Cold War CIA vs. KGB Review

With so many strategy and spy games available nowadays, Cold War CIA vs. KGB has made a name for itself by offering a plot with intensity, intrigue, and bluff. It strikes a decent balance between luck and strategy and makes for an excellent two-player strategy game. 

The Cold War CIA vs. KGB game is a spy game based on the Cold War era. It has everything a decent spy game should have including a range of agents, objectives, an unknown element, bluff techniques, and requires a strategy to play. It takes about an hour to play and is great for families. 

This review will discuss the pros and downsides of this game and give you a basic idea of how to play. It will also look at design quality, bluff techniques, and winning strategies. So, let’s get on with it! 

This game is hard to find as it is out of print, however if you love strategy games you definitely want to find a copy to add to the collection!

Cold War CIA vs. KGB Rating

Overall Rating:7.5/10
Playing Time8/10
Unpredictability/Bluff Aspect7.5/10
Your TL;DR summary of what Cold War CIA vs. KGB has to offer as a strategic card game/board game.

Pros And Cons of Cold War Cia VS KGB

Excellent strategy gameEnough play can make game routes predictable
Perfect timing/pacing for strategy board gameCan take a bit too long for some people
Nice use of intrigueONLY a 2-player game
Ages great from teenage to adult

Cold War CIA vs. KGB Included Materials

The Cold War CIA vs. KGB game box will contain the following:

A Game Board 

The quality of the game board is high and holds everything in place quite well. The theme represents the 70s and 80s and gives an authentic feel of the Cold War era. The box design gives it an intriguing look. However, it does give a “warfare” game impression, even though that’s not the game’s objective. 

You’ll also get a detailed and easy-to-understand rulebook. Overall, it’s one of those games where the box design and game quality are similar, so you won’t be disappointed! 

Objective Cards 

Of the cards in the box, 21 cards will be “objective cards.” These cards represent the different objectives for which you’ll be competing. Objective cards often represent countries of economic, political, or strategic value in the game. 

Each objective card has a different score or value that adds to your points tally at the end of the game. For example, Cuba and Egypt may have different scores and require different strategies to achieve dominance. (We’ll discuss how to play them later.) 

Group Cards 

Group cards represent industrial, military, economic, or political groups that help players achieve their objectives. For example, the objective card in play may be Egypt, and players will use their military or political groups to take control of the “objective.” 

There are 24 group cards in the game, each having a different score. Each card also has a separate ability to help players achieve the objectives. 

Agent Cards

The essence of the Cold War CIA vs. KGB game is based on these agent cards, of which there are 12. Each player will get six “agents,” each with their ability. The abilities of both players’ agents are the same, but the cards have a different design that represents either the CIA or KGB. 

The six agents assigned to each player have different abilities, which form the crux of the game’s strategy. For example, the Assassin can eliminate the opponent’s agent. At the same time, the master spy can turn a lost objective into a victory. I’ll discuss how to use each agent in your strategy later on in this review. 

Additional Objects 

Lastly, you’ll have two cards to record your score, two beads to mark your score, and three chips. One chip represents the CIA, one represents the KGB, and the last is the “balance chip” used to start the game. 

Even though it’s not an overly high-priced game, the cards and tokens are high quality and don’t get damaged easily. The design of the pieces is also unique and represents the cold war era quite accurately. 

cold war cia vs kgb game alternate box
Original Picture –

How To Play Cold War CIA vs. KGB 

The Cold War CIA vs. KGB game requires strategy, understanding of bluff techniques, and a bit of general knowledge to play. Even if you have no idea of the Cold War era, you’ll still enjoy the tactical aspect of this game. 

The aim of this game is to gain as many points as possible by winning objectives. Since each Objective card has a different score based on its importance in the game’s scheme, the player with the highest total score will win. 

Since there are 21 Objective cards, each representing a different year in the cold war era, the game will consist of 21 rounds.

Each round will have a different objective to contest. For example, it may be the year 1970, and the objective is Honduras.

The next round will represent the year 1971, and the objective will be Egypt and so on. 

The objectives shift as the power brokers are moving their pieces in place and this really helps to capture the

How To Win a Round

Each round has six phases, each important to win the round. After all six phases, the players will find out who has won the objective card. 

The six phases in each round include: 

Briefing Phase

During this phase, players will find out which Objective card they are contesting. It’s important to stay focused during this phase to find out important details of the objects, such as the number of points on offer.

Each objective has a different value, and some are more important than others.

So, when using your agents to win objectives, you’ll need to accurately determine whether the objective is important enough to put your agent at risk.

During the briefing phase, you’ll also see the stability score of each objective, which is crucial for forming the right strategy in the next round. 

Planning Phase

Once the objective is clear and you know the objective’s influence score, you’ll have to create a strategy for winning the round. The aim of the planning stage is to select the right agents. You want to choose an agent that counters the opponent’s agent’s abilities and helps you achieve the maximum influence points without going over the objective’s influence rating. 

Since each player can only use one agent per round, you must choose the right agent. Players also can’t use the same agent for two consecutive rounds, so you’ll have to plan further when choosing your agents for each round. This round adds intrigue to the game since you won’t know who the opponent player’s agent is. 

Influence Struggle 

The influence struggle is where the real fun begins. You’ll recruit different groups from the group card deck during this phase. You’ll have to keep the objective score in your mind and make sure that the total influence score of your group cards doesn’t exceed the objective’s influence score. 

