A few months after Rick and I concluded our Washington’s War play-by-email showdown, I got the itch to match wits once more. But flintlocks weren’t enough; ICBMs were needed. So we started a game of Twilight Struggle using ACTS and VASSAL in early January. And while I won’t give every last gory detail, I will be providing some commentary about our play styles and what we learned.
A coin toss determined sides; I settled into the virtual Oval Office as President Ron Jojers, while Chairman Rickatov moved his family to the Kremlin. We elected to play with the optional cards included in the third edition, but not with the “Chinese Civil War” variant. The initial card draw yielded the following hand:
U.S. Hand: 4/US & Japan Mutual Defense Pact*, 3/Warsaw Pact Formed*, 3/Duck and Cover, 1/Captured Nazi Scientist*, 2/Korean War*, 1/CIA Created*, 2/Defectors, 2/Olympic Games
Not bad! I like getting one-time Soviet cards out of the way early if possible.
Rick’s initial placement is standard: 3 influence points (ip) into both Finland and Poland. I counter with my standard placement: 4 ip into West Germany and 3 in Italy.
Man, I love Defectors as a headline. I immediately cancel Socialist Governments, which I think takes the wind out of the Soviet sails right away. We see the usual successful coup in Iran, but Rick uses Marshal Plan to do that, so I get early influence in Europe. I gamble and make my coup attempt in Iran, and actually manage to eliminate Rick’s influence there. He keeps placing influence around the Middle East, so I engage in more regime change and take Iran back for good. I am also lucky enough to get into Libya (this can be shut down by the play of Nasser, and it will get me in the back door in Africa later). Rick does have Middle East Scoring, and I use some Captured Nazi Scientist[s] to get ahead in the space race. Turn 1 ends with the US up by 5 victory points (VP).
U.S. Hand: 2/ Formosan Resolution*, 2/Decolonization, 4/Red Scare/Purge, 2/Cambridge Five, 3/NORAD, 0/Asia Scoring, 1/Nasser, 2/Korean War, 4/China Card
Again, I’m feeling pretty good. The China Card got passed to me in turn 1, and I have Asia scoring. I held onto Korean War last turn, and I’m hoping to play it once I mitigate its effects by taking some of the nearby countries. The turn starts with Rick driving hard for Western Europe; he headlines DeGaulle Leads France, follows it up with influence to gain control, and seals the deal with Europe Scoring. We’re now at US +4 VP. Meanwhile, I try to mask my intentions by playing ip into Europe and Asia, splitting each card. I pick up India and Thailand before playing Asia Scoring. This nets me 6 more VP, for a total of US +10. Rick starts a weak coup in Thailand after I score the region, and I start a successful coup in Iraq, thinking ahead to the next turn’s reshuffle. Unfortunately, Fidel shows up and the Russians are now in Central America.
U.S. Hand: 4/NATO*, 2/Olympic Games, 4/US & Japan Mutual Defense Pact*, 3/Eastern European Unrest, 2/Decolonization, 1/Nasser*, 2/Special Relationship, 3/De-Stalinization*
This is the turn where you shuffle the discards back in, and unfortunately, I received no scoring cards so I have little idea of what’s coming. Rick sees his chance and headlines Indo-Pakistani War, which fails, while I incite some Eastern European Unrest. I gamble again with a phase one coup, trying to drive Fidel out of Cuba, but it fails miserably! (Maybe I would have been better to re-align.) We each spread influence around the world; I get into Africa via Libya, while Rick starts uses De-Stalinzation to get influence into Mexico and Venezuela. We see no more scoring cards, but…gosh, I’m embarassed to admit this, but…Rick plays Blockade and I don’t have anything to counter. Whoops. Guess the Berliners starve, the President backs down, and the Soviets are all up in West Germany. Hmm…that’s a problem. However, the only VP change goes my way (“We have a Special Relationship with the Brits, don’tcha know”), and I get out of the Early War with a comfortable 12 point lead.
We’re in the thick of the mid-war turns now, so expect an update in a few weeks!