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My girlfriend and I play Twilight Struggle. She likes playing as USSR. I'm a bit better at the game, which leads to a frustrating situation where I win most of the games.

Are there any generally accepted thoughts on altering the starting conditions to better favour the USSR player, balancing our relative skill levels?

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Me and a friend of mine play this a lot and we had to explain it a bit to a new player, so we also had to give the USSR an advantage because it would be first time player against a veteran.
We found that there are three ways to make this a bit more fair:

  1. Give the USSR more starting influence to divide (this can be in Eastern Europe or in any other continent)
  2. Give the USSR some starting points, that way America has to accumulate more points to win the game, I think that 5 or 3 is fair but you can choose that for yourself
  3. In the first headline phase: USSR plays a card and America doesn't, this can give the USSR an advantage if they have good cards so it's a gamble.

EDIT

  1. You could also give the USSR player a partial mulligan, discard the cards he doesn't want and let him pull that many new cards
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  • I particularly like this answer because there are several options. I hadn't even considered the third option and I will have to try it out and see how it works. :) May 19 '15 at 22:01
  • The third option is a real gamble, the USSR can get ahead really quick with it, but they also can have a crappy hand and can't play anything to get ahead
    – Wouter
    May 20 '15 at 7:31
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The standard way to balance the game (However, usually towards the US), is to give the player some number of influence they can place anywhere they already have influence at the start of the game. I think this works slightly better for the US, since they can often add it to Iran, making a coup that much harder, or add a couple to France and try to score Europe quickly.

Depending on the advantage you want, I would suggest trying something like give her Iran to start instead, which would basically act as a 100% successful turn 1 coup. This way it's not a totally unfair or out-of-band start, it's more just forcing her to have good luck at the start of the game.

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