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Author Topic: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting  (Read 4264 times)

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bgm1961

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"Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« on: March 03, 2013, 03:21:57 pm »
+1

   This post is a continuation of a response started on Theory’s “Blockade” strategy page.  I felt it appropriate to move the rest of the discussion to here.

   In Theory’s “Blockade” strategy discussion, (http://twilightstrategy.com/2011/12/19/blockade/), it was said that when USA holds “Blockade” without a 3 Ops card to discard, then waiting till the last AR before triggering “Blockade” will help mitigate the damage. I asked for clarification as to how, exactly, that particular strategy actually mitigates the resulting loss of all American influence in West Germany.  Krzysztof Morcinek kindly responded to my question with an in-depth answer which in turn provided the spark for the below discussion. The following is not only my reply to Krzysztof, but also an open discussion for anyone else to join.

   Krzysztof, thanks for your quick and in-depth reply.  I’m a relatively new player (@ 7-8 games) who sometimes peruses online TS strategy advice. So while I respond to your points, I’m also using your response as a springboard to “vent” to a larger audience about my mounting frustration with TS advice in general – not specifically your advice, but yours does serve as my catalyst.
   
   As I ponder the abundance of strategy advice offered online (here, BGG, etc), something that’s difficult for me to wrap my head around is that I perceive most specific TS strategy concepts to be highly conditional yet the tone presented by the typical “poster” makes it sound like the combination of cards being discussed is common – almost as if it’s just assumed that the audience is normally faced with the same hand of cards that the offered strategy is derived from.
 
   For instance, I often see something like, “The best use for card “X” is to play it before card “Y”, but only if your opponent has already played card “Z”. That’s a highly conditional situation for which I have trouble regarding as a persistent or broad strategic tenet, as it only applies when that specific condition is true. Yet such advice is offered as if the condition is usually true so it’s something you just “ought to know”. However, especially as a new player, my brain can better absorb broad strategy concepts rather than fine nuances of specific card combinations.
   
   So without meaning to be, or come across as impolite to your much appreciated reply, I can’t help but see most of the points in your reply as inconsequential except in certain conditional situations.  For instance, if “Containment” is not in play, then points one and two simply aren’t relevant. Yet your response makes it sound like the presence of “Containment”, when needed, is a given.  As helpful as this advice would be for those occasions when the right combination of “Containment” and other cards is in play, it doesn’t add to a basic strategic understanding of why playing “Blockade” on the last AR will mitigate the damage to WG.
   
   I guess that’s what frustrates me about TS strategy advice - if my statistical math is correct (and that’s a BIG “if”)*, on the T1 draw, the probability of any ONE particular Early War card being in your hand is 20.5%. Also, the T1 draw will produce one of 61,523,748 possible hand combinations (assuming use of optional cards) (correction: 48,903,492 combinations). The T2 draw has 490,314 possible combinations for the USA if the China card wasn’t played in T1. Each of these different possibilities yields a different strategy (which is why we love this game)! And when considering the number of combinations that may be drawn for T3, the permutations can be bewildering.  Yet advice offered online makes it sound like the card combinations which generate strategy comments are more likely than not.
   
   Getting back to the “Containment” strategy, even if it is in play (but not in USA’s hand), then we’re “hoping” that USSR has “Containment” THIS hand.  Thusly, is waiting (hoping) for “Containment” to be played by USSR a good strategy for USA? Is this a chance USA should take when perhaps there are other [worse] hold cards in USA’s hand?  What if USA needs to act early with “Blockade”?  I.e., what if the USA has a crappy hand of USSR cards? In that case, doesn’t a USA headline of “Blockade” look like an awfully attractive option?
   
