Welcome back to the second installment in my new series on board games about the Cold War! In case you missed it, you can find the first post on Twilight Squabble here. Today, our game will be Deterrence 2X62 (Paulo Santoro, FunBox Jogos). As usual, we’ll look at it in both game and academic terms. Let’s see how a game set in the third millennium can even be a Cold War game!
What kind of Cold War is this game?
Deterrence 2X62 is set in an alternative future. The Cuban Missile Crisis has never ended and the United States and the Soviet Union are still in nuclear competition with each other hundred(s) of years later. All that has changed is that the nukes are now placed on mechs. The victory condition is simple: Wipe out one opponent city without them being able to conduct a counter-strike against a city of yours! If nobody achieves this goal by the end of the game, the economically stronger side wins.
What’s Noteworthy About the Game?
First of all, Deterrence 2X62 is a re-theme. The original was published as Deterrence (Paulo Santoro, Ceilikan Jogos) and set in the actual Cold War, but this new edition transports the conflict to a mech-armed future. I assume this was done for marketing purposes – the Cold War is still not a theme that is considered likely to sell well, at least compared to cool mechs with nukes.
Deterrence 2X62 differs from most Cold War games in how it treats nuclear war. The usual rule is that nuclear war ends the game, and whoever caused it loses – so those wars are only started by accident. Here, it takes effort to start a nuclear war – pressing the button costs you an action. And, most importantly, starting that war – which you can only do if you are able to launch a devastating, un-answerable first strike – wins you the game!
That has two important repercussions. First, the game has almost perfect information. Except for the very first cards that you draw, all other cards are taken from an open pool. So when your opponent takes a card that will allow them to increase the range of their missiles, you know about it, just like they know you just took one which strengthens your defenses with an anti-missile battery. That turns the nuclear contingency planning into a calculable exercise of almost pure logic.
Second, the game’s stipulation that you can only attack if your opponent is not able to strike back and incinerate a city of yours in retribution is the grim view of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). Often, your best defense is just that ability to make your opponent feel the pain they want to inflict on you. Just like in the historic Cold War: The superpowers felt safer after making a treaty limiting their respective anti-ballistic missile systems (the ABM treaty), so that neither had to fear the other would be able to deflect a nuclear strike and therefore feel like launching one of their own with impunity.
Among the Cold War board games, I bestow on Deterrence 2X62 the title of The Most Nuclear.