Iran-Iraq War

Iran-Iraq WarIran-Iraq War

1980 – 1988

Commenting on the war, Henry Kissinger famously remarked, “Too bad they can’t both lose.” Sparked by simmering land disputes over the Shatt al-Arab, Saddam Hussein sought to establish Iraq as a true regional power, and also check the export of Shia fundamentalism from Iran. Initially, Iraq scored limited gains, but Iranian forces rallied and began a counter offensive into Iraq. Without set allies in the conflict, the United States played a cynical game of attempting to keep both sides sufficiently supplied for the war to continue. Ultimately, the US began to tilt to Iraq as an Iranian victory in the war would have been an unacceptable outcome. Iran also utilized oil as a weapon necessitating the US flagging of Kuwaiti tankers to ensure oil supplies. After 8 years of war, the border returned to its ante bellum status. However, both nations had been severely weakened by the conflict.

Time: Late War
Side: Neutral
Ops: 2
Removed after event: Yes

Towards the end of the game, this area’s countries are usually dominated by the same superpower, and so the odds of Iran-Iraq War succeeding are rather low.  Unlike earlier Wars, it’s not commonly played for the Mil Ops, since by this point you should be able to find a non-battleground to coup with the card itself.

The VPs are therefore the only thing about the card that really matters, and you’ll see people trigger this event when desperate for VPs.  There’s no downside risk, and if you already control all the countries in the area, then it’s upwards of a 50% chance of 2 VPs.  (Yes, you may trigger the war even if you control both countries.)

Iraq is typically a more popular target, because its neighbors (Iran/Saudi Arabia/Jordan/Gulf States) are usually less filled than Iran (Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan), and because it is a higher stability country.

Posted in Late War, Neutral Events | Tagged | 4 Comments



1980 – ?

A trade union movement originating in the Polish shipyards of Gdansk, Solidarity became the focal point for anti-communist resistance within the Eastern bloc. Solidarity quickly moved beyond a simple worker’s movement and rallied pro-Catholic, intellectuals and other social dissidents to its banner. Its toleration within a Warsaw Pact nation was unprecedented, and involved a cat and mouse game heavily reliant on public scrutiny of Soviet intentions, the prestige of the Polish Pope, John Paul II, and the political courage of its leader Lech Walesa. While Poland’s communist led government under Wojciech Jaruzelski did crack down on Solidarity and imprison much of its leadership, the organization went underground and began to regrow. By 1988, Solidarity led strikes had forced the Polish Communists into open negotiations.

Time: Late War
Side: US
Ops: 2
Removed after event: Yes


Assuming that John Paul II has been elected Pope, then Solidarity falls into the “empty action round” category of US events; it’s worth sending to space, but you can also just repair its damage (assuming you’ve overprotected Poland).

The main drawback of repairing rather than spacing is that it makes you more vulnerable to East European Unrest: if the US only has their John Paul II Elected Pope influence in Poland, then EEU can’t grant them control no matter how many times they play it.

The main advantage of playing it for Ops is that you might be able to later use Warsaw Pact Formed to more efficiently purge eastern Europe of all US influence.

Regardless, it is annoying no matter what to draw Solidarity, which is even further reason to send John Paul II to space if you draw it.


A fine event, suitable for AR7 or headline, especially if you can combo it with Truman Doctrine or some other Europe-affecting event (Chernobyl, East European Unrest, etc.).  It even works well with Tear Down This Wall by potentially removing a USSR modifier on East Germany realignments.  And as noted earlier, Solidarity is a great way to establish enough influence in Poland so that a subsequent East European Unrest can grant you control.

I do always try to play John Paul II for the event; even if I don’t draw Solidarity later, or don’t intend to contest Poland, it’s still nice to leave a strong US event in the deck.

Posted in Late War, US Events | Tagged | 4 Comments



1956 – 1995

Brinksmanship was a term coined by John Foster Dulles to describe a policy of coming close to war, without falling into the abyss. At different times, during different crises, this policy was pursued by both superpowers. However, there was always the danger that brinksmanship could turn the “cold” war, hot. Additionally, brinksmanship encouraged a nuclear posture of “launch on warning.” Game theory demanded that if your opponent were launching a massive nuclear strike, you would have to launch your own weapons before they could be destroyed in their silos. These doctrines shortened reaction times of world leaders from hours to minutes. On November 9th, 1979, the United States made preparations for a retaliatory nuclear strike when a NORAD computer glitch indicated an all-out Soviet strike had been launched. As recently as 1995, Russia mistook a Norwegian scientific missile launch for an attack, and Boris Yeltsin was asked to decide whether or not to counterattack.