   Point 4 discussed using the “Truman Doctrine” as another mitigator for “Blockade”.  Yes, assuming it hasn’t shown-up yet (what if it’s already out of the game?) then I guess we can hope USA draws it on the next turn. But even if that does happen, then we’re assuming another condition - that USA played “Blockade” for the event first then used the 1 OP to put the IP back in WG; AND that USSR put 4 IP in WG quickly afterward.  (As I type this, I realize at least one tenet - or lesson – from this point is if USA wants to have any hope of saving WG, it must always use that 1 OP to put IP back in WG regardless of other emergent needs elsewhere. Otherwise USSR gains control of WG with only 4 IP thereby nullifying Truman’s effect).  OK, that’s a strategy tenet I can “put in the book”…but again only if Truman is still in play, and its early war, and if the condition unfolds exactly as stated. Still, in order to consider the “Truman Strategy” as a [standard] mitigator for a last AR triggering of “Blockade”, one has to ask, “How often does this specific condition arise so that I should regard it as a basic strategic tenet”?
   
   And wrt your final point… another frustration (as a TS strategy newbie) is reading the consistent “doctrine” that USSR will always conduct a battleground coup on AR1 as if it’s a law of nature to be deviated from only rarely. Now I’ll admit that the deeper significance of coup strategy has become more apparent as my opponent and I have gained experience. At first, we would coup only to earn the requisite mil ops while focusing more on using our precious Ops points to PLACE influence.  Placing influence was always a sure thing while couping was always a risk even in a low stability country. And to be sure of success in a low stability country, three or sometimes two Ops needed to be burned. That didn’t seem like a good trade-off for a country valued at “1”.  It wasn’t till we got a couple more games under our belt that we appreciated that couping is more than simply gaining influence over a country… it’s about reversing situations.
   
   That was the “Ah-ha” moment… where its wiser to see the [risky] fortune of reversing a situation over the static placement of influence. But still, when DEFCON is at 4 or 5 the AR1 battleground coup isn’t really that much of an issue is it? At DEFCON 4 or 5, the static placement of influence in order to surely gain control seems more prudent than taking a risk on a coup, especially when another opportunity for a BG coup will arise during the next one or two ARs.
   
   Perhaps because we’re still new we usually don’t see DEFCON 2 till mid-late T3 or early T4. Sometimes not even till T5. So given my limited experience, during most of the early war I don’t see the USSR as having the dilemma you wrote about. With DEFCON at 4 or 5 it seems like a no-brainer for USSR to choose gaining WG control (or at least putting 3 or 4 IP there) over couping a battleground… especially if the Europe scoring card is still active.  So again, I don’t see how this can be counted on as a mitigation strategy tenet.
   
   In the end however, I do see how all your points taken together offer a “mitigation package” for when the conditions exist.  And of course, learning how approach specific conditions will lead to a greater understanding of overall sound strategy tenets. But it’s a frustrating way to learn basic strategy for the new guy. I remember reading Theory’s comment about how “Grain Sales” is the “best US event in the game”.  When I first saw that, I re-read the card five times and still went, “Huh”?  At first glance, the strength of “Grain Sales” is not intuitively obvious. It wasn’t until a couple games later that I began to understand why its such a strong card. But again, only when the conditions are right!

* P.S.  It’s been a long time since I took statistics, so I’m not absolutely sure if my numbers in the 6th paragraph are correct. If I’m wrong I hope someone will correct my results.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 11:54:23 pm by bgm1961 »
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Kazzy

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #1 on: March 04, 2013, 02:45:02 am »
0

To take two points out of this.

I'm not sure there are really 61 million combinations of cards in round 1 - as although the cards may be dealt in a different order the chance of getting the same 8 cards in your hand is surely higher - looks a bit odd to me.

USSR doesn't have to coup on AR1 but it does help. Either USSR can try to flip Italy and gain a third european battleground or, more commonly, he can try and coup Iran which removes USA influence from Middle East and more importantly prevents the USA gaining control of India and Pakistan.

By not couping on its first turn USSR gives the USA to opportunity to spread influence over the board which often proves catastropic later. The way I think of it is that if this is a game of chess USSR is white and gets to attack first. The most effective attack in most cases is a coup.

