1958 – ?

The North American Aerospace Defense Command is a joint military organization sponsored by the governments of Canada and the United States. Its mission is to jointly monitor and control the air space over North America from unfriendly incursion. It was founded initially to protect against the threat of low flying Soviet bombers attacking from the Arctic region. During the Cold War, the Command was famously housed in the Cheyenne Mountain facility depicted in the film Wargames. At its height, NORAD commanded 250,000 military personnel. The command illustrates the full integration and cooperation of US allies into the US nuclear umbrella and alliance structure.

Time: Early War
Side: US
Ops: 3
Removed after event: Yes


This is a controversial event.  Some think it’s useless and too expensive to activate; others consider it the among the best US events in the game.

Certainly, however, everyone is in agreement that it’s not a great card for the USSR to draw, because it’s a bit too good for the USSR to play it for the US.  Accordingly, I like to space this card as USSR, but find that I often can’t spare the Ops.  In particular, on Turns 1 and 2, I’ll usually just play it for Ops because the event is not particularly useful until the Mid War.  But if I am able to, I will send this to space rather than deal with the consequences for the rest of the game.

NORAD has an unusual counter in Socialist Governments, which is an all-around good USSR headline, but especially useful to defuse NORAD for an Action Round.

When NORAD goes into play, it becomes more important to overprotect your controlled battlegrounds, especially your 2-stability battlegrounds, if the US has influence in them.

NORAD is most annoying when you drop DEFCON to 2, because the US gets an influence and then gets to play immediately afterwards.  If the US drops DEFCON to 2, then it’s not as much of a problem to deal with.  This suggests that in AR7 play situations, NORAD’s presence sometimes means that you should be willing to give up the battleground coup.

Finally, I usually save Quagmire and hope to draw Red Scare/Purge with it as the USSR, but with NORAD active I will trigger Quagmire ASAP.  Conversely, if NORAD is not out, I’ll hold Quagmire until NORAD comes out (or until I draw Red Scare/Purge).


NORAD makes it important to control Canada.  The best way to do so is to let the USSR do it for you: Marshall Plan and Special Relationship can often provide the boost you need in Canada without having to invest any of your own influence.

The real problem with triggering NORAD is giving up its 3 Ops.  On Turns 1 and 2 in particular, I tend to play NORAD for the Ops and hope it comes back to me early enough in the Mid War.  By Turn 3, I will generally try to spare the Ops rather than punt it until Turn 7 at the earliest.

The best way to make use of this is to have influence in USSR-controlled battlegrounds.  2-stability battlegrounds in otherwise DEFCON-restricted areas are great targets; the African battlegrounds are as well, but those are generally less stable and swing back and forth much more than say, Libya.  In addition, the USSR’s Asian battlegrounds, even the 3-stability ones, are excellent places for NORAD because the 5 Ops of the China Card allow you to flip more stable countries.

NORAD somewhat clashes with the typical US goal of lowering DEFCON to 2 in the headline phase.  In other words, by preventing the AR1 coup, you miss out on NORAD’s compensation for that coup.  It does, however, work nicely with ABM Treaty and SALT Negotiations, both of which can cause DEFCON to go to 2 multiple times in a turn.

An active NORAD makes Quagmire even more unplayable, not that you wanted to play it on yourself before anyway.

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34 Responses to NORAD

  1. The Archon says:

    I happen to be in the camp that feels that this card is a little overrated. It is a good event, but it’s way too situational for me to want to consider it one of the US’ best. I’ve seen it work spectacularly, but I’ve also seen it be largely ineffective. It often never gets played (and not just because it is Spaced).

  2. Jason says:

    I am certainly no Twilight Struggle expert, but I have always been a bit “Meh.” over this card. As the US player, I have usually played it for the Ops because I have ususally not concentrated on Canada too much. With that said, in my last game, I was the USSR and I got hurt by this a few times because it came out relatively early (i misplayed it, to be honest) and my opponent picked up a few veeps from it.

  3. Nick2253 says:

    Just FYI, the last three cards you’ve discussed (including this one) haven’t had their links updated on the master Card List.

  4. Markus says:

    For me it is really the only one US early war event, that USSR would like to space in the first three turns. That’s why I usually do so, when playing USSR – triggering it for the Americans, can be too harmful in the future turns, and find it usually worth wasting 3OPS.
    As for the US player, I have seen a few times as Norad had been headlined by the US on the 1st turn – what I think is a good move unless you have other very strong US headlines ( like containment, RS/P). The faster Norad will be triggered, the more it will give to Americans, as probably on every turn Defcon drops to 2.

  5. Nick2253 says:

    In contrast to many others, I feel that NORAD is one of the most underrated cards in the deck. One of the most significant USSR advantages is the AR1 battleground coup, and, as noted above, NORAD can make the USSR think twice about it.

