South African Unrest

South African UnrestSouth African Unrest

1964 – 1994

The racist, minority government of South Africa began to be challenged by the African National Congress with Soviet and Cuban assistance from bases in Tanzania and Zambia and other “front-line” states. The era of peaceful resistance formally ended with the massacres in Sharpeville and Langa. For its part, South Africa sought to destabilize its neighbors, and undertook an invasion of Namibia, while also supporting UNITA in Angola and FRELIMO in Mozambique. However, increasing black population, more powerful black trade unions, and hostility from other western nations eventually placed South Africa on the defensive. While the Reagan Administration pursued a policy of “constructive engagement” with the Apartheid government, it remained a controversial proposition. Ultimately, the collapse of the eastern bloc made P.W. Botha’s release of Nelson Mandela inevitable.

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


Practically speaking, South African Unrest serves much the same purposes as Portuguese Empire Crumbles, though it’s a tiny bit better because its influence goes into more important countries and is recurring.  I will still usually play it for Ops, unless the 2 influence in a neighbor gives me the chance to flip Angola.  Practically speaking, 1 in South Africa is not a huge deal, and isn’t going to let you flip a controlled South Africa.  But if the countries are open to Ops, or if I haven’t been able to get into the region, then South African Unrest is a godsend.

I almost always choose 1 in South Africa and 2 in a neighbor.  For one, it’s 50% more influence, and no longer counterable with the card’s Ops.  For two, Angola and Botswana are both lucrative targets, and 2 influence in Angola can sometimes flip the country.  Only if I already control Angola/Botswana will I consider putting both influence into South Africa.

Despite a possible interpretation of the event’s text otherwise, you cannot use this for 1 in Angola and 1 in Botswana: it has to be 1 in South Africa plus 2 in Angola or 2 in Botswana.

A previous version of this card implied you could not “split up” the influence, that is, place 1 in Angola and 1 in Botswana, but the current wording and the v5 FAQ indicates that you can.


Much more annoying to deal with than Portuguese Empire Crumbles, since you can’t actually repair 3 influence with 2 Ops.  If the USSR chooses 2 in South Africa, then it’s no big deal, but 2 into Botswana and/or Angola is more annoying, especially if you want to use your Ops before the event but don’t know which one the USSR will play into.

That having been said, it’s a lot less painful than some other USSR events, so I usually just suck it up and play it.  But if I have nothing more urgent to space, then this is certainly going to space instead of being (at best) an empty Action Round.

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10 Responses to South African Unrest

  1. ddddddd says:

    I’m pretty sure that on Wargameroom, this event adds 1 USSR influence to SA and 2 USSR influence to *BOTH* of Angola and Botswana. That’s how I’ve been playing it, which means that the USSR almost always takes this option (unless 2 influence in SA will flip its control).

    As you point out, the card text is open to interpretation; can anyone else confirm that this is how it plays on Wargameroom?

    I fully agree with your strategy outline above. I hate drawing this as US more than Portuguese Empire.

    • theory says:

      I’m positive that WGR implements it correctly, which is that it adds 2 influence to Angola OR Botswana. This card would be horribly strong if it were Angola AND Botswana 🙂

      • ddddddd says:

        OK, I believe you! I was fairly sure it was the other way around. As you say, it is very strong (and almost never worth choosing the other option)!

  2. SnowFire says:

    For whatever it’s worth, in a game with a lot of eyerolly history where everything that is vaguely liberal or anti-American becomes an agent of Moscow to make the game interesting, this is possibly the most aggravating card. Mostly because the constant refrain of the apartheid government was that anybody who opposed apartheid was a COMMUNIST and set on overthrowing our noble democracy with tyranny, especially any white liberals who dared speak out. The implication seems to be that the racists were right, and if Nelson Mandela had come to power in the 70s he’d have revealed himself as a communist agent and then inverted the natural order of the races or something. Only luckily thanks to the Eastern Bloc falling did he turn out to be a Western-oriented democrat. Yeah, right.

    Of course, the card works fine in-game, and the apartheid government certainly clung as tightly to the West as it could, and this is a game where “not Western Bloc” = “commie”, so.

    • trevaur says:

      I think that the interpretation for events like this is that the unrest in South Africa was bad for the US because they had strong ties with the apartheid government (I’m not an expert, so correct me if I’m wrong). In this game, bad for the US = good for the USSR, so that’s how the event goes. If this is the case, it might have been a more historically accurate event if it just removed US influence from the region rather than adding USSR influence. But in this game balancing the cards is more important than historical accuracy (I’m pretty sure the game designer said that at some point)

  3. The Archon says:

    “…or adds 1 Influence in South Africa and 2 Influence in any countries adjacent to South Africa.”

    “Despite a possible interpretation of the event’s text otherwise, you cannot use this for 1 in Angola and 1 in Botswana: it has to be 1 in South Africa plus 2 in Angola or 2 in Botswana.”

    I’m going to have to disagree, at least from a strict interpretation of the card’s text. I would argue that the plurality of the word “countries” indicates that it could be both, as opposed to being limited to placing both influence in only one country. If the card text stated “and 2 Influence in any country adjacent to South Africa,” I would agree that the Event would be limited to placement in a single country. I believe that this interpretation is also consistent with the text of other Events that allow distribution into multiple countries (see, e.g., OAS Founded, Liberation Theology, and those that remove influence from “countries”), and that such an interpretation of single country placement is inconsistent with the text of Events that specifically delineate single country placement (see, e.g., COMECON, Marshall Plan, DeCol).

    That being said, do you have a source for your interpretation, Theory?

    • theory says:

      Fascinating! By my research it seems that there are two versions of this card floating around: some people on BGG report that the card says “any country adjacent to South Africa”, but the card above clearly says “any countries”. I posted a BGG thread:

      • The Archon says:

        Confirmed: I just checked a card manifest that pre-dates Deluxe Edition.

        “USSR either adds two Influence in South Africa and or adds one Influence in South Africa and two Influence in any country adjacent to South Africa.”

        That makes more sense as to how there could be (or, rather, could have been) an interpretation that restricts placement to a single country. Having only played Deluxe Edition, I couldn’t understand how it could be any other way than and/or placement in the two countries (but I think I remember a similar issue with a different card).

        I was tempted to call into question your skills of statutory interpretation, Counselor!

        • theory says:

          I suspect my old Administrative Law & Statutory Interpretation professor would be very proud of me if he knew how often I employ his canons in analyzing board game rules.

  4. Zosete says:

    Hi, guys. I’ve been playing by Theory’s interpretation too. Also, the excellent Wargameroom engine enforces it this way, BUT…

    From the FAQ 5.1
    NOTE: The Deluxe Edition card text allows the option of 2 Influence in “…any countries adjacent to South Africa.” effectively allowing one
    each in Angola and Botswana.

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