Tag Archives: Jason Matthews

1989: Dawn of Freedom ( A Written Review)

This game represents the cold and contentious times when our world braced to collide.  With statements of hubris spoken by our government we had deep concern that if any wrong misstep would force the opposition to retaliate with fiery conflict. Eastern European countries had experienced the long hard life of Communism, and its people dreamed of change; and sip form the cup of freedom that capitalism so often advertises.

In 1989 the game, Capitalism and Communism stand on either side of history making threats to demonstrate political and economic dominance.  1989: Dawn of Freedom takes us through what it would be like to live in Eastern Europe in this ideological battle through the fall of Communism in these countries.


The Board consists of the maps of the eastern bloc countries: East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria. The Board is stunning to look at but that joy quickly fades as you struggle to get it to lie flat, but with determination and a little acceptance this problem is quickly rectified. Looking at the board the game swiftly draws parallels to another GMT game 2005 Twilight struggle. Since I haven’t played Twilight yet (Just a matter of time) I honestly can’t make fair comparisons of play, but aesthetically it seems to me 1989 is close in mechanics, but scaled to the struggle of Easter Europe in the 80’s.

The fight continues as players begin to place opposing influence on the board. When there is enough influence to win the hearts and minds of a particular group then that the player flips his chit to the solid color that represents his cause. The goal is to have the most influence in a country before the power struggle happens and determines the fate of each player. Play heightens with crucial times of conflict where a card event can dramatically tip the scale on the board, or when you can play a power struggle card catching your opponent unprepared.

The Cards

The game play lies in the cards which represent historical events and point values. The playing cards are broken down into early/middle/late game with the latter two being set aside until the game progresses to the point you add them to the draw pile. Out of seven plays only once did we experience the game going long enough to reach the late game card stack and there affects.  The cards very nature of strict instructions that affect the same part of the board produces a common problem introducing the game to new players. When players have knowledge of what the cards might do (Like knowing the Lutheran church will automatically become Democratic in Easter Germany in the middle game when the event hits, so it doesn’t pay for either player to invest much points there) will give a well-seasoned player an unfair  advantage over a less compensated one.

The draw pile refills each player’s hands. Soon you find your sitting on a hand of events that will not play to you favorable. How well you maneuver your play with the events of the board will determine your prowess. All cards but one in each players hand are played each turn (usually, events and other cards can force this last card to be played). Since opponent’s cards can’t be seen your attacks at other players hands are more based on working assumptions of your opponents play style, and less to do with the type of cards in hand.

Game play greatly depends on how well you can bury important event cards that affect you worse and taking best advantage of your favorable events; this can be done by keeping a close eye on the board and careful planning so your events do maximum damage.  Some event cards need linear catalyst to allow them to happen so this becomes an important strategy to block early events so that late ones never can happen.

The only other way to avoid playing unwanted cards is Tiananmen Square. Once around you make take a turn tossing an unwanted card on the Tiananmen chart without triggering the cards event. This is the only way to delay a cards event other than hanging on to in your hand from turn to turn hoping your opponent doesn’t force you to play your last card.  Tiananmen is a race because as the front runner makes headway onto the track they are the sole person to benefit from some of the events that Tiananmen has to offer. If you fail on roll on the track it is almost fatal forcing you to be the runner up the rest of the game unless your political nemesis is makes equal critical miscues just like you on the progression track.

Power struggle                                     

There is a final deck of cards that represent the power struggle.  Each party has their own set of identical power struggle cards. When a power struggle of a particular country plays in the normal round the country goes into a power struggle. A player gets four cards for the first group owned and then two for each additional group. Theatrically a player could be shut out of a power struggle if they have no influence in a country. This can happen fairly easily if the player is not paying attention as the game changes from its early/middle/late stages.  Other countries like Romania and Bulgaria may never see a power struggle since they hit so late in the game. Games can often be won quickly if the dice rolls don’t go as you add extra point totals after the struggle  your way and  the point values are  pushed to the 20 mark in either direction (Communism is -20 some kind of weird democratic favoritism I say!)


It really captures that tenuous time period well and anyone interested of the end of the cold war and the events of Europe will most likely like this game.  The game play matches the theme well, and the variety of cards is such and the lack of getting to a late game leave for room for many enjoyable replays captures the mood and tension of a contentious back and forth struggle. Having never played Twilight to compare to this game I was greatly excited by the board and influencing  mechanics that  unfolded to this newbie war gamer, but I am sure some of the excitement would be diminished from seeing this type of game in action in a different format.


