The Cambridge Five

The Cambridge FiveThe Cambridge Five

1934 – 1963

The Cambridge Five (Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt, John Cairncross, and Donald Maclean) were British civil servants who, unbeknownst to the British government, had become Communists while at university, and recruited as Soviet agents shortly thereafter. The spy ring was one of the most effective Soviet intelligence efforts of the Cold War, as all five rose to positions of great responsibility and trust in the civil service. Maclean, in particular, was privy to a large number of nuclear secrets; the information regarding the size and readiness of the Western nuclear arsenal played a key role in Stalin’s decisions to blockade Berlin and to arm the North Koreans for their invasion of South Korea. The spy ring fell apart when the U.S. VENONA project exposed Maclean; he and Burgess defected in 1951. Philby was able to elude exposure until 1963, passing secrets all the while; he too managed to defect. Blunt was unmasked around the same time, but secretly gave a confession, exposing other agents (including Cairncross).

Time: Early War
Side: USSR
Ops: 2
Removed after event: No


This is an event that is generally triggered only in the headline phase.  It is a somewhat weak headline for the USSR only because the odds of success are usually low.  Nevertheless, the payoff can be huge: not only can you combo it with an AR1 play to take over a battleground (a sort of USSR NORAD), you can also use it to gain access in a critical region that you are otherwise locked out of (like a mini De-Stalinization).

The Cambridge Five is best headlined on a turn that maximizes the odds of the US having a scoring card in hand: on Turn 3 or Turn 7, you may be able to positively identify a particular scoring card in the US hand if it hasn’t shown up yet in that reshuffle.  Alternatively, it’s also a wise headline if it’s Turn 6 and few of the scoring cards have yet shown up in the Mid War reshuffle.  It should go without saying that if the reverse is true (if all the scoring cards have come out already), then this is a null headline.

Note that if the US has multiple scoring cards, the USSR chooses one (and only one) of them to apply to the Cambridge Five.


Completely harmless, so long as you play it with no scoring cards left in your hand.  It is ideally played at the end of your turn, as the knowledge that you have no more scoring cards can be advantageous to the USSR, but even if you have to play it earlier in the turn, it’s not really that bad of an event (because it does not expose the rest of your hand).

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10 Responses to The Cambridge Five

  1. Paul says:

    Great website! One clarification though, this card cannot be played as an event on turn 8.

  2. Nick2253 says:

    There is a nice psychological play with the Cambridge Five as the US. If you have multiple scoring cards, and you dominate (or nearly so) both regions, then I’ve actually played Cambridge Five as my AR1 play. While you end revealing to the USSR both regions that will be scored, this sometimes makes the USSR player split resources to try and fend off domination in both regions. It’s definitely high-risk, high-reward, but I’ve actually found that, even if my opponent ultimately shifts the scoring for both regions to just more-or-less break even, I can use the “breathing room” of him trying to upset the domination apple-cart to try and shift the balance of power elsewhere.

    For example, in a recent game that I played, I used Cambridge Five to reveal that I had South America Scoring (which I dominated; only Chile was neutrally controlled, and USSR controlled Colombia) and European Scoring (which I also dominated with France, WGer, and Italy; however the USSR controlled only one fewer country than I did).

    The USSR player used his action rounds to limit us to presence-presence in both SAmer and Europe for the scoring (I netted +2VP in total), but I was able to take control of Africa, stop USSR ME domination, and shift domination of Asia and CAmer my way (all the while patching up little fires in SAmer and Europe to prevent USSR domination).

    If, instead of splitting resources across the two regions, he had focused solely on Europe or SAmer, than he might have been able to take domination in one of those regions while fending off my advances in the other regions.

    • Interesting tactic Nick2253, but I’m not sure I agree with it. If I’ve read your comment correctly, you stood to gain 11VPs from those cards:

      Dominating Europe: +4 VPs, plus an extra battleground so +5 overall
      Dominating S America: +3VPs, plus 3 extra battlegrounds so +6 overall (with the possibility of getting Control, as well!)

      You ended up gaining 2VPs, so you’ve sacrificed an incredible immediate point gain for a possible future benefit. You’ve also given your opponent a free ops point.

      Okay, you’ve made inroads elsewhere, but I’m guessing you must have had a great hand, and the regions must have been very close. You presumably played seven cards. Two of them were scoring cards, and one was The Cambridge Five, worth 2 ops. So your remaining four cards must have been brilliant if you successfully changed the balance of four different regions while defending Europe and S America.

      Given how close the situation must have been in those other four regions, you could have played the scoring cards early and still had enough ops in your great hand to change things around in a couple of them. Leaving you with just as good a board position overall, and nine more VPs.

      p.s. love this blog by the way.

    • gotta say, i’ve only ever succesfully put out one fire or two, let alone flip domination in regions in one turn. Massive stuff!

  3. Paul says:

    Please disregard my earlier post. I misread your post to say it was a wise headline on turn 8 when you wrote turn 6.

  4. Anonymous says:

    If USSR headlines this while US headlines a scoring card, is that considered as a card held in his hand? Technically, this case would not count, but the fact that the scoring card is 0ops triggers after…

  5. Salto says:

    An interesting use for this card is for an Ops War:
    It needs a few pre-requisites:
    1: Your Opponent has a Scoring Card in a region you are interested in (obviously)
    2. You have no scoring cards (or fewer than your opponent) and a decent hand.
    3. Your opponent doesn’t want to score this region without that Battleground (so making Asia US3/3USSR from 4/2 and denying domination, or ideally making Europe/Central America switch from US3/2USSR to US2/3USSR, to claim domination yourself. If you’re losing 5/1 in a region it’s a waste of time.

    Use the 1 Free Op to put influence in a battleground you want (Usually South Korea, maybe France, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, India; generally any 3 Stability Country.)

    Now procede to pour ops into your chosen country. Your opponent must continually restore control turn after turn. But because he must play the scoring card, he will eventually miss a turn leaving the country uncontrolled; an effect similar to BearTrap/Quagmire. He will also struggle to fire any events.

    This works with Lone Gunman/CIA Created/Aldrich Ames as well, but they’re all considered excellent cards anyway while Cambridge Five isn’t, and gets you the 1op in the headline to get things rolling.

  6. oludwig says:

    my opponent just played this as ussr as an event on vassal. i still had southeast-asia scoring on my hand, but it showed ‘null’. and he didn’t get to place any influence, was this correct or a bug?

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