Labyrinth – The War On Terror
So, I managed to finish my first game of L-TWOT today. (To be clear, I did not play the solo/robot rules, I played both sides. Since I don't know all the cards yet and have a poor memory, I felt that was kind of fair.)
So, to take the tension off: the game came down to the last roll of the die, and the Jihadists won by default. (I ran out the deck, at which point the US need to control twice as many resources than the jihadists to win, and both had 0, since I had not aimed for that victory condition. The last two rolls were trying to improve Indonesia's stance from neutral/fair to ally/good, and only one of them succeeded.)
As the jihadist player, I think I had a somewhat good chance to win: for the last third or so of the game, I sat at 15 poor-governance countries, so all I needed was to run down the US to 0 prestige, and they were sitting at 2 prestige for a turn or two, but I blew two roll-prestige events, one of which netted the US +4 prestige and the other one +1. I never got the WMDs, I never got any cells into Schengen (I did the "make two recruitment rolls for US" event, but failed both of them). I hardly ever made any jihad attempts (maybe two or three), so mostly I was playing events and setting plots, combined with a bit of travel to test as many islam countries as possible. For all but the last turn, my funding was in the top bracket, and I had a turn or two of unopposed plots.
As the US player, I failed to get any dominance on the game at all. I played the first scenario, where you are already deployed to Afghanistan, and I failed to get the country into good order again (until the jihadist player played something which removed the Besieged Regime status). I hardly moved any other troops anywhere, because i would have put me into overstretch, until I gave up towards the end and went after the jihadist who moved from A. to Pakistan in search of WMDs. Mid-game elections turned me into a soft stance, which was nice, because I figured at some point that I could war-of-idea in Europe to gain prestige with my low-ops cards. Seriously, I never felt like I could make a change in the middle east, because countries test as poor 2/3rds of the time, so they need 3ops to have war-of-ideas, and even then, that fails fairly often, so it might not be a good idea, but it's the only way to remove the poor governance status the jihadist was going for.
All in all, of course I did a fair bit of back-and-forth and the usual rules misremembering ("oh, can't deploy to neutrals", improving governance instead of alignment by mistake, disrupting without having +5 surplus troops, forgot US player can discard the final card instead of taking it to the next round), but that got better over time. And of course, this being my first or second game (I aborted the first one simply because I needed the table space back), the analysis paralysis is brutal. It's very very tempting to try and play everything for the event.
ETA: It occurs to me I didn't factor in the WoI penalty for soft world stance and hard US stance in those final rolls.
ETA2: BGG discussions suggest that Afghanistan is indeed a bit of a poisoned chalice (OTOH, if you don't get in there right quick, it's a source of jihadist cells that takes massive amount of troops to keep in check.)