This stage gives a striking balance between luck and planning. While you don’t control which group card you choose, you should still know when to call quits. Being over-enthusiastic in recruiting group cards may cause you to exceed the objective influence score, causing you to lose the round. 

However, this round involves a lot more than just drawing cards. Each group has a different ability and can be used to damage the opponent’s influence score in these ways: 

  • Military groups: These groups can destroy another group card of the opponent. 
  • Political groups: You can use these groups to cause the opponent’s group to switch sides. 
  • Economic groups: These groups allow you to activate a dormant group. 
  • Media groups: These cards give you “intelligence.” The media group is helpful as you can use it to check the top card on the group deck and choose what you want to do with it. 

This is the “playing” phase of each round, and you’ll have to use your strategic skills to try and win the objective. However, the round’s not over after this stage. 

What Happens If I Exceed the Objective’s Influence Score in a Round?

If your group card score exceeds the objective’s score, then your agent will get kicked out of the game. Since you only have six agents, you must keep your influence score in check. If you do this for six rounds, you won’t have any agents, and you’ll lose the game.

Cease Fire Stage

Once the power struggles are over, it’s time to move to the cease-fire phase. This phase will allow players to compare their influence scores which may determine who won the round. Whoever has an influence score closer to the objective will win the Objective card. 

However, this stage has a twist. Suppose the total influence score from a player’s group cards is higher than the objective’s influence score. In that case, the player’s agent will be removed from the game. This is why there’s always a risk between losing an objective or losing an agent, so you’ll have to choose your agents wisely in each round. 

Debriefing Stage

Even though you’ll find out who has the most influence over an objective during the Cease Fire stage, the round won’t be over yet. The debriefing stage is where each player’s agents come into play. An agent may alter the course of a round during this stage. Some agents may even overturn the result, even if the other player had more influence. 

Detente Stage

After this stage, the player who won the objective will add their score to the scorecard, and the debriefing will commence. The agents are also put aside as you can’t use them in the next round. Once this is done, the next round begins. 

Each round takes a few minutes to complete, and you can complete the whole game in around an hour. 

Is Cold War Cia vs. Is KGB Worth Playing? 

Cold War CIA vs. KGB is certainly worth playing. It’s an intriguing strategy game that combines history, bluff, and luck. It’s affordable, fun for the whole family, and can be completed in a reasonable amount of time.

Let’s look at these reasons in more detail: 

  • Historical intrigue: Even if you’re not familiar with the Cold War era, this game brings up an intriguing aspect of how intelligence agencies worked. It’s great for sharpening your knowledge of how agencies work and lets you relive a piece of history. 
  • Bluff aspect: The bluff and uncertainty aspect of this game also adds to its playability. Players may go till the end of a round without knowing the other player’s agent. It’s always interesting to have a strategy game that includes bluff techniques! 
  • Suitable for all ages: Adults and children alike love this game and play it with equal enthusiasm. It’s simple enough for kids to play and has a mature theme for adults, making it the perfect game for the whole family. 
  • Ideal playing time: A Cold War CIA vs. KGB game usually takes around an hour to 90 minutes to complete, so you won’t need to reserve half the day for it! The player that reaches 100 points first wins, but you can shorten it down to 50 points if you’re out of time. It’s rare to find strategy games that have time flexibility nowadays! 
  • Affordable: You can get a new Fantasy Flight Games Cold War: CIA vs. KGB for much cheaper than many other strategy games. Board games, especially strategy games, are often exorbitantly priced; this one is the exception.

Is Cold War CIA vs. KGB Based on Luck or Strategy?

Like all interesting board games, CIA vs. KGB has an element of both luck and strategy. Your luck is limited to which group card you draw in each round. Everything else requires strategy, planning, and a gut feeling! 

Is Cold War CIA vs. KGB the Best Strategy Game?

Cold War CIA vs. KGB isn’t the best strategy game. It is a great game, no doubt, but it doesn’t match some of the top strategy games like Twilight Struggle or Star Wars: Empire vs. Rebellion. However, it’s definitely worth playing for the cost. 

Why Can’t I Find a Copy of Cold War CIA vs. KGB Board Game?

While this game has a niche following, it did not find the level of mainstream success that would be needed for extended publication. Plus, to make all you old people who are in denial about being old (I include myself in this group) the Cold War did end over 30 years ago, so yeah.

This game sometimes shows up on eBay or niche gameboard sites and marketplaces. If see one priced reasonably and you love strategy games, then it is definitely worth the pickup!

Games Like Cold War CIA Vs. KGB

While I’m a firm believer that Cold War CIA vs. KGB is a great game and can be a lot of fun with the right opponent, it’s not overly common and that can leave people searching for an alternative strategy board game.

While I wish more people were able to experience this great game, but since that’s not in the cards unless the cult following gest big enough to warrant even a limited re-release, here are some recommendations for some of my favorite games that are strategic in at least tangentially the same or similar way.

A few recommendations of strategic board games:

Final Thoughts 

If you like realistic strategy games with an element of intrigue or uncertainty, then Cold War CIA vs. KGB is a good fit. It gives the perfect picture of the struggle between the CIA and KGB during the Cold War era and allows you to recreate the historical action. It’s also easy to play and perfect for both kids and adults. 

Since this game doesn’t take too long to play, it can be played at the end of a workday, during a party, and even during travels.

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