In Cold War: CIA vs. KGB, each game round features one country or event that becomes the focal point of an ideological clash between the two superpowers. Players will carefully select which covert agent to dispatch to deal with the crisis and manipulate different economic, media, military, and political groups to ensure supremacy.
Two players, each taking the role of either the USA or the USSR.
During the Briefing phase of each round, an objective is revealed from the objective deck. That objective, which might be a country such as Vietnam or Honduras, will have several attributes: a population limit, a stability number, a victory point value, and a list of bias icons. This objective is the focus of the coming Influence Struggle.
Each player has a stable of available agents, each possessing a distinct and useful ability. For example, the Assassin can eliminate an opposing agent if you are victorious in a struggle, whereas the Analyst can predict forthcoming struggles and give you the edge you need to establish dominance. Once the objective for an Influence Struggle has been revealed, you will carefully select the agent you wish to dispatch as your Agent X, and your opponent will secretly do the same.
Once each player has chosen an Agent X, the Influence Struggle begins. Players recruit and activate different groups in turn, marshalling them to their cause and seizing control of the objective. To recruit a group, players simply draw the top card of the group deck and place it in front of them. Each different group type (military, political, economic, and media) has a unique power that can be utilized by activating the group. For example, military groups may send any other group card to the discard pile by mobilizing. Once mobilized, a group cannot use its ability again.
In addition to its special ability, each group has a strength score between one and six. At the end of the struggle, the superpower with the highest strength wins the struggle, but players must be careful. If the strength of their groups exceeds the stability level of the objective they will destabilize the region and lose everything! The unwary Agent X who destabilizes an objective is disavowed by his superiors and removed from the game and the opposing superpower automatically claims the objective. (Unless, of course, they destabilized the region too – in that case, no one scores!)
As the Influence Struggle develops, players must carefully consider which groups to activate and whether recruiting new groups is worth the risk of destabilizing the situation. Since you can never have more groups than the population number of the objective, outrageous strategies such as killing your own men or giving the opposition a low-strength group are commonplace.
When the struggle is over, the superpower with the highest total strength (without destabilizing!) wins the objective, with the bias icons used to break ties. Once the winner is determined, the Agent X for each player is revealed. Watch out! Each player has a Master Spy, whose special ability allows the player with the lowest strength to score the objective, rather than the highest! Is your opponent playing poorly on purpose because she's chosen her Master Spy, or is she just bluffing you into thinking that's the case?
Once an objective has been scored, the agents involved take some well-deserved leave (making them unavailable for the next round) and play continues with a new objective. Once a superpower achieves 100 victory points, they've won!