GMT published a sequel to the very popular semi-wargame Twilight Struggle. Some of you may recall playtesting Twilight Struggle some years ago. That game has been very well received and is currently rated #2
on Boardgame Geek. The sequel is called 1989 Dawn of Freedom. the TS topic was the entire Cold War in a card driven game engine. 1989 covers only a single year and only area of Eastern Europe - Poland, Czeckoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary and East Germany. The game engine is almost identical with one important addition and some minor tweaks. the addition of a Power Struggle phase when a country is scored adds drama to the play of the scoring cards, plus it allows for the Communist player to score points by holding out as long as possible, while the Democrat player tries to convert these countries to freedom. The Power Struggle is a separate deck of cards dealt depending on how much support each player has in the country. One player with the initiative plays a card from his PS deck that must be matched by his opponent. It is sort of a two player UNO game within the main game. It sounds dumb but it actually works pretty well and adds some interest to the game. In addition to purely geographic locations on the map, there are spaces that represent the Church and universities. Other spaces represent intellectuals, the ruling class, workers and farmers. These subtle differences give the players a lot of options when playing cards for influence.
I am in the midst of a trip to our neighbor the the North for the better part of this week, so I had a large suitcase with some space, so I threw my copy of 1989 in. I gave the rules a full reading on the airplane and I am about half way through a solo game in my hotel room. It is a fun game. The cards offer a great deal of flavor, with events of the year 1989 represented. Game play is not difficult or too involved. This game compares very well to a weightier Euro game in terms of complexity. There is a lot of historical flavor and players face tough decisions throughout.
I found 1989 a bit easier to get into than TS. In TS, there are so many things to do and it is easy to get a bit overwhelmed as a player, especially a new player. I really didn't have that feeling in 1989. It is a bit more forgiving than TS although I am sure that with repeat plays, there are some killer card combos as there are in TS. Either of these games would be a good GN game for when there are just two players, but I think I would choose 1989 over TS for that purpose since it is a little more accessible for new players.