African history throughout the Cold War reflects the promise and tragedy that go hand in hand with that continent’s experience. At first buoyed by the political success of rapid decolonization, the jubilation would devolve into cynicism. One after another, newly independent governments would give way to “presidents for life”, political corruption, economic chaos, and ethnic violence. Lacking resources, African governments quickly took advantage of the superpower rivalry to maximize economic and military support for their regimes. In the post-colonial era, a variety of proxy civil wars were fought on the continent. Angola, Mozambique, Chad and Ethiopia were but a few of the nations that experienced violence, theoretically in the name of the global struggle between communism and capitalism.
Time: Mid War
Although theoretically lower-scoring than Europe or Asia, Africa Scoring is in practice often much more important. Africa’s Early and Mid War events are much more powerful, and therefore lopsided scorings are more common. It is very unusual for Europe to score more than 5VP for either side, but it is not at all unusual for one side to gain Africa Control and score 10 or 11VP.
The key theme of Africa is its low stability. It has all three of the map’s 1-stability battlegrounds, meaning they are quite susceptible to being couped or even direct influence placement—it only takes a 3 Ops to flip control of a 1-stability battleground. Overcontrol is therefore highly recommended in Nigeria / Zaire / Angola.
Given the lopsided scoring potential and low stabilities, it should be no surprise that Africa tends to be one of the “hottest” regions on the board. As Jason Matthews noted, this accurately echoes the historical Cold War reality:
Africa has a disproportionate number of battlegrounds, but that was reflective of a stark reality—there was no other continent where the Superpowers played so frequently or so freely as Africa. You can make a case for Asia, but there the powers needed to play carefully. In Africa, it was a no-holds-barred game.
Africa’s battlegrounds are conceptually divided into three regions: Algeria, Nigeria, and Zaire/Angola/South Africa. They are separated by volatile, easily-couped non-battlegrounds. The most important non-battleground is Botswana: it plays a central role in potential realignments against Angola and South Africa. A player trying to break into this subregion must account for the ample realignment opportunities down there, since it is very easy to get realigned out and have no way back in.
Morocco presents another interesting non-battleground, as it is the only non-battleground that offers meaningful stability. If you are desperate to score Domination and cannot afford to spend time couping back and forth, then Morocco may be the non-battleground you need.
The US starts in South Africa and should, before the end of the Early War, move out into Angola and then Zaire. This is because if the USSR successfully takes Angola first, then it will also nab Zaire while trapping the US in South Africa, leaving it vulnerable to a realignment from Angola and Botswana. If the Soviets get into France, the US should look to claim Algeria first if it has influence in France: Algeria is a costly 2 Ops, but it is one of the most difficult battlegrounds to flip in Africa.
The USSR’s primary entry point into Africa is Decolonization. Algeria can be infiltrated through Soviet presence in France, and of course if the US does take Angola/Zaire, the USSR can coup into those countries.
Many Mid War events directly or indirectly target Africa. The USSR has:
- Portuguese Empire Crumbles
- An easy way to secure a non-battleground and possibly flip Angola.
- South African Unrest
- A nice recurring event that can get you into a subregion if you are locked out. The 1 influence in South Africa and 2 in a neighbor is usually the better choice, since it can flip Angola if it is not overcontrolled or take Botswana.
- The Early War Decolonization establishes you access; the Mid War Decolonization can de-stabilize a whole series of battlegrounds, or grab a ton of non-battlegrounds to deny Domination. It’s extra-powerful because of all the low-stability battlegrounds. Ideally you will have played this twice by the time Colonial Rear Guards comes out.
- Being able to coup two non-battlegrounds at once is a gamechanger: a US player might move towards Nigeria by playing into Cameroon and Saharan States simultaneously, figuring that even if you coup one of those countries they can still make it into Nigeria. Che is the perfect counter.
The US has:
- Puppet Governments
- If played early enough, this serves as a psuedo-De-Stalinization. In Africa, this can usually get to Nigeria without having to go through coupable non-battlegrounds.
- Nuclear Subs
- If you have a hand conducive to it, Nuclear Subs will essentially win you every African 1-stability battleground by allowing you to freely coup away.
- Colonial Rear Guards
- See Decolonization, though the fact that it comes out in the Mid War instead of the Early War hurts a lot.
- The Voice of America
- Although it can target any non-European country in the world, it is particularly effective in Africa because it offers the potential to eliminate the USSR’s presence in certain subregions of Africa. Unlike most other regions, it is difficult to move between African subregions, and so therefore it is much easier to deny entire swaths of battlegrounds to the USSR. Can be followed up nicely with Puppet Governments.
The focus of the Mid War shifts according to the timing of the Scoring Cards, but in general Africa takes high priority due to its high scoring potential and volatile low stability.
No new event targets Africa in the Late War. Nevertheless, it continues to be a hot spot in the Late War for the same reasons as before. Many of the key Africa events are recurring (in particular, Decolonization / Colonial Rear Guards) and can be a nasty Turn 10 surprise.