The People’s Republic of China played a pivotal role during the Cold War. While the PRC’s influence was largely limited to satellites in Asia, the country was important to the uneasy balance of power that ultimately descended upon the post-WWII world. While beginning as an ally of the USSR, China became a counter-balance to Soviet influence in Asia during the later stages of the Cold War.
Time: Early War
Removed after event: No
There are four main uses for the China Card:
1. 5 Ops in Asia
This is often the best use of the card in the Early War, when Asia is wide open and ripe for the taking. Even if the key countries have already been taken, the 5 Ops of the card (possibly 6 if combined with Vietnam Revolts) can flip a 2-stability battleground that isn’t overcontrolled (i.e., if Thailand is 0/2, 5 Ops can make it 4/2). At the very least, you can even turn India or the Koreas from 0/3 to 4/3.
As noted below, I try not to use the China Card on Turn 1 (as USSR) unless absolutely necessary. On Turn 2, however, I often try to find a place for the 5 Ops in Asia if it has not yet been scored (and especially if it will be scored this turn).
Later in the game, this becomes less important, especially in the Mid War if Asia Scoring has already come and gone and there are more important regions on the board.
2. Protecting your hand
Playing the China Card allows you to hold one additional card that turn. This is important for two reasons: sometimes you want to hold a second card and deal with it later, and sometimes you are forced to lose a card and therefore would not be able to hold a DEFCON suicide card to next turn.
The former most commonly refers to the US wishing to hold both De-Stalinization and Decolonization to Turn 3. This is a very important reason why the USSR should not play the China Card on Turn 1 unless it can already account for one of those two cards! (Turn 2 is OK because the US won’t get a chance to use it until Turn 3, at which point the question is moot.)
The latter usually means that the USSR wants to hold onto the China Card to protect their hand against Grain Sales to Soviets, Five Year Plan, etc. This is the main reason to hold onto the China Card instead of playing it — whoever has it has hand flexibility and can plan his hand more effectively and reliably. (In this sense it is like a Year of Plenty in The Settlers of Catan.)
3. A generic 4 Ops
Fairly common in the Mid War, if neither party is concerned about DEFCON suicide and Asia Scoring has come and gone. (Or if it is being deployed to protect against DEFCON suicide, as above.) If a critical region is being scored this turn, then it’s better to spend an extra 4 Ops this turn even if it means giving your opponent a 4 Ops card next turn. Of course, you would prefer to use another 4 Ops card, but if the China Card is all you have, you shouldn’t hesitate to use it to sway a key scoring card.
This also occasionally happens on Turn 1 if the USSR is dealt a truly miserable hand and has nothing else with which to coup Iran.
4. As 1 VP at the end of the game
In reality, holding the China Card is actually worth 2 VPs, since if you don’t have it your opponent does. By Turn 10 I am usually looking to hold the China Card at all costs, unless I have a very strong AR7 play worth more than 2 VPs that can only be done with the China Card.
How often the China Card is used tends to depend on how volatile the board is. In a wide-open board, people will use it nearly every turn, pouring in every Op they can. In a more conservative, less volatile game, your Ops from the China Card are not as effective, and therefore people tend to hang onto it for insurance.
China Card Events
Formosan Resolution affects the China Card in the Early War, but it’s rarely meaningful because controlling Taiwan is a big investment. As USSR, though, I will try to play FR after I play the China Card (frequently on Turn 2).
The three Mid War China Card events each have a different effect depending on whether you or your opponent holds the China Card:
|China Card belongs to|
|Cultural Revolution||1 VP||Give to USSR face-up|
|Nixon Plays the China Card||Give to US face-down||2 VP|
|Ussuri River Skirmish||Give to US face-up||4 influence in Asia, no more than 2 per country|
In general I am never OK with just handing over the China Card due to any of these events, and often OK with using the event to take the China Card if possible. Of course, what I am OK with sometimes clashes with what I am forced to do, but all three of these cards are spaceable if necessary.
Cultural Revolution has the worst “friendly China” effect, so bad in fact, that I try to trigger it as US and avoid it as USSR. As US there is no reason not to just play the China Card first, and then play Cultural Revolution.
Nixon is a decent “friendly China” effect, since 2 VP is the value of the China Card at the end of the game. Of course, it is probably worth more than 2 VP since you have the option of using the China Card, so as US I prefer to use it to claw back the China Card after using it, rather than just 2 VP. As USSR I would rather not trigger either of these effects, but if forced to would rather give the 2 VP than the China Card.
Ussuri clearly has the best of both worlds. As USSR, I almost always space it, and as US, I try to play it while holding a face-up China Card — add 2 influence in each of 2 different countries, the USSR defends one, and the China Card takes over the other.