Twilight Struggle is a game of variable strategy representing the Cold War. That was a gruelling and bland opening sentence. It was the grey Berlin Wall of sentences but the game is anything but bland. One player takes the role of the US, the other the USSR each engaging in an epic struggle to spread their influence around the globe. There, that was better!
This is in essence, a card game. It runs on the ability of players to manipulate their hand of cards representing the various events of the time and allowing players to engage in various operations depicting military and diplomatic operations of the era. The well presented cards each feature an historic photograph and are evocative of the period. The beautiful, mounted map (only available with the recommended Deluxe Edition) features the key players and their allies and various tracks on the board help to keep account for things such as the current nuclear threat or the race for space. It is not our custom here to go through the rules as many, many other sites go in to great, almost fathomless depths to explain each rule and the function of the cards and counters and so on. Rather we bring your attention to the thematic and strategic qualities of the game that are unsurpassed by most other wargames. For variability and complexity, one of the few games that surpass this 2 player masterpiece would be chess itself, so rich is Twilight Struggle. Alright, admittedly that sentence was as appetising as 3 day old german food from an east berlin cafeteria circa 1979 but you get the picture. The game is very good indeed!
At its core, and what you really need to know, is that Twilight Struggle is an exceptionally well thought out 2 player game that demands repeat plays. This is only likely to sit on the shelf if one is turned off by longer playing times than usual but you will be well rewarded for every minute you spend in this world of geopolitical one upsmanship. For pratcially every move you make, your opponent will be planning and implementing cunning countermoves. Twilight Struggle does something few wargames do well. It takes what could have been a reasonably bland experience and imbues it with great tension and atmosphere. The game is equal parts conquering and concession making, all the while you are trying to avoid the cataclysmic risk of all out nuclear war without losing a dominant position. The game not only oozes style and substance but atmosphere too.
And how does it achieve such atmosphere? Not only do the game’s mechanics feature an elegant rule set that allows for repeat plays and shifting, yet realistic strategies but in addition to that every card is based on actual historical events of the Cold War. It is practically genius how the designers have managed to represent decades of warring political ideologies, conflict, social upheaval and the very real threat of global annihilation. Additionally, there is a section in the back of the rulebook that explains the different cards historical significance in more detail.
Unequivocally, we recommend Twilight Struggle. For the surprisingly light rules (for this style of game anyway) and play duration, this is an evocative and engaging representation of a rather scary time in our history…a history that may be repeating itself…
This game was kindly supplied by GMT. Thank you for supporting us Australian game reviewers!