Arms Race

Arms RaceArms Race

1947 –1989

The arms race between the Soviet Union and the United States was at play throughout the Cold War, and many attribute the Soviet Union’s collapse to an inability to sustain the final arms race instigated by Ronald Reagan. This element of competition between the nations involved both nuclear and conventional weapons. Frequently, there was an interplay between the two kinds of forces. During the early Cold War, the United States (having rapidly demobilized after World War II) had to rely on its nuclear weapons in a doctrine of “massive retaliation” to counter Soviet preponderance in conventional weapons. After the Soviets developed nuclear weapons of their own, both powers reverted to a system of flexible response. Underlying nuclear strategy throughout this later era was the concept of mutually assured destruction. This reality made the likelihood of direct superpower conventional warfare unlikely. However, the dynamic of conventional weapons competition had its own paradigm. There, the West relied on superior technology to design higher performing weapons to compete against the massive numbers that could be generated by the Soviets’ command economy.

Time: Mid War
Side: Neutral
Ops: 3
Removed after event: No

Note that it doesn’t matter whether your opponent has met his Military Operations requirements: all that matters is whether you have, and whether you have more than he does. Usually it will be the USSR that benefits from this event, but a US player with ABM Treaty or something similar can often benefit as well.

Assuming that you will not be playing this for the 1 VP (absent extraordinary circumstances), Arms Race thus becomes a rather straightforward choice between 3 Ops or 3 VPs.  In this, Arms Race is quite unlike most of the Ops-for-VPs events in that it is actually worthwhile: 3 VPs are often superior to 3 Ops, especially late in the Mid War.  (Compare to say, U2 Incident.)

But it depends on how you’d use those 3 Ops: flipping a battleground, in and of itself, is only worth 2 VPs, but denying or achieving a Domination bonus adds an additional 2-4VPs, depending on the region.  So for example, if you have no other options, Arms Race is better used for Ops if you are flipping a 1-stability African battleground and achieving Domination as a result.  But if you already have Domination, 3 VPs are better than those 3 Ops even if you flip the battleground.

Ideally, you want to wait as long as possible in the turn to decide whether you need Arms Race’s 3 Ops, or if you can get by without and get the VPs instead.  Of course, it is never so easy in Twilight Struggle — the longer you wait, the more likely it is that your opponent equals your Mil Ops, at which point the 3 VPs are no longer available to you.

As a rule of thumb, I tend to play Arms Race for VPs towards the end of the Mid War (even holding it between turns if necessary), and early in the Mid War I hold it until the end of the turn and look for an opportunity to trigger it for VPs.  In the Late War I will almost certainly take the 3 VPs (and actively try for it).

As a final note, Arms Race is often pretty high up on the list of “lousiest cards to receive through Missile Envy”, despite the thematic appropriateness.

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11 Responses to Arms Race

  1. ddddddd says:

    “Lousiest cards to receive through Missile Envy” would make a pretty great article! I’d say Olympic Games is a pretty awful draw (possibly game losing if you were cavalier enough to play ME at Defcon 2), and I always seem to get Nuclear Test Ban, which is OK (denies your opponent a 4 ops) but the event gives your opponent a free coup (or possibly two). Wargames is sometimes touted as an awful draw (as people think that you might draw it, be forced to play it, and then give your opponent 6 VP and lose) but it is actually an excellent card to get, as it could be game-winning for you (if you are +7 VP or better), and if you are -7 VP or worse then you don’t have to use the effect (the card says “may”), denying your opponent the opportunity to win with Wargames.

  2. pietshaq says:

    I guess this is the only card in the game which, if headlined, guarantees to be a null headline. Or am I wrong?

    • Charles Martel says:

      USSR headlines Arms Race, and US headlines FYP, discarding Grain Sales, pulling Korean War, Arab-Israeli War, or Lone Gunman, and playing it.

      • hogshine says:

        Or even USSR headlines Arms Race, US headlines Brush War.

        • The Archon says:

          This won’t work, because this doesn’t give the USSR any Mil Ops with which to score 1VP via Arms Race.

          • Charles Martel says:

            Yep. The only cards that give your opponent military ops are Arab-Israeli War, Korean War, Lone Gunman, and CIA created. However, all of these are less than 3 ops, so they need to be played by a card that pulls other cards and plays them. The only cards that do this are FYP, Grain Sales, and Star Wars. However, FYP doesn’t played your opponent’s events, so it would need to discard Grain Sales or Star Wars, which then end up playing the event.

            • onur kulaksizoglu says:

              Imma comment on this 10 year old thread:
              I think the FYP->Gran Sales->Che is the only way one can get 3 VPs from an arms race HL.
              For war cards US must coup with grain and even with that condition the war cards can only give 1 VP.
              Lone gunman would be a defcon suicide and it doesn’t meet required milops.

              • Still subscribed to the comment feed on this blog after 10+ years.

                I guess I forgot about Che as a card that gives your opponent mil ops… as well as a few late war cards.

          • hogshine says:

            Ah yes. My bad, I missed that it had to be the phasing player who had more MOs. Thought it worked for either player! Learn something new every day 🙂

            • The Archon says:

              I realize that the basis for the question of whether Arms Race is a dead HL is simply a quantification of possible HL situations, but I think we could all agree that if your only HL option is to HL Arms Race in hopes of one of these incredibly rare situations happening, or simply because a null effect is better than any HL’ing of the other cards that you have (particularly because Arms Race is a safe 3 Ops in any AR), then your best option at that point is probably to reach your hand across the table and say “Good game!”

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