    As far as the value of the 3 ops: assume that, as the US player, you get NORAD every time it comes up, so it will be played approximately 2.5 times (let’s say). That’s 7-8 ops. Now, assuming you are using NORAD to add influence in countries that are controlled by the USSR, you’d only need 4 uses of NORAD to make that up. In reality, you probably won’t get NORAD every time it comes up, which means that the value of NORAD to the US player might be more like 3-4 ops (on average). That’s only 2 uses of NORAD! Basically, NORAD can pay for itself and then some quite easily.

    One comment about other cards in conjunction with NORAD: socialist governments is incredibly useful to remove one or both of the starting influence in Canada, which makes NORAD very expensive to take advantage of for the US. Obviously there can be much better options for Socialist governments (cough, cough…Italy…cough, cough), but it’s an interesting strategy that I’ve used against US players, especially to gain tempo: you headline socialist governments, AR1 you use NORAD to do some damage, and the US player is now left with either fixing your damage or putting a bunch of influence in Canada to get NORAD.

    • OneDollarBill says:

      Your calculations are way oversimplified. You cannot just compare some numbers without context. 3 Ops on one AR usually have a much bigger impact than 1 IP per turn after Soviet coup. Besides, NORAD hardly makes USSR think twice about couping, but rather encourages them to perform the coup as they would not want to give you +1 IP after you win a coup.

      There are also multiple ways to use the IP other than breaking Soviet control in a country. Every so often the IP is best used repairing damage from Soviet coup/boosting your influence after your own coup.

      I think the main reason this event might seem underrated is that in Early War it will most probably be played for Ops. This is not only due to the scarcity of Ops, but also because you effectively give USSR two consecutive AR’s by playing the event. In Early War I can rarely find the breathing room to do that.

      In Mid War, however, there are usually more opportunities to play this event without dropping off the pace. It is also a nice headline then, making sure you get the extra IP right away.

      • Markus says:

        In Mid War, US has usually better headlines then Norad, and besides if it is played in that phase it can be quickly canceled by Quagmire. I agree with OneDollarBill that US will find it hard in the Early War to play Norad as an event in their own turn. But as I had stated before this card is a good candidate for Early War US headline.

      • Nick2253 says:

        Obviously my calculations are oversimplified. I have neither the time nor desire to specifically list out various combinations of gameplay and address the use of NORAD in each. However, as a general rule, I stand by what I said.

        You also seem to miss the point about the USSR coup. If the USSR coups, bringing DEFCON to 2, then the US is far more likely to use the influence in a damaging way than if it is the US coup that brings DEFCON to 2. As an illustration: if the US gets the NORAD influence *before* taking their AR, the US will almost inevitably use that influence to break control of a country. The US can then follow up with a scoring card, realignments, or a war card to directly take advantage of the influence. In this way, if the USSR is worried about these situation, they have to think twice about the coup. It’s not like they will forever give up the AR1 coup, but you at least make them think twice.

        • OneDollarBill says:

          I find that, in most cases, allowing US to perform the (perhaps buffed) coup instead of couping yourself, you are harming yourself more than when allowing US to place the 1 IP. After all, the US influence has to be added to a country with previous US influence, so you’ll probably have considered those threats and protected against them already.

          While I see that US can occasionally use the NORAD IP to defuse a bad card, I still prefer to solidify my board position to letting US steal a country from me without guarantee that they still couldn’t defuse the same card.

          As I said before, your calculations are way oversimplified to the point they have little connection to the real gameplay. I personally would not even consider following any rule of thumb that is formed by taking things out of the context.

          • Chimista says:

            NORAD is a powerful card if you can spare the ops to activate it (or have it activated by USSR) and are lucky enough to keep it activated for a while.

            Calculations are difficult, but it’s obvious that the impact on the USSR is real and annoying. Even if the USSR manage to overprotect all the sensitive countries the US can still use his AR7 play to threaten a key country.. Some cool combos include Truman doctrine to wipe off USSR from an European BG. If Truman doctrine is still around then USSR will definitely think twice before couping.

    • Ioan76_TM says:

      >One of the most significant USSR advantages is the AR1 battleground coup, and, as noted above, NORAD can make the USSR think twice about it.

      Actually NORAD is even more powerful ( or shows its true potential ) if – for different reasons – US and USSR competed before for a 2-stability country and USSR had no time/possibility to overcontrol it because this could result in an easy change in control in AR1. I found out that, as expected, BG countries – like Italy, Pakistan, Thailand and almost all from Central/South America are very vulnerable to such a scenario … 😉

  6. Cal says:

    NORAD can be very annoying for the USSR player, but it’s not game changing like other cards can be. Even if it’s played Turn1 and never cancelled, it’s a card that’s more a gimmick than a strategy.

  7. konstatierung says:

    “[As USSR], NORAD is most annoying when you drop DEFCON to 2, because the US gets an influence and then gets to play immediately afterwards.”

