Updated: Jan 4
This is the latest in designer Ian Brody's excellent Quartermaster General series of games. Each of these is a card-driven abstracted war game where players can only ever take actions that are sanctioned by the cards they play or activate.
Although playable with other numbers, each of the QMG games is optimised for play with a specific number of players. You can play the original Quartermaster General (WWII) game with fewer players but it is very much at its best with six. QMG: Victory or Death is optimised for four players; QMG: 1914 is primarily a five-player game. QMG: The Cold War is designed so it can be played by up to six but it is optimised for three players, with three very asymmetric power blocs representing the West, the Soviet Union and a non-aligned bloc incorporating India, China and 'nationalists'. The non-aligned bloc controls three separate and distinct sets of forces.
Cold War builds on the system introduced in the original QMG game and developed through its previous successors. There is much seeding of cards here: 'preparing' them by playing them to the table for use on a future turn. Some of these will enable one-off actions; others will be Status cards that may affect all future turns. Cold War introduces the use of Espionage cards, which are always played face-down for later use. These are so ubiquitous in the game that it introduces a specific phase for placing out these cards.
Also new, and very appropriate to the theme, are WMD cards. The Weapons of Mass Destruction represent the Cold War arms race. WMDs are played face up on the table: after all, the whole point of a nuclear deterrent is to deter, and you can't do that if the enemy don't know what you a threatening them with. WMDs cost only your turn action to 'prepare'. If they do their job and deter, you'll never use them. If you do unleash them, there's a cost in victory points. Some of the more powerful WMDs will cost the user a hefty number of victory points, although the cost is offset by the 'escalation' level that you have in relation to the target bloc. Using a WMD will significantly increase the escalation levels - making it 'cheaper' for your opponent to retaliate...
QMG: Cold War is a fascinating game. It plays over a maximum of 19 turns apiece, and each bloc has quite a large deck, so card attrition is notably less of a factor here than in QMG: 1914. Although it's not impossible, it's less likely that you'll completely run down your deck in this game. You will be 'burning' cards though, as you'll often have to make discards in order to 'prepare' other cards and set up future actions. This means that games won't always follow a similar course, adding to this game's replayability. The three blocs each play very differently. They each have very different mixes of cards and card types. There is an added tension too to any game involving a three-way contest (previous QMG games have had multiple players but they played co-operatively in teams, so the contest has always previously been between two teams).
Quartermaster General: The Cold War is published by PSC Games. As we write, it is in the last few days of its Kickstarter campaign, with publication scheduled for this October, so it's not too late to get in on the ground floor on this one.