Red Scare/Purge

Red Scare/PurgeRed Scare/Purge


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
Side: Neutral
Ops: 4
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.

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29 Responses to Red Scare/Purge

  1. Trevor says:

    Great review as usual. I eagerly anticipate each and the followup comments.

    I’m sure your answer to my question will be it depends, but here goes anyway. Let’s say you’re blessed with an American T1 hand that has RS, Containment and a bunch of 2/3’s. Would you prefer to play RS thereby hamstringing the Sov’s T1 coups and his expansion, or would you play Containment to fuel yours? I assume that if possible you will hold the one you don’t play given that I don’t have decol or destal that you must hold.

    • trevaur says:

      I would play Containment because if you’re loaded up with 2/3’s that you want to play for ops then it’s not going to get any better than that. When you play Red Scare you’re always going to be hoping that your opponent wanted to play their cards for ops, and you can never be sure. Since you’re sure that Containment is going to have maximum effectiveness on the current turn you should play it immediately and save Red Scare for the next turn (again, assuming that you don’t have Decolonization or De-Stalinization). If you do happen to have Containment, Red Scare and Decolonization/De-Stalinization then I would personally still play Containment for the event and use Red Scare for ops if I had lots of 2/3’s that I want to play for Ops.

      • ddddddd says:

        Good response. I’d only add that if you play Containment for Ops and it is then dealt to your opponent, he can easily mitigate its beneficial effect by playing it on AR7. For this reason, I’d probably HL Containment and use the bonus Ops to get stuck right into the Early War situation.

    • Kemal says:

      I would headline RS during the very first turn, anticipating that the Soviets will be playing at least 2 cards to bring the DEFCON down to 2 while kicking me in weak spots (like Italy or Iran). Otherwise I would probably play Containment, for reasons which trevaur already summarized.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Yeah… I guess I set it up for that answer. I suppose the more difficult decision comes when you have Nato or Japan or some scoring in your hand also and you’re wasting a +1. Then the decision to use containment vs. RS is not so clear.

  3. Viljanen says:

    I would be bit careful about using RS in headline with Soviets when I think my opponent has defectors. For example on turn 2 if the defectors have not appeared yet there is a large chance that your opponent has it. On turn 3 you can be sure US has it if it’s not appeared yet and it’s not in your hand. In those situations I usually play safe and headline a weak scoring card (like Europe scoring on mutual presence) or some relatively weak event such as Nasser or Arab-Israeli war. It is too painful to lose 4 ops card for nothing.

    • Daniel B says:

      It’s a weird “you know I know you know I know” thing there, as I find the USA rarely plays Defectors to open Turn 3 precisely because Soviet players know the Americans have it and thus tend to play weak HL’s.

  4. trevaur says:

    Here is a good way of how to think of the Red Scare vs Containment decision. First, let’s ignore the effects of the events. If Containment is headlined, then Red Scare can be played for 4 ops. In the Mid War, Red Scare comes back and each player has a 50% chance of getting it. If Red Scare is headlined, then Containment can be played for 3 ops. In the Mid War, Red Scare comes back and each player has a 50% chance of getting it. Containment also comes back and each player has a 50% chance of getting it instead of another Mid War event. If you get it, awesome, you can headline it now and reap its rewards. On the other hand, if you’re opponent gets it then it will be a card that is worse than the average Mid War card for them because they have to play it carefully to mitigate its effects. Sure, it’s not nearly as good for the US player if the USSR player gets it, but it’s still not a great card in the USSR player’s hand. The USSR player may be glad to see it there, but that is only because they are glad that it didn’t end up in the US player’s hand.

    Thus, if you headline Red Scare instead of Containment, you get an awesome event and have a 50% chance of getting another awesome event in the Mid War. Even if Containment ends up in your opponents hand it’s not a good event for them, just better for them than you getting it. If you headline Containment instead of Red Scare you get 1 extra op immediately, but you lose out on the opportunity of having a 50% chance of getting another awesome event in the Mid War. In both situations you have a 50% chance of getting Red Scare in the Mid War, so this shouldn’t affect your decision.

    Of course, you should also factor in the immediate effects of the events. If you have a fantastic hand to take advantage of Containment’s boost (it will give you +4 or +5 ops*), then go ahead and headline it. If your hand is not absolutely fantastic (say it will give you +3 ops) then I would seriously consider headlining Red Scare for the reasons stated above. If you include the +1 ops for playing Red Scare of ops instead of Containment, then that’s a total of +4 ops. Even if Red Scare only reduces the USSR’s ops by 3 you still get the added benefit of Containment coming back in the Mid War. Hopefully this explanation has made sense…

    *+6 is not possible because we are assuming that the US player has Containment, Red Scare and Decolonization/De-Stalinization. Of course, if you don’t have Decolonization or De-Stalinization then you should definitely try to headline one this turn and one next turn.