For me as USA I just use blockade to get rid of a card I want to discard anyway - like an annoying soviet event.
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seppo0010

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #2 on: March 04, 2013, 03:20:26 am »
0

About the combinations, I think there are almost 49 millions.

For example, let's suppose we have a deck of 10 cards and we deal 3. The chances a specific hand (regardless the order) would be:
For the first card: 3/10
For the second card: 2/9
For the third card: 1/8

Total: 10*9*8/(3*2*1) = 10! / 7! / 3! = 120. In general: n! / p! / (n - p)!
(If the order matters it would have been 10! / 7! = 720)

In this case, we are picking 8 out of 38, so this is 38! / 30! / 8! = 48,903,492.

I might be wrong, it's been a while since I've studied this.
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theory

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #3 on: March 04, 2013, 11:31:30 am »
+2

The takeaway from the articles is that you should structure your play to take advantage of all possible opportunities.  The list of reasons he gives is not intended to be core strategical tenets, but why good players will hold an unmitigable Blockade to AR6, because there are many possible ways for that play to pay off.  The same is true of De Gaulle or Socialist Governments under Red Scare/Purge.  This is why often in this game, "lucky wins" are the product of preparing for that luck, whereas "unlucky losses" are the result of not preparing to deal with bad luck and not being in position to take advantage of good luck.  I am not lucky that he played Containment while I was holding Blockade to AR6, I prepared for that possibility and was able to take advantage of it.

As to Truman Doctrine: the threat of Truman is often enough to deter the USSR from going all-in.  You might not have Truman, but you can threaten having it.

As to your AR1 coup point: I respectfully believe that you are not playing as well as you can if you often leave DEFCON above 2 until Turn 5.  It is not always the best option, but it is quite frequently the best option.  So you hold Blockade to AR6; sometimes the USSR doesn't want to an AR1 coup, and then you lose nothing, but usually they do, and that gives you that extra little advantage you need in this game.
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MarlesChartel

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #4 on: March 04, 2013, 01:31:18 pm »
+1

There are a few incentives to drop DEFCON while at 4 or 5, mostly for the Soviets:
1.Duck and Cover+Coup can drop DEFCON from 4 to 2, denying your opponent a coup.
2. While at DEFCON 4, you can coup into Asia, which the USSR wants to prevent to make Vietnam Revolts and Decolonization influence safe
3. While at DEFCON 3, you can coup battlegrounds in the Mid War regions, which the USSR wants to prevent to keep De-Stal and Decolonization influence safe.
4. While at DEFCON 3 or higher, you frequently have opportunities as the USSR to lock the US out of a region with a good coup. For instance, if they move into Egypt while playing Suez, you can coup Egypt in order to lock them out of the Middle East. Couping Panama helps keep them out of Central and South America.

EDIT: seppo, your math is correct. 8 choose 38 is the number of possible Turn 1 hands.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 01:34:55 pm by MarlesChartel »
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Chimista

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2013, 01:37:23 pm »
+1

     And wrt your final point… another frustration (as a TS strategy newbie) is reading the consistent “doctrine” that USSR will always conduct a battleground coup on AR1 as if it’s a law of nature to be deviated from only rarely. Now I’ll admit that the deeper significance of coup strategy has become more apparent as my opponent and I have gained experience. At first, we would coup only to earn the requisite mil ops while focusing more on using our precious Ops points to PLACE influence.  Placing influence was always a sure thing while couping was always a risk even in a low stability country. And to be sure of success in a low stability country, three or sometimes two Ops needed to be burned. That didn’t seem like a good trade-off for a country valued at “1”.  It wasn’t till we got a couple more games under our belt that we appreciated that couping is more than simply gaining influence over a country… it’s about reversing situations.
   
