Twilight Struggle Quick Overview
Twilight Struggle is a 2 player card-driven game of political and military struggle which covers the 40 year period of the Cold War. Twilight Struggle takes anywhere from an hour to 3 hours to play. This is a Quick Overview of Twilight Struggle game play. By far this is one of the best games I've ever played and the tension is remarkable. I've played it over 30 times and am learning new strategy constantly. Hopefully this will give you an idea of how Twilight Struggle is played.
Region Scoring Cards are played during the course of the game so your constantly battling your opponent for domination or control in key regions of the world. When you get an opponents cards in your hand you must decide to use it for Ops (if so then their event occurs), or use it for the Space Race Track (to delay the event), or use it for Ops. If an opponents event has an * (which means it's permanently removed) should you play it now so as to not be surprised by it and to avoid it later in the game or delay it.
Twilight Struggle PDF favorite files
TSRules2nd.pdf 1.5MB 2nd Edition rules (eliminates many errors from 1st edition)
Rules_Summary_v1.pdf 104KB Player Aid which summarizes Realignment and Coup attempts, Space Race Track, etc.
TSTravelBoard_v1.pdf 40KB Travel Board play on airplane yelling Terrorism and Reagan Bombs Libya
twilightstruggle103cardtextsv6.pdf 183KB 103 Card Texts and each event cross-referenced (useful for online play)
Twilight Struggle Turn Record Track
Turn Record Track there are 10 turns in the game if it goes the distance. Usually takes about 3 hours. However, the game can end earlier than that. Notice Early War, Mid War, Later War. Those indicate when those particular cards are shuffled in the deck.
Space Race Track allows one to get various benefits like making 2 space attempts per turn, seeing opponent's Headline Event before choosing yours, may discard held card, and taking 8 actions round. To advanced you need to discard a card with an Ops indicated. If one is at Man in Space and wishes to advance to Man in Earth Orbit one needs to use a 3 Ops card and roll a 1, 2, or 3. If successful they get 3 VP points. The opponent 2nd to arrive on Man in Earth Orbit only gets 1 VP point.
Twilight Struggle Action Round Track
Action Round Track Each turn you get 6 actions with USSR always going first. Starting with turn 4 you get 7 actions. If you make it to the Eagle/Bear has Landed on the Space Race Track you can take 8 Actions.
Twilight Struggle DEFCON STATUS
DEFCON Status every time a coup is attempted in a battleground country, the DEFCON Status is degraded by one. If DEFCON status is at 2 and you lower it causing a Nuclear War then you lose instantly. Note: non-battleground country coup attempts don't degrade DEFCON level. Each level except 5 (Peace) has restrictions. Although it says No Coup Attempts it also restricts Realignment attempts.
Twilight Struggle US and USSR Required Military Operations
Both the US and USSR have Required Military Operations. Every time you do a Coup Attempt or play a War Event you move the the Military Operations up the number of spaces to the Operations value of the card played. At the end of a Turn you look at the DEFCON Status which indicates the number of Required Military Operations. Example: US has military 3 ops. USSR has military 0 ops. Turn ends and DEFCON Status is at 4. US is 1 Military Operation short (4 - 3 = 1) and USSR is 4 Military Operations short (4 - 0= 4). Difference is US only 1 short and USSR is 4 short so VP points go UP 3 for US.
Twilight Struggle Map Key
Regional Connection is the connections between countries. You can only place influence to an adjacent country that you already have influence in.
Inter-regional Connection just indicates one region (Western Europe, France --- Africa, Algeria) is connecting to another region.
Adjacency to Superpower If opponent has control (say USSR controls Cuba) USSR gets one bonus point when Central America for being adjacent to the United States (Superpower). Also for Realignment, adjacency to a Superpower gives (+1) modifier to the die roll.
Stability Number to control a country you must have at least the stability influence difference. Example Japan has a stability of 4. If USSR has 2 influence then US needs at least 6 influence to control Japan.
Twilight Struggle Victory Point Track
Victory Point Track one wins the game instantly if one manages to swing the VP track to 20 points. When scoring the marker is moved back and forth in a constant struggle. You always score the difference (see Required Military Operations example).
