Cold War: Strategy – Event Card Advantages

Trying to Capitalize on Built-In Event Deck Biases in “Cold War”

Cold War Board Game


Victory Games’ Cold War board game has a lot of moving parts and allows a considerable amount of latitude in development of strategies. It’s one of those “if it’s not prohibited by the rules, then it’s allowed” kind of games. It provides card play, diplomacy between the players, and rewards for Vegas-type players who have a knack for card-counting. It’s a light game, in the sense that the rules are not complicated and can be learned in about 15 minutes, but it has enough depth to appeal to veteran war gamers. It has everything except dice. And I dont’ miss the dice at all.

This strategy article will focus on the “card-counting” aspect of the game and will demonstrate how knowledge of the Event Cards can give you an edge in this very competitive game.


The basis of any successful card tracking system requires some statistics first. You must know what is available in the deck before you can manipulate that knowledge to your advantage. With that in mind, I present the following statistics below and provide some suggestions as to how this knowledge can be best put to use.

Most Event Cards have three sections of information on them:

  • Action Card – This top section tells us who will be able to draw new Action Cards.
  • Instant Income, No Income, Vital Region SP Increase – This middle section will either list Regions that provide “Instant Income” this turn, Regions that provide “No Income” this turn, or a Region that has it’s SP value permanently Increased from 4 to 6.
  • Power Vacuum – This bottom section lists a Region and one or more turn numbers. If the current turn matches any of those turn numbers, then a “Power Vacuum” occurs in the listed Region.

There are a total of 50 Event Cards, and we will be discussing 46 of them in this article (13 “Instant Income”, 13 “No Income” and 20 “Vital Region SP Increase”). The other four Event Cards are the Game Ends Cards, which we will not be discussing in this article.

Action Card

Some Event Cards contain only one Home Country name under “Action Card” and some contain two Home Country names. In total, each Home Country will appear 7 times solo, and 9 times in conjunction with other Home Countries. Each Home Country will be awarded an Action Card draw exactly 16 times.

The only advantages are those you create during the Action Phases when you can expel opposing Diplomats from your Home Country, and assassinate their Agents, thus limiting their ability to draw Action Cards. But there are no advantages inherent in the Event Cards.

Advantaged Player: None

Vital Region SP Increase

Cold War board game

When a Region appears under “Vital Region SP Increase” on one of the Game Turns specified, and currently contains a Vital Region marker, it is upgraded from its “4” side to its “6” side, making it worth 6 SPs to the associated Home Country player each turn. Each Card that contains a “Vital Region SP Increase” will list one Region and two Game Turns. If the current Game Turn matches one of the Turns on the card, the increase will take place. The following table lists every possible Vital Region along with the turns on which it could potentially be increased.

Vital Region Turn Turn
Afghanistan 5 6
Argentina 3 8
Australia 4 6
Congo 4 7
East Africa 3 5
Egypt 2 6
Horn of Africa 2 7
India 1 5
Indonesia 4 9
Israel 3 6
Japan 4 7
Korea 4 6
Scandanavia 7 8
Southeast Asia 2 5
Southwest Asia 4 7
Taiwan 6 7
Turkey 4 5
West Africa 5 6
West Indies 3 6
Yugoslavia 6 8
There is no Region appearing more than once, so there’s no advantage for any player there. On any given turn, no one card is more likely to be chosen than any other card. So, we can’t find an edge there either.

However, this table does tells us that Game Turn 6 is the most likely Turn for a Vital Region SP Increase to occur. And, of the 9 Regions that may experience a Vital Region SP Increase on turn 6, four of them are North American vital regions (two are Chinese, two are Western European, and only one is a Soviet vital region).

So the North American player can possibly gain some advantage by being prepared with properly placed Factories or, better yet, Economic Control markers in his vital regions.

Vital Region SP Increases only occur on Turns 1 through 9, so after turn 9 you no longer need to consider them.

Advantaged Player: North America

Instant Income

Cold War Board Game

Event Cards that show “Instant Income” in the middle section will list two Regions that deliver immediate income exactly as in the Joint Economic Growth Turn. Every Region, except the Middle East appears at least once for Instant Income.

There are two Regions that appear twice: East Africa and Turkey.

East Africa is a potential Vital Region for the Soviet Union and Turkey is a potential Vital Region for Western Europe, so acquiring Economic Control in these Regions can be quite lucrative for those players, if they happen to be selected as Vital Regions (and even more so if selected for Vital Region SP Increase).

If neither Turkey nor East Africa are selected as Vital Regions, then the double Instant Income advantage passes to whichever player has a Factory or Economic Control there, although they will not benefit nearly as much as if it was a Vital Region.

Advantaged Player(s): Soviet Union, Western Europe

No Income

Cold War Board Game

Event Cards that show “No Income” in the middle section will list two Regions that have income suspended for the current Game Turn. Every Region, except the Middle East, East Africa and Turkey appears at least once for No Income.

