Twilight Struggle Card Analysis Episode 1–Intro

Twilight Struggle, for those who are unaware, is one of the best board games ever made. And while that may sound hyperbolic, empirical data from Board Game Geek (the definitive board game website) backs me up here as the site rates Twilight Struggle as the 5th best game in existence right now. Personally, it is my favorite strategy game to play due to its unique blend of history and gameplay. In the two-player game, one person plays as the USSR while the other plays as the USA. While the rules are fairly complex, the end goal of the game is to have gained more victory points than your opponent which is accomplished primarily by controlling countries across the globe.

Players control countries by placing enough influence in them to capture them. The US is blue, while the USSR is red.

Players go back and forth by playing cards, all of which are certain historical events that actually affected the US and the USSR. The gameflow is meant to mirror the chronological progression of the Cold War as early game cards include events around 1950 like the “Korean War” and “Marshall Plan”, while cards that are not added til the end of the game include events that didn’t occur til the 1980’s like”Chernobyl” and the “Iran-Contra Scandal”. These cards are either Soviet (meaning they help the USSR), American (aid the US), or neutral. And these cards are intended to mirror the impact of the actual historical event as for example, “Chernobyl” is an American card because the Chernobyl disaster crippled the USSR and thus helped the US gain an advantage in the Cold War. The last and most interesting part concerning these cards is that you often want to hold your opponent’s cards. So the USSR would likely want to have the “Chernobyl” card in his or her hand as this way, they can (with some maneuvering) discard the card so the card’s effects don’t come into play and hurt the Soviet player. Much of the game is predicated on keeping certain key cards out of your opponent’s hands as these cards can completely shift the game and give a major boost to the other player. What I plan to look at in this series is how closely the impact of these cards reflects reality. Does a card that completely shifts the game in the USSR’s favor like “De-Stalinization” or “Decolonization” replicate how significant the actual historical event was or does Twilight Struggle take some liberties? I plan to answer this question through moderate research and potentially ambiguous ratings I am going to make up on the spot. Should be fun! See you next episode for our first card analysis.

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