One can win by instant victory 4 ways: (otherwise it's played to the end see 'Final Scoring')
1) opponent causes DEFCON Status to Level 1 starting a Nuclear War
2) VP track hits 20 VPs
3) Europe Scoring card is played an you CONTROL Europe
4) #100 Wargames card (Late War Card) is played and your ahead by at least 7 VPs.
Twilight Struggle Sequence of Play
A. Improve DEFCON Status by 1. If it was at 4 move it to 5.
B. Depending which turn it is (Early War, Mid War, or Late War Cards are dealt in). Turns 1-3 each player is dealt enough cards to replenish their hand size to 8 cards. Starting with turn 4 replenish each hand card size to 9. The China Card doesn't count toward hand size.
C. Each player chooses a Headline Phase event. The higher Ops event occurs first. If tied US event occurs first. If one is on Space Race Track 'Man in Space' then opponent must reveal Headline Card first before choosing one's own Headline event.
D. 6 actions (turns 1-3), 7 actions (turn 4-10), 8 actions if on Eagle/Bear has landed Space Race Track. If out of cards you are forced to skip your actions while opponent continues. Remember Scoring Cards must be played within the allotted actions.
E. Adjust VP points based on Required Military Operations and reset both to 0.
F. Reveal Held Card (like it says only show in Tournament. I guess to prove it isn't a Scoring Card.
G. If The China Card is face down flip it up so it's ready to use for upcoming turn.
H. Advance Turn Marker (self-explanatory)
I. Final Scoring (after Turn 10 only). Remember if someone Controls Europe no scoring takes place as it's an immediate Win. Also if you play #100 Wargames and are leading by at least 7 points (since you give 6 VP to opponent) the game ends immediately with you victorious and no Regions are scored.
Twilight Struggle Controlling Countries
U.K. (non-battleground country) the US does not control as they only have 4 difference when they need 5 since stability in U.K. is 5.
Benelux (non-battleground country) USSR does not control as they need 1 more influence.
France (battleground country) USSR controls as they have 4 difference over US.
Spain/Portugal (non-battleground country) USSR controls with influence of 2.
Algeria (battle-ground country) is control by USSR with influence of 2.
Twilight Struggle Placing Influence
To place influence it must be in a country you already have influence or must be an adjacent country (at start of your turn) to a country you have influence in. You use an card and the Ops value. If US uses a USSR card for Ops the US decides if that event can either occurs before or after placing influence.
Example US plays a 3 Ops with a US event. The US event doesn't occur since it's being play for Ops. US places 1 Ops in Philippines to Control the Philippines which cost 1 Ops. US places one Ops in S. Korea (cost of 2 Ops since S. Korea is Controlled by USSR). Or US could place 2 influence in S. Korea (2 Ops for 1st one, and 2nd influence only costs 1 since it is no longer controlled).
Note: US isn't allowed to place influence in Thailand, Vietnam, etc. since it doesn't have a country adjacent to those with influence already. It could place some influence in Malaysia and then US next action put some influence in Thailand.
Twilight Struggle Presence
To get Presence in any Region you just need to have control of just one country. US controls Venezuela by having at least 2 influence in a country that has a stability of 2. Deplore and Asia it's critical to at least have Presence in those regions. If South America was scored now US would move up 3 VPs. (2 VPs for Presence + 1 VP for controlling a battleground country). Note: Panama is in Central America.
Twilight Struggle Region Domination
Dominate requires one to control more Battleground countries and more control more total countries overall.
Africa USSR controls the Battleground countries Algeria, Nigeria, Zaire and Angola. It doesn't control the battleground country South Africa. US doesn't control any countries at all and thus doesn't have any presence. If USSR did gain control of South Africa then it would Control Africa. If Africa Scoring took place USSR would get (4 VP for Domination + 4 VP for 4 battleground countries) and move up 8 VPs on the Victory Point Track.
Twilight Struggle Region Control
Control means one has control of all battleground countries. USSR controls all 5 battleground countries in Europe, namely, France, Italy, W. Germany but still need control of more countries overall. Currently USSR controls 11 countries and US controls 9 countries. If US takes control of Romania by adding 2 more influence than than it's USSR 11 and US 10. Then if US adds 1 influence in Bulgaria (cost 2 ops) then it's USSR 10 and US 10 and USSR no longer Controls Europe. It's crucial you don't lose control of Europe because if you do and the Europe Scoring card comes game whoever Controls Europe wins. Asia is also crucial to not lose control as it's worth 15 VPs (9 VPs for control + 6 battleground countries = 15 VPs).