The game can seem tilted towards Democracy. Communist players have to hang on as long as they can; knowing that ultimately things in history will not bode well for them. This Democratic affect happens so much that non-war gamers that I played with (who are not used to playing games where a side historically wins and the game has to compensate by showing the win in the games point system) might get a sense that the game is slanted to the democratic player.

Another problem is some of the countries simply have a higher point value and it becomes obvious to maintain control of them. For the communist player who benefits from reoccurring point multiplier it pays to stay in Poland and spend fewer resources in other countries.  The focus on Poland greatly influences the game so much so that Hungary and Czechoslovakia can be devalued and sometimes worthless to a well-played Poland strategy.

Experienced players have a dramatic advantage over new players more so than most games I have played. Knowing what the cards in advance and their tendencies will make it hard for a new player to have any chance to a well-seasoned player unless they are adequately informed the subtleties of the game.  During the power struggle if you own certain groups on the board their matching leaders in your deck become wild cards instead of being useless cars that are unplayable (except a mechanic which allows you to spend three cards to make a bonus to your rolls if you win). Knowing the breakdown of the number of special leaders in the power struggle is also a huge advantage if a player is not informed before a power struggle takes place.  I had played several games before I realized that there are more elite leaders/Intellectuals leaders, and that not all the numbers of the other leaders breaks down the same: bureaucrats, workers, students, and church leaders (not to mention there are no Farm leaders).


Without the influence of not having played Twilight struggle I have to conclude that this game represented an exciting and new experience. I know it doesn’t knock it out of the ballpark for everyone (especially for people who don’t like war games) and some people find it a heavy endeavor to play; especially for new players inundated by unknown factors. The problem is it is still fun and exciting to play and captures the tension for the time period in the theme and mechanics of the game. People who can remember those points in history in the year 1989 will live in their memory as you play this game. If you’re up for a cold war focus in Eastern Europe this game is for you!


VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
User Review:
Rating: 5.0/5 (1 vote cast)

Twilight Struggle (Video Review)

Twilight Struggle Deluxe Edition - Front Cover

On November 9th of 2009, the world marked the 20th Anniversary of the conclusion of the Cold War. That was the day that the Cold War’s most tangible symbol — the Berlin Wall — was relegated to the ash heap of history. Unlike the 20th Century’s other great conflict, the Cold War did not end in an explosion of neutrons, but rather, an explosion of human freedom and optimism. We had avoided what many thought inevitable — the destruction of mankind through armed conflict between the Soviet Union and the United States. Overnight, the face of Europe had changed. Suddenly, all things were possible.

That was now 23 years ago. Sadly, we all learned that the end of the Cold War was not “the end of history.” Mankind would find new ways to divide itself. While the threat of nuclear holocaust disappeared, newer and more sinister forms of conflict would take its place. Where once superpowers bestrode the globe, decentralized networks and even individuals now command the world’s attention.

This Deluxe Edition of Twilight Struggle seeks to capture the feeling of that earlier era. Twilight Struggle is a two-player game simulating the forty-five year dance of intrigue, prestige, and occasional flares of warfare between the Soviet Union and the United States. Using the card-driven game mechanics pioneered in such award winning games as We the People and Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage, Twilight Struggle recreates the conflict between the most powerful nation states the world has ever known. The scope of the game covers the entire world as it was found in 1945. Players move units and exert influence in attempts to gain allies and control for their superpower. As with GMT’s other card-driven games, decision-making is a challenge; how to best use one’s cards and units given consistently limited resources? Twilight Struggle’s Event cards add cover a vast array of historical happenings, from the Berlin Airlift, to the Vietnam War and the U.S. peace movement, to the Cuban Missile Crisis.

~ GMT Games

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
User Review:
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

1960: The Making of the President



“Sometimes the history of a nation can be defined by the relationship between two individuals. The Election of 1960 is the story of two men, John F. Kennedy and Richard M. Nixon. One is the scion of a wealthy, politically powerful family from New England. The other is the son of a Quaker grocer in Whittier, California. While they belong to opposing political parties, they start out as friends. The complex development of that friendship, however, would shape a pivotal presidential election and cast a long shadow over American history for the remainder of the 20th century.

“In 1960: The Making of the President, you take on the role of one of these great protagonists vying for the right to lead his country into the heart of the Cold War. However, it is not just foreign policy that poses a challenge to American leadership; this is also an era of great social turmoil and progress. As the United States continues to build upon the promise of its founding, candidates must contend with the question of civil rights and balance their positions on social justice against the need for valuable Southern electoral votes. Of course, the ever-present issue of the economy also rears its ugly head, and both Nixon and Kennedy will compete to be the candidate with the voters’ pocket books in mind.

