Tag Archives: Strategy

World War II (Century of German History, #6)

I’m doing a series on German history in the 20th century on my blog this year. In intervals of 10 years, I pick a crucial event and explore it – with the help of precisely one board game. You can find the previous posts here:

Today, we go back to September 1, 1939 and the German attack on Poland – the beginning of World War II. The game that accompanies us is Unconditional Surrender! (Salvatore Vasta, GMT Games). Now the events of World War II from the first shots to the final surrender of the Axis powers are well known (and covered by myriads of books, articles, and, yes, board games). Therefore, I’ll skip the narration of who conquered what when and instead focus on three crucial perspectives on the war and the board game: How was this war different from other great power wars before? How does the game balance between freedom of action of the players and recreating a historical outcome? And why does Unconditional Surrender capture an essential aspect of the war?
Finally, this post will also serve as the starting point of a new project: I’ll do a detailed Unconditional Surrender after action report. Follow my Twitter account for live updates (and vote on strategic decisions) and check out the larger narrative on the blog! Continue reading

Farewell 2018 – Highlights on the Blog

All my experiences this year, be they new-to-me games, historical fiction, non-historical games, historical non-fiction, or historical games have influenced my writing here. So, not without pride, I present to you what I think were my best blog posts this year. As my creations are dear to my heart, I go beyond the usual top three format and give you six entries.

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Turning Weakness into Strength: Benefitting from Opponent Events in Twilight Struggle

Twilight Struggle (Ananda Gupta/Jason Matthews, GMT Games) is a game of tricky hand management. Its chief innovation in the field of card-driven games (CDGs) is that both players draw from a joint deck, and if you play a card with an opponent event, you get to use the operation points (ops) from this card, but the event is triggered nonetheless. You’ll try to solve the puzzle of how to play your cards best every turn, maximizing your gains and minimizing the obstacles from opponent events in your hand. Newcomers to Twilight Struggle often think that a hand full of opponent events is a bad hand. However, if you draw all the Soviet events as the US, chances are that the Soviet hand is full of American events, so it evens out. And you’d rather defuse many of the opponent events on your own terms than allow the other player to unleash them on you.
In addition to that, quite a few events offer a benefit even to the nominally disadvantaged power. As they also get the ops when playing the opponent event, this allows for some kind of ops/event double move – all the fun, none of the regret! These events typically fall in the categories of discarding or manipulating DEFCON. There is one event that just allows you to possibly flip a battleground to your side. Let’s dive right into the cards.

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A Short History of the Total War

On this day 75 years ago, Joseph Goebbels, the Third Reich’s Minister for Propaganda, gave his most famous speech. In the midst of World War II, he was speaking to a select crowd of supporters. At the climax of the speech, Goebbels asked, “Do you want total war?” The question – and the crowd’s frenetic response in the affirmative – were broadcast many times and remain infamous until this day.
But what is a total war? This article will look at the characteristics of a total war, the use of the term from the 18th to the 20th century, and Goebbels’ speech about it. Finally, there will be a brief section about board and video games that make use of the term.

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Three Basic Tips for Twilight Struggle

So, you know Twilight Struggle. The game has a certain fame to it – it was the best-ranked game on boardgamegeek.com for five years, after all. That’s even more impressive when you consider that a game of Twilight Struggle can easily take two hours, seats exactly two players and is a bit more daunting than most of the eurogames that tend to do well on BGG.[1] Now, while it is not too hard to get into playing Twilight Struggle – the rules are elegant and not too complex – mastering the game is a whole different matter. There are 400+ threads on BGG’s Twilight Struggle strategy subforum. There is an entire website dedicated to brilliant little strategy essays on every single card in Twilight Struggle. When you play against an experienced player online, not only do they know every single card in the deck, they also seem to know which cards have been played already and which are still to come at any given moment of the game. So, is Twilight Struggle only for the select few, for the initiated who have dedicated their lives to the study of the game? By no means! The strategic basics are quickly taken in. See your fortunes in the Cold War improve by following these three tips.

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