Experienced players know that the road to Asian domination begins and ends in Thailand. Assuming that the USSR keeps Pakistan, India, and North Korea (generally safe assumptions in the Early War), the US needs both South Korea and Thailand to stop Asian domination. (Japan is never really contested by the USSR.) These countries share the common characteristic of being the only Asian battlegrounds that both sides will have reasonably easy access to in the Early War.
Unlike South Korea, however, Thailand is much easier to flip, especially with the China Card. Overcontrol is a must against a player with the China Card, because 5Ops can flip a 2/0 country into 2/4. (For the US, sometimes double overcontrol is needed against China + Vietnam Revolts.) Even 3/0 turns into 3/3 after the China Card.
Thailand is usually taken on Turn 1. There are some complications involving DEFCON, but generally both sides are keen to get to Thailand as soon as possible. In the Mid War, Thailand’s low stability combined with Southeast Asia Scoring makes it a frequent target for influence wars (and Brush War!), and whoever flips Thailand is often able to flip the Asia scoring card to their advantage.
The easiest way to get to Thailand is with Decolonization or Vietnam Revolts. With Decolonization, you must be wary that you don’t just get immediately couped out of Thailand. On the other hand, if you coup DEFCON to 3, even with Decolonization, you won’t be able to stop the US from taking Thailand first. If DEFCON is still at 4 on Turn 2, you can headline Decolonization into Malaysia and then reinforce it so that the US never even has access to Thailand, later securing Thailand at your leisure.
With Vietnam Revolts, you’re a bit safer, as your +1 to Ops in Southeast Asia means that it’s difficult to coup you out of Vietnam. When DEFCON drops to 3, you’ll be able to take Thailand first, and in any event a 6Ops China Card will be difficult for the US to defend against.
De-Stalinization can also place influence into Thailand, but this is strictly a desperation move: De-Stalinization is in general fairly weak on Turn 1, and especially weak if you are wasting 25-50% of it in Southeast Asia.
Without these events, your best bet for Thailand is to crawl across Asia (assuming the US doesn’t expose itself to being couped in Southeast Asia). You are thus very unlikely to gain control of it on Turn 1. Nevertheless, Vietnam Revolts will eventually come out and guarantee you access to Thailand; you can fight for it then.
The US is usually able to get to Thailand first, because you need no events in order to get into Thailand: you can just walk right through Malaysia. Generally, you try to wait until DEFCON drops to 3 lest you get couped right out of Malaysia. It is equally critical to play into Malaysia as soon as DEFCON drops to 3, because if you wait a turn, you allow the USSR to play Vietnam Revolts/Decolonization and then take Thailand while you are still in Malaysia. If you do get Thailand taken from you, play into Malaysia to ensure access to this critical battleground, and consider using your AR6 play to break Thailand control so that the USSR is forced to choose between shoring up Thailand and couping on his next Action Round.
After securing Thailand, it is important to sooner or later take Malaysia and Laos/Cambodia so that Thailand is not an automatic target for Brush War in the Mid War. And since the USSR starts with the China Card, you absolutely need to overcontrol Thailand so that the China Card doesn’t just flip the country. Even if the USSR doesn’t immediately have access to Thailand, he will sooner or later, and you don’t want to be caught off guard by a Vietnam Revolts headline followed up with the China Card to steal your Asian Domination.
- Brush War
- Southeast Asia Scoring
- The China Card
- Decolonization / Colonial Rearguards