Ananda Gupta Discusses Twilight Struggle and the Future of Historical Games

January 2, 2015 - 11:36am
Image from Connected Digitalworld Image from Connected Digitalworld

Oliver Roeder over at the political and social trend site, FiveThirtyEight, set out to discover why heavy political game Twilight Struggle, among all the classic standbys like Ticket to Ride and Settlers of Catan, maintains the top spot on BoardGameGeek.
“We may now find ourselves in the middle of a golden age of serious board gaming. The number of titles, and their average ratings by players, increase each year. Impressively, amid this renaissance, Twilight Struggle maintains its No. 1 spot despite having been published in 2005.
twilight strugle map” His exploration reveals an interesting series of changes in the industry, notably the increasing dominance of strategic games, and the decreased influence of simpler luck-oriented games.
“Games in this broad category are typically characterized by deep strategy, an emphasis on skill and the lack of player elimination. In other words, they’re not Monopoly.”
Roeder’s research brought him to Twilight Struggle’s co-designer, Ananda Gupta, currently working for video game studio Firaxis Games. Their discussion ranges from Twilight Struggle’s early days as a Spanish Civil War game concept to Gupta’s frustration with historical war gaming’s unnecessary rules complexity.
“Simplification, to Gupta and [Twilight Struggle co-designer Jason] Matthews, was the name of their design philosophy. Rather than overwhelm players with a fat rulebook at the start, the designers spread the information required throughout the gameplay, on cards.”

Gupta’s theory on Twilight Struggle’s enduring popularity is similarly simple. He points out the advantage a two-player game has in both length and player downtime, as well as the balance of skill and luck inherent in Twilight Struggle’s design. Gupta plans to bring to his next project, Imperial Struggle, and provides a bright outlook for historical games to come.
“Ninety-five percent of human conflicts are not covered by games. We’re seeing more games that are less focused on America. We’re seeing more games focused on struggles that are not of interest primarily for their aesthetics.”
Make sure to check out the full article for more of Ananda Gupta's insights and to see Oliver Roeder's industry data analysis.