Twilight Struggle Board Game

Twilight Struggle Rules, Instructions, StrategyTwilight Struggle is a board game which simulates the intrigue and power politics of the Cold War era of 20th century history. Take on the role of NATO or the Eastern Bloc, as capitalism and communism vie for the hearts and minds of the people, just as the United States and Soviet Union view for military, economic, and political dominance around the globe. The Cold War was a time when spying and political intrigue took on a unique geopolitical aspect, as the powers which won the Second World War began a twilight struggle for dominance of the modern age of nationalism created by the hammer blows of World War II. All ages might have had tensions and conflict between the great powers, but against the background of the Cold War was the constant of threat of nuclear annihilation.

The Cold War Begins

When it became apparent that the Allies would win World War II, Hitler still clung to the belief he could hold out until the unnatural alliance between the capitalist western democracies of the United States and Great Britain and the communist dictatorship of the Soviet Union would fall apart. Japan continued fighting in the forlorn hope that Stalin would act as a mediator to end the war between Japan and its war enemies in the USA and British Empire. While the Axis leaders erred in thinking the so-called United Nations would break from a winning alliance while the common enemy was still before them, they were correct in assuming these unlikely allies could remain on friendly terms forever. As soon as their foes were vanquished, a new struggle began: The Cold War.

Twilight Struggle Instructions

Twilight Struggle is a card-based game from the makers of Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage. Twilight Struggle has a lot in common with GMT's treatment of the Punic Wars. Like Hannibal, Twilight Struggle plays out on a game board map, where both sides play cards to exert influence and move military units across the map. This is a game of maneuver--both political maneuver and military maneuver--and the winner is the one who can dominate the map in order to wield the most influence around the globe.

Most of the Twilight Struggle instructions are right there on the 110 cards you play in the 2009 Deluxe Edition of Twilight Struggle (103 cards in the original version). Twilight Struggle offers enough complexity to make it worthwhile, but it's considered low-complexity and quick-playing by experienced war gamers, if that's a hint at the kind of game you're reading about.

Deluxe Cards in Twilight Struggle

The event cards in Twilight Struggle drive game play. These cards draw from the red-letter events of the Cold War, including signature moments and crises like the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, various Arab-Israeli conflicts, and the Berlin Airlift. Other elements include the Space Race and the Peace Movement.

Twilight Struggle Rules

The Twilight Struggle rules allow for war and combat on a grand scale, but tend to discourage total war, since you can have mutually assured destruction (nuclear annihilation) if you aren't careful. That's a real end-game scenario, so like the real Cold War, both sides have incentives to avoid direct confrontation. This means the game plays out as a game spying, intrigue, and realpolitik as much as it's a war game. Winning at Twilight Struggle usually involves the victory point system, so let's take a look at this rule.

Victory Point System Rule

The victory point track starts at 0 and goes from 20 (USA victory) to -20 (USSR victory). It's your goal to move the victory point track in your direction, which is done by gaining influence throughout the world. Influence is similar to the mechanics of Hannibal: Rome vs Carthage or We The People, so it's in your interest to build up blocs of power, if possible. Playing cards give you the advantage or stymie your opponent on their turn, but there are two other possibilities for winning and losing at Twilight Struggle.

One victory condition is to control Europe when the Europe scoring card is played by either player. This places special emphasis on controlling the European continent in much the same way that Europe was central to the Cold War. For instance, read accounts of the Korean War and you'll see how American generals and political leaders (besides General McArthur) considered the Korean Conflict one big distraction that kept America from focusing on the real struggle in Europe. Some experts even thought the war was orchestrated by Stalin to give him a free hand in Europe. That's just one example, but the point being, always keep in mind that Europe is central to the Cold War--and thus to Twilight Struggle.

The other win/lose condition is whether a nuclear war starts while it's in your phase. If this happens, you lose.

Phases of Twilight Struggle: Early, Middle, Late

The cards are separated into early, middle, and late war decks. This means that the events tend to happen in roughly similar order they happened in Cold War history and there's a definite opening game, mid-game, and end-game to Twilight Struggle.

Twilight Struggle Strategy - Stability Ratings

Each country has a stability rating in Twilight Struggle. This indicates how big of a difference in influence you're exerting over your opponent to control a country. Imagine you're playing the USSR and a country has a 3 stability rating. If your opponent has 1 influence placed in that country and you have 4 influence tokens in that country, you now control it, because you have a 3-influence advantage (matching its stability rating).

Influence and Stability Rating

Placing influence is not as easy as it might sound, though. You have to control an adjacent nation to begin placing influence in a country. Also, though you can place influence tokens in countries already controlled by your opponent, if your opponent already controls a country, you'll need to place double the influence.

Coups and realignments let you change the influence in a country with a successful die roll. Countries with high stability scores are less vulnerable to coups, while countries adjacent to a power are less likely to realign or be changed by a coup.