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Subject: Cold War: CIA vs KGB from 2P Co-op blog rss

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Alan Miller
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Alan writes...

One thing that has surprised me since board games lured me in is the choice of themes. Growing up with Fighting Fantasy books and Games Workshop, I was used to two themes - fighting in the future, and fighting in a sort of medieval fantasy past. Orcs with axes, or Orcs with laser guns. That's not to say that they're without merit, of course; in particular, the maniacal religiosity of the Space Marines in Warhammer 40K is a particularly great unexpected touch that adds a lot to the game. But within gaming, I was expecting a world of sci-fi and fantasy, with perhaps the occasional historical battle. Of course, I was wrong. So far on this blog we've had intrepid explorers and medieval French towns. Time for some warfare. Except - again a pleasant surprise - we're not shooting at each other. Like the real cold war, it's a game of influence, bluff, and pushing your luck.



Cold War: CIA vs KGB is a Fantasy Flight game, and I've noticed that this seems to mean a quality product, certainly in terms of the components. Some may find that there are pieces here that are unnecessary and too flashy. There's a 'balance token', for instance, that's assigned to the player who is losing; that player gets to choose who goes first when taking cards. The balance token is a green poker chip with a shiny pair of scales pictured. It could be replaced with a rule that simply says: "The player with the least amount of points, or the player who lost the last round if it's a tie, chooses who will play first." But I like my little green token. As I like the rest of the components. All of the cards have evocative photos and are of a high quality, the larger agent cards look like mini personnel files, and there is a 'domination token', or shiny poker chip, for both sides. The game could have been done more cheaply, but I'm glad they've gone that extra mile. It looks and feels fantastic. I mean, look at this:



Quality, all over. Apart from one place. The rulebook.

The rulebook isn't awful. I mean, all of the rules are in there and it has examples and isn't riddled with typos or anything, but something's gone wrong when you're dividing a game into six phases and it's still confusing. There are at least three rulebook replacements as downloadable files on BoardGameGeek - that's not a good sign that the included rules are doing a good job. I'm not entirely sure of the problem, but I suspect that it's over-explained. There are also little unnecessary rules about shuffling - one player shuffles then the other cuts. Frankly, if you can't trust your opponent not to fiddle with the deck, get another opponent.

The game plays like a sort of 'advanced blackjack'. First, an objective is revealed - this is usually a country, but can be an event. It'll be worth some victory points, and has a 'stability value'. Players take turns drawing 'groups', eg police, artists, radio stations, in order to get as close as they can to this stability without going over. But each card belongs to a faction - military, economic, political, or media - that has a one-off special effect, such as stealing a group, or forcing your opponent to discard one. You win the 'influence struggle', you place your domination token. That's right, the victory points aren't yours yet. Each player then reveals his 'Agent X', one of six characters who may affect the outcome of the round. If the loser has the Master Spy, he takes the points. So if your opponent looks like they're trying to lose, watch out. Unless they're trying to make you think that. Or maybe they're trying to make you think that they're trying to think that. And so on.



Gillian: Now, I will warn you, bluffing is involved. Bluffing, of course, being a fancy word for 'bare-faced lying'. You don't know your partner's hand, and you don't know whether they are trying to win or deliberately lose. And to begin with, neither do they know this of you, but if you're rubbish at bluffing, they soon will. Nothing like the joy of winning a round only to find out that, with a turn of your partner's agent card, the points have been snatched away from you like the star prize on a gameshow.

Gillian was a terrible bluffer, at least in our first game. "Hmm, I think I'll pass, I don't want to risk civil disorder," she said, unconvincingly. Civil disorder is similar to 'going bust' - go over the stability number, and you lose the round, and your Agent X. I didn't believe her for a second, and sure enough, she had played the Master Spy. In subsequent games, however, her bluffing is much improved.

In short, then, an excellent game that can be used to teach your loved ones to effectively cheat and lie, with a great backdrop of paranoia and tension.

Cross-posted from 2P Co-op.
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Keith Creighton
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I would suggest playing the "special" objective cards with a population of 2 instead of one. We found that with just one card it is completely luck based, but with two you can use the powers and push your luck for a great special power (Olympic Games) if you want to. This one small adjustment has really helped our overall view of this game. One of my favorites!
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Alan Miller
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starwarsgolfer wrote:
I would suggest playing the "special" objective cards with a population of 2 instead of one. We found that with just one card it is completely luck based, but with two you can use the powers and push your luck for a great special power (Olympic Games) if you want to. This one small adjustment has really helped our overall view of this game. One of my favorites!


That's a nice idea. Think we'll try it out the next time.
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AMERIGAMER!
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I love and own several Fantasy Flight games, and it's been my experience that as great as their games look their rulebooks can sometimes be hard to follow. This hasn't kept me from learning and playing their games however.
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starwarsgolfer wrote:
I would suggest playing the "special" objective cards with a population of 2 instead of one. We found that with just one card it is completely luck based, but with two you can use the powers and push your luck for a great special power (Olympic Games) if you want to. This one small adjustment has really helped our overall view of this game. One of my favorites!

Be aware though, that this removes some of the card-combo's in the game.
 
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Keith Creighton
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Quote:
Be aware though, that this removes some of the card-combo's in the game.


Like what? Using the analyst...the odds of correctly using an analyst when a 5 point objective comes up are very small. And there is only one card that will allow you to set the objective draw pile. I have not seen this as a problem in my experience.
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