“The contest is fought out on an electoral map of the United States as it stood in 1960—a map where Louisiana and Florida share the same number of electoral votes, as do California and Pennsylvania. Using a card-driven game system, all the major events which shaped the campaign are represented: Nixon’s lazy shave, President Eisenhower’s late endorsement, and the ‘Catholic question’ are all included as specific event cards. The famous televised debates and final election day push are each handled with their own subsystems. Candidates vie to capture each state’s electoral votes using campaign points in the four different regions of the country. At the same time, they must build momentum by dominating the issues of the day and attempt to gain control of the airwaves.

“As with any election campaign, the challenge is to adapt your game plan as the ground shifts out from under you. There are never enough resources or time to do everything, but you need to make the tough calls to propel yourself into the White House. This fast-playing strategy game for two players challenges you to run for the most powerful elective office in the world, at one of its most unique crossroads. Will you recreate history, or rewrite it? 1960: The Making of the President provides you the opportunity to do both.”

All elections are turning points, but the presidential election of 1960 holds a special place in American history. The 1950s had been a period of unparalleled economic growth and US global power. Richard Nixon served as President Eisenhower’s Vice President through most of the period. Nixon’s humble origins gave him a common touch that appealed to the small town, idyllic America encompassed by the spirit of the 1950s. John F. Kennedy, was Nixon’s mirror image: charming, Harvard educated and the scion of an American political dynasty. Kennedy challenged Americans to confront the uncertainties and tumult that were already emerging in 1960. He set his vision not in the past, but on new frontiers.

In 1960: The Making of the President, you take on the role of one of these great protagonists vying to lead America through an era of turbulent change. The candidates must contend with all the great issues of the day, from the Cold War to civil rights to voters’ pocket books. This is an election that will turn on positioning and momentum. The contest is fought on an electoral map of the United States as it stood in 1960. Using a card-driven game system, all the major events which shaped the campaign are represented: Nixon’s lazy shave, President Eisenhower’s late endorsement, and the ‘Catholic question’ are all specific event cards. The famous televised debates are also an important component of gameplay.

As with a real election campaign, the challenge is to adapt your game plan as the ground shifts out from under you. There are never enough resources or time to do everything, but you need to make the tough calls to propel yourself into the White House. This fast-playing strategy game for two players challenges you to relive the most significant political contest of the Twentieth Century. Will you recreate history, or rewrite it? 1960: The Making of the President provides you the opportunity to do both


1) Tricky Dick: The text: “No rest cubes are gained for the retrieved card.” was added to the end.
2) New Nixon: Debate icon was changed from Civil Rights to Economy.
3) Henry Luce: “any region” was changed to “any single region”.

The board got the enlarged electoral values

The rules got:

updated cover 2nd edition tag
all board shots showing electoral values

4) reference to “Get Out The Vote” phase removed, bracketed text removed from Support Checks paragraph.
13) Gathering Momentum section revised to deal with possible ineligible cards for Campaign Strategy
14) “two or more cards” replaces “two cards”
15) instruction to discard Debate Event cards (under Debate Events) removed
16) “Each player may resolve their cards in any order desired.” added to Campaign Strategy section
17) Unpledged Electors section reworded, correct Nixon’s Pledge illustration added

20 more cubes were added to the game.


GAME BOARD – 2nd printing

Contents: 1 Game board, 108 cards, 170 wooden support cubes, 2 Candidate pawns, 50 State seals, 12 Momentum markers, 8 Endorement markers, 3 Issues marker, 2 wooden Turn/Phase cubes
No. of players: 2
Ages: 12+
Playing time: 90 minutes
Price: $49.99
Stock code: ZMG 7019



~ Z-Man Games

No rules introduction here – other people have done that.






VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
User Review:
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

Founding Fathers – first look



Newest game from the pair that made 1960: The Making of the President. The goal here is to be the founding father with the most renown at the end of the game, which consists of the making of the US constitution. Players have a hand of delegates that represent a state, defend an issue and have a special ability. A different issue of the constitution is considered each round while players use delegates to either help or go against the issue.

~ Jolly Roger Games







Managed (of course) to screw up a couple rules.
Doesn’t affect my opinion much (if anything strengthens
the view), but some of the strategy thoughts would be



VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
User Review:
Rating: 0.0/5 (0 votes cast)

1989: Dawn of Freedom (Video Review)

1989 is an exciting, fast paced game simulating the end of the Cold War in 1989. During this amazing year, a series of democratic revolutions ended the 40 year Soviet empire in Eastern Europe. 1989 simulates the political, social and economic aspects of these revolutions using a card driven system similar to Twilight Struggle.

~ GMT Games

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
User Review:
Rating: 5.0/5 (3 votes cast)