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The "AR7 Play" refers to any US play on the final Action Round of the turn (AR6 on Turns 1-3, AR7 thereafter) intended to overload the USSR’s first Action Round in the next turn. The AR7 play is the cornerstone of advanced American strategy and one of the main ways to seize initiative from the USSR.
The key to the AR7 play lies in DEFCON. Each turn, DEFCON rises to 3, and so each turn the USSR would like to coup a battleground on AR1 in order to drop DEFCON to 2 and block the US from battleground coups. The AR7 play therefore attempts to create a crisis for the USSR that cannot be addressed until AR1 of the next turn. By timing this crisis to arrive simultaneously with the USSR’s DEFCON obligation, the US hopes to overload the USSR’s AR1, and force the USSR into one of two unpalatable choices: either address the AR7 crisis (and give the US the battleground coup) or drop DEFCON (and allow the US to capitalize on its AR7 play).
There are three types of AR7 plays: breaking USSR control, playing into a non-battleground, and managing bad USSR events.
1. Breaking USSR control of a country
This is the most common AR7 play. You place influence into a USSR-controlled country (let’s say Pakistan), enough to break control. On AR1 of next turn, the USSR must either restore its control of Pakistan (allowing you to coup a battleground) or coup a battleground (allowing you to play a high Ops card into Pakistan to flip the country to capitalism). Either way, you end up sacrificing very little to gain something significant.
Ideally, you want to break control of a country that is not coupable at DEFCON 3. For instance, if you broke USSR control of Nigeria, the USSR could just coup Nigeria on AR1 and kill both birds with one stone.
However, it may still be worthwhile to break control of a Mid War battleground if you have an obviously desirable battleground coup target. For instance, if you hold South Africa, Angola, Botswana, and Zaire to the USSR’s Algeria and Nigeria (and therefore have African domination), the USSR is almost certainly going to coup Zaire on AR1 to gain Domination. However, if you use your final AR play on Algeria, then the USSR is no longer able to flip Domination with a single play. Regardless of which country he coups, you’ll be able to maintain the 3-2 battleground split.
The most flexible way of making this AR7 play is with Operations, but there are many events that accomplish something similar: John Paul II Elected Pope, Panama Canal Returned, OAS Founded, etc. These are all events that benefit from being played on the last Action Round of a turn because they are otherwise easy to respond to.
Breaking control on the final AR is most effective when it disrupts the scoring situation in the region. It presents a much more critical crisis for the USSR, and in addition, the US is able to threaten headlining the scoring card (which may in turn force a suboptimal USSR headline in response).
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