When looked at in conjunction with the “Instant Income” analysis, above, East Africa and Turkey become very interesting Regions indeed!

As stated above, East Africa and Turkey are potential Vital Regions for the Soviet Union and Western Europe, respectively. Should they be selected as Vital Regions, the Soviet or European players must insure that Economic Control is established as quickly as possible in those Regions. They have double the chance of producing “Instant Income” and no chance at all of suffering “No Income”!

Looked at from the other players’ point of view, a legitimate strategy for them would be to make sure that East Africa and Turkey are NOT selected as Vital Regions (recall that, at the start of the game, each of the players get to select the other players’ Vital Regions).

Advantaged Player(s): Soviet Union, Western Europe

Power Vacuum

Cold War Board Game

Depending on circumstances in the affected Region, the Power Vacuum can be a cost effective means of assuming Political Control of the Region. Every Event Card draw (with the exception of the four Game Turn Ends cards) brings with it the possibility of a Power Vacuum occurring. Power Vacuums can occur throughout the game, from Game Turns 2 to 12 so it’s an “all game long” concern. The table below lists every Region along with the number of Event Cards which show a Power Vacuum for that Region, and the range of Game Turns for which the Power Vacuum could be in effect.

For example, an Afghanistan Power Vacuum appears on 2 of the 46 Event Cards, and covers Turns 2 – 4 and 7 – 12 (i.e. in this case, one card shows “Turn 2, 3, 4” and the other card shows “Turn 7 or later”)

Region # of Cards Effective Turns
Middle East 6 2 – 12
Korea 4 2, 4 – 12
Afghanistan 2 2 – 4, 7 – 12
East Africa 2 2, 4, 6, 7 – 12
India 2 2, 4, 7 – 12
Taiwan 2 3 – 5, 8 – 12
West Indies 2 4, 5, 7 – 12
Brazil 2 3, 5, 8 – 12
Israel 2 4, 7, 8 – 12
Central America 2 4, 7, 9 – 12
Congo 2 5, 6, 9 – 12
Scandanavia 2 4, 5, 9 – 12
South Africa 2 3, 4, 7, 8
Yugoslavia 2 3 – 5, 7
Southeast Asia 1 6 – 12
Turkey 1 6 – 12
Andean Nations 1 2, 4, 6
Argentina 1 4 – 6
Australia 1 3, 5, 7
Egypt 1 3 – 5
Horn of Africa 1 3, 5, 8
Indonesia 1 5 – 7
Japan 1 2, 5, 8
Southwest Asia 1 3, 6, 8
West Africa 1 4 – 6
Philippines 1 5, 6
Venezuela 0

I don’t think anyone will be surprised to find that Cold War considers the Middle East Region most susceptible to Power Vacuums…by a wide margin.

But it is surprising to find that Venezuela is so stable, there’s no opportunity for Power Vacuums! I’m guessing that this was a production oversight. I mean, even Japan is susceptible to Power Vacuums on turns 3, 5 and 8. But it’s not on the Event Cards so we play as if Venezuela is Power Vacuum-Proof.

The next most likely Region for Power Vacuums is Korea, which could potentially be designated as a Vital Region for the North American players. Knowing that it is so susceptible to Power Vacuums, the other players can insure that Korea is designated a “Vital Region” at the start of the game, and then keep Korea packed with as many of their control markers as possible in anticipation of the likely Power Vacuum.

After Korea, the next three most likely Regions for Power Vacuums (Afghanistan, East Africa, and India), are all potential Vital Regions for the Soviet Union. Sounds like a disadvantage for the Soviet Union.

China’s first concern for a likely Power Vacuum in one of it’s possible Vital Regions is Taiwan, which appears 6th on the list, and Western Europe does not have to worry until Scandanavia, which is 12th on the list.

I would have to say that the Soviet Union is the most DIS-advantaged player for Power Vacuums, but Western Europe is probably the most advantaged.

Advantaged Player(s): Western Europe, China


Being aware of all the statistics presented in this article, and keeping track (to the best of your ability) of Event Cards which have already been played or, more importantly, have not yet been played, can give a Cold War board game player a real advantage. Based on the (very loose) analysis of the “Advantaged Players” listed in each category above, I will go on the record to predicting that the Western European player has a slim advantage overall. Although if the North American player can capitalize fully on the “Vital Region SP Increase” advantage, or the Soviet can score big with the “Instant Income/No Income” combo advantage, the game could drift in their favor. All things considered, I see the China player as having the roughest time. These are my predictions and I’m sticking to them until such time as someone’s else’s statistics prove me wrong.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the Event Card Deck may be subject to reshuffling at various points throughout the game… which kind of makes the card-counting a bit more difficult, but not impossible :-). On the other hand, the reshuffling can actually amplify some of the advantages (imagine “Instant Income” for East Africa appearing four times instead of only two?)

Card-counting and nebulous player advantages aside, Cold War is a really fun game to play, and most gamers that I’ve played it with have enjoyed it as well. It’s definitely worth a trip to eBay to find a copy for yourself.