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Posts Tagged ‘Board Games’

The Cold War was a time of uncertainty in world history.  Two great superpowers, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S. wrestled for control of territory, allies, and resources in a quest for supremacy.  The threat of nuclear war always loomed on the horizon as one misstep or faulty computer could trigger mutual annihilation and even the end of civilization as we know it.  Although that era is thankfully over, one can relive a portion of that tension and doubt through the board game Twilight Struggle.  Created by Ananda Gupta & Jason Matthews and published by GMT Games, this game seems like a natural fit for those who appreciate politics and games of strategy.

Twilight Struggle is a game for two players where each takes the role of the one of the superpowers.  Rather than fight each other directly, you battle over the remaining nations of the world through spreading influence in foreign countries, inciting coups, and fighting proxy wars like Korea and Vietnam.  In addition, a player should be mindful of the space race as it can create a powerful advantage.  The game features many, if not all, of the important historical events:  the formation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, Castro and the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the list goes on.  As a added bonus, to deter nuclear war, if a player intentionally or unintentionally causes a thermonuclear holocaust, the game ends immediately with that player losing.

The game last several hours and consists of ten turns, each of which comprise six to eight action rounds.  Should a player achieve global domination (twenty or more points than his or her opponent) the game ends even earlier.  I have found having played the game a dozen or more times that the Soviet player has an advantage over the United States player overall, especially in the early game, so I recommend offering some sort of influence boost to the U.S. player at the beginning of the game to level the playing field.

I give the game high marks for it’s historical accuracy and its re-playability.  On the minus side, there is a good bit of luck in the game which can often greatly hamper a player due to no great fault of his or her own both, what with dice rolling and in the cards dealt.  Twilight Struggle is highly rated on the popular board game site boardgamegeek.com, currently ranked third among all board games.   Personally, I was so impressed with Twilight Struggle that I bought my copy after playing the game only once.  I should note, like many of the best games, you cannot find this product at a Target or Wal-Mart, but rather a specialty game store or online…and it retails for $55.  Nevertheless, I highly recommend giving this game a try.

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Political Games

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy both politics and various types of board games.  Games of strategy are best, as they usually require planning, improvisation, and just a small touch of luck.  Now when you couple strategy with politics, assuming the mechanics are well designed, you get a truly enjoyable experience.  Therefore, I wanted to take a break from discussing politics as usual to share with you some of my favorite political board games.  And now a word from our sponsor…just kidding of course…there is no sponsor.  Enough introduction!  On to the games!

Diplomacy by Avalon Hill

Rewrite history!  This is game for you and six competitors who can devote multiple hours to the endeavor.  Each player is randomly assigned one nation in pre-World War I Europe.  The possibilities are France, Great Britain, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Russia, Italy, or Turkey.  Your goal is to control half of the major cities/territories in Europe (London, Spain, Paris, Munich, Berlin, Warsaw, Belgium, etc).  As there are no dice, the outcome of battles depends on sheer numbers.  Often times to either conquer territory or defend your position; you will require assistance from your neighbors.  Alliances can be made and broken at will.  No agreements are binding.  Best played with good friends, assuming no one takes the game too personally!  Recommended by Henry Kissinger.

Die Macher by Valley Games

In this game, you take the helm of one of the five major political parties in Germany and do your best to win as many seats as possible in the Bundestag (the lower house of the German parliament).  In each round, parties via for seats in four of the German states.  You may change your political positions as needed and no party positions are set in stone.  In order to achieve victory you must balance your resources, constantly update your strategy based upon the plans of the other parties, and form (and avoid) timely coalitions.   Gather some folks who appreciate the differences of European politics or are Germanophiles.

Battlestar Galactica by Fantasy Flight Games
A very new board game.  Each person takes the role of one of the characters from the first season of the current TV show. Then, everyone is given a loyalty card at the beginning of the game to determine your personal goal.   Loyalty cards lead players to help the team or secretly (or not so secretly) sabotage them.  Over a number of turns, players perform actions, which can either aid or hinder the rest.  But beware of your so-called allies.  Until the cylons (the disloyal player(s)) are jailed, he, she, or they can cause massive trouble for the human crew.  Don’t think merely finding the cylons is good enough for victory, for once they are reveled, the battle continues openly until the humans reach their destination or perish.  Designed for 3-6 people, though best with 5.   This is the best co-operative game I have played to date.  Although you don’t need to be a fan of the show to enjoy the game (I’m rather lukewarm to it personally), if you are one, I certainly encourage you to give this game a try.

Imperial by Rio Grande Games
Like Diplomacy, this game too takes place in pre-World War I Europe.  However, in this game, you take the role of an international banker as opposed to the leader of a nation.  You use your influence and wealth to compel nations to attack each other, gain territory, build infrastructure, and tax their citizens, all while making you a tidy profit.  Throughout the game, your control over nations strengthens and weakens as all players invest in the great powers.  France could attack Germany one turn and then withdraw and attack Italy instead, depending on which player pulls her strings.  A fun, but disturbing, look at the power and influence of international financiers.

If I remember any additional games in the next couple of days, I’ll make certain to include them. Yes, I know I’ve left out your favorite game, so add it in the comments section.  So, if you get some free time, I highly recommend visiting your local game or hobby store and trying these games out.

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