General Strategy: Realignments

Realignments are one of the most puzzling aspects of the game to a beginner.  They are rarely the most effective use of your Ops, frustratingly DEFCON-restricted, and can never gain you influence in a target country.

In general, realignments only occur at DEFCON 2.  In most cases, battleground coups are a more powerful method to alter a region in your favor.  But once DEFCON drops to 2, you must search for other ways to attack your opponent’s battlegrounds.  Realignments are one such method; they require some setup work, but can pay off handsome dividends.

First, this article will discuss some tactics involving realignment play.  Then it will discuss the two kinds of realignments that are most effective: when your opponent can’t play back in, and when you are at a +1 or greater advantage.  Finally, it will give some common examples.

Realignment Tactics

Higher realignment bonuses are always better.  But controlling cheap non-battlegrounds to boost your realignments often risks your opponent couping you back, gaining him the realignment modifier.  It is therefore advantageous when you can control multiple non-battlegrounds at once, play multiple Actions in a row, or use an event like Junta to prevent this tit-for-tat response.  Sometimes you don’t need to do this, especially when your opponent is preoccupied.

You can consult Ken Watson’s Realignment Probability Charts to determine just how much of a boost you need.  Remember that you can always use a bigger card to make up for a worse realignment bonus.

I usually use a slightly bigger card than I need, because a wasted Action Round is often quite costly, and I might not get another good chance.  This means that I try to set up multiple realignment possibilities at once, so that in case of unexpected success I can do something with the rest of my Ops.

Finally, you usually see realignments in 2-stability or higher battlegrounds.  1-stability battlegrounds are often easy to flip with direct influence placement or coups instead.

Types of Realignments

The first kind of realignment, and the best kind, is the realignment that eliminates your opponent’s access to the region.  This tends to come up when someone has isolated influence with nothing next to it.  When you eliminate all access to the region, you achieve two distinct goals: not only has your opponent lost the battleground, he has also lost any opportunity to put the influence back in.  This means you are free, on your next turn, to play in influence and take over the country.

A common example is Fidel.  The US can trigger Fidel, and then use the 2 Ops from the card to attempt two realignment rolls against Cuba, rolling at +0.  There is a 34.88% chance of success: not great, but the payoff is significant.  The USSR has no way of getting back in if their influence is eliminated.

Another example is South Africa.  If the USSR controls Angola and then takes Botswana, they can often trap the US in South Africa and realign him out of the region.

The main reason this kind of realignment is so powerful is because your opponent can’t respond to it.  There’s no tit-for-tat where you realign him out, and then he places back in, and then you have to realign him out again.

Occasionally, it is to your benefit to go for -1 realignments.  This happens when your opponent gets into a region and no one has any influence around it (e.g. Puppet Governments or De-Stalinization).  Although the odds are low, the payoff is big, so if you have a big 4 Ops card to spare, it can be a worthwhile use to stop him from locking up the region.

The second kind of realignment is when you have a +1 or greater advantage.  Any time you are at +1, you should seriously consider realigning even if the opponent can put their influence back.  If you have influence in the country, then you might realign them out and gain control automatically.  If you don’t, then you should still be ahead Ops-wise, since you are on average removing one or more influence per Op, and you still maintain your advantage against their restored influence.

This is most common in Latin America, where you have a series of realignment possibilities stretching from Costa Rica-Panama-Colombia, to Colombia-Venezuela-Brazil, to Venezuela-Brazil-Uruguay, to Peru-Chile-Argentina.

Common Examples

Generally speaking, the realignment “hot spots” on the board are:

  • Cuba
    • A particularly popular target given that:
      • The USSR often can’t restore their influence, since Fidel was their only inroad into the region
      • The US starts out with uncoupable adjacency
      • The nearby non-battlegrounds are cheap
      • Cuba is especially valuable as a battleground, given that there are only 3 battlegrounds, and that it is worth double for the USSR
    • You will therefore often see coups around Nicaragua and Haiti, popular targets for Puppet Governments.
  • South Africa
    • See Cuba, with sides switched.  Usually this happens when the USSR gets into Angola with De-Stalinization, then takes Botswana and can kick the US out of the region entirely.  Other than Colonial Rear Guards, there aren’t any other US events that can get them back into the subregion.  This maneuver often means the difference between Africa Domination and Control for the USSR.
  • Venezuela/Brazil/Argentina/Chile
    • South America as a whole is geographically designed for realignments, and is the region most likely to see realignments.
    • This provides a way for you to get back battlegrounds you lost, or steal an extra battleground after you steal the first
    • Colombia/Uruguay are two of the most important non-battlegrounds on the board because of these realignments
    • Junta is especially powerful in this regard, and Che can help as well
  • Angola
  • Algeria
    • If whoever controls France doesn’t also control Algeria, this is a good way to attack the second-most-stable African battleground.
  • Mexico
    • The US can kick the USSR out if they got in with Liberation Theology.  Similar to Cuba, though less common.
  • Europe
    • Very rare, since DEFCON has to be at 5, but Italy/France/East Germany are all targets for realignments when DEFCON reaches 5.  Usually it is the US with a massive advantage in these realignments.  The SALT-ABM trick is one way for the US to get in some European realignments and alter the influence in the region.  Otherwise your best bet is events, particularly Tear Down This Wall.  The USSR can sometimes use a Comecon headline for a Turn 1 AR1 realignment in hopes of a knockout blow in Europe.
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23 Responses to General Strategy: Realignments

