards. The game ended up with a streamroll but it was US who streamrolled: +21VPs in turn 3 action round 4. What I mean? I mean that bad luck can cost you the game but will never win it by itself for your opponents (except the extraordinary case when you have literally two unspaceable opponent's cards that unconditionally degrade DEFCON -- still, this is possible for USSR only and usually one of this cards can be held and other played with DEFCON at 3).

And what I really mean is that extremely bad luck may be really exciting if a player is forced to show his best to mitigate it against a reasonably weaker opponent. This is the reason why playing against much weaker opponents is not boring (unlike chess).

About suggestions to change cards: I had some (for example: two separate events for Red Scare and Purge, both Early-War one-time or both Mid-War recurring). However, the more games I play, the more I like the gamechanging cards (and, by the way, the less I fear RS/P, Bear Trap and Quagmire -- the last two are really not a problem usually except from cancelling NORAD).
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Riku Riekkinen

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2013, 07:55:15 am »
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FAQ is too long. The game should have been streamlined to deluxe edition.
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DC-Chaos

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2013, 12:05:49 pm »
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Bear Trap/Quagmire are a problem if you are stuck in them. You discard your cards, you keep rolling 5 or 6 and you keep losing AR's. This is the definition of how bad luck can ruin the game. I'm sure anyone that has played a lot has had a game where they lost 3 or 4 ARs in a row to one of these cards and basically lost the game because of it. Your opponent can see when you're stuck in a quagmire and know they're getting back to back actions where they can happily flip any country they want. Not because they played better, took a big risk or had some genius tactic play but only because your dice rolls were unlucky.

If the effect was toned down a bit or the random aspect was removed I could appreciate them a lot more.

They also bring up lots of rule contridictions and problems with scoring cards and missile envy. Overall more trouble than they're worth in my opinion and I hate to see either of them in my hand.
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Riku Riekkinen

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2013, 01:35:42 pm »
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I mean these would remove basically all the errata and reduce FAQ to just minimum:

1) You can always play a scoring card ( simplifies the procedure & gets rid of much longer explanations how you can play them at the end )
2) * Events are removed, if opponent plays them and all their prerequisete cards have been played even though they have no effect (currently not all are removed)
3) Missile Envy must be played as OPs next action round the receiver doesn't want to play a scoring card and is able to play Missile Envy. (ME creates huge amount of FAQ because its still badly worded ; next action round means usually in CDGs that the necessity of playing the card is removed, if the player is forced to do something else ; also that would explain how to act with simultaneous Quagmire / Bear Trap possibly combined with some OP chancing events)
4) Get rid of Scoring cards must be played during the turn rule. Keep the Scoring card check phase (=holder loses). Add rule that in case both hold USSR loses. (This is actually current ruling and has been for a long time. It just still doesn't say it so in the rulebook.)

And perhaps most importantly of all name somebody for keeping FAQ. Currently its a ridiculous mess.

1989 is a good example how things should be done.

-----

I also kind of agree with Bear Trap / Quagmire thing. 1989 does that also better.
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discomute

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2013, 03:49:38 am »
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What would be a good fix for BT/Q

A 4+ but add +1 for how many turns its affected you?
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pietshaq

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2013, 08:29:03 am »
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The fix for BT/Q proposed by my friend:

If you have already passed at least one action round due to Quagmire, you may decide to pay-off instead of rolling dice. When you pay-off, USSR player may remove up to 4 of US influence points or add up to 3 own influence points in the whole Asia except Australia and Japan. USSR player chooses, no more than 2 IPs per country in each variation. US player still has to pass action round and discard a proper card but pay-off always ends Quagmire.
Bear Trap is dual except from where it works: it works for Middle East except Israel and Lebanon + Afghanistan and Pakistan. The regions were picked up due to historical background of either card but still for playability.

We've formally played with this variation a few games. However, the pay-off was never used in practice.
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Kazzy

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2013, 09:03:53 am »
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What would be a good fix for BT/Q

A 4+ but add +1 for how many turns its affected you?

