Twilight Strategy App

Jason Trill has made TwiStrug, an amazing app that collates all of the articles into an easy-to-read format.  Very useful for an ongoing game or for a quick lookup!

In addition, we are working with GMT to put out hard copy versions of the Twilight Strategy e-book.  Stay tuned for further updates!

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Twilight Strategy: the e-book!

Twilight Strategy is now available in PDF, epub, and mobi for download!  It is a collection of every post made on Twilight Strategy and can make a great gift for someone just learning Twilight Struggle.

The book is, and always will be, free to download.  You are welcome to pay if you would like, but you get exactly the same book regardless of whether you pay for it or not.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Late War recap

The analyses for all of the cards are finished.  Here is a brief summary of the Late War cards (including Optional Cards, as always):

Late War Neutral US USSR All cards
Scoring
1 Ops
2 Ops 2 3 5 10
3 Ops 6 4 10
4 Ops 1 1 1 3
Total cards 3 10 10 23
Total Ops 8 28 26 62
Average 2.67 2.8 2.6 2.70

The cumulative table for all cards:

Neutral US USSR All cards
Scoring 7 7
1 Ops 3 6 5 14
2 Ops 9 16 15 40
3 Ops 4 16 16 36
4 Ops 4 4 4 12
Total cards 27 | 20
42 40 109 | 102
Total Ops 49 102 99 250
Average 1.81 | 2.45 2.43 2.48 2.29 | 2.45

All of the summary tables are now collected here.

Posted in Cards, Late War | 6 Comments

AWACS Sale to Saudis

AWACS Sale to SaudisAWACS Sale to Saudis

1981 – 1987

The E3 “AWACS” aircraft is one of the most sophisticated early command and surveillance platforms available to the United States Air Force. Imagine Congress’ surprise when President Ronald Reagan announced plans to sell 5 of them to Saudi Arabia after they have only recently entered service in the United States. The “Airborne Warning and Control System” sale was, at that time, the largest military sale ever. While it met with Congressional resistance, as well as resistance from the Israeli government, ultimately, the objective was to cement Saudi Arabia as the US new anchor against Tehran. The high profile political risk associated with this arms sale would draw the two governments together long after the Cold War was over.

Time: Late War
Side: US
Ops: 3
Removed after event: Yes

As USSR

The damage is easily repaired, but the loss of Muslim Revolution is not.  Given that this is essentially a 1 Op card if you control Saudi Arabia, I will only play it if Muslim Revolution or Middle East Scoring is not going to be reshuffled into the deck.  (Or if I have more important things to send to Space, which I probably do.)

If the US controls Saudi Arabia already, then I usually play this without a second thought since it doesn’t affect the scoring of the region.  (Though Muslim Revolution might be just what you need to win back the Middle East.)

As US

There are four possible scenarios:

If Muslim Revolution is still in the deck and the USSR controls Saudi Arabia, this is a very good event with two positive benefits.

If Muslim Revolution isn’t in the deck and the USSR controls Saudi Arabia, AWACS depends on on whether you possibly wresting control (which would involve at least 4 Ops after AWACS) is really worth it to you.  Does it affect Domination scoring, or just the battleground’s VP?

If Muslim Revolution is still in the deck but I control Saudi Arabia, this is an OK event since Muslim Revolution is guaranteed to take out at least 5 influence. But I am probably willing to chance it and just play AWACS for Ops.

If Muslim Revolution isn’t in the deck and I control Saudi Arabia, then there is definitely no point to wasting the 3 Ops.

Posted in Late War, US Events | Tagged | 1 Comment

General Strategy: Realignments

Realignments are one of the most puzzling aspects of the game to a beginner.  They are rarely the most effective use of your Ops, frustratingly DEFCON-restricted, and can never gain you influence in a target country.

In general, realignments only occur at DEFCON 2.  In most cases, battleground coups are a more powerful method to alter a region in your favor.  But once DEFCON drops to 2, you must search for other ways to attack your opponent’s battlegrounds.  Realignments are one such method; they require some setup work, but can pay off handsome dividends.