   That was the “Ah-ha” moment… where its wiser to see the [risky] fortune of reversing a situation over the static placement of influence. But still, when DEFCON is at 4 or 5 the AR1 battleground coup isn’t really that much of an issue is it? At DEFCON 4 or 5, the static placement of influence in order to surely gain control seems more prudent than taking a risk on a coup, especially when another opportunity for a BG coup will arise during the next one or two ARs.
   
   Perhaps because we’re still new we usually don’t see DEFCON 2 till mid-late T3 or early T4. Sometimes not even till T5. So given my limited experience, during most of the early war I don’t see the USSR as having the dilemma you wrote about. With DEFCON at 4 or 5 it seems like a no-brainer for USSR to choose gaining WG control (or at least putting 3 or 4 IP there) over couping a battleground… especially if the Europe scoring card is still active.  So again, I don’t see how this can be counted on as a mitigation strategy tenet.
   

You definitely should play some games online in wargameroom.com with experienced players. If you don't coup you won't make it as far as T4, believe me ;)
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Cal

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #6 on: March 04, 2013, 04:48:45 pm »
+1

I don't have anything to add about the holding Blockade-thing. I think Theory said it pretty well: it's preparing to exploit a lucky circumstance.

However, I will note that it seems to be a beginner thing to underestimate coups, or to not use them properly. Placing influence is what you do after you run out of good coup attempts to make. They are that important.

Here are some traps that can happen in Early Game if the defcon doesn't get lowered to at least 3 pretty quickly.
1. The USSR does not perform a coup on Turn1 AR1 and leaves the defcon at 5. The US has W. Germany, Italy, and UK controlled. He plays De Gaulle Leads France, and uses the 3 ops to immediately re-align the 1 USSR influence out of France at +3/+1. If he is lucky and this only takes 1op, he has 2 more ops to try for lucky realignments in Iraq. (A USSR without influence in Iraq is a miserable thing.)
2. The US puts 1inf in Malaysia 1/0 at defcon 4. The USSR uses a pitiful 2op card and tries a coup. He gets lucky and rolls a 6, now he has Malaysia at 0/3 overcontrol and the US is stuck in Australia. You're welcome to coup back, but you're already playing catch-up. The exact same thing applies for the USSR and Afghanistan.
3. Turn1 the defcon ends at 3. US has influence in either Pakistan or Thailand which will be the target of the USSR's opening coup on Turn2. This is much more devastating than a coup in Panama, Egypt/Libya or Iran.
4. Defcon4 and the USSR has already sneaked influence into Laos/Cambodia, Indonesia, or Vietnam. Stability-1 countries are wonderful coup targets. A 2-op card plus a roll of 6 leaves the US with influence at 5/0. Nothing is going to unseat you there, not without a lot of effort on the USSR's part, and he'd be wasting time to do it.

These are just the ones off the top of my head. The coup offers immense strategic options, and ignoring it is a mistake.

Look at the natural set-up of the board and where influence is placed (besides the Europe Placement). There is only influence in Iran, Panama, Syria, and Philippines that is stability 2, and that is intentional because otherwise there would be too many good coup targets. (Philippines is usually never couped because it has bad position, only adjacent to Japan which the US will get anyway, and Indonesia.)

Which lets me segue into a separate issue: often times I see beginners when they do attempt coups, they will sometime attempt coups of battleground 3 or even 4 stability countries.

Times when it is okay to coup stability 3 countries:
1. You are performing a free coup and it is the only target. (For example, couping Costa Rica with Ortega, or Costa Rica with Che when nothing else is available.)
2. You really desperately need to lower the defcon and no other target is available. (For example, couping South Africa with 1op purely to lower the defcon as the USSR when the US has no influence in any Mid-East or Mid-War bg countries.)
3. When removing influence from a stab-3 country would offer some very strong tactical advantage. (South Africa again, cuts the US off completely until he can get Colonial Rear Guards or Puppet Governments or something like ABM Treaty. Possibly Iraq can also apply if the USSR is lazy.)

Times it is okay to coup stability 4 countries:
1. Never.
2. (okay really that's hyperbole. If you really absolutely needed to lower the defcon and had nothing else to target then maybe it would be okay, but only with a useless card of extremely low value.)

