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Posted on Jun 7, 2006 in Front Page Features, Stuff We Like

Twilight Struggle Strategy

By Terry Lee Coleman

(No) Anarchy in the UK

  • Since it is unlikely that anything will happen to the UK long-term, it offers a better base of operations in Europe for the US player than you might think.
  • Amazing Stability value of 5.
  • Important in case France is threatened by De Gaulle Leads France; at least you’ll be able to counterattack.
  • If you can’t keep 5 Influence in the UK due to Soviet events, keep at least 3, so that you can beef it back up quickly when a Scoring card for Europe looms large.
  • If you have plenty of Ops, you can use UK as a stepping stone to counterpunch in Benelux or even Norway and then Sweden, though this usually happens more mid-game than early on.

Blood and Oil

The Middle East can get lost in the shuffle of trying to beef up Asia and Europe, but it shouldn’t be ignored. The US can make a lot of headway vs. the Soviets here during the early part of the game.


There are two common gambits employed by many experienced players. The first is that the US should not play Influence to Egypt, because the Nasser card will render those assets useless. I tend to agree with this in general, but US movement into Egypt can be done if the US holds the Nasser card in his own hand, and it is nearly always a tremendous psychological move for the US to take a territory which normally is ceded to the Soviets. Another reason to place at least some influence in Egypt is that it allows access to Africa —particularly Libya —and sets you up for the mid-game.

The second gambit is in Israel, where cautious US players will avoid committing resources to Israel until the Arab-Israeli War card has been played at least once. In some cases this strategy is prudent, but should not be followed at all costs. In fact, the US can make it hard for the Arab-Israeli War card to work, by simply controlling an adjacent neighbor. Jordan and Lebanon are good candidates for this approach. If the Soviet player tries to coup his way through the supporting countries, you can always counter until DEFCON 2 is reached.

Finally, you can use the Middle East as a bridge to western Asia. This has the benefit of balancing out the Vietnam card for the Soviets, and also sets the US up for the mid-game, and the inevitable Southeast Asia card. For this reason, I tend to emphasize Iran (a traditional US ally prior to 1979) over Saudi Arabia during the early game. Watch out for the India-Pakistan War card, though! This can derail your plans in a hurry…unless you have it, of course.

Wrap it Up

Keep in mind that playing the US well in the early part of the game requires a counterpunching mindset, not a passive one. Whether you follow the tips and strategies offered here is less important than using these as a guide to form your own US strategy.

So, be sure to manage those Ops cards carefully, and time the events where they will benefit you the most. One of the best defenses the US player has is the Defectors card, which cancels the Soviet event for that turn. As this is only a 2 Ops card, the US doesn’t lose much by playing it early.

Don’t panic if you are behind early. It’s typical for the US to be behind by 6-8 points going into Turn 3 or 4, and this is a deficit the US can make up with the Mid War deck. What you want to avoids is having the Soviet get to minus 15 on the VP track by Turn 4.

Also, keep a close eye on the Space Race Track. If the US falls considerably behind, those extra VPs for the Soviets can be hard to make up later. And you don’t want to pick your Headline event card first, as this will give the Soviet player too much flexibility—so getting to the ‘Man in Space’ spot on the track first is helpful for the US.

Finally, don’t overlook the potential of coups and realignment. These can be very helpful for the US, especially since coups give the US Military Operations, which nearly always translate into badly-needed victory points. Realignments are helpful, especially if the Soviets are building up Influence in Battleground countries in Europe. For Europe and Asia, I tend to favor coups, due to the relatively low Stability ratings of countries in those areas.

In the end, remember to have fun, and may your next Twilight Struggle from the US side lead eventually to light, rather than eternal darkness.

Discuss Twilight Struggle on the Armchair General forums.

Author Information: 

Terry Lee Coleman is former Senior Reviews Editor of Computer Gaming World magazine. He has written about board and card games for several years in such publications as Fire & Movement, The General, BROG , and others.

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