First, this article will discuss some tactics involving realignment play.  Then it will discuss the two kinds of realignments that are most effective: when your opponent can’t play back in, and when you are at a +1 or greater advantage.  Finally, it will give some common examples.

Realignment Tactics

Higher realignment bonuses are always better.  But controlling cheap non-battlegrounds to boost your realignments often risks your opponent couping you back, gaining him the realignment modifier.  It is therefore advantageous when you can control multiple non-battlegrounds at once, play multiple Actions in a row, or use an event like Junta to prevent this tit-for-tat response.  Sometimes you don’t need to do this, especially when your opponent is preoccupied.

You can consult Ken Watson’s Realignment Probability Charts to determine just how much of a boost you need.  Remember that you can always use a bigger card to make up for a worse realignment bonus.

I usually use a slightly bigger card than I need, because a wasted Action Round is often quite costly, and I might not get another good chance.  This means that I try to set up multiple realignment possibilities at once, so that in case of unexpected success I can do something with the rest of my Ops.

Finally, you usually see realignments in 2-stability or higher battlegrounds.  1-stability battlegrounds are often easy to flip with direct influence placement or coups instead.

Types of Realignments

The first kind of realignment, and the best kind, is the realignment that eliminates your opponent’s access to the region.  This tends to come up when someone has isolated influence with nothing next to it.  When you eliminate all access to the region, you achieve two distinct goals: not only has your opponent lost the battleground, he has also lost any opportunity to put the influence back in.  This means you are free, on your next turn, to play in influence and take over the country.

A common example is Fidel.  The US can trigger Fidel, and then use the 2 Ops from the card to attempt two realignment rolls against Cuba, rolling at +0.  There is a 34.88% chance of success: not great, but the payoff is significant.  The USSR has no way of getting back in if their influence is eliminated.

Another example is South Africa.  If the USSR controls Angola and then takes Botswana, they can often trap the US in South Africa and realign him out of the region.

The main reason this kind of realignment is so powerful is because your opponent can’t respond to it.  There’s no tit-for-tat where you realign him out, and then he places back in, and then you have to realign him out again.

Occasionally, it is to your benefit to go for -1 realignments.  This happens when your opponent gets into a region and no one has any influence around it (e.g. Puppet Governments or De-Stalinization).  Although the odds are low, the payoff is big, so if you have a big 4 Ops card to spare, it can be a worthwhile use to stop him from locking up the region.

The second kind of realignment is when you have a +1 or greater advantage.  Any time you are at +1, you should seriously consider realigning even if the opponent can put their influence back.  If you have influence in the country, then you might realign them out and gain control automatically.  If you don’t, then you should still be ahead Ops-wise, since you are on average removing one or more influence per Op, and you still maintain your advantage against their restored influence.

This is most common in Latin America, where you have a series of realignment possibilities stretching from Costa Rica-Panama-Colombia, to Colombia-Venezuela-Brazil, to Venezuela-Brazil-Uruguay, to Peru-Chile-Argentina.

Common Examples

Generally speaking, the realignment “hot spots” on the board are:

  • Cuba
    • A particularly popular target given that:
      • The USSR often can’t restore their influence, since Fidel was their only inroad into the region
      • The US starts out with uncoupable adjacency
      • The nearby non-battlegrounds are cheap
      • Cuba is especially valuable as a battleground, given that there are only 3 battlegrounds, and that it is worth double for the USSR
    • You will therefore often see coups around Nicaragua and Haiti, popular targets for Puppet Governments.
  • South Africa
    • See Cuba, with sides switched.  Usually this happens when the USSR gets into Angola with De-Stalinization, then takes Botswana and can kick the US out of the region entirely.  Other than Colonial Rear Guards, there aren’t any other US events that can get them back into the subregion.  This maneuver often means the difference between Africa Domination and Control for the USSR.
  • Venezuela/Brazil/Argentina/Chile
    • South America as a whole is geographically designed for realignments, and is the region most likely to see realignments.
    • This provides a way for you to get back battlegrounds you lost, or steal an extra battleground after you steal the first
    • Colombia/Uruguay are two of the most important non-battlegrounds on the board because of these realignments
    • Junta is especially powerful in this regard, and Che can help as well
  • Angola
  • Algeria
    • If whoever controls France doesn’t also control Algeria, this is a good way to attack the second-most-stable African battleground.
  • Mexico
    • The US can kick the USSR out if they got in with Liberation Theology.  Similar to Cuba, though less common.
  • Europe
    • Very rare, since DEFCON has to be at 5, but Italy/France/East Germany are all targets for realignments when DEFCON reaches 5.  Usually it is the US with a massive advantage in these realignments.  The SALT-ABM trick is one way for the US to get in some European realignments and alter the influence in the region.  Otherwise your best bet is events, particularly Tear Down This Wall.  The USSR can sometimes use a Comecon headline for a Turn 1 AR1 realignment in hopes of a knockout blow in Europe.
Posted in General Strategy | Tagged | 17 Comments