It is common to see beginners attempt coups in Japan and W. Germany when Italy and Thailand are viable targets. Of course if you do that you are going to be frustrated at the lack of change and see little reason to bother.
« Last Edit: March 04, 2013, 11:26:52 pm by Cal »
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SnowFire

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #7 on: March 04, 2013, 05:35:06 pm »
0

Just to add to the pile-on:

* You don't actually have to count cards and "know" that Containment is in your opponent's hand (although this is more doable than you think, especially in the Early War - if I haven't seen Containment yet by turn 2, there's a ~50% chance it's in my opponent's hand).  If you have to eat Blockade, oh well, but if you get lucky and your opponent has something to mitigate the situation, then even better.

* On Soviet AR1 couping: Just think of it this way.  Olympic Games is 2 ops for ~1.25 VPs on average; Arms Race is 3 Ops for 3 VPs conditionally (and considered rather good when played for the VPs).  As the Soviets, if no crisis popped up on AR6/7 the previous turn, and both headlines were boring (Captured Nazi Scientist and the like), performing a DEFCON 3->2 coup gets you 2 VPs guaranteed because you just met required mil ops.  It may additionally get you another 2 VPs if the Americans can't / don't get mil ops themselves, which you've just made harder for them since battleground coups are out.   So call it a 2 ops for ~3 VPs trade.  That is damn good!  And this is if the coup *totally fails*.  It may additionally get you some influence if you roll well!  So yeah, this is why even if the Middle East has no good coup spots and Panama got emptied out by a coup earlier, experienced Soviet players are likely to blow a 2 ops on a coup of South Africa or the like on turn 2 or turn 3 AR1.  You *might* grief the US out of Africa entirely, but even if you don't, you protect yourself from coups and harvest 2-4 VPs.  (I'm really not a fan of this "coups are totally awesome" thing flavor-wise, because they were of questionable value in retrospect even from a steely realpolitik perspective, but hey.)
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bgm1961

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #8 on: March 04, 2013, 11:52:32 pm »
0

About the combinations, I think there are almost 49 millions.

Total: 10*9*8/(3*2*1) = 10! / 7! / 3! = 120. In general: n! / p! / (n - p)!
(If the order matters it would have been 10! / 7! = 720)

In this case, we are picking 8 out of 38, so this is 38! / 30! / 8! = 48,903,492.

I might be wrong, it's been a while since I've studied this.

No, you are right!

OP here... first off, whew! Thanks all of you for the great responses... definitely learning much.

While I absorb all of your replies I need to blast a quick shout-out to Seppo0010.  His and my formulas are the same for determining the different number of hand combinations.  Execpt he used the CORRECT number of cards for "n!".  I inadverntadly included the China card in my count of the Early War deck. So his 48 million corrects my 61 million. That's the difference between a 38 and a 39 card deck. And thanks for validating the formula. I'm very rusty with statistics as well so I pulled it off the web!

bgm1961
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sspiker

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2013, 12:11:33 pm »
+2

One other thing I'll add, regarding this:

Quote
   For instance, I often see something like, “The best use for card “X” is to play it before card “Y”, but only if your opponent has already played card “Z”. That’s a highly conditional situation for which I have trouble regarding as a persistent or broad strategic tenet, as it only applies when that specific condition is true. Yet such advice is offered as if the condition is usually true so it’s something you just “ought to know”. However, especially as a new player, my brain can better absorb broad strategy concepts rather than fine nuances of specific card combinations.

...
   
I guess that’s what frustrates me about TS strategy advice - if my statistical math is correct (and that’s a BIG “if”)*, on the T1 draw, the probability of any ONE particular Early War card being in your hand is 20.5%. Also, the T1 draw will produce one of 61,523,748 possible hand combinations (assuming use of optional cards) (correction: 48,903,492 combinations). The T2 draw has 490,314 possible combinations for the USA if the China card wasn’t played in T1. Each of these different possibilities yields a different strategy (which is why we love this game)! And when considering the number of combinations that may be drawn for T3, the permutations can be bewildering.  Yet advice offered online makes it sound like the card combinations which generate strategy comments are more likely than not.

