Sparked by fears that the “enemy is among us,” the “red scare” hit its apex with Senator Joseph McCarthy, and the hearings on “Un-American activities” in the House of Representatives during the 1950s. Soviet purges were a notorious aspect of power transition within the Kremlin. However, Stalin was the true master; 12 million people were imprisoned in his camps at the time of his death in 1953.
Time: Early War
Removed after event: No
Red Scare/Purge is probably the all-around best event in the game. Of course, there are situations where you will prefer to have other events in your hand, but ex ante, there is no better all-purpose event in the game for both sides. Even if the event isn’t to your liking, it’s still a 4 Ops card in the Early War.
The event’s power varies from annoying to game-deciding. If you already have a hand of 1 Ops, scoring cards, or cards you plan to play for the event, then Red Scare/Purge has little effect. In the Early War, for example, so long as you have 3 of those cards (1 Ops, scoring, or cards to be played for the event), then you are losing 4 or less Ops overall. Of course, 2 Ops in one play is better than 1 Op in two plays, and having your 2 Ops be cut down to 1 is especially painful when jostling for control of 2-stability country.
On the other hand, Red Scare/Purge can simply lose you the game. It is a major hand management crisis when it knocks formerly dangerous-but-spaceable cards (like Grain Sales to Soviets and The Voice of America) down to an unspaceable 1 Op: now you must either play the card, or hold it to next turn. If you have multiple DEFCON suicide cards, Red Scare/Purge will often make some of them unspaceable, thereby causing you to either lose by DEFCON or by forcing you to trigger really unpleasant events.
In addition, Red Scare/Purge strengthens certain events that are otherwise mitigatable by their Ops. De Gaulle Leads France is a good example: if the US already controls France, then they can play this and then restore the 3 influence of damage with the 3 Ops. Alternatively, if no one controls France, then the US can trigger the event and take it to 3/1, so that the USSR can’t take France with a 4 Ops. Neither of these plays are available to the US any more if they are holding a De Gaulle that has been knocked down to 2 Ops: they are now forced to give up France (good for the USSR) or send the event to space (which allows it to come back again later for the USSR to do more damage with).
Finally, Red Scare/Purge is a nasty combo with Blockade and Quagmire/Bear Trap. With the former, you can almost guarantee a West Germany loss; with the latter, you can sometimes force your opponent to skip multiple Action Rounds in a row.
After triggering the event, it is important to go on the offensive and play aggressively. The number one way to waste Red Scare/Purge is to play defensively or timidly; if you aren’t creating threats for your opponent that he is unable to deal with because of his lack of Ops, then there’s no point to headlining it and you may as well have just played it for Ops. Force your opponent to respond to your threats: even though he usually might be able to, he will probably eventually have to give up if he is under Scare or Purge. On the flip side, if you aren’t in such a position to play aggressively, then you should seriously reconsider headlining this event. Either hold it to next turn or use the 4 Ops to bolster your position.
In summary, I will almost always play Red Scare/Purge for the event. In the Early War, when its Ops are most valuable, I will hesitate to do so if I otherwise have very few Ops, but in the Mid War and beyond, I will usually trigger the event (and use SALT Negotiations to play it again, if possible). It’s a very powerful event, and playing it twice in the Early War can often decide the game. But it’s easy to auto-play the event without carefully considering how to maximize its potential.