Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



David Rakoto &
Sebastien Gigaudaut


No. of Players:




It's now over ten years since KOSMOS successfully opened up the market for modern two-player games with the long-time evergreen The Settlers from Catan Cardgame by Klaus Teuber, but whereas KOSMOS had slowly expanded this branch of games up to this day comparatively few good two-player games have been published by other publishers. However, as it seems a promising new contestant with a historical background has found a home with UbiK and PRO LUDO, and so let us have a closer look at Cold War - CIA VS. KGB by David Rakoto and Sebastien Gigaudaut.

Illustrated with numerous photographies from the time of the Cold War, this game puts the players into the seats of the directors of the two major intelligence agencies. Each of the players has a group of six agents at his command, and this group of agents is the same for each player: the Master Spy the Vice-Director, the Double Agent, the Analyst, the Assassin and the Director. During the game, the players will use the agents to compete in missions for victory points, with most of the Mission Target Cards depicting countries of varying values and a few cards depicting decisive events like a Summit Meeting, the Olympic Games or the Moon Landing.

At the beginning of a turn, one Mission Target Card is revealed and each player secretly chooses one of his agents which he puts face down in front of himself. The choice of agents may be somewhat limited by the fact that all agents but the Vice-Director can be eliminated during the course of the game, and also an agent which has been used in the previous round may not be used again in the following turn but first must spend one turn of recovery time.

When both players have chosen their agents, the War for Influence begins, with both players trying to get the upper hand for the control of the country or event depicted on the Mission Target Card. The player who ended the last round with less victory points on his account now decides which player goes first, and in turn the players now may either draw a card from the deck of Group Cards and place it in front of themselves, use the special ability of an already placed Group Card or pass. The deck of Group Cards consists of four colours of six cards with values from "1" to "6", and each of the colours represents a special faction type. So, the green cards are Military cards, the red cards are Political forces, the yellow cards are Economic stakeholders and the blue cards are the Media.


The current Mission Target Card sets several limitations for this round of play, since it defines how many Group Cards each player is allowed to have in front of himself and for which influence value the players should aim. Thus, both players try to get the values of their combined cards close or equal to the stability value of the current Mission Target, but not above the stability rating. If a player for any reason surpasses the stability rating with his combined card values at the end of the War for Influence, the country or event will be subject of riots of the population and the Mission Target automatically goes to the opposite player.

Taking turns, the players now either draw new cards or try to use the special abilities of the different types of cards to get cards with values coming close to the stability rating.

  • The blue Media cards can be used to look at a card on the stack of Group Cards before deciding whether to take the card;
  • the red Political cards allow the player either to take one Group card from the opposing player or to give a Group Card to the opposing player (not surpassing the stability rating with his total of cards!)
  • the yellow Economy cards allow the activation of an unused card or the refreshment of a card which has been used;
  • and the green Army cards allow the elimination of any other card lying in front of one of the two players.

Considering the relatively low stability ratings and the likewise low maximum number of displayable cards each War for Influence sequence is a rather short exchange of blows which comes to its end after each player has placed a handful of cards. However, this relatively short duration must be seen in connection with the fact that about two dozen Mission Target Cards will be allocated during the course of the game, so that the short duration of the struggle for each card fits into the general context of the game. Still, the four different types of action cards offer for quite a bit a variation, and even when the winner of the current round seems to be clear there is still a chance that the agents used by each player change the final outcome of the turn.

So, when both players have finished drawing and playing Group Cards, each player adds up the value of his group cards and the player with the higher value of his cards now may place a domination token on the Mission Target Card provided the value of his cards does not surpass the current stability rating.

Usually the Mission Target Card then will be won by the player with the higher total of influence points, but first the players will have to reveal their agents:

  • If either one or both players have chosen their Assassin the opposing agent(s) will be removed from the game, but the current Mission Target Card will not be assigned to a player but instead is placed under the pile of Mission Target Cards. The Vice-Director of each player is the only agent who cannot be killed, but he has no special function otherwise.
  • Events are turned upside down by the Master-Spy, since now the player with the lower total of influence points will have won the Mission Target Card.
  • The Double Agent and the Analyst have no influence on the outcome of the current turn, but instead they allow their player a special action in the following turn. So, a player who has used the Double Agent may force the other player to reveal the agent he chooses in the following round, whereas the Analyst allows a player to look at the three top cards of the Group Cards pile, thus offering some minor options for plotting and planning.
  • Finally, the Director is quite valuable, since a player who has used the Director in a turn in which he has won the current Mission Target Card is allowed to take one additional Mission Target Card for free from the bottom of the pile.

When the agents have been dealt with and the Mission Target Card has been assigned, both players discard all of their Group Cards and the deck of Group Cards is shuffled anew. Both players then adjust their Victory Point score markers and - unless one player has reached 100 Victory Points and won the game - a new turn begins.

A special role which should be mentioned is played by the Mission Target Cards which display decisive events. These cards only allow the placement of a minimum of Group Cards, and their Victory Point value is rather small. However, the winner of one of these cards also may decide to discard such a card during the course of the game, loosing the Victory Points but using the special ability assigned to each card. So, an eliminated agent may be brought back, the other player's agent may be revealed etc.

Despite the background topic which wakes the expectations that the players might find a strategically challenging game with a long playing duration, Cold War - CIA VS. KGB actually is a rather fast-paced game where the players only have some minimal possibilities for strategic planning. So, the clever use of an agent may offer some possibilities for the upcoming turn, but on the other hand the outcome of a turn still depends mainly on the chosen agent and the luck of each player when drawing Group cards. However, what the game lacks in terms of strategy is more than made up by the entertainment value, since the numerous short exchanges played for each new Mission Target Card keep the game at a high competitive level. The authors explicitly wanted to develop a game which could be enjoyed for its short playing duration and entertaining passages of arms, and this aim has been fully reached. So, you should not buy the game with an expectation of long hours of planning and plotting, but the fascination and replay value should remain high if the game is taken out for a quick exchange now and again.

Looking for this game? Visit Funagain Games!

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Copyright © 2008 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany