Cold War: CIA vs. KGB
List Price: $12.95
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(Worth 1,049 Funagain Points!)
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Cold War: CIA vs KGB is a card game that places two players in control of the world’s greatest superpowers in an age of fear. In a covert clash of ideology, politics, guerilla warfare, and dirty tricks, each player must establish the dominance and superiority of his country’s worldview while bringing about his own vision of the future.
The revised edition features streamlined rules and more compact components, so pulling the strings of world politics has never been more convenient.
I've always thought that the Cold War would make an excellent theme for a game; and Twilight Struggle has proven that, skyrocketing in online ratings, with much critical acclaim. So when I was going through games that were to be released in 2007, Cold War: CIA vs. KGB (Fantasy Flight Games, 2007 - David Rakoto and Sebastien Gigaudaut) was high on my want list. My hopes were pretty big based on theme alone, and I hadn't read much about the game; so I was a little surprised, and perhaps saddened, when I got the game and found it was a small card game.
Yet despite this, Cold War is rapidly becoming a favorite two-player card game of mine. It mimics the basic mechanics of Blackjack and allows players quite a few options once they realize how the different aspects of the game work together. The theme of the Cold War is even realized, although in a more vague way, throughout the game; and it's a refreshing change of pace, after playing several clunky card games. Cold War is a game of outguessing and outmaneuvering your opponent and occasionally pushing your luck - I like it!
One player is the Russians; the other is the Americans, although the sides are completely symmetrical. Each player receives six numbered spies, each with a special ability as well as a domination token. Players shuffle two decks - a twenty-one objective card deck and a twenty-four group card deck. Finally, players set their score to "0" on a score card, and the first game turn is ready.
During the "Briefing" phase of a turn, the top card from the objective deck is turned over. Six of the cards are "event" cards, worth five victory points; the others are nation cards, worth ten to twenty victory points. This card represents what the two superpowers are fighting over the round. The player with the lower score receives a balance token to show that they go first. The "Planning" phase then follows, with players choosing one of their six agents to send to this battlefield, placing them face down in front of them.
The "Influence Struggle" then begins, with players attempting to win the card. Each card has a "Stability" number, which is the number players are attempting to match without going over it, and a "Population" number, which shows how many cards each side may have in play. Starting with the player with the balance token, each player either recruits (draws) a card, placing it face up in front of them, or activates (taps) a card, using its special power, or simply passes. When both players pass in a row, the phase ends. When drawing cards, players are getting groups of four different types numbered from "1" to "6". A player is trying to get as close as possible to the Stability number without going over; if they do go over, they immediately lose the objective.
Each of the four types of cards has a special power that can be activated during the phase.
At the end of the round, the player who has the highest total sum without going over places their domination token on the objective. In case of a tie, each objective card shows how it is broken using the four groups. The "Debriefing" phase then begins, with players revealing their agent. Each agent has a special ability on them that is activated depending on what domination token is on the target. The abilities are activated in initiative order (lower number going first). The agents are:
The agent used is then "sent on leave" (except # 2) and cannot be used in the next round. Dead agents are removed from the game, and players who go over the Stability number also have their agent killed. The player who won the objective takes it and scores the points on it. The Event objectives that are won by a player also give that player a special ability that they can use on future objectives. The group deck is reshuffled, and the next round is ready to begin. The game continues until one player reaches 100 points, at which point they win the game!
Some comments on the game…
I may have been a bit disappointed when I initially saw Cold War, but color me pleased at this point; I'm glad to have a light card game with some bite to it. It brings the experience of Blackjack to the table in an easy going way, but allows tactical play with the group cards, and sneaky play with the agent cards. Tension is quick, but evident, and play will seesaw back and forth until the end of the game. Those looking for a card game with theme and some tactical play will love Cold War: CIA vs. KGB.
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