  1. Charles Martel says:

    I tell beginners that realignments are usually inefficient, and they should probably only worry about defending against them, and only in the third world.

    • dedaan999 says:

      Hmmm, I rather tell them that realignments are a very underrated weapon. I often win my games by series of realignments. That’s why I try to explain the mechanisms and the advantages carefully to show them how to use them without too many risks.

      • Charles Martel says:

        It’s quite easy for a beginner to waste his time with realignments when there are much, much, better things to do.

  2. pietshaq says:


    When I have USSR against a player I used to lose with, I usually start with an Europe realignments, attempting West Germany, then Italy on AR1 (and, if succeeded, Iran but this is rare). This is mathematically inefficient but once in a while it works, eliminating US from Eastern part of Western Europe and thus getting the game strongly in favour of the USSR, no matter US is handed by a much better player. US can do nothing against this, only wait or opening something weaker than 4GER/3ITA on purpose.

    My opponent insists to weaken realignments a little to prevent big luck deciding game so early. He suggests that a single realignment roll can never remove more than 6-x influence where x is the stability of a realigned country. I think the realignment rules do not need to be modified.

    What do you think?

    • dedaan999 says:

      I don’t think rules have to be modified and I also think the game has not been decided in this case. Suppose Russian realignments worked, the Americans can spread into for rxample Malaysia, Afghanistan, France and Benelux at once to leave USSR with a lot of choices. If they decide to fill up Germany, the US can react by filling Italy again, or if USSR fills up Italy, DEFCON is still 5 and the US is able to coup it. So, in short, I don’t think that US is lost immediately after such very rare lucky rolls. I rather think that the odds are too low for the USSR to even try it.

      • Charles Martel says:

        I agree that the US has somewhat bad odds if they start off very unluckily, but the odds of actually realigning them out of West Germany and Italy are pretty low. If the realignments succeed, the game isn’t lost for the US, as they can move into Pakistan (Defcon’s 5, so the US can counter-coup here), Malaysia, and France, leaving the USSR with many problems. If the realignments don’t succeed, then the US can basically try the same thing, but repairing damage instead of moving into France.

    • Anonymous says:

      Coups are like playing risk. You wait until you have a big ops card to play, and then unleash against one weak spot to seize and hold (I’ll ignore the Defcon-manipulation side of this for the sake of the metaphor). Realignments are like playing Go – you encircle, stacking multipliers. One useful way to play this is internal consolidation – if I play a four ops card for multiple realignments, I can often sweep out my opponent’s presence in several of my countries in one go.

  3. pietshaq says:

    Actually I once combined Socialists Governments with successful rolls and left my opponent with empty West Germany, empty Italy and empty Iran. What would you suggest in this case? Pakistan is unplayable.

    • Charles Martel says:

      The odds against that are extremely low… If that happened to me, I would play into France, Benelux, Egypt, and Malaysia.

  4. SnowFire says:

    I realize that we’re basically just listing all the battlegrounds in DEFCON free-for-all-regions at this point (except Nigeria?!), but Panama isn’t an entirely unusual spot for realigns, too. It can potentially be caught in a Costa Rica / Colombia vise, similar to Venezuela but with less important border countries. But even otherwise… something like the following scenario can happen: US has Costa Rica & Panama but Colombia is empty, USSR coups into Panama and gains control, US does a +0 align to knock the Soviets back out with no way back in, vaguely similar to a Mexico realign.

    The Algeria realign being a good play is more rare than the above, I think. It’s usually a +0 in such cases, but when France/Algeria are mismatched, it’s rare for the other side to not be able to just walk back in, and spending 2 ops to maybe get rid of 2 enemy ops is not really a good trade. If the US controls France, DeGaulle at some point (sans Truman Doctrine) probably lets the Soviets walk back into Algeria with that 1 influence. If the USSR controls France, then if the US controls Algeria it was likely due to a France poke-> take Algeria as a consolation prize after losing France, and the same access exists. Sure, Decolonization / Colonial Rearguards can set up situations where the France anchor doesn’t exist and then the Algeria realign becomes equivalent to the Mexico realign, but it’s not super-common.