    Wait, I thought the US didn’t get the influence from NORAD until the end of the Action Round, i.e. after they’ve played their card. Is this wrong?

    • The Archon says:

      An Action Round is simply the play of a card (and resultant effects) by ONE side. NORAD’s effect states that It is at the “end of any Action Round”, which could be the USSR Action Round. So, if the USSR reduces DEFCON to 2, then the US gets the 1 Influence at the end of the USSR Action Round, then gets to play a card on their own Action Round. Alternatively, the US would get the 1 Influence at the end of their own Action Round, after they’d played a card, if it was the US that reduced DEFCON to 2.

      Also note that this ONLY applies to Action Rounds, and not during the Headline Phase, as implied in theory’s article.

      • konstatierung says:

        Ok. I’d been thinking that an Action Round was divided into halves: the first for the Soviet player and the second for the US player. AR1, e.g., would have both a Soviet and US play. But it sounds like the Soviet AR1 and the US AR1 are each their own Action Round.

        But am I crazy for thinking the rules are ambiguous about this? Here’s what the rulebook says about Action Rounds:

        “D. Action Rounds: There are six Action Rounds in turns 1 to 3 and seven action rounds turns 4 to 10. Players alternate playing cards, one per Action Round, for a total of six cards during turns 1 to 3, and seven cards during turns 4 to 10. The USSR
        player always takes his or her Action Round first, followed by the US player. All actions required by each card must be resolved before the next player starts his or her Action Round by playing a card.”

        The first two sentences make it sound like an Action Round is comprised of two card plays (my old interpretation); the last two make it sound like each player’s card play is an Action Round (the interpretation provided here). Has this been resolved by errata? Am I just misreading?

        • OneDollarBill says:

          As the last two sentences clearly state, the correct ruling is that there are 6-8 Action Rounds *per player* per turn. The wording of the first sentences is indeed a bit ambiguous, but if you read them carefully, you’ll notice they don’t really say anything. The more specific latter ones are the one you want to pay attention to.

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  10. Veikko says:

    I guess Norad is quite a powerful card: US can add 1 influence in a country it already has influence, even if the country is controlled by USSR. Normally it would mean spending two OPs, am I right?

  11. Bradley Wolfrum says:

    Based on this websites Annotated Game 2:
    With NORAD active and Canada US controlled, USSR lowers the DEFCON to 2 in Turn 3, AR1.
    NORAD then allows the US to place 1 Influence Point.

  12. Jack Storm says:

    Here is my question, wanting to check I have done this correctly.
    In Turn 1 AR 2, the USSR play NORAD to coup, and the US Event is triggered after the USSR has couped. As a result of the USSR coup defcon drops from 3 to 2.
    On the US AR, during the same Turn 1 AR 2, the following occurs. The US place 2 influence into Canada now at 4, thus gaining Control, and 1 influence in Egypt, now at 1.
    Now that Turn 1 AR 2 has concluded the following is true.
    1) NORAD is in affect
    2) During the AR, Defcon moved from 3 to 2
    3) The US control Canada.
    Therefore, the NORAD event is triggered and the US may now add 1 influence to any country which currently has US influence. The US adds 1 influence to Egypt, now at 2 and has control of Egypt.

    I suspect that people will say that the 1 influence for NORAD is available at the end of the USSR AR during Turn 1 AR 2, and given that Canada was not US control at that point in time the 1 Influence is not available.

    To that I say, the rules clearly say that there are 6 ARs during Turns 1-3 and 7 ARs during Turn 4-10. Therefore the each AR includes both the USSR AR & the US AR as subparts of the AR.

    On the basis that in any given Turn ‘X’ AR ‘Y’, the USSR AR is counted separately to the US AR, then I would suggest that there are 12 ARs in Turn 1-3, 6 USSR & 6 US. And I don’t think that is correct, hence my conclusion.

    The reason for the question is that the USSR player thought they were smart playing NORAD early before the US had control of Canada.

  13. JFK says:

    The ability to break control is underrated. When the USSR coups on AR1 you often have lots of battlegrounds to flip with this as the USA. This can be very versatile with scoring cards. A 2:2 in south america can be made 2:1 and scored on AR1. The VP alone in cases like this can be worth it.

  14. JokesApart says:

    I don’t get something about it’s effect. When it says “the US may add 1 influence to any country already containing US influence”, does it means that US player is allowed to put 1 influence in EVERY country where he already has influence or he have to choose ONE of the countries where he’s got influence?
    example. NORAD activates and US player has influence in (just as example) Great Britain, France, Iran, Israel, Mexico, Canada, India, Japan: does he add 1 influence in every single nation of this list or does he have to choose one, for example France?

  15. Veikko says:

    Hmm, how doea this work out: i am under Quagmair in the beginning of round and play Norad in the phasing round. Is Norad valid rest of the game or is it cancelled when I am no more in Quagmair?

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