    • jackrudd says:

      If I’m playing as the USSR, I think it’s awesome if Containment ends up in my hand rather than my opponent’s. If he gets it, he’ll headline it, and it’ll probably be worth 4 Ops or so over the course of his turn. If I get it, I’ll play it on the last action round, and he’ll get no more than 1 Op out of it.

      • trevaur says:

        Yes, BUT the question is when you are entering the Mid War as the USSR are you happier knowing that Containment is removed from the deck OR are you happier knowing that Containment is still in the deck?

        • Idris says:

          If it was in his hand, then I’m happier that it’s still in the deck as it means there’s a chance I’ll get to nullify it. Sure, it means the deck is a little bit more blue, but that doesn’t really matter when it’s such a toothless event in Soviet hands.

          • trevaur says:

            The situation that we are discussing is whether to headline Red Scare or Containment in the Early War as the US and play the other for ops. If we ignore the effects of the events and the number of ops they are worth then I am arguing that headlining Red Scare is better because, as the US, I would rather have Containment in the deck than out.

            • Viljanen says:

              You haven’t considered at all the value of ops at different phases of the game. Personally I think that in the early war any extra ops are much more valuable than in late war, especially for the US. So +3 or +4 ops with Containment in Turn 1 can be much more useful than +5 or +6 ops with Containment on turn 7. The game might very well be over by turn 7.

              Of course, Red Scare is a powerful event for the very same reason as your opponent will have to maneuver with less ops in the crucial early turns.

              • trevaur says:

                So, I HAVE considered that then? We are, after all, discussing whether to headline Containment or Red Scare. If you could get +3 ops by headlining Containment or incur -3 ops on your opponent by headlining Red Scare then the effect is similar (although not exactly the same). If we pretend that these effects ARE the same, then headlining Red Scare is clearly better because it leaves Containment in the deck. Headlining Containment now is not going to give you any added benefit over headlining Red Scare now, so why not leave it in the deck to come back for ops later when it COULD be better than alternate headlines? No matter which event the US player chooses to headline right now he gets an awesome ops advantage, but if Red Scare is headlined there is a 50/50 chance of getting an additional awesome ops advantage in the Mid War. Obviously, if you have a hand full of 1/2/3’s then you should probably headline Containment. All I am saying is do not just reflexively headline Containment even when you have better headline options with the thinking of “oh, if I play it for ops now and my opponent gets it later then it will be useless”

              • Good point about OPs being more valuable in the early war.

  5. Nick says:

    Does this card affect value of discarded cards (e.g. to Blockade)?

  6. Kyle says:

    Am I the only one who finds this card way too strong? I do not have numbers in front of me to support this but would wager if you look at a large sample of games this card and how has it more in a game is strongly correlated with the winner. If you get red scare in your hand three times and your opponent never gets it, it seems that the game could almost be decided. Certainly with very astute play you could mitigate it, but it just seems too strong and add too much of a luck factor to this game.

    Has anyone else considered simply removing it from the game and playing without it?

  7. Kyle says:

    I do not have numbers in front of me to support this, but I would wager if you look at a large sample of games and collected data on who had this card more in a given game there would be a very high correlation with the person who had it more and them winning, assuming roughly equivalent player skill.***
    (could not figure how to edit besides this)

  8. Pingback: Strategy Corner: Opening Moves in Twilight Struggle - Muskegon Area Gamers

  9. oludwig says:

    I just walked into the red-purge/blockade overkill-combo. Didn’t even know that it’s possible as the text says ‘played’ and discarded is not played imo. Like a weak hand with 2 scoring cards and only 1 3op-card made worse is not enough. That really put me off the game!

    • Anonymous says:

      you had very bad luck there – I’d bet that you don’t suffer the same combo with the same poor hand in your next 20 games. Don’t let it put you off.

    • Daniel B says:

      Never thought of this before, but now that you mention it, I’m surprised they never changed the wording of this card so that the text matches the interpretation. Discarding != playing.

    • Daniel B says:

      I never noticed that disconnect before. I’m surprised nobody else apparently did either and they never changed the card wording to match the interpretation, since discarding is not the same as playing.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Is there any sportsmanship rule against playing RSP on T1? I just started a game and my opponent complained about a lack of manners, as I played it during the very first Headline Phase.

  11. Daniel B says:

    The great unanswered question of Twilight Struggle:

    Is this (Red Scare) / (Purge), or is it Red (Scare / Purge)?

    • AKS says:

      The former. The “Red Purge” was in 1950 when MacArthur ordered Communists purged from the Japanese government. In game terms, it’d be a pro-US event. Actually, it could make for an interesting variant card, with an effect along the lines of “Remove all USSR influence from Japan.”

      • Hendrik Vanderstijn says:

        You’ve just explained why it is the latter. “Red Scare” / “Red Purge” essentially.

        Red Scare refers to McCarthyism (the second red scare) as well as the first red scare as response to such events as the october revolution, where the government in Russia was overthrown by revolution and the anarchists bombings in the US.

        Red Purge (or red army purge) refers to a wave of arrests and execution of 300 commanders. This was part of the Great Purge that led to millions of deaths.

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