Those Nasty Russians still kicking
Thats a lot of Twilight struggling
Emily (Wu) Allbert vs James Terry
Turnout was excellent with 68 players in the field, a 50% increase over event low of 2014. In addition, many commented it was a tougher field with less newbies/more experienced players. The strong field included defending champion Chris Byrd, most of last year’s top TWS finishers, and former champ Riku Riekkinen (who had been unable to travel from Finland to attend in 2014, but made a dramatic return in 2015. Riku cruised through five preliminary rounds to reach the Final where he encountered David Amidon. As usual, we employed a swiss format, with rounds continuing until only two unbeaten players remained—these two then played for the title. Many players took advantage of the option to play all five rounds of the swiss format.
Twilight Struggle has generally been seen to favor the Russians, particularly in the first part of the game, unless adjustments are made. For the past two years, players used a standard adjustment—the US received three influence that could be added to any location that already had US influence. But players were also required to switch sides each round. This approach was well received and is largely consistent with the balancing adjustment used by the online Twilight Struggle ladder. Games were all played using the Deluxe edition rules, without the optional cards. [As a side note, in the newest version of TWS, the “optional” cards are no longer optional, so I expect that next year’s play will use those cards and a 2 US influence adjustment.]
Even with the balancing rules, the game play, as usual, favored the Russians. Russia enjoyed a 49 to 37 split. This was an improvement over previous margins. However, among the eight players who tallied four or more wins, the US and USSR win totals were virtually even.
The tournament took a total of six rounds to resolve. After four rounds, four veteran undefeated players remained: David Amidon, Riku Riekkinen, Tony Russo, and George Young.
The first semifinal pit Riku’s Russians vs 2014 runner-up, Tony. The Russians gained a favorable position, helped by multiple plays of Red Scare and Decolonization, and won on the last turn by playing Wargames. In the other bracket, David’s Russians faced George. Again the Russians gained an early positional advantage. All American attempts to gain on the VP shortfall were thwarted, with the Russians eventually playing Wargames on Turn 8 to end it.
The conditions of the tournament set Riku as USA for the Final. Things got off to a dramatic start as he left W. Germany vacant and boosted Iran to 4/0* using an opening setup he invented. After the Marshall HL, this strategy allowed Riku to safely eliminate Blockade, preserve his high op cards and hang on to his Hold card. Riku was also able to retake W. Germany by the end of Turn 1. With W. Germany open, David walked through to occupy France, but the Iranian fortress let Riku step into Pakistan. After a series of coups, the US held a positional edge, particularly in the Middle East.
Turn 2 also favored the US. The Russians managed to gain an edge in Southeast Asia, but the US expanded influence in Africa. Turn 3 produced more of the same, so that the Early War ended with US clearly in a dominant map position. The USSR had neither Decol or DeStal and now had to brace for the MidWar deck.
MidWar started as a fight for South America. The US expanded influence, but were largely countered by successful Russian realignments. Although both sides limited enemy influence, the Russians were able to score South America on Turn 5 for six VPs. Turn 6 shifted back to Africa and Central America, with the Russians managing to score points in the former while the Americans offset the Russian gains with points from CA.
The Russians managed to turn the tables beginning on Turn 7. Liberation Theology allowed the US position in Central America to be neutralized. Then, the USSR was able to slowly increase his VP lead. By Turn 9, the Russians even captured Japan, allowing for USSR domination. This eventually allowed the Russians to win through the play of Wargames on Turn 9 and giving David his first WBC shield—and an impressive one to boot.
Both players used unconventional tactics and strategies, starting with Riku’s American setup. They spent much of Turn 2 fighting over MidWar regions, all while the USSR had little presence in the Mideast. The Space track never got beyond Animal in Space, despite frequent Space attempts from both sides. No wars were successful by either side. The USSR hardly ever used the action round one battleground coup opportunity and prevailed despite not having Decol or DeStal ever happen.
Twilight Struggle play continues to evolve. I hope the new venue in 2015 will continue to attract players of this caliber. I look forward to seeing new strategies emerge. See you in Seven Springs!!
Spencer Stengle vs Bob Jamelli
GM George Young oversees his finalists.