Here's another example of Control of Europe. Don't let this happen to you.
Twilight Struggle Realignment Rolls
Realignment Rolls are powerful if used correctly. They play an Ops card of 3 so they get 3 Realignment rolls anywhere they wish which contain enemy influence.
Example #1: USSR wants to do a Realignment Roll on Spain/Portugal. Check DEFCON Status as long as DEFCON Status is on 5 you can do Coup and Realignment Rolls in Europe. USSR rolls a 5 and US rolls a 4. USSR gets 6 (4 die roll + 2 for adjacent controlled countries France and Italy = 6) and US gets 5 (4 die roll + 1 for having more influence in target country = 5). So USSR 6 - US 5 = 1 USSR. Spain/Portugal is reduced by 1 US influence.
Example #2: USSR wants to do a Realignment Roll on Yugoslavia. DEFCON is at 5. This is risky because when you do a Realignment Roll in a Country you have also have influence in than you can lose influence too. USSR rolls a 2 and US rolls a 4. USSR gets 4 (2 die roll + 2 adjacent controlled countries = 4) and US gets 6 (5 die roll + 1 for having more influence in target country = 6). So USSR 4 - US 6 = 2 for US. So Yugoslavia has the USSR influence reduced by 2 to 1 even though USSR attempted the Realignment Roll.
Twilight Struggle Coup Attempts
Coup attempts can be attempted in any country with enemy influence as long as DEFCON status permits it. To do a Coup attempt play an Ops Card and add that to your die roll and subtract double the stability of the country. If it exceeds double the stability number, first remove that amount of influence and any left over add that much influence.
Rarely does a Coup attempt work with a country with a stability of 3 or 4. In Europe and Asia most of the countries are pretty stable and are hard to do a coup attempt. Now Africa and South America on the other hand are prime targets for Coup attempts. Let the assassinations begin!
Whenever you attempt a Coup attempt in a battleground country you degrade the DEFCON Status by one. A Coup attempt in a non-battleground country does not degrade the DEFCON Status. Don't forget Coup Attempts add to your Required Military Operations. If one plays a 3 Ops for a Coup Attempt then increase your Required Military Operations by 3. Coup attempts are safer than Realignment rolls since one cannot lose influence in the targeted country where the Coup attempt took place.
Example #1: US wants presence in Africa so US needs to control at least one country. DEFCON is at 2 so any Coup attempt in any of the battleground countries will result in DEFCON Status 1 which stars a Nuclear War and US instantly loses the game. Only option is a Coup Attempt in Saharan States which is a non-battleground country and has a stability number of 1 (Highly unstable country). US plays an Ops card of 2 so US moves US Required Military Operations up by 2. US rolls a 5. Country's stability number is doubled (1 stability # x 2 = 2). US 7 - USSR 2 = difference of 5 US. So 1 influence is removed from Saharan States and 4 US influence are added to Saharan States.
Example #2: US attempts a Coup attempt in Algeria with a stability number of 2. DEFCON Status is 3 so since the Coup attempt is in a battleground country lower DEFCON Status to 2. US plays a 1 Ops
and rolls a 3. Move US up 1 on the US Required Military Ops Track. US 1 Ops + 3 die roll = 4 and USSR has ( 2 x 2 stability # = 4). The Coup attempt does not exceed so it fails no influence is removed.
Example #3: US attempts a Coup attempt in Egypt with a stability number of 2. DEFCON Status is 3 (if it was at 2 it wouldn't be permitted in the Middle East) so since the Coup attempt is in a battleground country lower DEFCON Status to 2. US plays a 2 Ops
and rolls a 1. Move US up 2 on the US Required Military Ops Track. US 2 Ops + 1 die roll = 3 and USSR has ( 2 x 2 stability # = 4). The Coup attempt does not exceed so it fails no US influence is removed, thus showing how Coup attempts are safer than Realignment rolls when one has influence in the targeted country.
For more information and to see credits of PDF files see Twilight Struggle on BGG.
Screenshots I took from my games on wargameroom which is a free java Twilight Struggle implementation which enforces the rules.
Updated Nov 1, 2006
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