Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Dating Chuck's Ugly Girlfriend

I have a love/hate relationship with Twilight Struggle. I know a lot of people love it, but then there are people who thought that The Kaiser's Pirates is a nice light card game that lasts for three hours, has great decisions, and is fun. They're right about the three hour part.

TS *is* a great game. It's been republished repeatedly, almost unheard of in the wargame industry, it's a fantastic entry point for games like Washington's War or Hannibal, and it's on a subject that we rarely get to game on in a serious fashion.

It's also incredibly fragile, being quite prone to the vagaries of the card draw and how the scoring cards come out more than anything else. We never had multiple scoring cards in our hands (we got within two turns of the game end and Matt felt he not only didn't have a chance as the USSR, but also it was getting late). If you end up having to play multiple scoring cards out of your hand, especially if you've been Red Scared/Purged that turn, it can make a slightly bad situation into a game ending situation pretty quickly.

That's not to say that the game won't see the better player win most of the time, especially if you bid Influence for sides at the beginning, just that there can be games where being the better player won't matter much.

At our regular game session, Matt G had asked if anyone was willing to play, assuming enough people present to support it, and I was very willing to be his opponent as the only person who knew the game well. This was my first experience with the "Deluxe" edition, which has a mounted folding mapboard which is very nice, the new optional cards (which I think are supposed to help the USSR, but am not terribly sure as they aren't mentioned in the rulebook at all), and the Influence counters that clearly and easily show who controls what country.

Interestingly, Cooley's Second Law held in this game as well. I'd mentioned a couple of different things that Matt needed to be aware of, the most important of which were the various events that give your opponent OPs during your turn. If the Defcon is at 2, and Matt gives me an OP, I just play a coup in a Battleground state, assuming there's one that's not in the three prohibited Regions, and the game is over with Global Thermonuclear War with me winning. Of course, about midway in, he did exactly that when he played the CIA card. Fortunately, he had played a different card with fewer OPs for Space Race just before, so we just switched the cards and he was fine. Still, a brutal play that most novice players will miss.

For the unaware, Cooley's Second Law states that no matter how carefully someone explains a game or points out a critical rule, someone involved in the game will either miss it, forget about it, or not fully appreciate how important it is. I am currently working on Cooley's Third Law, which will involve game companies not responding to customer inquiries.

That's a joke, btw.

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