The Cuban missile crisis was an extraordinary chapter in history. The two world super powers stood on the brink of turning Earth into Alderan. Spoiler alert : they didn’t. Could it happen again? I couldn’t tell you but I certainly want to get a few more games of 13 days in before it does.
13 Days is a cut down version of Twilight Struggle one of the greatest 2 player games of all time. It’s fast. Half an hour (unless you get hammered in ten minutes like me) will see you done and dusted. The game has you and your opponent trying to out macho each other without triggering nuclear war (in which case you lose). You do this over three turns in which you escalate the Defcon levels, pick a secret agenda from three possibles and try to achieve yours whilst cock blocking your opponent’s. If you can figure out what they are up to
When you pick your three agendas you stick your flag on their corresponding spots on the map giving your opponent some idea what you’re about. You then secretly discard two of them and try and mislead your opposite in a dance of bluffing and subterfuge
The threat of nuclear oblivion is ever present. Twice I lost games where I was ahead on points but played a little too close to the fire and my opponent rose the Defcon tide for everyone at the end of the turn and pushed me over the line. It’s a neat mechanic and captures the whole playing chicken vibe of the event.
Turns are fast. You get a hand of five action cards which come in USSR, USA or UN(neutral) flavor. Cards have historical events as well as influence values. You can kick off the event and carry out the appropriate instructions on the card or use the influence value instead to place or remove influence cubes on the map. Placing your influence cubes on a location increases the Defcon level of the appropriate location type. Unlike TS there are now three separate Defcon tracks (military, world opinion, political) and having any of them in Defcon 1 at the end of the turn or all three in Defcon 2 loses the game for you. The end of turn part of this is important. It’s quite possible to slip into Defcon 1 but as long as you slide back out before the turn is finished you’re good.
If you play a card with your opponent’s flag on it they get the option to carry out the event so once again it’s all about making the best worst choice available to you. Your fifth and final card is put aside face down in the aftermath pile and at the very end of the game resources with your flag on them are counted up and the highest gets two additional victory points. Since the scoring track only goes up to five for each player, two points is nothing to sniff at.
The game is quick to learn, particularly if you’ve played Twilight Struggle (which you should). The game is compact with a small table foot print. This would be an excellent game for holidays. Production values are good, not exceptional. The cards are a little flimsey but more than serviceable. A set of card covers wouldn’t go amiss. Having said that it’s a great game well worth getting and nicely priced, so if you’re a TS fan or you want to dip your toe in the water with this sort of game you don’t go wrong with this