The redoubtable Mark K. came by on Saturday for a day of gaming which ended up being full of unexpected outcomes. We started off the day with a match of Hold the Line playing the Quebec scenario from the Clash for a Continent game. The unexpected part was that the French won both times in a battle where they lost quickly and decisively in history. We ended the day with our first game of Serpents of the Sea, playing a duel scenario between the Shannon and the Chesapeake. The unexpected part of that game was a long, knock-down drag out fight between the two ships -- again a battle that ended historically with a quick and decisive victory for one side.
The bulk of the day's session was playing Twilight Struggle.
More than any game I've played in years I still feel completely at sea while playing it. So much so that I haven't even developed a sense of how to put together a narrative for a session report. Mark and and agreed that there was an awful lot going on and in our second game we were just beginning what promises to be a long learning process.
Overall the Early and Mid war games were pretty much a wash, with neither side able to make much headway one way of the other. Generally my USSR tended to keep the VP marker slightly on the Soviet side of the track, but Mark's US was able to keep things close enough that he had a reasonable expectation of making headway in the Late War. There were a number of scoring card plays that ended up with a relatively marginal haul for either player. Mark was generally ahead in Asia and the Middle East while Europe was very much contested. Both players tended to have a lot of influence spread around in Europe but had trouble controlling many nations.
Mark K.'s USA scored somewhat of a coup by getting the Africa Scoring Card discarded without scoring after the USSR had devoted considerable resources to building a strong position there.
The last turn of the Mid War period saw what turned out to be a critical turn-long battle for control of South America that ended up with the USSR scoring Control for a significant swing of around 10 points that ended up with the VP marker at around 15 for the Reds.
The game came to an unexpected end early in the first turn of the Late War period due to this card:
I used ops to coup a couple of countries, driving the DefCon down to 2 and then played this card. Being ahead by 15 at that moment I could give Mark's USA the 6 VPs while still remaining comfortably ahead on points. It seemed like an anti-climactic end to the game in many ways, although I felt pretty good about my chances going into the Late War anyway.
I'm pretty sure neither one of us will be caught by THAT card again, though, now that we have seen it in action. I think that's how it's going to be with Twilight Struggle -- a long series of harsh lessons on the way to basic competence. What a game!