1945 – 1989
Preceding the start of the Cold War, citizens of the Eastern bloc fled or defected to the West. Defectors came in two primary archetypes. Spies and double agents who had been discovered or needed to “come in from the cold” would frequently flee to their masters and allude capture. Examples of this type of defector include KGB Deputy Chief Yuri Nosenko and KGB London Bureau Chief Oleg Gordievsky. Perhaps more embarassingly, and certainly more publicly, many talented Soviet artists defected while on tour in the United States or Europe. While the West also suffered occasional defections, particularly from westerners involved in espionage, it never reached the same proportion or the same level of public spectacle.
Time: Early War
Removed after event: No
As USSR, I only consider the threat of Defectors to be a deterrent when I am risking the loss of:
- a must-play event with a long-term effect (e.g., Decolonization, De-Stalinization)
- a lot of VP (e.g., scoring cards)
- a high Ops card on a turn where Ops are scarce (e.g., Red Scare/Purge on Turns 1-2)
As USSR, if I draw Defectors on Turn 1 or 2, I will try to hold it until Turn 3 before playing it for Ops. This keeps it out of the Turn 3 reshuffle and ensures worry-free headlines for most of the game. This is analogous to the US holding Decolonization/De-Stalinization until Turn 3, though Defectors is not nearly as important as they are.
A common USSR trick against Defectors is to headline a scoring card for a region that you are being Dominated in. This is most effective when against a relatively inexperienced US player, and when you haven’t seen Defectors come out Turns 1 or 2 (meaning it is guaranteed to be in his hand on Turn 3). It is one of the rare ways to discard a scoring card without scoring the region. Of course, you can also headline an actively-dangerous US card when you expect the US to be headlining Defectors, but that’s much more risky, whereas the downside risk of headlining the scoring card is much lower.
Most beginning players are too eager to headline Defectors. Not only is it risky on Turn 3, as described above, but more generally, I prefer to headline more aggressively as the US (e.g., Red Scare/Purge, Grain Sales to Soviets, The Voice of America). Obviously you don’t always have the luxury of such powerful events, but in general, cancelling the USSR headline doesn’t seize the initiative and keeps you on your heels.
That having been said, Defectors is a fine headline. By preventing the headline-AR1 combo, you negate one of the USSR’s most powerful weapons against you. If I draw it with a powerful headline I will headline the other card and hold Defectors until next turn.
A quick rules clarification: Defectors, if headlined, will always cancel the USSR headline regardless of Ops value. The edge case is: if you headline Five Year Plan and draw Defectors, Defectors will now only cancel the USSR event if the USSR headline triggers “after” the Five Year Plan headline. In other words, if the USSR headlines a 4Ops card, it wouldn’t be cancelled by the Five Year Plan – Defectors interaction, but any 3 Ops or lower headline will be.
Finally, and this should go without saying, if the USSR has made it to the stage of the Space Race where he can see your headline before he chooses his, do not choose Defectors! All you’re doing is allowing to discard a US or scoring card of his choice.