I had an excellent time playing Joe in Twilight Struggle last week. We talked about how we hadn’t played it nearly as much as we would like as of late. Today I’m looking back at my records and realizing I only played Twilight Struggle three times in 2010. More surprising, however, is the following:
Twilight Struggle, Dec. 2008-Mar. 2011
Total games played: 19 (14-5)
As U.S. player: 13 (11-2)
As U.S.S.R player: 6 (3-3)
What I like about these numbers is the percentage of U.S. wins! They are generally considered a bit more challenging to play, and this used to be even more true with the older version of the game, which is what we played up until late last year. On the other hand, it’s quite clear that I am not so hot playing the U.S.S.R. Another note on this is that most of my Russian wins came when I was playing against a less experienced player.
This brings us back to last night’s game. When we sat down, I specifically requested to play the forces of Communism, as I wanted to learn more about how to play them. With the exception of a few bonehead plays, I thought during the game that I wasn’t doing too poorly. However, it still wasn’t enough to stop Joe from winning on turn 9 after locking up Asia. Once we ended, we started talking over the game and then it dawned on me: I had been playing the wrong side. I let several key opportunities to coup on the first action round and deny Joe military ops slide by. I scattered my influence in several non-battleground countries. Worst of all, I got into a few fights in which I threw more and more influence at a region, hoping to outspend my opponent, not realizing he had far more high-value cards. Lulled into a sense of complacency by my previous successes as a U.S. player, I played like the other side (though the board and the cards were screaming otherwise) and lost.
The lessons for the evening? First, when playing a game with asymmetric sides, try to play them an equal number of times so you’re competent at all of them. Second, have a clear idea about the strengths, weaknesses, and common strategies for the side you’re playing so you don’t look like a fool out there.
Third (humorous) lesson: Take the opportunity to ditch CIA Created when you can. I had a shot, did something else, and spent turns 3-9 holding onto that baby. Man I hate the CIA.