    • Charles Martel says:

      The Algeria realign is just like the Mexico realign in that it is usually a +0 realign that is only useful to kick your opponent out of the region, but which they can defend against by taking a neighboring 1-stability non-battleground.

      • SnowFire says:

        My point is that it’s very common for the superpower that controls Algeria to have influence in France that can’t be gotten rid of, and when that is true it is NOT comparable to the Mexico realign, as the other player just walks back in after a successful realign.

        When the superpower controlling Algeria has nothing in France, it’s actually much safer to invest in a neighbor than Mexico, as Algeria can get Tunisia or Morocco as a friend. The USSR taking Guatamala is a trap, the US just coups it and then has a huge bonus on realigning Mexico instead. (Same with foolishly taking Saharan States for Algeria.)

  5. Barry Miller says:


    I’m confused by the Fidel example you used,
    “A common example is Fidel. The US can trigger Fidel, and then use the 2 Ops from the card to attempt two realignment rolls against Cuba, rolling at +0. There is a 34.88% chance of success: not great, but the payoff is significant.”

    The U.S. should roll at +1, not +0, when realigning Cuba. Using your example, the odds would be 54.4% instead. Am I misunderstanding the rules?

    • sash says:

      Looks so.
      US gains +1 as Cuba is adjacent to superpower.
      USSR gains +1 as it have more influence in the region.
      So it is a net +0 roll.

      • theory says:

        “more influence in the country”, to be specific, but yes, this is why the US rolls at +0 instead of +1.

        • Barry Miller says:

          Oops… my bad… totally overlooked the cancelling modifiers the last time I played … and so did my opponent… hope he doesn’t see this! Thx for correcting me.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Playing as the U.S., I find realignment rolls can be very helpful in certain situations, especially later in the game and when I’m on defense.

    I’ve been able to realign the USSR out of Africa almost completely, since they usually get in with an event rather than working down through Algeria or Sudan. Yes, they’re usually +1 on those rolls, but I get multiple attempts and the USSR is often pretty isolated.

    Roughly the same thing goes for the Americas.

    Especially once the USSR player gets focused on Africa and the Americas, it’s not super unusual for the DEFCON to creep back up a little bit. In those cases, realignments can be a huge help in Asia, particularly SE Asia. The US will often be in a position to roll +2 and knock the USSR out of Vietnam, which in turn helps protect Thailand, or to roll a +1 against a USSR-controlled Thailand.

    They’re also effective if you have a scoring card for a region where you’re in bad shape. I’ve had the USSR realign away just enough of my influence that I lose control of all my battlegrounds in S. America. He may not be able to get into those countries, but I often don’t have enough ops to regain control before he plays S. America scoring.

    The best thing about realignments is that you get multiple chances. A coup is a big investment. But using a 4 ops for realignment rolls gives you 4 chances. Sometimes I’m just stuck in a situation where I don’t really have anywhere good to put influence, I can’t coup a battleground, and my best option is simply to go for some realignments and try to weaken his position wherever it’s most vulnerable.

  7. Christian Regalado says:

    One of the values in “Ken Watson’s Realignment Probability Charts” is incorrect. Using 4 ops with a bonus of +2 has an 87.13% chance of removing 5 or more influence, not 88.01%. I haven’t checked them all, but there may be more errors.

  8. Corey Hoover says:

    Hi guys I checked the rules section of this site and it doesn’t state this but you need influence in a region to realign correct? If i am misunderstanding the guide than I apologize. I just had issues with the fidel example because there is no influence in cuba when using the two ops as realignment roles if I read that correctly?

  9. Steve H says:

    In case anyone is still answering these – is there anything USSR can do to defend Cuba against realignment? You can control Nicaragua and Haiti to help the modifiers, but that sets up easy coup targets. You can overcontrol Cubs, but realignment can remove so many at a time that it would be hard to put enough control in there to be worth it.

    • theory says:

      The counter is basically tempo. To start with, realignment is often risky to spend an entire AR on. And if you play into Nicaragua, US has to coup and then realign, which minimum costs 2 ARs – while you can play your influence there as part of making a play elsewhere. Finally even if they realign you to 0, being in Nicaragua or Haiti means you can just play back in because the US can’t gain influence through realignment.

      • Caroline Regalado says:

        The US player won’t coup Cuba for one very important reason: it’s the perfect early game target to trigger DEFCON 1 from a Five Year Plan or other “out-of-AR” action. If the US player coups Cuba back for no reason, then it lets the Soviet player safely drop cards like CIA Created without risking annihilation. Since it doesn’t factor into scoring until the mid-game anyway, it’s meant to be ignored.

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