‘Twilight Struggle’ Brings Kennedy, Cold War To The Table

By Mark Taliaferro

TFW Contributing Writer

Last week marked the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. He remains one of this country’s most beloved historical figures and his assassination remains one of its darkest days.
For those who want to remember JFK’s impact on this nation and contemplate his place in history, gaming is likely not their first stop. Understandable. Kennedy’s comedic appearance as a zombie-killer in “Call of Duty: Black Ops” last fall was not intended for history buffs.
But the gaming hobby goes deeper than most realize. Board games often delve deep into history for inspiration, often into topics far more abstract and unknown than JFK.
“Twilight Struggle” is a two-player board game that recreates the Cold War. Kennedy’s role in the game is rather small compared to the nearly 40 years worth of events it spans, but the name is a tribute to that inauguration speech made 50 years ago.
The game pits two players against each other: one as the United States, the other as the Soviet Union. The game is played with cards, each documenting an event that occurred sometime during the years 1945-89.
The board is a world map, and players use their cards to spread influence and trigger historical events, such as Kennedy’s assassination, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the creation of the CIA, etc. If it happened during those years and had some meaningful impact on the world, it’s depicted in this game.
The game also captures the ongoing tension of the space race and the threat of nuclear war.
This may sound like an obscure, unpopular game, but it’s actually the No. 1-ranked game in the world on BoardGameGeek.com, recently overtaking Puerto Rico for the top spot. The mechanics work so well in making the history come to life that it’s a huge hit even with casual players who aren’t especially interested in the theme. That said, you still won’t find it on the shelf at Walmart next to “Monopoly.” Finding an online game retailer, as usual, is your best bet.

▲ Mark is an experienced former journalist with a passion for games, both video and board.

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