A Few First Impressions [Iron Curtain: A Cold War Game]

I started off by saying something along the lines of “imagine if Twilight Struggle and 13 Minutes had baby” well yeah a kind of micro baby, imagine that and this is what you’d get.

Iron curtain is a quick paced, two player game with very simple mechanics but a lot of strategy involved and it definitely left an impression. I was pleasantly surprised at how much thought had been put into the game to make sure that, even though it is such a quick game and at 20 minutes, I mean it, you’re still using your brain and definitely having to think on your feet. The game definitely lends itself well to the theme, I’m pretty excited about it and I’m impressed with how tense the game actually was for how little time it took to play. 

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OVERVIEW

Iron Curtain is an area control micro-game set during the Cold War, which is played over two rounds. This quick paced strategy game sees you playing four turns each round, trying to dominate regions, in the first round both players will get five strategy cards and in the second round you’ll get four. 

On your turn, you take one strategy card from you hand and play it, then it’s your opponent’s turn to do the same. You take turns playing cards until you have one left, this card is put aside face down for the ‘aftermath’ in the final scoring when the game ends. After each player has played all their available strategy cards, there is a final scoring phase.

The game ends immediately if a player reaches the final space of their influence track at any time; this includes during final scoring.

IRON CURTAIN ONE

TAKING A TURN: 
You will alternate playing one strategy card from your hand and following these three steps in order:

Place the strategy card face-up on the table and expand the active countries. You must place the card adjacent to a card of the same colour/region. If you can’t, you can place it adjacent to any card already on the table.
Check for Region Scoring: If the region card you just played is the last of that color/region, region scoring will take place. During region scoring, there are two ways to score.
Dominating Countries: For each card you dominate, having more influence cubes on a country than your opponent, you gain one ideology point. Basically each time you gain  an ideology point, move the yellow influence disc one step closer to your flag on the track.

You main reason you want to be playing strategy cards is to get your influence cubes onto the various countries on the table. There are three focal points on a strategy card: Alignment, command (influence) cube value and event text. If the strategy card you play is of your opponent’s alignment, e.g. you are playing as the U.S. and you play a card aligned with the U.S.S.R., then before you take your action, your opponent may choose to activate the event or not. However, if the card is aligned with you, e.g. you play a U.S. aligned card as the U.S. player, you can freely choose to activate the event or use the card for the command cubes.

IRON CURTAIN SIX

COMMAND ACTIONUtilizing a strategy card for command cubes is the core action of the game. This is the only way for you to gain control of various countries and attempt to dominate regions.

It’s worth noting though, you can only place influence cubes on countries that already have your cubes on them or on cards that are adjacent to a country with your cubes on it. 
Also, only influence cubes that were on the board before your command action count. 

EVENT ACTIONEvents are stronger but somewhat restricted command actions or somehow break the base game rules. Each strategy card has a unique, asymmetric power. Infiltration is a rule breaking event that allows a player to place cubes on certain countries. It’s important to note that infiltration ignores adjacency rules and the rules of controlling a card.

CONTROLLING A CARDWhen you control a country, you deter your opponent from manoeuvring. If at any time you have 2 more influence cubes than your opponent on a card, you control that card. If your opponent wanted to place influence cubes on a card you control, they must spend two influence cubes to place one. The second cube is “wasted” and sent back to their supply. Once the control is broken, they may place influence as normal on the card.

HOW TO WINIf the influence disc has not reached either end of the ideology track, then the game goes into final scoring. Before scoring regions, you will reveal the two face-down “aftermath” cards from the first round. Count the number of U.S. and U.S.S.R. influence cubes from the Events on these cards. The side with the highest total scores ideology points equal to the difference in cubes.

After scoring aftermath, players will now score each region in this order: Europe, Middle East, Asia, Africa, South America, and Central America. All regions score, even though not all the region cards are on the table. Keep note, this means some regions will score more twice per game, while others will not.

If during final scoring, the influence disc has not reached the U.S. or U.S.S.R. side, the player with the most influence points wins. If there is a tie, the U.S. wins!

THOUGHTS

IRON CURTAIN FIVE

Asger Harding Granerud and Daniel Skjold Pedersen are very clever, they have been able to emulate the tense, tug of war feeling of the Cold War in only 18 cards.

Even though the game is played over two rounds, it can end at any time if the yellow score marker hits the final flag of either player making the game pretty tense and cut-throat. 

Now, I’m not going to compare the game directly to Twilight Struggle but Iron Curtain does lend a few mechanics, including the hand management and damage limitation system that you’ll see in Twilight Struggle. It’s a streamlined version and there’s no ‘space race’ involved meaning you can’t dump any of your unwanted cards but they have done a great job of creating a game with a similar feel with a very limited hand of cards. 

I really enjoyed this quick fire game, if you know me you will know that Twilight Struggle is one of my favourite ever games and if you don’t know me, you do now so it’s nice to see a game with similar theme and mechanics being designed, especially in such a quick fire and streamlined way.

I personally like playing games that take three, four, five or even eight hours long but it’s great to have an option of something to play as a quick filler or at the end of an evening that still has enough strategy to keep me interested, at the same as being quite light weight mechanics wise. That’s something the designers of this game are really good at, another game of theirs that I really enjoy, 13 DAYS simulates aspects of the Cuban Missile Crisis in again, a streamlined, quick paced, easy mechanics but a lot of strategy involved  kind of way.

I’ve played a lot over the last couple of weeks, with people that play heavy war games and people that don’t usually play games at all and it’s been a hit. Now my housemate even wants to try Twilight Struggle so that’s a massive bonus!

I will admit, I found the rule book a bit hard to follow, not the actual rules but just the flow of how it’s formatted but after a few plays, I feel like you can definitely get the hand of it!

Other than that, this game is a winner for me. Great theme, gorgeous artwork, nice and elegant gameplay that packs a lot of punch.

If you have been lucky enough to play Iron Curtain, let me know what you think of it in the comments and thanks a lot for reading.

Katie. 

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