Time: Late War
Side: Neutral
Ops: 4
Removed after event: Yes

Love it or hate it, Wargames is the most important Late War card in the game.  No card so dramatically affects the game depending on who draws it.  The entire Late War is often dictated by the struggle for this card, fueling the Cold War paranoia by giving you yet one more thing to worry about.  Does he have Wargames?  Does he know I have Wargames?  How close can I push DEFCON this turn?  Should I cash in this scoring card now to prevent a Wargames loss, or hold onto it for an Action Round to get even more VP out of it?

The card is thus a brilliant fusion of theme and gameplay: it balances the allure of the instant win against the fear of an opponent’s scoring card, set against the looming backdrop of potential DEFCON suicide for the overeager Wargamer.

Although ostensibly a neutral event, Wargames tilts towards the USSR because Final Scoring usually favors the US.  If the US is able to build a +7 VP lead in the Late War, they are almost certainly going to win anyway.  Where Wargames tends to reverse the result are those boards where the USSR is clearly destined to lose in Final Scoring despite a -7 VP lead.

This isn’t to say that the US doesn’t use Wargames; it does, but it usually does so later in the Late War, and it usually doesn’t actually change what the outcome of the game would have been.

There are three main scenarios involving Wargames:

  1. You hold Wargames and have (or are close to) a 7 VP lead:
    • Congratulations, you win, provided you can degrade DEFCON to 2 safely.  Depending on what scoring cards remain for your opponent, you need to degrade DEFCON as quickly as possible.
      • The USSR can degrade DEFCON in the headline and score Wargames on AR1 before the US can do anything.  This is probably best unless you are worried about DEFCON suicide, and you don’t think the US can take away your Wargames win on their AR1.
      • The US must give the USSR at least one AR before they could trigger Wargames.  Therefore:
        • If the USSR is going to score on AR1 and take away your shot at Wargames, you may as well not degrade DEFCON in the headline, and drop it on your Action Round instead (with a coup)
        • If the USSR isn’t able to take away your Wargames win on AR1, but could potentially do so given multiple Action Rounds, then you do want to drop DEFCON to 2 by your AR1.  This may call for degrading DEFCON in the headline and risking DEFCON suicide.
        • If the USSR isn’t able to take away your Wargames win, period, then there is no need to risk DEFCON suicide.
    • If you don’t actually have the 7 VP yet, but you’re close, hold onto Wargames no matter what.  Even if you don’t have advantageous scoring cards, your opponent might.
  2. Your opponent holds Wargames and has (or is close to) a 7 VP lead:
    • Cash in your scoring cards as quickly as possible.
    • If that’s out of the question, your best bet is now a DEFCON victory as your opponent is probably trying to drop DEFCON as soon as possible.  Hopefully you can catch him in DEFCON suicide in the headline.
    • Alternatively, you can attack their hand with Five Year Plan, Missile Envy, Grain Sales to Soviets, Quagmire/Bear Trap, Terrorism, or Aldrich Ames Remix.
    • You could always try to keep DEFCON above 2, but this is likely impossible since your opponent can just coup it back down.  Cuban Missile Crisis or Yuri and Samantha might help, but this is a real long-shot.
  3. The person who holds Wargames is nowhere near the 7 VP lead:
    • Nothing much to do here, then.  That player will probably want to hold onto Wargames if they expect to be able to swing back the score, but otherwise it is just 4 Ops.

Keep in mind that as you approach the Late War, there are things you can do to maximize your chance of drawing Wargames.  Our Man in Tehran can help get rid of it or get rid of cards in the way, and emptying your hand allows you to draw more cards and hopefully find Wargames.  Playing the China Card or SALT Negotiations becomes a bit weaker since you draw one fewer card as a result.

Note that you are permitted to trigger Wargames without giving up the VPs and ending the game.  If you do so, the event is removed from the game.*  This is desirable if:

  • You draw Wargames with Missile Envy;
  • Your opponent has the 7 VP lead and could play either SALT Negotiations or Star Wars;
  • The deck will reshuffle and your opponent could draw it (extremely unlikely).

*Keep in mind that if you trigger Wargames at DEFCON 3 or higher, you do not remove the event from the game, because its prerequisite was not met.  But you do remove it from the game if you trigger it at DEFCON 2 and choose not to give the VPs.

Finally, Wargames is a jarring event and can turn a beginner player off of the game.  With inexperienced players, I recommend either warning them about it up-front, or simply removing it from the game altogether.  But once you get better at the game, you should start appreciating why Wargames is included, even if you find its swingness a bit distasteful.

