Some Cold War historians view the entire struggle, costing millions of lives, untold trillions of dollars, and conflict around the globe, as a struggle for the future of Germany. While that view may be too myopic, it is clear that Europe always remained in the forefront of strategy and emphasis. Defeat in Europe ultimately meant defeat in the Cold War.
Time: Early War
Although it is the highest-value region on the board, Europe is rarely one of the highest-scoring regions. It is unusual for either side to earn anything other than 1VP or 5VP from Europe Scoring; high stabilities and DEFCON restrictions means that it is one of the most difficult regions to break through. Only in the Late War does the situation change, thanks to a slew of powerful US events that dramatically reshape the European battlegrounds.
Despite the immense reward of Europe control, it is in practice rarely seen. The Ops investment needed is huge, and a player that singlemindedly focuses on Europe usually ends up sacrificing the rest of the world, potentially even losing to autovictory before Europe scoring is played. So if your opponent starts to make a push for Europe, and you can’t defend your position (because you’re under Chernobyl or Red Scare/Purge), give some serious thought to giving up Europe Control in exchange for the rest of the world, and aim to win the game before Europe gets scored.
Each side typically starts with “their” battlegrounds: East Germany and Poland for the USSR; West Germany and Italy for the US. The USSR is sometimes able to alter this situation early on: for instance, a successful Turn 1 Comecon Trap / Italy coup, a successful Blockade, or a well-timed Socialist Governments can all allow the USSR to score a relatively easy Domination from just East Germany and Poland.
These considerations aside, Europe Domination tends to depend on two things: who controls France, and who controls the 2-stability Mediterranean countries. US players are generally hesitant to play into France before Suez Crisis and De Gaulle Leads France are played, since they can cripple the US position. At the same time, without De Gaulle, the USSR is unable to play into France without either spending 2 Ops for 1 influence in West Germany or Italy first, or playing Decolonization into Algeria.
The 2-stability Mediterranean countries are critical, because the odd number of battlegrounds means that one side will be able to score Domination unless the other side has more countries overall. All of the other non-battlegrounds in Europe are significantly more expensive, though the US is slightly better positioned in this fight (with the aid of Canada, the UK, and Independent Reds).
At this point, Europe tends to be the most static region on the board. If Truman Doctrine has already been triggered, the USSR is sometimes willing to engage in an Ops war for France. Italy can sometimes be the target of Brush War, but with some preparatory investment in its neighbors, your opponent will generally look elsewhere with his Brush War. John Paul II Elected Pope will play a crucial role for the US, but he is primarily a springboard for the US in the Late War, rather than an agent of immediate change.
Unless the USSR has already established a dominant position in Europe, it will have a very difficult time in Europe in the Late War. Although The Reformer can provide some help, it pales in comparison to Tear Down This Wall, Chernobyl, Solidarity, and East European Unrest. With Chernobyl, the US will often sacrifice the rest of the board in pursuit of Europe control, but it must be careful of autovictory and/or Wargames! The one beacon of light for the USSR is Warsaw Pact Formed, as it can singlehandedly wipe out all of the US work in Eastern Europe. It is therefore critical for the US to trigger Warsaw Pact as early as possible, removing it from the game, so that it cannot come back as a much stronger card in the Late War.
I don’t know why every one always says Europe is too tricky to really bother with at in the early war. In fact it is this view that allows the USSR to trade Asia for Europe as long as they keep the middle east. In turn one taking the middle east is easy to do given enough ops and luck. The US player tends to take advantage of your lack of play in Asia where only a minimal defence is needed to keep your losses low enough. This allows you to slowly trickle some influence into Europe looking like it is all a small play for later position. Then good cards can be played like socialist governments etc. and Europe is yours (I can usually score 10 points on it, 7 total) putting you a head. I know it is risky, but I can usually fake out my opponent and get him to do exactly what I want. If anyone sees huge holes that I don’t please mention. I am a little new.
Judging by your message it seems you usually play against the same friend, who is relatively new to the game and/or easily manipulated. The thing is, any experienced player who sees you investing 2 Ops (which is pretty much on the first turn IMO when you should be grabbing everything you can) to get just 1 influence in Italy without even breaking control (assuming 3-influence-in-Italy-setup) knows that you’re probably going for France on your next AR, and will react accordingly.
As for why people usually move to Asia early: you have to get in there and grab whatever you can before your opponent does. There are quite few cards that can truly alter the ownerships after a lockdown has been reached. For Europe the only way to tip the balance for USSR control is to get France (US won’t really lose Italy unless Socialist Governments is headlined, and they really should be prepared for Blockade), which WILL be tricky, as the US player will react as soon as they see you playing de Gaulle/1 influence in Italy. Besides, I wouldn’t be too eager to get into a bidding war in Europe with Mr. Truman lurking behind the corner, even if I held some combo of Soc.Gov./de Gaulle/Suez crisis.
You shouldn’t disregard the VP’s from SE Asia scoring either. All in all, I think that Asia is where the big points are scored, and Europe is more of a matter of defusing the US domination here. If I get the opportunity to firmly secure domination in Europe as USSR, I won’t pass it, but neither will I go spending all my effort there letting the imperialists grab the ever-so-important Asia.
Thanks for the reply. I could see how that would be obvious, but I was thinking more along the lines of biding your time and then preforming a coup in Italy with a strong card. This is more surprising. The slow trickle into Europe is in places you all ready own or are uncontested. The strong position is enough to make the coup in Italy meaningful if/when it works. Like I said before, it is chancy, but can have a big pay off.
The problem is you can’t bide too much time, DEFCON will not stay at 5 forever (even though the US usually lacks good places to coup early). So we’re talking having to make your move on AR2 or thereabouts. Let’s say you open with a 4 ops for 2 in Greece, 1 Influence in Italy (3/1). If I am the US that screams “I have Europe scoring” to me, and further I know that Italy isn’t safe from coups. I would probably counter via something like 2 in France, 1 in Iran, or maybe 3 France / 1 Iran if I had a 4 ops to spare. You coup Italy with another 4 ops on AR 2. If you roll a 1-3, I cackle and replace the lost influence; you lost a 4 ops and I spent 1-3 ops to undo the damage, and now Italy is safe from more coups. If you rolled a 4-6, fine, I lost Italy, but I still have France and can now take Spain and make it rather expensive for you to get enough countries to score a USSR Europe Dom. I also get to go take Afghanistan or Egypt and put you on the back foot there if I have enough ops. Note that you’ve already blown 2 4 ops cards, possibly including the China Card, too.
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Europe and Asia Scoring both have 3 vp’s for Presence and 7 vp’s for Domination. Considering that Europe has many 3 & 4 stability countries, whereas Asia has many 1 & 2 stability countries, shouldn’t Europe have higher vp’s? Otherwise, it is simply not efficient to place influence in Europe for domination, compared to Asia.
You generally shouldn’t be playing into Europe. I’ve found that when I do play into Europe I’m playing for control (usually as Early War Soviets), or to establish a strong position for finishing with European control.