The Cold War was an extraordinary time. Like any historical conflict it’s easy to look back and say “Wow! Why did they do that?”. Easy when you’re not in the middle of it and when you know the world won’t end today.
KGB v CIA is a super two player game. I played it with my wife recently and it’s still as good as ever. Now there is a Star Wars version of this out there “Star Wars. Empire v Rebellion”. It’s pretty much the same game, however having played both, this version is still my favorite.
The game has several elements going on at once, bluffing, push your luck, card counting, black jackery to name a few.
The idea is to score 100 points before your opponent. You do this by winning various missions valued from 5 – 20 points each. Each of the missions is some historical spot where The KGB and CIA tried to gain popular support like Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and so on. If you’ve played Twilight Struggle you’re in familiar territory.
Players take it in turn to blind draw support cards and place them on their side to try and reach but not go over the support level needed to take the region. Support cards themselves come in different strengths (1-6) and flavors (military, government, media and business). This is where the black jack element comes in where you push your luck to outdo your opponent and hope not to go bust and lose one of your limited spys.
The game is a lot more forgiving than blackjack. The different types of cards allow you to look ahead before you draw, remove cards, steal opponents cards and reactivate a card a second time. There’s a lot of in your face interaction which I love. Often times it’s possible to pull your ass out of the fire with some clever thinking when all looks lost.
before a mission you pick one of your specialist spies to carry it out. Some of them have awesome powers. The master spy is my favorite (followed by the assassin). In the case of the master spy you win the round if you lose it so there’s some real bluffing going on and some lovely paranoia.
The game plays out in between half and an hour and it feels fast. Losing a round makes you dig in and try and catch up. Winning rounds can make you fatally cocky. Games are nearly always close and it’s a reasonably easy game to teach.
Production wise it’s a card game at the end of the day and the cards are all very nice with a muted 70s quality to the art work. It’s all type writers and rooms full of smoking men style
This is a game that’s going to appear again and again at my table. It’s another excellent holiday game. It’s light and portable (albeit less beer proof than Hive). Highly recommended and you can pick it up for a song.