Posted in Late War, Neutral Events | Tagged | 17 Comments

Pershing II Deployed

Pershing II DeployedPershing II Deployed

1984 – 1985

The Pershing II missile was designed as a direct counter to the Soviet Intermediate Range Missile, the SS-20. The deployment of 108 of these missiles in West Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom proved a major test for NATO’s resolve. Public protests against the deployments were massive. However, despite the strains, the weapons were deployed, providing NATO with a bargaining chip in the proposed Intermediate range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty discussions. These negotiations had been suspended in 1983, and the successful deployment of the Pershing II’s provided impetus for restarting the talks in 1985. Ultimately, the talks would succeed at the Reykjavik summit in Iceland in 1986.

Time: Late War
Side: USSR
Ops: 3
Removed after event: Yes


Like a much weaker Socialist Governments, except with a 1 VP bonus and not cancellable by The Iron Lady.  It is worth playing if the VP matters for Wargames or if the influence loss affects scoring.  A decent headline in the Late War.


If your European countries are overcontrolled (and you have nothing to fear from the event), then it’s often worth losing a VP to have 3 Ops.  But if you’re just going to spend your Action Round repairing the damage done by the event, you may as well send this to space and save the VP.

Posted in Late War, USSR Events | Tagged | 1 Comment

Aldrich Ames Remix

Aldrich Ames RemixAldrich Ames Remix

1985 – 1994

The first known successful penetration of the CIA by the KGB, Aldrich Ames compromised hundreds of CIA operations and provided information that resulted in the execution of 10 US sources. The CIA spent years looking for another explanation for the leaks—in particular the possibility that the KGB had bugged CIA headquarters. Ames’ motivation was not ideological, and he and his wife enjoyed the extravagance that his $2.5 million in bribes provided. Ames first walked into the Soviet embassy in 1985. At that time, he oversaw the analysis of Soviet intelligence operations in Europe.

Time: Late War
Side: USSR
Ops: 3
Removed after event: Yes


A phenomenal headline.  In some ways it is even stronger than the original Aldrich Ames (see below): Aldrich Ames Remix still retains DEFCON win possibilities (it is usually an instant win if the US is holding Lone Gunman), and even if you don’t get to win by DEFCON, you do get to discard the best US event in their hand (ideally a scoring card) and see the US hand for the rest of the turn.  All in all, it makes Aldrich Ames Remix one of the best USSR headlines in the Late War, especially since it’s almost impossible to backfire or be mitigated.


This is typically painless if you play it in your last action round, and in fact is probably a boon as you can use it to discard a strong USSR card (or even a bad scoring card), reminiscent of the USSR Five Year Plan trick.  It is not advisable to play Aldrich Ames Remix before your last action round.

Aldrich Ames Original

The original version of Aldrich Ames, included in pre-Deluxe Editions of the game, is a 4 Ops USSR starred event with the following text:

US player must display his/her hand. USSR player then orders the US player’s cards.  US player must play hand in that order.  US player may not play The China Card for the rest of this turn.

I don’t recommend playing with the original Aldrich Ames, the simplest reason being that it is hugely time-consuming as the USSR will likely spend quite a while planning out their turn to calculate the best possible order of the US cards.  It also cripples the US decision-making for that turn and is a generally unpleasant experience (especially if it ends the game).

Posted in Late War, USSR Events | Tagged | 23 Comments

“An Evil Empire”

An Evil Empire“An Evil Empire”


First used by President Ronald Reagan before the National Association of Evangelicals, conservatives applied the term “evil empire” to the Soviet Union. This change in terminology encapsulated the conservative movement’s rejection of Nixon’s morally ambiguous policy of detente. The speech sparked controversy within the NATO alliance, as many European leaders found the speech unnecessarily provocative. Domestically, the left argued that the United States had no room to criticize Soviet actions during the Cold War, and pointed to CIA involvement in places like Chile. The speech gave further indication that the last phase of the Cold War would be a confrontational one.

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


Not much of a concern, since even in the Late War 3 Ops is probably better than 1 VP.  It’s best if played at the end of the turn, but if you can’t manage that it’s not a huge deal.  This event is only irritating in the sense that all of the US +1 VP cards tend to show up right as you’re trying to win by Wargames.


Not a good event, unless you hold a lot of “war” cards and desperately need to cancel Flower Power, or if that 1 VP matters for Wargames / autovictory / The Reformer.

Posted in Late War, US Events | Tagged | Leave a comment

New to Twilight Struggle?

The Twilight Strategy blog will be on break for the holidays.  But if you or someone you know gets a copy of Twilight Struggle as a present, we’ve published some articles to help people getting into Twilight Struggle for the first time:

Happy holidays!

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