Few games have captured the attention of the gaming world like Twilight Struggle. Designed by Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews, the game was released in 2005 to praise from both strategy gamers and wargamers alike. The publisher, GMT, did a Kickstarter a couple of years ago to fund a Twilight Struggle app (which is now available). At that time, they also allowed supporters to back a Collector’s Edition.
GMT recently sold the extra copies of the Collector’s Edition, and I bought one. Below are some pictures of the new edition, plus an abbreviated history of the game based on an interview I did with Jason Matthews for Counter Magazine’s next issue.
Before Twilight Struggle would go on to win the 2006 International Gamers Award and capture the #1 ranking on BoardGameGeek, it spent years in development.
Ananda Gupta and Jason Matthews, who had met through a boardgame club at George Washington University, were online playtesters for GMT, a game company best known for its wargames. Matthews described how he and Ananda came to partner on Twilight Struggle: “[A]fter working through several games, we decided we could do better ourselves. We were both drawn to the Card Driven System (CGS) first developed by Mark Herman in We The People, but a lot of great games — like Ted Racier’s Paths of Glory — were expanding on that system, but also taking game lengths in the opposite direction. We both loved that CDGs were really marrying politics and warfare effectively for the first time. So we wanted to do a game that was heavy on politics.”
The game wasn’t initially based on the Cold War. As Matthews explained, “We started with the Spanish Civil War. Sadly, as I dived into reading, I quickly came to the conclusion that I could study the Spanish Civil War for the rest of my life, and still not understand all the political nuances to it. So Ananda had the great notion of doing the Cold War.” The Cold War and politics were topics familiar to the designers: Matthews is an American history expert and would later serve as the Chief of Staff to a U.S. Senator. Gupta, a history buff, did policy work at a D.C.-area think tank.
The duo started designing the game, and they submitted the prototype to GMT at the World Boardgaming Championships in 2000. The game was designed with GMT as the target publisher: “They were the company publishing the CDG genre at the time. We were playtesting for them. And we pitched to them exclusively.” The game’s title was taken from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address: “Now the trumpet summons us again, not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need; not as a call to battle, though embattled we are – but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle…”
GMT picked up the game. As a fun historical fact, Alan R. Moon, two time IGA winner, helped Matthews review the contract with GMT.
The game then spent five years in development, undergoing several changes. The first version of the game had a much heavier military component, but the designers ultimately decided to strip that out: “Unfortunately we found that wargamers in particular were prone to focus on the military component to the detriment of the real core of the Cold War. So ultimately we stripped the game down to that core.” Much of the delay, however, was due to GMT hitting a rough patch in its business operations.
When the game was released in 2005, it received immediate critical acclaim. It would go on to hold a rare distinction in the gaming world: it is one of only five games to have held the #1 spot on BoardGameGeek. Twilight Struggle took over in December 2010 and held the top spot for more than five years, until January 2016.
A Deluxe version of the game was released in 2009 with upgraded components. Last year, a digital version of Twilight Struggle was released for iOS, Android, Steam, and several other platforms. At the time, a Collector’s Edition of the game — complete with a wooden box and miniatures — was also released, and details are below.
To date, Twilight Struggle has been printed in about a dozen different languages. Jason Matthews’s favorite story about the game comes from a translation: “My favorite thing that I’ve ever seen with Twilight Struggle was at Stack Academie several years back. I went there as a guest, and enjoyed the incredible hospitality of the gaming community in Quebec. In any case, I met a blind gamer there who had taken the time to hand translate Twilight Struggle into braille so he could play it. My grandmother was blind, and believe it or not, I used to play Axis and Allies with her, helping her move the pieces and resolve the combats. So having someone do that with a design of mine touched me in a profound way.”
Matthews, with a different design partner, would go on to win the International Gamers Award for two other games: 1960: The Making of the President and Campaign Manager 2008. With three wins, he holds the record for the most wins in the IGA 2-player category.
Twilight Struggle is still popular today, and it currently ranks #3 on BGG.
The Collector’s Edition
The Collector’s Edition is a stunning version of Twilight Struggle, and I’m glad I bought a copy. I apologize in advance for my poor photography skills!
The Collector’s Edition comes in a beautiful wooden box:
Inside the box is a new board with all-new artwork and graphic design:
The cards also have a new graphic design, and the Collector’s Edition comes with sleeves to fit them:
There are several miniatures to be used to track the game’s progress:
There are also wooden counters for use in the game:
The game also came with promo materials, player aids, and custom dice. Overall, I’m really impressed by the quality of the production!