Twilight Struggle is the masterpiece of two player card driven strategies – pushing you to pick between powerful events and the need to contain / push back your opponent. Take a look at the review for the asymmetry on show here and the general mechanics.
However, if you have played a few times and need some new ideas for beating the player who taught you (or that pesky AI), here’s a few things to think on:
During the game:
Iran Coup; This is the traditional turn one move – Russia plays a coup in Iran. Why? Because Iran is a battleground – degrading the DEFCON. Because Iran is a linchpin into Asia for the US player, and western Asia can otherwise be dominated by the Russia player. Because even if the US coups back, there is one more coup before DEFCON degrades and prevents another coup in that region. If Russia doesn’t coup here then the US player must march on Pakistan immediately!
Pakistan & India; These need either luck or the Indo-Pakistan card to pass this to the US. both are battlegrounds and so by right they will help Russia tie up Asia. Russia should focus on taking these (or if they lose ground early they will need the Korean and Taiwan offenses). However, watch out – even without a coup, the neutral Indo-Pakistan card can hand these countries either way!
Taking Thailand; A great battleground for the US to take through influence out from Australia. Russia can get there quickly through the Vietnam Revolt – the US player should watch out for this event in their hand or if that is played by their opponent.
Korea and Japan; The Korean War card can drive this but US control of Japan can make this much harder. However, if the US doesn’t get Japan through the card event earlier then they may want to play influence to control South Korea as a block.
Island Hopping in Asia; Worst comes to the worst and the US loses key battlegrounds in Asia – it can tie up a draw here by expanding influence across the islands near Australia. If you do this Russia will have to start to coup non-battlegrounds in Asia which is wasteful.
Egypt; This has lots of cards that drive control, but the US player may want to play through Egypt to access Libya – another battleground but one that can get cut off through card events. The other challenge in the middle east is to secure Jordan – the strongest defense for non-battleground countries (yes the Gulf States but that requires 3 influence).
South Africa; This is one of the best uses of re-alignment. A Russia player can quickly surround you and throw you out and there’s no way back. This is a great step for Russia to control Africa but it’s always a limited success because it’s so easy to coup the other player back out of the smaller battlegrounds as they expand.
Colombia; Normally the US will break into South America through Colombia – every time they the Russia player should coup them immediately. Don’t let them get to Venezuela. The same is then true for the US player – this is a volatile nation in the game. The best way to break this is to not enter into this cycle at all and use card events to get a presence in Brazil or other more defense-able regions.
1 France / 2 Italy; The traditional open for the West is 4 in West Germany and 3 in Italy – this is a strong move to defend Europe but the other option is to move on from Italy to France. Risky, as Russia may coup Italy turn one but potentially helpful for the rest of the game – and that’s an expensive coup for Russia on turn one (leaving you with a chance to push into Pakistan from Iraq).
Scoring Cards; The game is all about when to score – try to score regions you will lose when they are tied, as this is just as important as scoring the wins. Watch out though cause your opponent can nearly always respond just prior to the scoring card.
Missile Envy; Great card to play early in a turn – high influence cards are typically powerful and getting one of those in the early part of a round can help you control that round (either minimise your opponent or maximise your gain).
Grain Silos; This is one of the traditional DEFCON cards – alongside lone gunman and CIA operations – and can lead to the phasing player losing. Be careful when you play it, but it can be a huge swing late in any given round.
High Cards / Low Cards; Balance the use of your high and low point cards – I always like to keep something back for the end of the round. However, you will need high influence points for getting coups done – sometimes you can finesse this with a 2 point or 3 point, but most of the time you want to stick with high cards to reduce luck.
Events To Break Control; This is a big factor – paying 2 influence for only 1 on the board is costly, but cards that push influence into regions can break control and allow you then use influence more effectively. One particularly good card for this is NORAD which (with control of Canada) can really help the US player with breaking Europe – no matter how often Russia pushes control in East Germany or Poland.