I got a chance to play Twilight Struggle recently with my friend SW. It was the first time I had played a real board game in awhile, and one of the first opportunities I have had to play the newer style of card driven games that seem to have proliforated since I largely absented myself from board gaming.
Twilight Struggle is a simulation of the Cold War. Players take command of either the United States or the Soviet Union and attempt to extend their spheres of influence across the world stage. Successful game play seems to revolve around trying to hamper your opponent through staging coups, and expanding your own influence into areas that give you points. All the while there is a DEFCON track that you need to keep an eye on – get to DEFCON 1 and you blow up the world (and lose).
I’m not going to spend a lot of time describing game play – there are lots of reviews out there on the game – it seems to be very popular at the moment. Nor am I going to describe the game we played in detail. Suffice to say that I played the Soviets and SW managed to blow up the world following a Soviet takeover of the Southeast Asia in the late 50’s.
Overall I really liked the game. It was fast-paced and demanded a good deal of focus and forethought. A complete campaign game takes around 4 hours to play, which means if you dedicate an evening to it you will get a complete experience and won’t need to leave the game set up somewhere at the mercy of household pets, nearby fault-lines, or your spouse. Because each turn is a series of back-and-forth card plays between the players, there is never a time when you can zone out, stop paying attention, and just check back in on the game when your opponent is finished. You need to be on top of what is happening at all times. The cards (illustrated with period photographs) are all interesting, easy to read, and provide a good historical perspective of the events they represent (the rulebook has a paragraph or two on each card explaining its historical background).
I have tended to shy away from competitive gaming for the last decade or so, being more interested in cooperative board games and RPGs and the like. But the game with SW really reminded me of how much fun board games can be, and I look forward to trying Twilight Struggle again in the near future.
For a more detailed discussion of Twilight Struggle, see the reviews at Board Game Geeks.