You're right in part that it is highly conditional, but the reason why this possibility is worth mentioning specifically is that, despite the high variability in what cards you'll have in your hand, moderately- and highly-skilled players tend to play certain cards strategically at certain times, regardless of the situation on the board.

For instance, USA players will try to hold Decol and Destal until the turn 3 reshuffle. In this example, Containment held by the USSR is almost always played in the last action round, to limit the damage it can do. In theory, it could be played on the space race or held, or discarded by other card events, but typically speaking its a low-damage event on AR7, and the USSR will trade 3 ops for 1 speculative US op every time (the effect of Containment on AR7 is null if the USA player uses a card for an event, or on the space race, or has a scoring card).

Rather than focus on the millions of different hand combinations, think of it this way: Containment is guaranteed to come up in the early war. Roughly speaking, there's 40% chance it'll be in turn 1, 40% chance in turn 2, and a 20% chance in turn 3, and a 50/50 shot of which hand it'll end up. So in turn 1, there's a 20% chance it'll be in either person's hand. However, it's not blind chance, because you know what's in your hand and can use that information to assess the situation.

If Containment doesn't turn up in turn 1, and you don't have it in your hand, there's a greater than 50% chance its in your opponent's hand. If it's turn 3, it hasn't come up, and its not in your hand, it's guaranteed to be in your opponent's hand. And since you know that USSR players almost always play Containment at the end of the turn, if you find yourself in this situation then you wait to play Blockade until the very end.

So how you approach Blockade as the USA is simple:

-- In most situations, if you have it, you can find a 3ops USSR event to discard with it.

-- If your opponent has it, you want to make sure to always keep a 3 Ops card on hand until Blockade is accounted for.

-- There may be a hand where you have no 3 ops cards, or you are red scared and have no 3 ops cards, and you hold Blockade. In this scenario, your options are very limited. But using the analysis we applied above, there's a chance your opponent has Containment. If he does, he'll wait to play it until the end. If he does, then you can then play Blockade successfully by discarding a 3op as normal. If he doesn't, then you either hold Blockade until next turn (if your hand size hasn't been reduced), or you have to play it and suffer the consequences.

-- Because of the strategic importance of holding certain cards until turn 3, Blockade can be a painful card to have because you can't hold both it and the other card (say, Decolonization, a very powerful recurring USSR event you wished to hold. In this scenario, you have a choice to make, none of them good: 1) Play Blockade with a 3 ops card, which means you have to play or space race Decol earlier than you'd prefer, 2) Hold Blockade if you don't have a 3 ops card, and play or space race Decol earlier than you'd prefer, 3) Wait until AR6 (with your last two cards Blockade and Decol), hoping your opponent has and plays Containment--- very high risk, very high reward, and 4) Play Blockade, hold Decol, and give up West Germany. Hard as it is to believe, this may be the best play.

In two of the scenarios above, Blockade was triggered and West Germany empties. If this must occur, it is best to have it occur on your last action round, because then your USSR opponent will have to face a choice in his first action round, of whether to play into West Germany (with potential threat of Truman lurking about) or give up his battleground coup. Most USSR players will opt for the latter, and the effect of Blockade then becomes you wasting 4 ops repairing the damage (3 ops if you played your 1 influence point back into West Germany after triggering the event).

So those are the reasons why, if you have Blockade and can't or don't wish to hold it or to discard a card, you should wait until the last action round to deal with it.
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MarlesChartel

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Re: "Blockade" Mitigation & Some Venting
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2013, 05:14:53 pm »
0

I think many of disagreements that less experienced players have with points that are made are caused by the aversion of those players to making coups and reducing DEFCON to 2.
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