Yuri and Samantha

Yuri and SamanthaYuri and Samantha

1982 – 1985

In one of the many bizarre, human moments of the Cold War, Samantha Smith, a ten-year-old American school girl, wrote the newly appointed General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party, Yuri Andropov a letter. Andropov had recently succeeded Brezhnev, and as one of the architects of Prague Spring, his ascension was taken as a very inauspicious development for East-West relations. To everyone’s great surprise, Samantha received a personal reply, including an invitation to the Soviet Union. Despite concerns expressed by the US State Department, Samantha accepted and traveled to the Soviet Union. Her trip was heralded as important early thaw in relations and improved Andropov’s public perception in the West.  Tragically, Samantha was killed in a plane crash in 1985.

Time: Late War
Side: USSR
Ops: 2
Removed after event: Yes

As USSR

A surprisingly good headline for the USSR.  Given the value of VPs at this stage, it essentially blocks the US from all but the most essential coups.  This allows you to spread aggressively through the Mid War non-battlegrounds, safe in the knowledge that the US is unlikely to coup.

Of course, if you are not interested in the Mid War regions, then this card loses a lot of value, since that was where the US was going to coup anyway.  But it is also very powerful if you combine it with improving DEFCON or use it to counter Nuclear Subs.

As US

Play it on your last Action Round for no effect.  You can also play it slightly earlier if you need to and it won’t be disastrous.

Posted in Late War, USSR Events | Tagged | 2 Comments

Iran-Iraq War

Iran-Iraq WarIran-Iraq War

1980 – 1988

Commenting on the war, Henry Kissinger famously remarked, “Too bad they can’t both lose.” Sparked by simmering land disputes over the Shatt al-Arab, Saddam Hussein sought to establish Iraq as a true regional power, and also check the export of Shia fundamentalism from Iran. Initially, Iraq scored limited gains, but Iranian forces rallied and began a counter offensive into Iraq. Without set allies in the conflict, the United States played a cynical game of attempting to keep both sides sufficiently supplied for the war to continue. Ultimately, the US began to tilt to Iraq as an Iranian victory in the war would have been an unacceptable outcome. Iran also utilized oil as a weapon necessitating the US flagging of Kuwaiti tankers to ensure oil supplies. After 8 years of war, the border returned to its ante bellum status. However, both nations had been severely weakened by the conflict.

Time: Late War
Side: Neutral
Ops: 2
Removed after event: Yes

Towards the end of the game, this area’s countries are usually dominated by the same superpower, and so the odds of Iran-Iraq War succeeding are rather low.  Unlike earlier Wars, it’s not commonly played for the Mil Ops, since by this point you should be able to find a non-battleground to coup with the card itself.

The VPs are therefore the only thing about the card that really matters, and you’ll see people trigger this event when desperate for VPs.  There’s no downside risk, and if you already control all the countries in the area, then it’s upwards of a 50% chance of 2 VPs.  (Yes, you may trigger the war even if you control both countries.)

Iraq is typically a more popular target, because its neighbors (Iran/Saudi Arabia/Jordan/Gulf States) are usually less filled than Iran (Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan), and because it is a higher stability country.

Posted in Late War, Neutral Events | Tagged | 2 Comments