Maybe after 2 or 3 rolls being stuck in the bear trap.

Might use that as house rules in future.
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Chimista

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #14 on: October 11, 2013, 05:02:30 am »
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The fix for BT/Q proposed by my friend:

If you have already passed at least one action round due to Quagmire, you may decide to pay-off instead of rolling dice. When you pay-off, USSR player may remove up to 4 of US influence points or add up to 3 own influence points in the whole Asia except Australia and Japan. USSR player chooses, no more than 2 IPs per country in each variation. US player still has to pass action round and discard a proper card but pay-off always ends Quagmire.
Bear Trap is dual except from where it works: it works for Middle East except Israel and Lebanon + Afghanistan and Pakistan. The regions were picked up due to historical background of either card but still for playability.

We've formally played with this variation a few games. However, the pay-off was never used in practice.

Payoff is too expensive. Should be curtailed in some way, now is a "VoA"+Empty AR. Too hard. Maybe player could choose the pay-off and then play a card normally, similarly to a VoA or Muslim Revolts play.
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DC-Chaos

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #15 on: October 13, 2013, 09:29:38 am »
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I think if they did something much simpler with BT/Q and without any random chance involved they would be more acceptable cards. Maybe something that reads:

"Your opponent discards their highest op card (they choose if it's a tie) and skips their next AR unless it causes them to hold a scoring card"
While it takes away some of it's punch it still means you can use it to weaken your opponents hand, headline it to get back to back AR's or the first coup or use it with some nice combos like when you're able to see your opponents hand. The wording is so much simpler as well and will not interfere with Missile Envy the way the current rules do. It's also more interesting to have it in your hand as you can try to use it to discard cards in the same way as Five Year Plan.

You could also let them look at the opponents hand or let you choose what they discard if you think it needs to be more powerful. I'm just brainstorming.

Maybe people won't agree but a card that can cause someone to miss most of their turn and end up losing them the game seems a bit broken to me.
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pietshaq

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #16 on: October 14, 2013, 06:02:59 am »
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The fix for BT/Q proposed by my friend:

If you have already passed at least one action round due to Quagmire, you may decide to pay-off instead of rolling dice. When you pay-off, USSR player may remove up to 4 of US influence points or add up to 3 own influence points in the whole Asia except Australia and Japan. USSR player chooses, no more than 2 IPs per country in each variation. US player still has to pass action round and discard a proper card but pay-off always ends Quagmire.
Bear Trap is dual except from where it works: it works for Middle East except Israel and Lebanon + Afghanistan and Pakistan. The regions were picked up due to historical background of either card but still for playability.

We've formally played with this variation a few games. However, the pay-off was never used in practice.

Payoff is too expensive. Should be curtailed in some way, now is a "VoA"+Empty AR. Too hard. Maybe player could choose the pay-off and then play a card normally, similarly to a VoA or Muslim Revolts play.

It was supposed to be expensive. The idea was that pay-off must be cheaper than discarding a very bad card AND continuing BT/Q but discarding a very bad card AND leaving BT/Q with a roll must be cheaper than with a pay-off. USSR must prefer discarding VoA and rolling than playing VoA and paying-off. This, of course, does not apply to DEFCON suicide cards.

But OK, I've just found another pay-off idea:

If you have already unsuccessfully discarded at least one card due to BT/Q, you may pay-off by showing opponent your entire hand and letting him choose your card to discard. Opponent may pick any card he wishes, including 1Op card or Scoring Card, but the BT/Q is over and you may play the next action round normally (this action round counts as discard action round with no play).
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sspiker

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Re: What does TS do wrong? (if anything)
« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2013, 01:24:02 pm »
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What would be a good fix for BT/Q

A 4+ but add +1 for how many turns its affected you?

I like this, but with a minor adjustment: The first roll has to be a 1-3, the 2nd has to be 1-4, the 3rd has to be 1-5, and after that its automatically lifted (after the discard).

The trade-off of increase odds (to the point of automatic) is a slightly more difficult start.
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